Iran’s Revolutionary Guard
November 19, 2014
Betting on Iran
Odds are the Islamic republic won’t dismantle its nuclear weapons program
The Washington Times
Clifford D. May (Foundation for the Defense of Democracy)
Negotiations with Iran are set to conclude on Monday. What are the odds they will end with Iran’s rulers agreeing to verifiably dismantle their illicit nuclear weapons program? I’d wager 100 to one against that outcome — but I doubt I’d find a bookie willing to take my bet.
If a good deal is out of the question, what are the other options? The first is a “final agreement” that gives Tehran a lot in exchange for a little, but which President Obama would present as a triumph of diplomacy.
More likely is a “framework agreement,” a statement of principles that will be the subject of yet another round of talks. Such a deal could include another sweetener — e.g., billions of dollars of additional sanctions relief for Iran.
Not long ago, Mr. Obama was vowing to do whatever was necessary — the use of military force included — to prevent the Islamic republic, the world’s leading sponsor of jihadi terrorism, from obtaining a nuclear capability. “[A]s president of the United States,” he famously said, “I don’t bluff.” He added: “[W]hen the United States says it is unacceptable for Iran to have a nuclear weapon, we mean what we say.” Iran’s rulers never bought it.
Could economic warfare alone have been decisive? Nothing is more important to the regime than its survival. That was in jeopardy when, under the pressure of sanctions — pushed by Congress on a bipartisan basis and signed with reluctance by Mr. Obama — inflation was running at 40 percent (unofficially perhaps twice that high), Iran’s currency had crumbled, and a severe recession was reminding Iranians that the “glorious” Islamic Revolution has brought them few blessings. Under these conditions, Iran’s rulers came to the table.
Then, last year in Geneva, American negotiators agreed to ease the economic pressure in return for a Joint Plan of Action, an interim agreement under which Iran would continue to palaver at posh European hotels. Iran’s economy soon moved out of recession and into recovery. From that point on, Iran’s rulers have offered no meaningful concessions. On the contrary, supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei laid down a series of “red lines” — issues that are not even to be discussed by his envoys. American negotiators acquiesced.
Why? Mr. Obama appears to have believed that Ayatollah Khamenei would respond better to carrots than sticks — that threats would not be productive, but that the prospect of the economic benefits resulting from rapprochement with the United States would impel the supreme leader to forgo nuclear weapons.
That strategy might have worked were Ayatollah Khamenei a moderate interested in improving the average Iranian’s quality of life. Like his predecessor, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, though, Ayatollah Khamenei is firmly committed to the idea that the 1979 revolution was “not about the price of watermelons.” It was about a “spiritual awakening,” about leading the Islamic world in a historic and divinely ordained jihad that will, in time, defeat the “Great Satan” and other sundry “Crusaders and Zionists.”
Mr. Obama’s chief negotiator is acting Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman. She is experienced, having served as lead negotiator in the talks conducted with North Korea under President Clinton.
In those talks, as my colleague Claudia Rosett recently recalled, Ms. Sherman looked across the table and saw what she wanted to see. In October 2000, she announced that dictator Kim Jong-il “clearly” had made a decision “to improve relations with us.”
She was dead wrong. In fact, Kim was already violating the 1994 Agreed Framework, another not-final deal intended to halt an illicit nuclear-weapons program.
In 2006, the North Koreans conducted their first nuclear test. Additional tests followed in 2009 and 2013. There have been no serious consequences for North Korea — and only accolades and awards for those responsible for the failed negotiations that led to the emergence of this clear and present danger. Nor, apparently, were lessons learned about the dangers of easing economic pressure on a hardened regime offering only reversible nuclear concessions in return.
Many members of Congress grasp this. Last week, Sens. Mark Kirk, Illinois Republican, and Robert Menendez, New Jersey Democrat, issued a statement declaring that “a good deal will dismantle, not just stall, Iran’s illicit nuclear program and prevent Iran from ever becoming a threshold nuclear-weapons state.” They vowed to “act decisively,” along with like-minded colleagues, to stop the president from relaxing sanctions so long as Iran’s rulers refuse to accept measures that would prevent them “from breaking-out or covertly sneaking-out” to a nuclear-weapons capability.
Under consideration: a bill that would require an up-or-down vote on the deal. If the president chooses to ignore Congress, funding for the deal’s implementation would be withheld.
Also possible: erecting a legislative “firewall” to prevent the president from unwinding the sanctions regimen by using executive orders and waivers without congressional consent, or a bill to reinstate sanctions the minute there is evidence Iran is playing fast and loose with its obligations — its consistent practice over the past 20 years.
Right now, Iran’s rulers are preventing inspectors from the Internationalhttp://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/nov/18/clifford-may-betting-on-iran/?page=2 Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) from visiting research and military sites where nuclear weapons development may have occurred, and barring them from interviewing Iranian nuclear scientists thought to have been involved in nuclear weapons research. Yukiya Amano, IAEA director general, said recently that such research may have been ongoing during negotiations — even as Iran’s rulers were insisting that they have never had a nuclear-weapons program, don’t need one and don’t want one.
If there is a new agreement — final or framework — they will cheat on that, too. I’ll give 100 to one odds. But again, I doubt I’ll find a bookie willing to take my bet.
Clifford D. May is president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a columnist for The Washington Times.
Washington Times: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/nov/18/clifford-may-betting-on-iran/
November 10, 2014
If Iran Says ‘Yes’
Why should a regime that has paid no price for dishonesty suddenly discover the virtues of honesty?
Wall Street Journal
I am on record predicting that a nuclear deal with Iran will founder on the opposition of the Islamic Republic’s Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei. Iranian diplomats, I wrote in May, “will allow this round of negotiations to fail and bargain instead for an extension of the current interim agreement. It will get the extension and then play for time again. There will never be a final deal.”
I was vindicated on the first point in July, when John Kerry purchased a five-month extension for the talks with $2.8 billion in direct sanctions relief for Tehran. I’d be willing to make a modest bet that I’ll be vindicated again when the Nov. 24 deadline for a deal expires. The latest talks in Oman between Mr. Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif seem to have gone nowhere. As Jimmy Carter discovered during the hostage crisis, the mullahs are especially contemptuous toward those they see as weak.
But let’s say I’m wrong. What sort of deal would we likely get?
Above all, it will be a technical deal. Hyper-technical. If you want to master its details, be prepared to know the difference not just between LEU (low-enriched uranium) and HEU (high-enriched), but also between IR1 and the far more efficient IR2 centrifuges. You’ll need to know what a cascade is, and you’ll have to appreciate the importance of footprints when it comes to M&V (monitoring and verification) mechanisms. You’ll have to appreciate that, as in watches, proliferation resistant is not the same thing as proliferation proof, an important point if Russia is to turn Iran’s enriched uranium into fuel rods for the reactor at Bushehr.
Also, get a handle on PMD (Possible Military Dimensions) of the Iranian nuclear program, a regular staple of reports by the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) as well as Iran’s acquiescence to the AP (meaning the Additional Protocol of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, not the news agency). Meantime, keep a close eye on Arak (the plutonium-breeding reactor near the city by the same name, not the liquor). Examine the feasibility of “snap-back” sanctions.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (L), EU envoy Catherine Ashton (C) and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif meet in Muscat on November 10, 2014.REUTERS
And so on. The avalanche of fine print will help convey an appearance of meticulousness and transparency. If this were a nuclear deal between the U.S. and, say, Finland, no doubt it would be so.
But we’re talking about Iran, meaning the abundance of detail will serve a more obfuscatory function. The Obama administration will count on a broad measure of public ignorance and media credulity, meaning it can sell a deal by citing experts who happen to agree with its conclusions. Anyone want to have a debate about how much U-235 dances on the head of an Iranian SWU?
As for Iran, a deal with one hundred moving parts also serves it well. “The Iranians will cheat the way they always cheat, which is incrementally, not dramatically,” notes sanctions expert Mark Dubowitz of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. “Sooner or later, we’ll spot a potential violation and get into a debate about forensics: Are the Iranians complying or not? This will eat up time before we even get to the political debate over what to do about it.”
That’s been the Iranian M.O. ever since their covert nuclear program was first exposed in 2002. We’ve been negotiating their noncompliance ever since. Why should a regime that has paid no price for dishonesty suddenly discover the virtues of honesty in a post-deal world?
Supporters of a deal offer three answers. One is that the sanctions relief the West will offer in the deal can always be reversed in the event Iran cheats. “We can crank that dial back up,” as Mr. Obama said about sanctions last year. They also argue that what Iran seeks is to become, in the Bismarckian sense, a “satisfied power,” one that achieves its goals of diplomatic normalization, economic prosperity and nuclear pride—but also knows its limits.
Finally, as the Economist magazine argued in a recent editorial, time is on the West’s side. Think of China in the early 1970s: Sooner or later, Khamenei, like Mao, will die; sooner or later, public thirst for modernization, led by a Deng Xiaoping-type figure such as Hasan Rouhani, will steer Tehran to a better path.
Maybe so: Dreams sometimes come true. But diplomacy based on dreams usually fails. Iran, under its moderate leadership, executes one person roughly every seven hours. It boasts broad sway over four Arab capitals: Beirut, Damascus, Baghdad and, most recently, Sanaa, in Yemen. The President of the Great Satan is all but begging for a nuclear deal. European companies are already salivating at the thought of a piece of the post-sanctions Iranian economy. Try dialing that back.
As for the opposition once known as the Green Revolution, when did you last hear from it?
The Obama administration likes to make much of the notion that Iran, starved by sanctions, is like a beggar at a banquet. If so, this beggar doesn’t settle for scraps. If Iran says no to a deal, Mr. Kerry will soon be back with a better offer. If it says yes, it will take what it’s given and, in good time, take some more.
Al Qaeda on a “path to defeat.” America “out of Iraq.” It won’t be long before a nuclear deal with Iran will join the list of Mr. Obama’s hollow Mideast achievements.
American Israel Public Affairs Committee
Block Iran’s Uranium Path to a Bomb
October 21, 2014
Iran in Latin America: President Rouhani’s Era
ICT (International Institute for Counter-Terrorism)
Dr. Ely Karmon
This paper is the English version of the article “Iran in America Latina – La era del Presidente Rouhani,” first published in the October issue of the Argentinian Revista DEF
Since President Ahmadinejad’s inauguration in 2005, Iran’s foreign policy focus shifted from Africa to Latin America in order, as he put it, to “counter lasso” the U.S.. This change accelerated after Ahmadinejad’s 2007 visits to Venezuela, Nicaragua, Ecuador and Bolivia and the International Conference on Latin America held in Tehran in February 2007, where Iran’s Foreign Minister, Mehdi Mostafavi, announced the opening of embassies in Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Nicaragua, and Uruguay and a representative office in Bolivia. Iran reportedly has 36 Shi’a cultural centers in 17 countries throughout the region. In January 2012, Iran also launched a Spanish-language satellite TV network as part of its ideological battle to counter West’s “hegemony”.
This strategy seemed to be driven by the opportunity Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez gave Iran to serve as a gateway to the region and build an anti-American axis with Venezuela and its “Bolivarian” allies in the backyard of the United States.
In recent years, Iran’s relations have grown with Bolivia under President Evo Morales, with Ecuador under President Rafael Correa, and with Nicaragua under President Daniel Ortega. While Iran has promised assistance and investment to these countries, observers maintain that there is little evidence that such promises have been fulfilled.
On April 30, 2014, the State Department issued its Country Reports on Terrorism 2013, which stated that “Iran’s influence in the Western Hemisphere remained a concern,” but that “due to strong sanctions imposed on the country by the United States and the European Union, Iran has been unable to expand its economic and political ties in Latin America.”
According to Ilan Berman, vice president of the American Foreign Policy Council, 2012 can be said to have been the “high water” mark for Iran’s presence in Latin America, and its activities have become more modest in the aftermath of Ahmadinejad’s departure from office and the death of Chávez in 2013. He warns however that “Bolivia’s recently-announced quest for a nuclear capability, Ecuador’s attempts to ascend to the leadership of the ALBA bloc, and the controversial peace process now underway in Colombia,” could provide opportunities for Iran to expand its regional influence in the years ahead.
According to an U.S. Congressional Research Service Report, many analysts contend that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who took office in August 2013, has not placed priority on relations with Latin America. As a consequence, Iran’s already limited trade with the region has been declining, and Rouhani did not attend the summit of the Group of 77 (G77) developing countries held in Bolivia in June 2014 as reportedly planned.
This evaluation is refuted by Rouhani’s February 2014 statement that he will deepen Iran’s existing relations with Latin America.
According to Trita Parsi, President of the National Iranian American Council, “Iranian officials privately acknowledge that their government is more popular in Latin America [these days] than it is in the Middle East.”
Rouhani’s task in improving relations with Latin American states, albeit in a less politicized mode, is facilitated by his overtures to the West in the hope to achieve a good deal for Iran in the negotiations on the nuclear file, his personal image as a “moderate” politician and Iran’s recent status as Chair of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM). It is of note that the 17th Summit of the Non Aligned Movement is to be held in Caracas, Venezuela, in 2015.
Recent Iranian efforts to strengthen ties with Latin American countries
In March 2014 a delegation of three Iranian parliamentarians, headed by Chairman of the National Security and Foreign Policy Commission Alaeddin Boroujerdi visited Cuba and Venezuela.
Boroujerdi, in a meeting with ALBA ambassadors in Tehran, laid emphasis on the deepening of relations with Latin nations, and called for holding a joint meeting of the parliamentary foreign policy commissions of ALBA members in Bolivia. The Cuban Ambassador, for his part, underlined strengthening relations between Iran and the ALBA grouping and said “ALBA is willing to have cooperation with Iran in resolving the Syrian crisis through political means.”
A delegation of Iranian lawmakers visited Ecuador and Colombia in May in order to check the state of the relationship with the visited states.
At the beginning of June a parliamentary delegation from Latin American countries visited Tehran. Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Morteza Sarmadi told the lawmakers from Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Argentina and Brazil that “cruel sanctions against the nations are morally and practically doomed to failure” and underlined that parliamentary ties between the nations have a high value for Iran.
Rouhani’s government used the participation of Vice-President Eshaq Jahangiri at the G77 Summit in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, in mid-June 2014, to meet leaders of Latin America and mainly those of the ALBA states in order to advance the bilateral cooperation with them. The Iranian media, IRNA, Press TV and Hispan TV (in Spanish), gave large coverage to these high level political contacts.
Venezuela remains Iran’s favorite partner on the continent.
On August 4, 2014, President Rouhani said that for Iran strategic relations with all the independent Latin American states that are resisting U.S. hegemony is of high significance. Rouhani made the remarks in a meeting with Venezuelan Foreign Minister Elías José Jaua Milano on the sidelines of the Tehran NAM emergency meeting on Gaza. Lauding Venezuela’s very good stance on regional issues like Palestine, Syria and Iraq Rouhani said that the decision by late Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez to cut off ties with the Zionist regime was “very valuable” and Iran “is happy” that President Nicolas Maduro will continue with the path of Chavez.
Milano, for his part, said Venezuela supports any initiative by the Islamic Republic on regional issues and referring to the Tehran-Caracas joint economic commission scheduled to be held in September, he hoped for further expansion of mutual cooperation.
The Venezuelan Ambassador to Tehran declared in June 2014 that Caracas is ready to become “a hub for export of Iranian technology to other Latin American states” in order to circumvent the United States’ extensive sanctions against the Islamic Republic. Vice-President Jahangiri termed Venezuela as a good ally for Iran and expressed hope that all agreements already signed between the two countries would be implemented.
However, the relationship doesn’t seem to be as fruitful as the politicians claim.
In May 2014 it was reported that one of the key fields of cooperation, the oil industry, came to a stop when the offices of the Iranian National Oil (NIOC) in Venezuela, and Bolivia, another Iranian strong ally on the continent, were closed.
Mexico has become a priority target in Iran’s strategy in Latin America, probably because of its closeness to the United States.
In a meeting with the new Mexican Ambassador to Tehran in February 2014 Rouhani expressed Iran’s determination to expand economic and cultural relations between the two states and set the ground for more political negotiations.
An Iranian parliamentary delegation led by Alaeddin Boroujerdi is planned to visit Mexico in the near future to discuss economic and political issues.
As part of the celebrations for the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Mexico and Iran, a delegation of government officials and representatives of Mexican private companies, headed by Undersecretary of Foreign Affairs Carlos de Icaza, paid a visit to Iran in September. “We consider Iran one of the most important actors in the Middle East and that is why we want to maintain constant meetings with Persian authorities,” said Icaza.
Iranian Chancellor Mohammad Zarif outlined that Iran could provide to Mexico trade exchanges with central Asian countries. In 2012, bilateral trade between both countries was worth US$133 million, the highest ever registered; however, last year if fell to US$20 million.
Former Iranian Ambassador to Mexico Mohammad Rouhisefat underlined that “Mexico can be a good export gate for Iran’s goods to the U.S.” He pointed to a memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed between the two countries during the recent visit of the Mexican deputy foreign minister to Iran and the formation of a joint economic commissions as a means to expand economic and trade ties.
Bolivia is one of the two closest allies of Iran in the continent, after Venezuela.
Upon his investiture President Rouhaní sent a letter to President Evo Morales expressing his desire for the continuation of the close relations between the two countries.
Since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 2007, La Paz and Tehran signed three MoUs and an agreement on medium and long term commercial and energy projects for a value of 1,1 bn.$. Iran expressed its intention to exploit lithium at the major mineral reserve Salar de Uyuni. According to a report made by the Bolivian presidency in June, Iran granted a loan of $200 million for areas such as medicine, pharmacy and telecommunications.
During his visit to Bolivia in January 2014 Deputy Foreign Minister for Euro-American Affairs Majid Takht-e Ravanchi invited Morales to visit Tehran. Before flying to Bolivia, a country highly interested in developing nuclear energy, Ravanchi declared that nuclear issues were also on his agenda. It was on this occasion the two sides decided to promote a common Summit of the G77 + China, chaired by Bolivia and NAM, chaired by Iran, to be held in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, on 14-15 June.
Bolivia’s Parliament President Marcelo Elio Chávez visited Tehran in June and met the Majlis President Ali Larijiani in the framework of the “Friends of Syria Conference” created to support the beleaguered ally of Iran, Syrian Bashar al-Assad, before the upcoming presidential elections.
On May 15, 2014, an Argentine federal court declared unconstitutional an agreement with Iran that had been reached in January 2013 to jointly investigate the 1994 bombing of the Argentine-Israeli Mutual Association (AMIA) building in Buenos Aires. The bombing killed 85 people and has been linked to Iran and Hezbollah. The opposition argued that allowing Iran to be a part of the investigation, when Iran itself is suspected of being behind the attack, was ludicrous. The government of President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner maintained that it would appeal the ruling to Argentina’s Supreme Court.
In June Cristina Kirschner travelled to Bolivia to attend the G77 + China Summit and some expected her to at least cross paths with Vice-President Eshaq Jahangiri, which was going to be awkward because Iran never officially approved the infamous MoU to investigate the AMIA bombing.
Iranian officials at the Summit admitted that the agreement process didn’t advance in the Majlis and the Argentinian federal court May decision to declare the MoU unconstitutional practically froze the process.
The Argentinian government protested the lack of cooperation of the Iranian regime as the document signed by former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad encountered low enthusiasm in the Majlis. Argentinian officials declared that there is no planned meeting between the leaders of the two countries at the Summit and it seems indeed that Cristina Kirschner did not meet Jahangiri. The last message sent by Kirchner to Iran in March this year, when she opened the ordinary session of the Congress and admitted that the agreement was “stagnant” and asked the opposition to propose other alternatives that could advance the AMIA case.
In a meeting on the sidelines of the G77 Summit in Santa Cruz, Iran’s Vice-President Jahangiri and Uruguay’s President José Alberto Pepe Mujica Cordano exchanged views over the latest regional and international developments, and explored new avenues for reinvigorating bilateral cooperation.
The head of Iran-Colombia Parliamentary Friendship Group Hamidreza Fouladgar during a meeting in Colombia with Vice President of Senate Carlos Emiro Barriga Penaranda said Iran’s policy of stronger ties with Latin America necessitates expansion of ties between Tehran and Bogota. The Colombian senator emphasized the need for the formation of Colombia-Iran parliamentary friendship group in his country’s senate, saying “Colombia’s parliament sees no obstacle in the way of expansion of ties with the Islamic Republic of Iran.”
General John F. Kelly, Commander of the U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), who presented SOUTHCOM’s 2014 posture statement to the House and Senate Armed Services Committees, maintained that “Iran’s involvement in the Western Hemisphere is a matter for concern” and that Hezbollah “maintains an operations presence” in the region and stated that “Islamic extremists visit the region to proselytize, recruit, establish business venues to generate funds, and expand their radical networks.”
In its 2013 terrorism report, the State Department maintained that “there were credible reports that Venezuela maintained a permissive environment that allowed for support of activities that benefited known terrorist groups” and that individuals linked to Hezbollah supporters, were present in Venezuela. The United States has imposed various sanctions on Venezuelan individuals and companies for supporting Iran and Hezbollah.
Some critics maintain that the State Department is playing down the threat posed by Iranian activities in the region, while others maintain that Iranian activities in the region, while a concern, are being exaggerated. The State Department maintains that there are no known operational cells of either Hezbollah-related groups or Al-Qaeda in the hemisphere, although it notes that ideological sympathizers continue to provide financial and ideological support to these and other terrorist groups in the Middle East.
Since January 2012 a worldwide campaign of some 30 terrorist foiled and failed attacks against mainly Israeli but also Western targets took place from Thailand and Georgia to Cyprus, Nigeria or South Africa, involving Iranian, Lebanese and local citizens. On July 18, 2012 Hezbollah staged a “successful” attack in Burgas, Bulgaria, killing five Israeli tourists and a Bulgarian citizen and wounding some 30 Israelis.
The Iranian/Hezbollah attacks took place in “soft countries” in Asia and Africa, countries where the intelligence and law enforcement agencies are not sufficiently trained to challenge this kind of threat and where the Iranian/Hezbollah activities are low priority for the local security agencies. Iran’s fingerprints are obvious and clumsy and imply that Tehran is not worried to be exposed killing innocent citizens of these countries, harming their tourist industry and provoking a global terrorist environment.
The arrest of Hezbollah terrorist operatives in so many countries, including Cyprus, which hold at the time E.U.’s rotating presidency, did not convince immediately the E.U. that Hezbollah is a terrorist organization, because of lack of consensus and “because Hezbollah also has an active political arm in the Lebanese government.” Only on July 22, 2014, in a policy shift that reflected their concern about Hezbollah’s suspected involvement in Europe-based bombings and its growing role in the Syria war did the European Union blacklist the military wing of Hezbollah.
Rouhani’s government has changed the style but not the basic goals of Iran’s foreign policy in Latin America: to secure alliances with the continent’s states, using the already strong anti-U.S. ALBA regimes, to mitigate its international isolation and circumvent the biting economic sanctions and in the process to hurt America’s interests in its backyard. This policy is greatly assisted by Iran’s chairmanship of the NAM and Bolivia’s chair of the G77, which strengthen its international legitimacy.
As for the terrorist threat, Iran and Hezbollah continue to plan and stage terrorist attacks worldwide, albeit more cautiously because of the sensitivity of the ongoing nuclear negotiations, with preference in countries which have little experience about their modus operandi and which, they evaluate, will act leniently against their operatives and agents, due to diplomatic pressure and possibly threats of retaliation. Historical experience and recent operations tells us that Latin America is not immune to the threat.
 Mark P. Sullivan and June S. Beittel, “Latin America: Terrorism Issues,” Congressional Research Service Report, August 15, 2014.
 The State Department report is available at http://www.state.gov/j/ct/rls/crt/2013/index.htm
 Ilan Berman, “A Post-America South America,” inFocus Quarterly, Vol. VIII, No. 3, Summer 2014.
 Sullivan and Beittel, Latin America: Terrorism Issues.
 IRIB World Service, “Iran Firm to Boost Ties With Latin America: President Rouhani,” February 10, 2014, at http://english.irib.ir/news/iran1/item/178359-iran-firm-to-boost-ties-with-latin-america-president-rouhani.
 Trita Parsi, “Pivot to Persia,” Foreign Policy, June 16, 2014.
 Tasnim News Agency, March 3, 2014.
 Fars, May 26, 2014.
 Tasnim News Agency, June 9, 2014.
 IRNA ,August 4, 2014.
 Fars, June 24, 2014.
 Cochabamba, Los Tiempos, May 22, 2014.
 IRIB English Radio, February 10, 2014.
 The Iran Project website, July 31, 2014 at http://theiranproject.com/blog/2014/07/31/iranian-parliamentary-delegation-to-visit-mexico-top-mp/.
 Institute of American Studies website, 15 September 2014 at http://www.asipress.ir/vdcgxn9u.ak9ut4j5ra.html.
 FARS, September 15, 2014.
 La Razón Digital, August 29, 2013.
 EFE, January 20, 2014.
 Los Andes, June 15, 2014.
 La Nacion, June 11, 2014.
 Sullivan and Beittel, Latin America: Terrorism Issues.
 Mark P. Sullivan and June S. Beittel, “Latin America: Terrorism Issues,” Congressional Research Service Report, August 15, 2014.
September 25, 2014
Iran Executing “Iran’s Mandela,” Dissident Hero Ayatollah Boroujerdi
Now that the world’s headlines are dominated by ISIS, and while Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani is at the UN, the Iran is using these distractions to step up its executions, its mass-arrests of minorities, and now its execution of Ayatollah Boroujerdi — that is if Iran, by again withholding crucial medical attention, does not passively execute him first.
Iran’s Prosecutor of the Special Court, Mohamad Mohavadi, continued that the punishment for these crimes of “anti-government views” is execution, and stated that all those who had a hand in publishing [his] book will also be killed. When Boroujerdi suggested an open, public debate, Mohavdi announced that his office did not participate in debates, just trials and punishments [executions]. Iran has been trying to kill Ayatollah Boroujerdi for the past eight years of his 11-year prison sentence.
The threat of execution comes only one day after Ayatollah Boroujerdi’s latest letter to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon.
Days before Iran’s President Hassan Rohani addresses United Nations General Assembly, Ayatollah Hossein Kazemeyni Boroujerdi, the prominent dissident clergy was informed that he will be executed for “anti-government views” — that is if Iran, by again withholding repeatedly-requested medical attention, does not passively execute him first.
According to reliable sources inside Iran, “Ayatollah Boroujerdi’s health condition is worse than ever, and prison docors have said that if the prisoner does not receive immediate medical attention, he will die within days or even hours….” The authorities have been refusing medical intervention.
Ayatollah Boroujerdi, has spoken out against political Islam and been strong advocate of separation of religion and state, for which Iran sentenced him to 11 years as an Iranian political prisoner.
The Human Rights and Democracy in Iran Agency reported that on September 23, 2014, Mohammad Mohavadi, prosecutor of the Special Clerical Court visited Ayatollah Boroujerdi in Ward 325, in Evin prison.
Mr. Mohavdi referred to Ayatollah Bouroujerdi’s book and teachings. The prosecutor informed Boroujerdi that the contents of the book were “heresy” against the leadership and insulted the Supreme Leader of Iran.
Mohammad Mohavdi continued that the punishment for these crimes is execution, and stated that all those who had a hand in publishing this book will also be killed. When Ayatollah Boroujerdi suggested an open, public debate with the Special Court regarding his views, Mohavdi announced that his office did not participate in debates, just trials and punishment [execution].
This threat of execution comes only one day after Ayatollah Boroujerdi’s latest letter to Mr. Ban Ki Moon, Secretary General of the United Nations was published on September 22nd. In this letter Ayatollah Boroujerdi strongly criticizes the government of Iran for mishandling the country’s money by corruption and by financing causes in other Muslim countries, instead of spending money on its own citizens, such as addressing unemployment, rampant poverty and the desperate need for health care.
Boroujerdi, who has an enormous number of supporters and is known worldwide as “Iran’s [Nelson] Mandela,” has also implored the General Assembly to help the people of Iran for the sake of history and future generations.
The Islamic Republic of Iran has been trying to kill Ayatollah Boroujerdi for the past eight years of his 11 year prison sentence. The authorities have done this through torture, denial of urgent medical care and even a fire set to his ward on July 1st, 2014. So far, possibly wary of the global outcry that would ensue both inside and outside Iran if Iran’s regime were to excute Boroujerdi, the government has refrained from executing him.
However, now that the world’s headlines are dominated by the beheadings, mass-murders of ISIS and lightening expansion of ISIS, the Islamic Republic is using these distraction to step up its executions, its mass-arrests imminent murder of Ayatollah Boroujerdi.
June 5, 2014
Khamenei: American invasion not likely because of Iraq and Afghanistan failures
Ariel Ben Solomon
Iran’s supreme leader says that a military attack is not a priority for the US; says Iran progressed in science and technology despite sanctions.
Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Wednesday at a ceremony marking the 25th anniversary of Grand Ayatollah Khomeini’s death that an American attack is not likely because of the failures in Iraq and Afghanistan and instead seeks coups and colored revolutions.
Military action is not currently a priority for the US because of its losses in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, said Khamenei.
Khamenei tweeted some main points from his speech, with one saying that because an attack is not a priority at this time; the US instead seeks coups and colored revolutions.
If a government comes to power with 60 percent of the vote, the US penetrates the remaining 40% with agents and “makes them take to the streets to overthrow [governments],” another tweet said.
He also stated that the US “classifies the countries of the world into three categories: 1. The obedient, 2. Those that should be tolerated, 3. The disobedient.”
The second category are tolerated because of “common interests, but if it finds the chance, it will stab [a] dagger into their hearts”, he tweeted.
The third category are countries that do not surrender to US bullying, and the US uses “every means against the disobedient countries”.
Khamenei, seeming to refer to the ongoing Arab uprisings, claimed that intelligence agencies of the West have failed to suppress the growing “Islamic Awakening”.
“The Islamic Awakening might be suppressed in part of the Islamic world for a while but undoubtedly it would not be uprooted. It would keep growing,” he said, Iran’s Fars News Agency reported.
The Iranian leader also implied that the “Awakening” was triggered by the Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979 and its leader Khomeini.
For more than thirty years, said Khamenei, the West has been working to contain the influence of the Islamic Revolution, but eventually the Islamic Awakening bore fruits and created great waves across the region, Fars reported.
He also asserted that Iran is the preeminent power in the region, alone standing up to Israel.
“The Islamic Republic of Iran has the first say when it comes to policy making in the region; it stands alone against the usurper regime (of Israel), that is supported by the world bullying powers; it does not tolerate the tyrant while defending the oppressed,” said the Iranian leader.
Addressing large crowds near Khomeini’s shrine, Khamenei said the West had repeatedly targeted Iran.
“A strong Western front has been doing whatever is in its power for 35 years against the Islamic Republic. It has taken military action, aided military offenders to the country, supported the enemies of the Islamic Republic against it at every turn, made prolific advertisements against it, implemented unprecedented economic blockades and sanctions at the utmost level,” he said.
“But the Islamic Republic was not only not destroyed by these attacks and violent and inconsiderate opposition, but it also did not fall into conservatism and didn’t give into the West. Instead it has progressed day by day,” he added.
“In the field of science and technology, the Islamic Republic has sent satellites into space, it has sent living creatures into space and brought them back, it has created nuclear energy,” Khamenei said.
He then laid further claims against the West.
“They start up terrorist groups who target specific people like scientists and in our country they killed our scientists, they killed our nuclear energy specialists and martyred them,” he said.
April 22, 2014
New Israeli Satellite Eyes Iran Nuke Program, Terrorist Arms Smuggling
The Investigative Project on Terrorism
An advanced satellite with radar sensors Israel launched into space earlier this month is expected to enhance surveillance of the two greatest threats to Israeli and international security: Iran’s nuclear program, and the extensive Iranian terrorist arms smuggling network.
The SAR (Synthetic Aperture Radar) satellite, called Ofek (Horizon) 10, creates high definition, radar-generated images, that look as if they’ve been taken by an optical camera. As it circles the Earth every 90 minutes, it can hover over several targets, peering through all weather conditions to beam back data to Israel’s Military Intelligence Directorate.
Once it becomes fully operational, it will assist Israeli efforts to catch any Iranian nuclear transgressions. This development comes as defense officials in Jerusalem continue to warily follow diplomatic negotiations between an Islamic Republic that has reached nuclear breakout status, and an international community that may, according to Israeli fears, lack the resolve to force Iran back from its nuclear advances.
The Ofek 10 spy satellite soared into orbit on board a Shavit (comet) rocket, produced by Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI). The latest launch, which was overseen by the Israeli Defense Ministry’s Space Administration, means that Israeli intelligence can now fall back on several spy satellites to create one rolling evaluation of targets of interest, Amnon Harari, who heads the Space Administration, said this month.
Israel designed the satellite to be able to maneuver easily over multiple targets, meaning that Military Intelligence operators can direct the radars not only at nuclear sites in Iran, but also at ongoing Iranian efforts to smuggle powerful weapons, including missiles and long-range rockets, to terrorist proxies such as Hizballah in Lebanon and Islamic Jihad in Gaza.
Israel’s intelligence agencies divide their time between watching the Iranian nuclear program and working to disrupt the arms smuggling network, in a covert campaign that sees frequent, yet classified, successes.
The nuclear program and the arms-to-terrorists program are interlinked threats. The former, if completed, would enable Iran to threaten Israel and Sunni states with mass destruction, and the latter already enables pro-Iranian terror groups to do Tehran’s regional bidding and sow radicalism and instability. If Iran went nuclear, its terrorist arms program could serve as a potential delivery mechanism for a dirty bomb that could be deployed anywhere in the world.
As a result, Israel is heavily investing in upgrading intelligence capabilities.
Ofer Doron, who heads the IAI’s Mabat Division, which develops space systems, said the new satellite has “an incredible ability to take photographs, and it is very small.” The Ofek 10 can provide very precise, high quality images under all conditions, he added.
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon alluded to the satellite’s future role against Iran’s conventional and unconventional proliferation activities when he stated that it would enhance Israeli capabilities to deal with threats “near and far, at any time of the day, and in all types of weather.”
“This is how we continue to consolidate our enormous qualitative and technological edge over our neighbors,” Ya’alon said.
Although Israeli officials have decreased the number of public statements expressing concern over the Iranian nuclear program, the issue remains at the top of the national security ladder in the eyes of the military and government, and considerable resources are being invested quietly to cope with the program.
Those efforts include ongoing refinements to a military strike option in the event that Iran is caught making a secret effort to break out to the weaponization stage.
The Iranian arms network represents the largest known program of state sponsorship of terrorism. It reaches far beyond Gaza and Lebanon, and includes Shi’ite militias and pro-Iranian terror groups in Syria, Iraq, Bahrain, Yemen, Sudan, Libya, Pakistan, the Far East, Afghanistan, and even Latin America, according to Israeli intelligence assessments.
Iran is also facilitating the arrival of thousands of Shi’ite foreign fighters into Syria, to fight on behalf of the Assad regime. Many of these militiamen may go on to form Quds Force cells when they return to their countries of origin, according to a report released in March by the Tel Aviv-based Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center.
March 18, 2014
Mad Is Dead
A blog by Mladen Andrijasevic
A one-topic blog: how is it that the most imminent and lethal implication for humankind – the fact that the doctrine of “Mutually Assured Destruction” will not work with Iran – is not being discussed in our media? Until it is recognized that MAD is dead, the Iranian threat will be treated as a threat only to Israel and not as the global threat which it in fact is.
March 18, 2014
Ya’alon shifts stance, leans toward Israeli operation in Iran
Defense minister says Obama administration is acting feebly and demonstrating weakness the world over, from China through the Mideast to Ukraine.
Based on his evaluation that the United States isn’t going to do anything to frustrate the Iranian nuclear program, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said Monday he’s changed his mind and now leans toward supporting unilateral Israeli action against Iran.
“We had thought the ones who should lead the campaign against Iran is the United States,” said Ya’alon, speaking during an event at Tel Aviv University. “But at some stage the United States entered into negotiations with them, and unhappily, when it comes to negotiating at a Persian bazaar, the Iranians were better.”
If Israel had hoped others would do the job for it, this is not about to happen, Ya’alon said: “Therefore, on this matter, we have to behave as though we have nobody to look out for us but ourselves.”
His words attest to a sea-change in his attitude regarding how Israel should contend with the Iranian nuclear program. Under the previous government, Ya’alon had led the opposition in the security cabinet to a solo Israeli attack on Iran, even exchanging sharp words on the issue with the defense minister at the time, Ehud Barak. Ya’alon had taken the position that “the work of righteous men shall be done by others” – meaning the United States should be the one to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities.
Evidently he longer believes this is going to happen, and is nearing the position of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who signals the belief that Israel should be behaving as though it’s on its own, right now.
Ya’alon was sharply critical on Monday of Washington’s behavior regarding Iran, even hinting that U.S. President Barack Obama would prefer to pass the hot potato to his successor at the White House. “People know that Iran cheats,” Ya’alon said. “But comfortable Westerners prefer to put off confrontation. If possible, to next year, or the next president. But in the end, it will blow up.”
From Iran being “on its knees” thanks to economic pressure and onerous diplomatic isolation, from fearing an internal eruption and military threat, Iran cleverly led a “smile offensive,” Ya’alon said, extracting itself from crisis.
“There have been delays in the nuclear program, but the [interim] agreement [signed between Iran and the superpowers in Geneva] is very convenient for the Iranians,” Ya’alon said. “They’re settling down at the threshold and can decide when to make the breakthrough to a nuclear bomb.”
Ya’alon’s criticism of Obama’s foreign policy didn’t stop with Iran. The minister repeated a number of times during his address that Washington has been showing weakness everywhere in the world. “The moderate Sunni camp in the area expected the United States to support it, and to be firm, like Russia’s support for the Shi’ite axis,” Ya’alon said. “I heard voices of disappointment in the region. I was in Singapore and heard disappointment about China getting stronger and the U.S. getting weaker. Look what’s happening inUkraine, where the United States is demonstrating weakness, unfortunately.”
If the American government persists in demonstrating weakness on the international front, the United States’ own national security will be badly damaged, Ya’alon said. “If you sit and wait at home, the terrorism will come again,” he said. “Even if you hunker down, it will come. This is a war of civilizations. If your image is feebleness, it doesn’t pay in the world. Nobody will replace the United States as global policeman. I hope the United States comes to its senses. If it doesn’t, it will challenge the world order, and the United States is the one that will suffer.”
Discussing the relations between Israel and the United States on the security and diplomatic fronts, Ya’alon said that U.S. military aid to Israel needs to be “seen in proportion”.
“It isn’t a favor America is doing, it’s in their interest,” he said. Israel not only takes from Washington, the minister added — it also gives. “They get quality intelligence and technology,” he said. “We invented Iron Dome. The wings of the F-35 stealth fighter – we invented. We invented the Arrow,” an anti-ballistic missile.
Ya’alon also took aim at the Israeli left, implying that Justice Minister Tzipi Livni was encouraging international elements to apply pressure to Israel. “We have a serious problem of self-accusation,” he said. “There are circles where Israelis and Arabs meet. The Arabs accuse the Jews and the Jews accuse themselves.”
Hinting plainly at Livni, Ya’alon said, “There are elements within the government that have lost their equilibrium, and blame us” for the failure of negotiations with the Palestinians. “They say, why are we building? [Settlements.] Why don’t we give more? Then it becomes very convenient for everybody outside to pounce on us. We have too much self-accusation, which attracts fire, and causes people to press us and demand concessions.”
‘Mystified’ US slams Israeli defense minister Ya’alon’s criticism of Obama
Senior US administration official tells ‘Post’ that White House is shocked by comments minister made Tuesday when he said Obama has a “feeble” image in world.
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon (R) looks into Syria on tour of Golan Heights
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon (R) looks into Syria on tour of Golan Heights Photo: Ariel Hermoni, Defense Ministry spokesman
WASHINGTON — The United States is using unprecedented language to condemn Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon after he continued weeks of criticism of US President Barack Obama, and members of his foreign policy team, on Tuesday.
“We were shocked by Moshe Ya’alon’s comments, which seriously call into question his commitment to Israel’s relationship with the United States,” a senior administration official told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday night. “Moreover, this is part of a disturbing pattern in which the Defense Minister disparages the US Administration, and insults its most senior officials.”
Ya’alon said on Tuesday that, in light of developments on crises in the Middle East, relations with China and with Russia over the annexation of Crimea, Obama’s “image in the world is feebleness.”
Ya’alon sensed “disappointment” in the world community, he said at Tel Aviv University.
“Given the unprecedented commitment that this administration has made to Israel’s security, we are mystified why the Defense Minister seems intent on undermining the relationship,” the official continued.
The defense minister also implied that US policy on Iran was pushing Israel to plan for war, should talks over its nuclear program fail in Vienna.
“At some stage the United States entered into negotiations with [the Iranians], and unhappily, when it comes to negotiating at a Persian bazaar, the Iranians were better,” Ya’alon said.
Ya’alon’s criticism of the US administration was extensive: he suggested the White House “come to its senses,” or else risk new terrorist threats from around the world.
“Look what’s happening in Ukraine, where the United States is demonstrating weakness, unfortunately,” he continued.
The comments come just weeks after Ya’alon was criticized for calling US Secretary of State John Kerry “messianic” for his fervent pursuit of peace between Israel and the Palestinians. The State Department demanded an apology for those comments, which he delivered at the time at the insistence of Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu.
This would be funny it were not serious. This American official thinks he is Captain Renault from Casablanca: I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!
Obama is behaving like a deer caught in the headlights. He just cannot grasp the magnitude of the Iranian threat and there is where his weakness is the most dangerous.
This would be funny it were not serious. This American official thinks he is Captain Renault from Casablanca: I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!
Obama is behaving like a deer caught in the headlights. He just cannot grasp the magnitude of the Iranian threat and there is where his weakness is the most dangerous.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Khamenei: I Am Not Optimistic about Nuclear Talks;
US Will Continue to Be an Enemy
February 17, 2014
The following are excerpts from a speech delivered by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei,
which aired on IRINN TV [Iran]
Ali Khamenei: The message of the revolution is that we shall not surrender to bullying and extortion. We shall not surrender to hegemonic order. Hegemonic order means that a few powers control all the weapons and money, and they want to rule the world. The United States is the manifestation of today’s hegemonic order.
The Iranian nation has said during the revolution, in the ensuing events, in the Iran-Iraq War, and on the recent Revolution Day, that we shall not surrender to American bullying and extortion.
Crowd: Allah Akbar. Allah Akbar. Allah Akbar. Khamenei is the leader. Death to those who oppose the Rule of the Jurisprudent! Death to America! Death to England! Death to the hypocrites! Death to Israel!
Ali Khamenei: Certain people, who try to conceal the true face of America, should not do so. They should not conceal America’s ugliness, barbarism, and violence against our nation. They try to portray its government as friendly. They should not do so. It is futile.
The American president, with utter insolence, supported the people behind the  strike in Tehran, and he supported them recently once again.
On March 21, 2013, in Mashhad, I declared that I have nothing to say [about the nuclear issue]. Some officials in the previous government, and some in the current government, believe that the nuclear issue can be resolved through negotiations with the US. I said: If you insist on negotiation with them on this specifically – fine. But in the same speech, I said that I was not optimistic. I am not against it, but I am not optimistic.
Look, time after time, the Americans make stupid statements. One dishonorable American senator takes money from the Zionists in order to go to the Senate and curse the Iranian nation. He uses real curses, not just insults. He curses. Even their leaders have insulted Iran, but of course, our people punched them in the mouth on the recent Revolution Day.
The nuclear issue is merely a pretext for enmity. Even if the nuclear issue is resolved one day in line with US expectations – although this is impossible – they will seek something else instead. Note how the American spokespeople have talked about human rights, missiles, weapons, and so on. I am surprised at how the Americans are not ashamed to talk about human rights.
Iran will not violate its agreements and commitments, but the Americans are the enemies of the Islamic Revolution and of Iran. They are the enemies of the flag that you hold high, and these [negotiations] will not bring an end to this enmity.
February 22, 2014
The Collapse of Sanctions on Iran
The White House gets what it wants.
Lee Smith, a senior editor at The Weekly Standard
The economic news from Tehran is good—good, that is, if you are a state sponsor of terror moving toward a nuclear weapons program. If on the other hand you were hoping that sanctions might persuade the Iranians to cease and desist, the news is disastrous.
Since the Obama administration relaxed sanctions on Iran, oil sales are up 25 percent, from 1.06 million barrels per day to 1.32 million, and the White House reportedly has no intention of preventing the rise in sales and consequent swelling of Revolutionary Guard bank accounts. And that’s not all. The leading economic indicators show an Iranian economy on the mend, thanks to the interim nuclear agreement struck in November. Inflation has decreased from 40 percent-plus to 20 percent and falling. The rial-to-dollar exchange rate is steadily recovering from the depths to which it had fallen in 2012. And where Iran’s GDP fell 3 percent in 2012, the IMF now projects modest increases for 2014 and 2015.
In short, with the sanctions regime eroding, Iran’s business climate has been transformed. What was once a foolish gamble is now a promising opportunity, and trade delegations are exploring investment options in Iran’s petrochemical and automobile industries. The White House’s early assessment that the regime was getting only $7 billion in sanctions relief was way off. The figure is far closer to those estimates of $20 billion that administration officials scoffed at.
What happened? Is it possible that the White House, with all the economic expertise at its disposal, simply miscalculated? Is the Obama administration just bad at math?
No, it was intentional. Contrary to the administration’s public stance, sanctions relief was never about rewarding the regime with relatively small sums of money in exchange for steep concessions on the nuclear program. The plan rather was to get Iranian president Hassan Rouhani lots of cash, the more the better. The White House’s idea is that once Rouhani understands how much easier his life is with lots of money pouring into the economy, it will be in his interest to petition Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei for more concessions on the nuclear file. The problem with the strategy is that it shows how badly the White House has misunderstood not only the regime’s behavior, but also Rouhani’s role and how sanctions affect it.
“The administration wanted to strengthen Rouhani’s position vis-à-vis the hardliners,” Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), says Mark Dubowitz, executive director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, whose work has been central in building the Iran sanctions regime. According to Dubowitz, the White House wanted to empower Rouhani while weakening figures like Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani, who use their proximity to Khamenei to argue against concessions. The administration assumes, says Dubowitz, that “the more Rouhani becomes ‘addicted’ to cash, the better he’ll be able to make the case to Khamenei that they need to make more concessions. The White House’s idea was to show Rouhani some leg.”
They gave away much more than that. What was significant about sanctions relief was not merely the exact amount of money. Rather, it was that any relaxation of sanctions would give rise to an international lobby with a vital interest in making sure the White House never made good on its threats to reimpose stiff sanctions on the Tehran regime. And it’s not just businesses wanting to trade with Iran that have a stake in sanctions relief, but also politicians. A European corporation doing business in Tehran means jobs back home. What politician would gladly turn his back on thousands of jobs or potential jobs to agree to observe the restoration of a sanctions regime that the Obama White House wasn’t serious about in the first place?
Accordingly, businesses sensing a new climate have flocked to Tehran. “Administration officials said our estimate of $20 billion was exaggerated,” says Dubowitz. “But they had to know about the secondary effects of sanctions relief. They were counting on it. It was key to their whole economic strategy of giving Iran’s economy a lift to incentivize Rouhani to deliver more on the nuclear file. As Iran’s economy continues its shift from a deep recession to a modest recovery, and Congress challenges administration officials on the impact of sanctions relief, administration officials may begin to change their tune and claim that this was their strategy all along.”
John Kerry chastised a French business delegation for visiting Tehran, but other State Department officials saw it differently. “We hope people don’t go to Tehran,” said undersecretary of state for political affairs Wendy Sherman, the administration’s lead Iran negotiator. “That is our preference. But those who go raise hopes that the Rouhani administration’s going to have to deliver on.”
The administration’s strategy, says Dubowitz, “has nothing to do with rational economic models. Rather, it’s a psychological profile of the regime based on its assessment of Rouhani as a pragmatist who was elected to secure sanctions relief and will be further strengthened if he can deliver.”
But that’s a misreading of Rouhani’s position. The last thing he wants is more sanctions relief, says Iran specialist Ali Alfoneh. “Rouhani uses the sanctions regime, and the threat of new sanctions, as a stick in his fight with the IRGC and Khamenei. It may seem counterintuitive, but the fact is that sanctions relief and Obama’s threat to veto additional sanctions are only likely to weaken Rouhani in Iran’s political power structure.”
To be sure, Rouhani was elected to win sanctions relief for a beleaguered Iranian economy—and perhaps more importantly for the Revolutionary Guards. “The IRGC was initially a beneficiary of the international sanctions regime,” says Alfoneh, a senior fellow at FDD. Sanctions eliminated competition, especially in Iran’s energy sector, and further concentrated economic power in the IRGC’s hands. “However, as the sanctions regime continued,” Alfoneh explains, “the IRGC suffered because of the overall deterioration of the Iranian economy and shrinking oil revenues.” Contrary to the White House’s understanding, sanctions relief not only enriches the IRGC but also weakens Rouhani.
Khamenei has long seen Rouhani as a useful asset in his dealings with the West. The Iranian president often boasts of his role in duping his American and European counterparts as lead negotiator when he held the regime’s nuclear file from 2003-05. But that was after the U.S.-led coalition invaded Iraq, and Khamenei was terrified the Bush administration might move on Iran next. Rouhani was the regime’s happy face. When Khamenei saw that the Americans were tied down in Iraq, says Alfoneh, he got rid of Rouhani and moved back to hardball tactics.
The same is likely to happen here. Now that Western businessmen and politicians are pecking away at the sanctions regime, Rouhani has already served his purpose. Khamenei has a deal he’s perfectly happy with. He’s getting paid for doing nothing, and if the interim agreement is renewed after six months, as many anticipate, then it’s just more money to spend on whatever he likes—backing Bashar al-Assad in the Syrian civil war, or building the bomb. What’s peculiar is that the White House seems just as pleased with the agreement.
PM Netanyahu’s following his meeting with US Secretary of State, John Kerry
Is Obama’s Iran Nuclear Deal Unraveling?
National Review Online
January 10, 2014President Obama’s nuclear agreement to slow down Iran’s drive to become a nuclear-weapons power faces tough resistance from Senate Republicans and Democrats because of massive loopholes in the deal.The Hill reported today that “an Iran sanctions bill opposed by the White House continues to gain traction in Congress with 59 senators officially signing on as of Friday morning—just one shy of a filibuster-proof majority.”The goal of the bill is straightforward, namely, to ensure that the Islamic Republic of Iran – the world’s largest sponsor of terrorism – does not develop a nuclear-weapons device. Senators Mark Kirk (R., Ill.) and Robert Menendez (D., N.J) drafted the legislation entitled the Nuclear Weapons Free Act.It is puzzling to observe the Obama administration showing such deference to a rogue regime that from its inception in 1979 has murdered Americans in Lebanon, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Saudi Arabia.Iran continues to defy six U.N. Security Council resolutions demanding that it cease its illicit enrichment of uranium. Nonetheless, Obama declared that the November 24 agreement in Geneva “halted the progress of the Iranian nuclear program.”The agreement has flopped on two levels. First, Iran announced it plans to build advanced centrifuges to enrich uranium. “The new generation of centrifuges is under development. But all tests should be carried on it before mass production,” said Iran’s nuclear directorAli Akbar Salehi. Put simply, Iran is set to amass huge quantities of weapons-grade uranium.Second, the sanctions relief outlined by the Obama administration severely underestimated the benefits to Iran’s money-starved economy. According to the White House, the deal will provide $7 billion in relief to Iran. However, the real figure probably hovers around$20 billion.Moreover, the comprehensive sanctions imposed on Iran are now unraveling because of a mix of avarice, über-appeasement, and Obama’s faulty calculations.Consider some examples since the agreement was reached. In a January Der Spiegelarticle entitled “Chance of a Century: International Investors Flock to Tehran,” Daniel Bernbeck, head of the German-Iranian Chamber of Industry and Commerce in Tehran, said airplanes are now “full of Italians” seeking to jumpstart business deals, including managers from the Italian energy company Eni S.p.A. The article noted that the French “are about to renew their licensing contract for supplying Peugeot components to Iranian carmaker Iran Khodro.” Germany has helped keep Iran’s economy on life support over the years by delivering “sensitive” engineering technology to Iran.American oil and gas giants ExxonMobil and the Chevron Corporations rushed to Iran’s energy market, according to Spiegel. Bernbeck, whose Tehran office continues to advance Germany’s multi-billion-euro bilateral trade relationship with Tehran, sparked controversy during the 2009 fraudulent presidential elections in Iran.There is “no moral question here at all” about conducting business with Iran, said Bernbeck during the 2009 period of violent regime-sponsored repression targeting Iran’s pro-democracy movement. (It is worth recalling that Obama opted to stay on the sidelines of that historic challenge to Iran’s totalitarian regime by ordinary Iranians.)My Foundation for Defense of Democracies colleague Mark Dubowitz and his co-author Rachel Ziemba from Roubini Global Economics showed in their new study that “Iran’s economy is showing signs of recovery after years of sanctions, due in no small part to the recent sanctions relief offered in Geneva, changing market psychology, and a perception that the Obama administration may no longer be committed to ratcheting up the economic pressure on Iran.”All of this helps to explain the need for the Senate to pass a veto-proof bill to ensure U.S. security interests and prevent a terror-sponsoring regime from developing nuclear weapons.— Benjamin Weinthal is a Berlin-based fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Follow Benjamin on Twitter at @BenWeinthal– See more at: http://defenddemocracy.org/media-hit/is-obamas-iran-nuclear-deal-unraveling/#sthash.Pm43nucI.dpuf____________________________
Early Signs of an Iranian Economic Recovery
FDD Iran Sanctions Analysis
Mark Dubowitz (Foundation for the Defense of Democracy)
Co-authored by Rachel Ziemba (Roubini Global Economics)
January 9, 2014
Iran’s economy is showing signs of recovery after years of sanctions, due in no small part to the recent sanctions relief offered in Geneva, changing market psychology, and a perception that the Obama administration may no longer be committed to ratcheting up the economic pressure on Iran.”…..
Key Lawmakers Urge Increased Pressure on Iran
November 25, 2013
Key congressional leaders from both parties are continuing to scrutinize the recent interim agreement signed with Iran. A senior bipartisan group of senators is arguing the importance of confronting Iran with prospective additional sanctions if it violates the agreement or continues its nuclear weapons quest. Former Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and George Shultz have echoed these sentiments, insisting that any deal with Iran be “something other than a tactical pause on Iran’s march toward a military nuclear capability.”
Top lawmakers voiced concern that the as yet unimplemented interim deal will ease sanctions while allowing Tehran to continue enriching uranium.
Senate •”We basically have the Iranians running in place. … Their centrifuges are spinning. Basically we are going to roll back some of our sanctions, but they are rolling back nothing.” “[Prospective sanctions create] the flexibility for diplomacy [and] also sends a message to Iran … that there is a consequence if you don’t strike a successful deal …”
– Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Chairman, Senate Foreign Relations Committee
•”I will continue working with my colleagues to craft bipartisan legislation that will impose tough new economic sanctions if Iran undermines this interim accord or if the dismantlement of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure is not underway by the end of this six-month period.”
– Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL), Ranking Member, Senate Appropriations Subcommittee for Military Construction and Veterans Affairs
•”I think all of us want to see a diplomatic solution here. I think it’s now time for Congress to weigh in because I think people are very concerned that the interim deal becomes the norm …”
– Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), Ranking Member, Senate Foreign Relations Committee
•”Unless the agreement requires dismantling of the Iranian centrifuges, we really haven’t gained anything.”
– Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Member, Senate Armed Services Committee
•”… I remain deeply concerned about … the interim agreement’s lack of a requirement that Iran comes into compliance with mandatory U.N. Security Council resolutions demanding a suspension of all enrichment activities.”
– Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE), Member, Senate Foreign Relations Committee
House •”Loosening sanctions and recognizing Iran’s enrichment program is a mistake, and will not stop Iran’s march toward nuclear capability.”
– Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA), House Majority Leader
•”[T]he deal … has a significant flaw, namely that it allows Iran to continue to enrich uranium up to a level of 3.5-5 percent, as long as it converts this from gas to uranium oxide metal.”
– Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA), Ranking Member, House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Trade
•”I am deeply concerned that this is a time-out rather than a roll-back of the nuclear program, and that it is not the kind of robust verification that is necessary with Iran.”
– Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY), Chairman, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee
Leading House and Senate members are calling for additional sanctions to increase prospects for the success of negotiations.
Senate •”[The deal] falls short of what is necessary for security and stability in the region. The Senate should be prepared to move forward with additional sanctions.”
– Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Chairman, Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security
•”By allowing the Iranian regime to retain a sizable nuclear infrastructure, this agreement makes a nuclear Iran more likely. There is now an even more urgent need for Congress to increase sanctions until Iran completely abandons its enrichment and reprocessing capabilities.”
– Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Member, Senate Foreign Relations Committee
•”Sanctions brought the Iranians to the table. Strengthening sanctions and enforcement of them is vital to create incentives and increase pressure if this interim step is unsuccessful.”
– Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Member, Senate Armed Services Committee
House •”… Prospectively looking for sanctions that are invoked six months from the date of enactment … creates the flexibility for diplomacy [and] also sends a message to Iran, as it has throughout this process, that there is a consequence if you don’t strike a successful deal …”
– Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), Chairman, House Foreign Affairs Committee
•”… The threat of sanctions could strengthen our negotiators’ hand. … If there’s one thing that brought Iran to the negotiating table, it’s the sanctions. I don’t trust the Iranians and I have great doubts about this.”
–Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), Ranking Member, House Foreign Affairs Committee
•”The lingering question … is whether the negotiating partners will work equally hard to preserve the strong international sanctions regime until that goal is achieved. Otherwise, we will look back on the interim deal as a remarkably clever Iranian move to dismantle the international sanctions regime while maintaining its infrastructure and material to pursue a break-out nuclear capability.”
– Rep. John Boehner (R-OH), Speaker of the House
•”I believe the Senate should move forward with the sanctions bill the House recently passed—and include a provision enabling the President to delay their implementation while Iran’s compliance with yesterday’s agreement proceeds and is verified.”
– Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD), House Democratic Whip
The Geneva Interim Accord: A Bad Deal
BESA Center Perspectives
David M. Weinberg
December 2, 2013
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: The interim accord reached in Geneva regarding Iran’s nuclear program is a bad deal. It enshrines Iran’s status as a nuclear threshold state and paves, not impedes, Tehran’s path towards a nuclear bomb.
You know that the accord reached in Geneva between the P5+1 and Iran is a bad deal when US Secretary of State John Kerry proclaims that the accord does not recognize Iran’s “right to enrich” uranium, and five minutes later Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif says it does.
Woe to us that Zarif speaks with more credibility than Kerry. Officials in Washington have now confirmed the Iranian interpretation by commenting on the record that it is “not realistic” to expect, even in a further accord, that Iran will agree to zero enrichment.
You know it’s a bad deal when John Kerry says that the accord’s main purpose is to “put time on the clock,” but Dr. Ephraim Asculai, a veteran of both the IAEA and the Israel Atomic Energy Commission, determines that the deal “does not do anything to change Iran’s breakout time, except perhaps in a very minor way.” Asculai says the interim agreement adds only “a few days” onto the regime’s clock should it decide to sprint toward a bomb.
You know it’s a bad deal when one of the most-ballyhooed Iranian “concessions” is its agreement – for the next six months – not to install plutonium production equipment in the heavy water reactor in Arak. But this is a joke, since the reactor is still under construction and will be so for at least another 12 months, and Washington now admits that the text of the accord
has a loophole which allows Tehran to build components off-site for later installation in the reactor.
You know it’s a bad deal when the second most-celebrated Iranian “concession” is its agreement to temporarily halt enriching uranium to a 20 percent level (and convert what they have into fuel rods or uranium o
xide), and to limit the number of centrifuges in Natanz by half and the number of centrifuges in Fordo by three-quarters.
But Israeli analysts term these restrictions almost meaningless. Iran already has more than eight tons of low-enriched uranium, enough for four to five atom bombs; and with nearly 18,000 fully-operational centrifuges, it can enrich uranium to any level it wants within a short period of time. So Iran is already a nuclear threshold country in terms of its ability to produce fissile material, and this situation won’t change. The Iranians can quietly accept the freeze on high-enriched uranium, and make a swift run any day in the future towards the critical amounts needed for a bomb.
You know it’s a bad deal when one of the much-touted-breakthroughs is Iranian agreement to supposedly “intrusive” IAEA inspections. But the IAEA has missed every major Iranian nuclear advance over the past twenty years, and been very slow to call-out the Iranians when it did find evidence of Iranian misdoing. Moreover, the hypothetically-intrusive international inspections do not include access to the places where Iran is suspected of working on nuclear weaponization, like Parchin. In fact, the interim accord doesn’t restrict or relate at all to Iran’s military programs in nuclear metallurgy, warhead design, and long-range missile production.
You know it’s a bad deal when the year-long, until-now-secret, American-Iranian talks have reportedly not focused at all on Iran’s awful behavior in the region, from supporting Hizballah and Syria’s Assad, to its subversive activities in Egypt and Jordan, to its genocidal statements with regard to Israel. All of this is being swept under the carpet in a dangerously-enthusiastic rush to craft a new nuclear deal with Iran. Of course, it’s a deal that may last long enough for Obama to serve out his presidential tenure without having to really confront the Iranians, so it’s “worth it.”
You know it’s a bad deal when just about every administration spokesman has explained over and over again in recent weeks that war with Iran is not an acceptable option. Thus residual, ritual American incantations of the diplomatic formula that “all options remain on the table” – to wit, military action could still be contemplated if the Iranians don’t follow through on their new commitments – ring totally hollow. It’s clear that the Obama
administration has no intention of striking the Iranian nuclear military complex, ever, under any circumstances.
You know it’s a bad deal when the Geneva accord may not really be much of an actual agreement at all. Former US National Security Council official Elliott Abrams has pointed out that the accord summary released by the White House is couched in “aspirational” terms, suggesting that actual “implementation” of Iranian commitments still need to be negotiated, and the White House now admits as much. Zarif has actually called the White House texts “invalid and one-sided interpretations of the texts agreed to in Geneva.”
You know it’s a bad deal when the French foreign minister and others are already saying that the so-called interim accord could be in place for a year or more, since talks on a longer-term agreement may be prolonged and difficult. And who knows whether Tehran will ever agree to a tougher accord. So Obama’s “interim” accord could become a lasting arrangement; the worst possible scenario.
You know it’s a bad deal when the US administration official in charge of the negotiations with Iran is none other than Wendy Sherman, US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs. Sherman was the Clinton administration’s policy coordinator for North Korea when the flimsy 2005 and 2007 accords were signed – each of which was hailed as “historic and transformative” by Washington, only to be violated with impunity by the North Koreans again and again. Today the Kim regime has uranium enrichment facilities, has restarted (again) its plutonium-producing nuclear reactor at Yongbyon, has conducted a series of increasingly successful long-range missile tests, and has carried out three nuclear tests (in 2006, 2009, and 2013).
You know it’s a bad deal when Obama and Kerry have taken to belittling Israel’s concerns, and to battering American Jewish and congressional critics of the Geneva deal with insinuations of disloyalty, dual loyalty, and warmongering, instead of defending the accord on its own terms. But all is fair in Obama’s drive for a new regional order in which Israel is a bit player and side concern, and America’s grand reconciliation with the Islamic world is the paramount strategic objective.
David M. Weinberg is director of public affairs at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, and a diplomatic columnist for The Jerusalem Post and Israel Hayom newspapers.
BESA Center Perspectives Papers are published through the generosity of the Greg Rosshandler Family
Iran: Secrets and Betrayal
John C. Wohlstetter
November 26, 2013
Telltale clues to identify ally betrayal…..
Here’s how to tell:
1. Conduct secret negotiations with your ally’s mortal enemy, based upon wrongly presumed common interests & hence goals, including back-channel talks going back five years, even one found to be conducting one or another form of war on you & your ally, on a matter viewed as existential by your ally.
2. When asked by your ally if negotiations–concealed even from your own legislative body charged with oversight of executive branch actions–are underway, lie and deny–especially if the negotiations play into your enemy’s geopolitical strategy, and operate to legitimate your enemy’s harmful, unlawful conduct.
4. Spring on your ally with minimal or no notice an agreement manifestly contrary to your ally’s interest, one your enemy hails as protecting its own interests, with instant up-front concessions and which substantially lessens pressure on an enemy who has conceded little of value, and which morally inverts a formerly close alliance partnership, and which undermines stronger international pressure–from a normally recalcitrant body (here: the UN).
5. Threaten to penalize your ally–including possibly notifying the enemy if a preventive strike is underway–if it attempts to get out of the box your actions put it in, which actions buy time for your enemy to arm while shortening time for your ally to prevent it.
6. Prepare to blame your ally if it acts anyway, instead of yourself for putting your ally in such a box to begin with.
7. Treat mortal adversaries better than your own close allies foregoing any prospect of regime change, thus encouraging your ally to troll independently for new potential allies, including possible high-end technology transfer, and infuriating the leader of your close ally.
One report includes the worst of the above, the threat to tip off the enemy if a strike is underway:
Israeli personnel in recent days were in Saudi Arabia to inspect bases that could be used as a staging ground to launch attacks against Iran, according to informed Egyptian intelligence officials.
The officials said Israel, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan and other Arab and Persian Gulf countries have been discussing the next steps toward possible strikes on Iran’s nuclear sites.
The officials said the U.S. passed strong messages to Israel and the Saudis that the Americans control radar capabilities over the skies near Iran and that no strike should be launched without permission from the Obama administration. (Emphasis added.)
This is without precedent. Why would the US do this? The inescapable inference is that specifically mentioning radar impliedly threatens disruption of an Israeli-Saudi strike against Iran’s facilities. Put simply, there is no other reason why such mention would be made. Israel & Saudi know the US monitors military traffic in the Mideast. Giving allies a reminder would be unnecessary if the US intended to act only after a strike against the enemy was conducted.
Bottom Line. Having initiated withdrawal from traditional alliance relationships, President Obama has completed the circle by establishing ties with mortal enemies & legitimating their adversarial policies. Out of this disaster can easily come–more likely than not–catastrophes, geopolitical, nuclear, military, economic and societal.
Is the US changing sides in the regional conflict between Iran and its enemies?
The Jerusalem Post and Middle East Forum
November 30, 2013
A report by respected Washington DC based journalist Hussein Abdul Hussein in the Kuwaiti al-Rai newspaper this week revealed details of an indirect US channel with Hizballah. The report comes, of course, close on the heels of the interim agreement concluded between the P5 + 1 and Iran allowing the latter to continue to enrich uranium.
News items are also surfacing suggesting a stark split between the US and Saudi Arabia over regional policy in general and policy toward Syria in particular. Saudi officials are going on the record expressing their alarm at the direction of American policy. Happily stirring the pot, some Iran-associated outlets have suggested that Washington is actively seeking to rein back Saudi intelligence chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan, who favors a hard line against Iranian interference in the region.
Meanwhile, agreement has now been reached over the long postponed ‘Geneva 2’ conference to discuss the war in Syria. The conference will go ahead because US-backed Syrian opposition representatives abandoned their demand that President Assad could have no part in any transitional phase of government in the country.
What does all this add up to? There are an increasing number of voices who perceive a shape behind all these details: namely, an effort by the current US Administration to turn the Iranian regime from an adversary into a partner. The method: acceding in part or whole to key Iranian demands.
Let’s take a look at each item in more detail.
The usually reliable Hussein Abdul Hussein’s report details the mechanism by which the US is speaking to Hizballah, in spite of that organization being a US-designated terrorist group. British diplomats are the ones who do the talking. The channel of communication between UK officials and the ‘political wing’ of the movement was recently revived, in tune with the improving relations between London and Teheran. It is now serving to transfer messages between Washington and Teheran.
An un-named diplomatic source quoted by Abdul Hussein explained that this dialogue is ‘designed to keep pace with the changes in the region and the world, and the potential return of Iran to the international community.’ The official went on to explain that because the US does not concur with the (British, entirely fictitious) division of Hizballah into ‘political’ and ‘military’ wings, direct dialogue is currently not possible.
The report goes on to outline moments in recent months when the US has found itself on the ‘same page’ as Hizballah. One of these, very notably, was the occasion in June when the Lebanese Army, together with Hizballah fighters, fought against the partisans of the pro al-Qaeda Salafi preacher Ahmed al-Assir in the Lebanese town of Sidon. The US backed the army, without reference to the key role played by Hizballah fighters in the action, which resulted in al-Assir’s defeat.
The other was the US condemnation of the recent al-Qaeda linked bombing at the Iranian embassy in Beirut. The condemnation, well noted in Lebanon, did not contain any reference to the presence of Iranian and Hizballah fighters in Syria.
Thus far the Abdul Hussein report. It tells us that the US ‘outreach’ to Iran is not on the nuclear file alone. Rather, even before any comprehensive agreement is reached, Washington appears to have begun to dismantle the carefully assembled diplomatic structure seeking to contain Iranian regional ambitions.
Even Teheran’s proxy Hizballah, which killed 241 US Marines in Beirut in 1983, is evidently now a fit subject for communication, as part of Iran’s return to the ‘international community.’
Reports suggesting US reining in of Bandar are somewhat less reliable, coming as they do from pro-Iran and pro-Hizballah media outlets (al-Manar and the Revolutionary Guards associated Fars News Agency). But certainly the deep Saudi frustrations with the direction of US policy are not an invention of pro-Iran propagandists.
Nawaf Obeid, a senior adviser to the Saudi royal family, this week accused Washington of deceiving Riyadh over the Iran nuclear deal. ‘We were lied to, things were hidden from us,’ Obeid told an audience in London, as quoted in the Daily Telegraph.
He went on to vow continued Saudi resistance to Iranian machinations across the region. In particular, he expressed Saudi determination to turn back the Iranians in Syria. ‘We cannot accept Revolutionary Guards running around Homs,’ the adviser said.
But this defiant tone appears in stark contrast to the developing US position. The Geneva 2 conference is now scheduled to take place on January 22nd. It is a US-sponsored affair. It is not yet clear if Iran itself will be there.
But what is clear is that the conference will take place entirely according to the agenda of the Assad regime and its backers. That is – the US backed Syrian National Coalition will directly face the regime, while the regime now flatly rejects any notion of its stepping down.
In a statement issued on Wednesday, humming with the old Ba’athist rhetoric, the Syrian foreign ministry said that ‘The official Syrian delegation is not going to Geneva to surrender power… The age of colonialism, with the installation and toppling of governments, is over. They must wake from their dreams.’
The armed rebels will not be sending representatives to the conference. They, financed and armed by Saudi Arabia and Qatar, have formed a new ‘Islamic Front’ which is battling the regime around Damascus, in Aleppo, and in the border region of Qalamun this week. The military advantage continues to ebb and flow.
But the stark contrast between the US-led diplomacy and the events on the ground is another clear reminder of the extent to which Washington’s position has moved away from confrontation, away from Riyadh – and toward Teheran.
Assad has revived his fortunes in the course of 2013 mainly because of the massive Iranian assistance he has received. Washington, which officially backs the opposition, appears to be sponsoring a conference which will crown this achievement.
So is the US in fact changing sides in the contest between Iran and those regional forces seeking to contain and turn back its advance?
Michael Doran of the Brookings Institute, suggested this week that Washington is in the first phase of seeking a ‘strategic partnership’ with Iran, an ‘entente cordiale’ which would see a US-Iranian alliance forming a lynchpin of regional stability.
If this is indeed what the welter of evidence detailed above portends, then the Middle East is headed into a dangerous period indeed. As Doran also notes, there is no reason at all to think that Iranian designs for regional hegemony have been abandoned.
The effect of US overtures to Teheran and undermining of allies will be to build the Iranians’ appetite. This will serve to intensify their continued efforts at expansion. The corresponding efforts by other regional powers, Israel and Saudi Arabia chief among them, to resist this process will also increase. That, in turn, is likely to mean greater instability across the region. An eventual direct collision could result.
When liberals meet mullahs
The Weekly Standard
Reuel Marc Gerecht
December 9, 2013
Israeli intel revealed secret U.S.-Iran talks, months before Obama briefed Netanyahu
Israel found out about secret talks at beginning of summer, senior official tells Haaretz
Nov. 24, 2013
Israel found out about the existence of secret talks between the United States and Iran months before they were officially informed of the negotiations by the U.S. government, a senior Israeli official told Haaretz. The Israeli government learned of the secret negotiations sometime near the beginning of the summer through intelligence it managed to obtain.
The existence of the secret channel between Iran and the United States was revealed publicly for the first time only on Sunday by the Associated Press and by blogger Laura Rozen on the Al-Monitor news website. The two reports appeared simultaneously, right after Iran and world powers signed an agreement in Geneva.
The back door contact was set up even before Iran’s June presidential election, the two reports said. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns led the talks on the American side and the first meeting was held in March, while Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was still president, according to the Associated Press.
Four more sessions were held after Hassan Rohani was elected president – two in August and two in October. Most of the meetings were held in the Gulf state of Oman. The talks were also kept secret from most U.S. allies – including Israel. It was only after the Obama-Rohani phone call that the United States began informing allies of secret talks with Iran.
Senior Israeli cabinet ministers said in media briefings over the past few months that the United States had a secret and direct channel to the regime in Iran, but they did not provide any details of who was involved in these talks. The ministers said the contacts between Iran and the P5 + 1 powers of Germany, the United States, France, Russia, China and Britain, were only a cover for the real talks going on between the United States and Iran. The White House repeatedly denied reports of a secret channel when probed by Israeli reporters.
Israel was officially informed of the existence of these secret talks only two months ago, the Associated Press reported – a full six months after the talks had began.
Obama told Netanyahu of the secret channel two months ago during a meeting at the White House. The United States tipped off the other governments involved in the talks about the existence of the secret channel only after updating Israel, according to the Associated Press. A day after Obama brought Netanyahu into the loop, the Israeli premier delivered a harsh address lambasting Iran at the UN General Assembly.
Obama notified Netanyahu of only about two of the meetings with the Iranians, which took place after Rohani’s election, and made no mention of the first set of talks held in March. This was part of the promise made by the Americans to Iran, according to the Associated Press.
Rohani’s victory and his statements soon after made it clear to the Americans there was a possibility for genuine negotiations with Iran. Deputy Secretary Burns was in contact with senior Iranian diplomats who were close to Foreign Minister Muhammad Javad Zarif and Rohani. Other American officials who were involved along with Burns, the State department’s number 2, were Jake Sullivan, Vice-President Joe Biden’s top foreign policy adviser, and the White House National Security Staff director in charge of Iran, Iraq and Persian Gulf affairs, Puneet Talwar.
Some of the points comprising the interim agreement reached between Iran and the six powers were based on these secret talks between the U.S. and Tehran, integrated by the Americans into the official document.
It’s 1938 all over again
November 22, 2013
When Hassan Rouhani was elected President of Iran, western leaders declared, in the teeth of stark evidence to the contrary, that this man was a reformer. So they rushed to do a deal with him over Iran’s nuclear programme, considered by the west to be a threat to the free world.
But Rouhani does not run Iran. The man who actually calls the shots – the only man who matters – is Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei. Earlier this week, Khamenei said the Jews of Israel ‘cannot be called humans, they are like animals, some of them’ and that Israel was ‘the rabid dog of the region’.
What do you do with rabid dogs? That’s right: you put them down. That’s what Khamenei intends to do to the Jews of Israel. That’s why he says Israel is ‘doomed to collapse’ and why his regime has repeatedly declared it will wipe Israel ‘off the page of history’. Dehumanising the Jews: ring any bells? Know what happened next? But it’s not just the Jews who are in Iran’s sights. It’s the west, upon which it has been waging a self-declared war since the Islamic revolution of 1979.
‘Death to America! Death to Israel!’ chanted the crowd in response. Yup, that’s the agenda. Always has been. And they mean it.
That’s why Iran wants nuclear weapons. That’s why its nuclear programme poses such a mortal threat not just to Israel but to Britain, America and Europe. That’s why Iran is the principal terrorist regime in the world and why it has murdered countless western victims. That’s why Britain, America and Europe said it was ‘unthinkable’ that Iran should be allowed to develop nuclear weapons.
The most stunning aspect of the Iranian war against the west, however, is that since 1979 the west has effectively denied that it is taking place. When its civilians were murdered in terrorist atrocities with Iran’s fingerprints all over them, when its soldiers were blown up in Iraq by Iranian roadside bombs, when British Royal Navy personnel were kidnapped at gunpoint by Iranian forces on the high seas and held hostage for 13 days, the west turned the other way and refused to retaliate.
Iran has been protected throughout by a mysterious cloak of denial and paralysis. The west took the decision that acts of Iranian aggression and mass murder were to be absorbed without any response. For the west, war with Iran has always been seen as infinitely worse than war by Iran – regardless of the body count of its innocent victims. And now this suicidal farce has reached its last act – with the west tragically still in appeasement mode.
Obama’s White House and Britain’s Foreign Office, not to mention the apology for a statesman that is Baroness Ashton, the EU’s Foreign Affairs High Representative, are gagging to do a deal with the Khamenei regime – even though this has made it crystal clear that it will never yield at all on the central demand that it halt its progress towards nuclear weapons. What is currently on the table is a deal that will allow Iran to keep all its centrifuges and proceed inexorably to make its nukes, with the sanctions that have finally begun to bite being eased in return for precisely nothing. The west is now on the verge of handing to Iran on a plate what it once said was ‘unthinkable’. Obama, Ashton and Cameron might as well go to Tehran and wave a white flag.
There are persistent if unconfirmed reports that a deal with Iran was stitched up long ago by the very radical Valerie Jarrett, Obama’s most trusted and Iranian-born adviser. Whether or not this is true, what we are seeing playing out before our eyes could hardly be more disturbing. Presented with unambiguous evidence of the Supreme Leader’s genocidal prejudice towards the Jews of Israel, the Obama administration merely flapped the limpest of wrists. A spokesman said Khamenei’s remarks were ‘not helpful’, while Secretary of State John Kerry said: ‘Obviously we disagree with it profoundly’.
‘Disagree profoundly’ that the Jews are not human and like ‘rabid dogs’, eh. As if psychopathic racism is a debating-society proposition! But then, this is the same Kerry who told American law-makers to ignore any concerns the Israelis might express and to stop listening to them. After all, who cares what the putative victims of genocide say when they are only Jews who are still banging their own unhelpful drum! Only after Israel had expressed shock at the US response was Samantha Power, the US ambassador to the UN (who herself has a history of deeply questionable attitudes towards Israel) wheeled out to call Khamanei’s remarks ‘abhorrent’. Who do they think they’re kidding? The hostility towards Israel being displayed by the Obama administration is as clear as it is shocking.
The rationale being offered by US officials in background briefings is no less jaw-dropping. This is how it goes. Measures to stop Iran from making the nuclear bomb will make the regime even more determined to make the bomb. So it’s smart not actually to stop Iran making the bomb. But not stopping it making the bomb, allowing the centrifuges to spin and enrichment to continue, also means it will make the bomb. So it’s win-win for Iran. World loses.
How’s that hope’n’change thingy working out for you right now?
We are indeed now facing the unthinkable. Not just that Iran is on the verge of being allowed to proceed to nuclear capability. The really unthinkable reality is that the enemies of the civilised world are not just to be found in Tehran. They are also in London, Brussels and Washington DC.
The Geneva Agreement with Iran: A Foreign Policy Disaster
National Review Online, The Corner
November 23, 2013
“For the first time in nearly a decade we have halted parts of Iran’s nuclear program” announced a jubilant Barack Obama after the news of the just-signed Geneva six-month interim agreement with Iran.
But the American goal for the accord was that the Iranians not “advance their program” of building a uranium nuclear bomb (and perhaps a plutonium bomb too); the apparent deal exactly permits such advancement, plus sanctions relief to Tehran worth about US$9 billion.
This wretched deal offers one occasion when comparison with Neville Chamberlain in Munich in 1938 is valid. An overeager Western government, blind to the evil cunning of the regime it so much wants to work with, appeases it with concessions that will come back to haunt it. Geneva and Nov. 24 will be remembered along with Munich and Sep. 29.
Barack Obama has made many foreign policy errors in the past five years, but this is the first to rank as a disaster. Along with the health care law, it is one of his worst-ever steps. John Kerry is a too-eager puppy looking for a deal at any price.
With the U.S. government forfeiting its leadership role, the Israelis, Saudis, and perhaps others are left to cope with a bad situation made worse. War has now become a much more likely prospect. Shame on we Americans for re-electing Barack Obama. (November 23, 2013)
Netanyahu says Iran nuclear deal is ‘historic mistake’
Yaakov Lappin, Herb Keinon
November 24, 2013
Bennett: “Israel does not see itself as bound by this bad, this very bad agreement that has been signed.”
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu giving a statement about Iran interim deal, November 24, 2013. Photo: Hayim Tzah/GPO
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu characterized the agreement signed with Iran early Sunday morning as a historic mistake.
Directly contrasting US President Barack Obama who praised the agreement as opening a “new path toward a world that is more secure,” Netanyahu – speaking at the weekly cabinet meeting — said the world has become more dangerous as a result.
“What was agreed last night in Geneva is not a historic agreement, it is a historic mistake,” he said. “Today the world has become much more dangerous because the most dangerous regime in the world took a significant step to getting the most dangerous weapon in the world.”
For the first time, he said, the leading powers of the world agreed to uranium enrichment in Iran, while removing sanctions that it has taken years to build up in exchange for “cosmetic Iranian concession that are possible to do away with in a matter of weeks.”
Netanyahu said the consequences of this deal threaten many countries, including Israel. He reiterated what he has said in the past, that Israel is not obligated by the agreement.
“Iran is committed to Israel’s destruction, and Israel has the right and the obligation to defend itself by itself against any threat” he said. “I want to make clear as the prime minister of Israel, Israel will not allow Iran to develop a military nuclear capability.”
Netanyahu’s government denounced world powers’ nuclear agreement with Iran on Sunday as a “bad deal” to which Israel would not be bound.
Yet Israeli officials stopped short of threatening unilateral military action that could further isolate the Jewish state and imperil its bedrock alliance with Washington, saying more time was needed to assess the agreement.
“This is a bad deal. It grants Iran exactly what it wanted – both a significant easing in sanctions and preservation of the most significant parts of its nuclear program,” an official in Netanyahu’s office said.
Netanyahu’s sentiments were echoed by Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, who called the deal a “historic mistake” and a “surrender to the Iranian charm and smiles offensive, and to Iranian fraud, which is aimed at gaining time, without the Iranian nuclear program being substantially harmed.”
Speaking from Canada, where he is attending a conference of defense ministers, Ya’alon said the agreement “allows Iran to enter the family nations despite being the most active and flourishing activator of terrorism in the world, which sends its deadly and uncurbed deadly arms across the globe, first and foremost against Western states, as regime representative sit at the able in Geneva.”
The Iranian nuclear program threatens not only Israel and other Middle East countries, but also world peace, Ya’alon warned. “To leave in the regime’s hands capabilities for continuing the nuclear program means that the world today is a less safe place. Instead of rolling the program back, the regime in Tehran has gained time, which will allow it on the one hand to seek a nuclear bomb, and on the other, breathing space due to the lightening of sanctions,” the defense minister continued.
Hours ago, before the deal was signed, the regime in Tehran was facing heavy economic pressure that threatened its existence, and which could have forced it to choose between survival and continuing the program, Ya’alon stated.
“But now, due to short-term considerations and a lack of determination by the West, the Iranian regime is receiving legitimacy for continuing the military nuclear project, and its global terrorist activities, while its international isolation is lifted and its economy is strengthened,” he added.
Aimed at ending a dangerous standoff, the agreement between Iran and the United States, France, Germany, Britain, China and Russia was nailed down after more than four days of negotiations in the Swiss city of Geneva.
But the deal still appeared to fall far short of Netanyahu’s demand for a total rollback of the Iranian nuclear program.
“You stand and shout out until you’re blue in the face, and you try to understand why they’re not listening. The world wanted an agreement,” Finance Minister Yair Lapid, a member of Netanyahu’s security cabinet, told Israel’s Army Radio.
“We also said that a diplomatic accord would be good. A diplomatic accord is certainly better than war, a diplomatic accord is better than a situation of permanent confrontation – just not this agreement.”
Lapid said that Israel had to pore over the deal: “For example, we still don’t understand exactly what stepping up the monitoring (on Iran’s facilities) means. This is a detailed matter. God really is in the small details.”
President Shimon Peres said that the deal was temporary, not permanent and would be better discussed after seeing its results.
“Like all nations we also prefer a diplomatic solution over any other solution,” Peres said.
“I turn to the Iranian people and say: We are not your enemies and you do not have to be your enemies. We have never threatened you so why are you threatening us?
Peres urged the Iranians to chose peace and to turn Iran into a responsible nation that is not involved in terror and is not a nuclear threat.
Economic Minister Naftali Bennett, another security cabinet member, told Army Radio in a separate interview: “Israel does not see itself as bound by this bad, this very bad agreement that has been signed.”
Neither Lapid nor Bennett would be drawn on how Israel might respond. Israel, which is widely assumed to have the Middle East’s sole atomic arsenal, sees a mortal menace in a nuclear-armed Iran and has at times threatened to launch a preemptive war against its arch-foe.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said the Geneva deal required the Netanyahu government to conduct a strategic review.
Asked on Israel Radio whether he felt cheated by the United States for its role in the deal, Lieberman said: “Heaven forbid.”
Meretz chairwoman Zehava Gal-On on Sunday praised the agreement while criticizing the Israeli government for overlooking important components of the deal.
“The Israeli government ministers’ assault on the agreement takes attention away from the fact that clauses of the deal include the most important goal which was the dismantling and rolling back of the fast track to the bomb,” she said.
“The main sanctions that will remain imposed on Iran and the tight supervision by IAEA inspectors who will visit nuclear sites daily are indicative of the fact that this is not just an American achievement, but also an Israeli achievement,” the Meretz chief said. “This is because the goal of supervision, similar to sanctions, is to encumber the race to the bomb and remove the possibility that Iran could fool the international community without anyone taking notice.”
The deputy speaker of parliament, Likud MK Moshe Feiglin, said on Saturday the interim agreement signed between Iran and the Western powers was tantamount to the Munich Agreement of the late 1930s.
“Like Czechoslovakia at that time, which was not party to the discussions that effectively sentenced it to death, Israel today watches from the sidelines how its existential interest is being sacrificed by the Western powers,” Feiglin said.
“Any rational person understands that we are in the midst of a process leading to a nuclear-armed Iran,” he said. “For years I have warned about the dangers of the strategy adopted by Israel towards the Iranian nuclear threat.”
Feiglin said that entrusting foreign powers to secure Israel’s defense interests is “disastrous” and “much worse than that which led to the Yom Kippur War.”
The lawmaker called on the Israeli government to declare an immediate end to all contacts with the West over the Iranian question and to make clear that it would not be bound by the agreement signed.
Knesset member Eli Yishai reacted Sunday morning to the deal: “the world’s countries only saw the economic interests of the deal, and not their obligation to the security of Israel.”
He stressed that Israel “has to no one to trust besides god and ourselves”.
Speaker of the Knesset Yuli Edelstein said “Today more than ever we have been reminded that we can rely only on ourselves.
He said said it would not be long before the world powers who signed the deal with Iran realize that they made a mistake.
Referring to the Holocaust, Edelstein said: “We can only hope that history will not repeat itself.”
MK Ayelet Shaked (Bayit Yehudi) said that EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and US Secretary of State John Kerry were offering Iran sanctions without demanding one centrifuge to be dismantled. “Iran can decide to create a nuclear bomb whenever it wants to,” she said.
Deputy Defense Minister and Likud faction leader Danny Danon said that the agreement was excellent for Iran but dangerous for the world.
“All options are still on the table and Israel has the obligation and the ability to defend itself,” Danon said.
Home Front Defence Minister Gilad Erdan, a security cabinet member, said the nuclear deal “makes it much more difficult, in the diplomatic sphere, to talk about a military option”.
Israel’s coming steps, Erdan said on Army Radio, would be to continue monitoring events in Iran along with an attempt to coordinate future moves with the United States and the other five powers that sealed Sunday’s deal.
Security sources said Netanyahu has urged Israel’s intelligence organs to spare no expense in crafting assessments of the situation in Iran and weighing Israel’s options.
“We have six months now, and there are significant improvements that can be made in these six months,” Erdan said, looking ahead to a final agreement.
Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz, speaking on Israeli television, said Israel “may have lost the battle over the interim agreement (but) we have not lost the war over denying Iran a military nuclear capability.”
Uzi Rabi, head of the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Tel Aviv University, said Israel’s immediate options were unlikely to include a military attack.
Instead, he said, “Israel should focus on a concerted intelligence effort” to expose any violations of the deal.
Iran planning to build 2 new nuclear power plants, official says
November 23, 2012
Fars news agency quotes Tehran’s deputy nuclear chief as saying two nuclear reactors being planned in addition to Bushehr core.
Interior of Bushehr nuclear plant Photo: REUTERS/Stringer Iran
Iran is planning to construct two new nuclear power plants in the near future, the Fars News Agency quoted a senior Iranian nuclear official as saying Saturday.
“The Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) has put construction of the second and third (nuclear) power stations on its agenda due to the government’s programs and the emphasis laid by the President (Hassan Rouhani),” Fars quoted AEOI Deputy Chief Hossein Khalfi as saying. Iran currently has one such operational nuclear power plant at Bushehr.
The announcement came as Iran and the P5+1 group of world powers were negotiating a deal in Geneva that would see Tehran curb its controversial nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.
Iranian officials said in April that they planned to build more nuclear reactors at the Bushehr site, which is located in a highly seismic area on Iran’s Gulf coast and began operations in 2011 after decades of delays.
The Bushehr site is capable of holding six power reactors and Tehran has identified 16 sites elsewhere in the country suitable for other atomic plants.
The Russian-built plant is estimated to cost some $11 billion over four decades, making it one of the world’s most expensive plants.
Khalfi was quoted as saying Saturday that the Bushehr plant would prevent the flow of seven million tons of various types of pollutants, which are dangerous to the environment, into the air.
The Bushehr reactor is not suspected of serving a military function, however Iran’s Gulf neighbors have expressed safety concerns over the plant’s location in an area prone to earthquakes.
Reuters contributed to this report.
Bipartisan Statement on Iran Sanctions
Yesterday, during perhaps one of the most partisan days in Senate history, we saw two moments of extraordinary leadership. Yesterday morning on the Senate floor, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) announced a bipartisan initiative to impose new sanctions on Iran. It was a statement not just to the Senate but to the world. Senator Reid’s announcement and the forthcoming sanctions legislation send an important message on the steadfast and bipartisan commitment of Congress to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapons capability.Senator Reid’s floor statement below:
Reid Remarks On Iran Sanctions
Washington, D.C. – Nevada Senator Harry Reid delivered the following statement on the Senate Floor regarding Iran sanctions:
Mr. President, I am a strong supporter of our Iran sanctions regime and believe that the current sanctions have brought Iran to the negotiating table.
I believe we must do everything possible to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons capability, which would threaten Israel and the national security of the United States.
The Obama Administration is in the midst of a negotiation with the Iranians / that is designed to end their nuclear weapons program.
We all strongly support those negotiations, hope they will succeed, and want them to produce the strongest possible agreement.
However, we are also are aware of the possibility that the Iranians could keep the negotiations from succeeding. I hope that will not happen.
But, the Senate must be prepared to move forward with a new bipartisan Iran sanctions bill, when the Senate returns after Thanksgiving recess. And I am committed to do so.
A number of Senators have offered their own amendments on Iran in the Defense Authorization bill, and I know that other Senators also have their own sanctions bills.
I will support a bill that would broaden the scope of our current petroleum sanctions; place limitations on trade with strategic sectors of the Iranian economy that support its nuclear ambitions, as well as pursue those who divert goods to Iran.
While I support the Administration’s diplomatic effort, I believe we need to leave our legislative options open to act on a new, bipartisan sanctions bill in December, shortly after we return.
November 21, 2013
Bipartisan Statement on Iran Sanctions
WASHINGTON, DC – A bipartisan group of 14 U.S. Senators today released the following statement regarding the Senate’s consideration of Iran sanctions legislation:
“A nuclear weapons capable Iran presents a grave threat to the national security interest of the United States and its allies and we are committed to preventing Iran from acquiring this capability. We will work together to reconcile Democratic and Republican proposals over the coming weeks and to pass bipartisan Iran sanctions legislation as soon as possible.”
The statement was signed by Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Mark Kirk (R-IL), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Bob Casey (D-PA), John Cornyn (R-TX), Chris Coons (D-DE), Susan Collins (R-ME), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Bob Corker (R-TN) and John McCain (R-AZ).
Just hours after Senator Reid’s statement, 14 of the Senate’s most senior leaders, Republicans and Democrats alike, issued a joint statement committing themselves to forging bipartisan legislation to increase sanctions on Iran when the Senate returns on Dec. 9th. That statement is included below as well.
For the last 20 years, AIPAC and its membership have worked with Congress and successive administrations to ensure that together we prevent Iran from reaching its goal.
Are Iran Sanctions a “March to War?”
Council on Foreign Relations
November 13, 2013
White House spokesman Jay Carney yesterday called any effort to adopt additional sanctions against Iran “a march to war.” Here, from The Cable, is the quote:
It is important to understand that if pursuing a resolution diplomatically is disallowed or ruled out, what options, then, do we and our allies have to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon? The American people do not want a march to war.
This escalation of rhetoric is irresponsible and near hysterical (to borrow a word from a New York Times editorial, which applied it to Israeli prime minister Netanyahu yesterday).
Additional sanctions are, in my view and that of a wide range of Democrats and Republicans, a good idea. Sanctions brought Iran to the table, a conclusion with which the Obama administration appears to agree. Additional sanctions are not therefore obviously a terrible idea, a bad policy, or a sure road to ending negotiations. Iran has in the past stretched out negotiations, as Rouhani himself has claimed, in order to gain time to build its nuclear weapons program. Additional sanctions would make that tactic costly for Iran, and by causing more economic damage give Iran an even greater incentive to show the flexibility needed to reach a deal.
The administration has an argument, one it makes poorly, that additional sanctions imposed now would lead to the doom of all negotiating efforts and cause Iran to walk away from the table. That may be true but it is illogical and requires some argumentation. What Carney did yesterday is closer to slander than to argumentation: that those who seek additional sanctions–for example, New Jersey Democratic senator Robert Menendez–are leading to war and presumably seek that goal.
I hope the effect of this comment by the White House is to stiffen the spines of those in Congress who are calling for more sanctions. And to lead the White House to change its rhetoric, and henceforth engage in serious debate.
French caution stalls Iranian nuclear talks
DW (Deutsche Welle)
The three-day talks in Geneva on Iran’s nuclear program were among the most successful in decades. One country not at the table had good reason to celebrate when negotiations stalled due to France’s tough position.
By Saturday night (09.11.2013), French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius gave the first clues that three days’ worth of meetings in Geneva might not result in an agreement with Iran over its disputed nuclear program.
There was no assurance that an agreement would come of the talks, Fabius said. To French Public radio channel Inter he also said that there were points which Paris would not be “satisfied with compared to the initial text.” Fabius then pointed toward Iran’s heavy water reactor in Arak, which in principle would produce plutonium for military purposes, as particularly problematic.
Another issue, the French minister said, is whether Iran’s inventory of 20-percent-enriched uranium could be converted to the less dangerous five-percent threshold typically used in light water reactors for making power.
Only when these issues can be solved, according to Fabius, can an agreement be made, adding that France did not want to take part in a “con game.” The minister also said that negotiations would have to take into account the security of Israel and the region.
France’s AFP news agency, however, reported an anonymous American diplomat who was frustrated with France’s minister. The US, EU and Iran, the diplomat said, have been working for months on a deal, with Fabius’ resistance representing little more than an attempt to shine the spotlight on himself.
One of the few who could celebrate the announcement Sunday morning that negotiations between the six world powers and Iran had failed was Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He had reacted indignantly on Friday to news of a possible agreement with the Islamic Republic of Iran that wouldn’t include a full stop to its atomic program, calling it “the deal of the century for Iran.” Netanyahu also re-emphasized that his country would not be bound by any potential international agreement made in Geneva.
“Netanyahu and Israel’s political conservatives have no interest in a solution in the nuclear conflict with Iran,” said Cologne political scientist Siebo Janssen in an interview with DW. “The hardliners are so strong in Israel because they can, among other things, present Iran as the image of the enemy to its population.”
Any reconciliation with the West, Janssen added, threatens Netanyahu’s political stability.
US and Iran
But even if France shows concern for Israel’s situation, the Middle Eastern country cannot ultimately accept an agreement, Janssen says. “Whatever a future agreement might look like, it’ll definitely represent a frist step in the normalization of relations between Iran and the West after eight years of Ahmadinejad,” he said.
According to political scientist Mehrzad Boroujerdi in New York, Israel has its back against the wall. “Israel has nothing left except to try for influence through its lobby group in Washington,” Boroujerdi told DW. “But it’s doubtful that the US will give into Israeli pressure. Washington has a clear interest in a solution to the conflict.”
The fact that the administration of moderate Iranian President Hasan Rouhani could – after years of standstill – finally result in a compromise plays into the hands of moderates and reformers in Iran, Janssen says.
“An easing of sanctions against Iran, even if limited, could lead to an opening and liberalizing of the country. A compromise with the West strengthens Rouhani’s position and sends a signal domestically to opponents of the president. He’d show that the foreign policy course of the conservative hardliners was wrong.”
Iran nuclear crisis sees deal emerging in Geneva
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: “Iran got the deal of the century and the international community got a bad deal”
November 8, 2013
World powers and Iran are expected to reach a long sought deal on Friday to try to resolve Iran’s controversial nuclear programme. US, UK, French and German foreign ministers are making unscheduled trips to Geneva to join talks between Iran and the so-called P5+1 delegates.
Details have not been released but Iran is expected to halt some enrichment activity for limited sanctions relief.
Israel’s prime minister said such an agreement would be “very bad”.
The West suspects Iran’s uranium enrichment programme is a step towards building nuclear weapons – a charge Iran strongly denies.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told CNN on Thursday that he was hopeful all sides could reach an agreement before the talks ended on Friday.
The blunt statement from Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is a stark warning of the problems the Obama administration will have in securing support for its policy both at home and abroad.
Not just Israel but many of Washington’s Gulf allies are uneasy.
Mr Netanyahu’s comments represent a call to arms to Israel’s supporters on Capitol Hill where there is considerable scepticism about a possible deal.
The danger though is that Mr Netanyahu may be over-reaching. What real alternative is there other than trying to achieve an understanding with Tehran? Any diplomatic effort requires some modest concessions from both sides to try to oil the wheels.
US Secretary of State John Kerry will seek to reassure Mr Netanyahu. A damaging and divisive situation looms where Israel’s interests are cast as being starkly different from those of Washington.
As reports of a deal emerged, US Secretary of State John Kerry, who was in Israel on a Middle East tour, changed his itinerary to fly to Geneva instead.
The BBC’s Kim Ghattas, who is travelling with Mr Kerry, says his dramatic decision to change his travel plans is a clear sign that a deal with Iran may be within reach.
State department official Jen Psaki told the BBC Mr Kerry was going “to help narrow differences in negotiations” between Iran and the P5+1 (US, Russia, China, the UK, France and Germany).
UK Foreign Secretary William Hague, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle are also going to the talks.
Mr Zarif told CNN Iran would not suspend uranium enrichment completely but could “deal with the various issues on the table”.
The US confirmed some sanctions relief was being offered in return for “concrete, verifiable measures”.
“We can provide them some very modest relief, but keeping the sanctions architecture in place,” President Barack Obama told NBC News.
“So that if it turned out during the course of the six months when we’re trying to resolve some of these bigger issues that they’re backing out of the deal, they’re not following through on it or they’re not willing to forward and finish the job of giving us assurances that they’re not developing a nuclear weapon… we can crank that dial back up,” he said.
But speaking ahead of meeting John Kerry on Friday morning, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said such a deal would be a serious mistake.
The conservative media in Iran are hopeful about the nuclear talks but in contrast, hardline media are more guarded.
The moderate conservative Tabnak news website says that the talks had yielded “remarkable and probably unexpected progress”, adding that it seems as though “the preliminary steps of a major nuclear deal between Iran and the West are being devised”. It notes that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s “dissatisfaction” is another sign that a deal is close.
News channel IRINN broadcast an interview with its correspondent in Geneva in which the presenter says that the possibility of the two parties reaching agreement is greater than ever before. The correspondent says that the fact that P5+1 accepted Iran’s proposed framework for talks was a significant achievement. “It means that the talks will be continued based on Iran’s agenda from now on,” he says.
However, the hardline Rajanews website is more cautious, drawing a comparison between the Geneva talks and a “bitter” deal between Iran and the West in 2004 under the reformist President, Mohammad Khatami.
“As long as the US has not agreed to lift all the sanctions at the final stage as well as recognise Iran’s right to enrichment, no first step under the name of confidence-building should be taken,” it comments.
“I understand that the Iranians are walking around very satisfied in Geneva – as well they should be, because they got everything and paid nothing.
“Everything they wanted, they wanted relief of sanctions after years of a gruelling sanctions regime, they got that, they are paying nothing because they are not reducing in any way their nuclear enrichment capability.
“So Iran got the deal of the century and the international community got a bad deal, this is a very bad deal. Israel utterly rejects it and what I am saying is shared by many, many in the region, whether or not they express that in publicly.
“Israel is not obliged by this agreement and Israel will do everything it needs to do to defend itself and the security of its people.”
Israel sees a nuclear armed Iran as an existential threat. Mr Netanyahu has said the international community should accept nothing short of a complete halt to Iran’s entire uranium enrichment programme, the removal of all enriched uranium from its territory, the closure of its underground uranium enrichment facility at Fordo, and a halt to construction of its heavy water reactor near Arak.
Mr Zarif said the sides could sit down by Friday morning to prepare “some sort of a joint statement” that would address three elements – a common objective, an “end game… in less than a year” and mutual confidence-building measures.
Iran’s lead negotiator, Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi, said the world powers had “clearly” accepted his country’s proposed framework and were now discussing details.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Zarif said the sides could sit down by Friday morning to prepare “some sort of a joint statement”
However, there was no official confirmation from the P5+1.
Hopes of a long-awaited deal on curbing Iran’s nuclear ambitions were given fresh momentum this year by the election of President Hassan Rouhani, seen as a relative moderate.
Since 2006 the UN Security Council has imposed a series of sanctions – including asset freezes and travel bans – on entities and people involved in Iran’s nuclear programme.
Separate US and EU sanctions have targeted Iran’s energy and banking sectors, crippling its oil-based economy. Iran wants the sanctions lifted.
Iranian media reaction
The conservative media in Iran are hopeful about the nuclear talks but in contrast, hardline media are more guarded.
The moderate conservative Tabnak news website says that the talks had yielded “remarkable and probably unexpected progress”, adding that it seems as though “the preliminary steps of a major nuclear deal between Iran and the West are being devised”. It notes that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s “dissatisfaction” is another sign that a deal is close.
News channel IRINN broadcast an interview with its correspondent in Geneva in which the presenter says that the possibility of the two parties reaching agreement is greater than ever before. The correspondent says that the fact that P5+1 accepted Iran’s proposed framework for talks was a significant achievement. “It means that the talks will be continued based on Iran’s agenda from now on,” he says.
However, the hardline Rajanews website is more cautious, drawing a comparison between the Geneva talks and a “bitter” deal between Iran and the West in 2004 under the reformist President, Mohammad Khatami.
“As long as the US has not agreed to lift all the sanctions at the final stage as well as recognise Iran’s right to enrichment, no first step under the name of confidence-building should be taken,” it comments.
Israel warns of ‘very bad’ Iran nuclear deal
Secretary of State Kerry’s decision to fly to Geneva comes after signs that global powers and Iran were close to a deal.
November 8, 2013
Secretary of State John Kerry traveled to Geneva on Friday to try and “narrow the differences” with Iran on an interim agreement over its nuclear program, a proposal Israel says would be a “very bad deal” that allows Iran to keep heading toward a possible atomic bomb.
There has been no confirmation that a deal is close or details of possible elements of such a pact. But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke as if he knew what kind of offer was being discussed in Geneva by negotiators for the United States and other Western nations.
Speaking before a meeting with Kerry in Jerusalem on Friday, Netanyahu said it appears that the Iranians “got everything and paid nothing.”
“They wanted relief of sanctions after years of grueling sanctions, they got that. They paid nothing because they are not reducing in any way their nuclear enrichment capability. So Iran got the deal of the century and the international community got a bad deal,” Netanyahu said.
Netanyahu said that since Israel is not obligated by the agreement it reserves the right to do what it feels is necessary to defend itself, an apparent reference to a possible military strike against Iranian nuclear facilities.
John Earnest, a deputy press secretary for the White House, told reporters “there is no deal,” and that “any critique of the deal is premature.”
Israel and the USA suspect the facilities are being used to develop a nuclear bomb. Iran insists its nuclear program is for peaceful means.
Israel says the United States should seek nothing less than a total shutdown of uranium enrichment and other nuclear programs in Iran in return for the easing of economic sanctions.
Kerry said when he arrived Friday in Geneva at the invitation of European Union representative Catherine Ashton, that there are still “some important gaps that have to be closed” with Iran if an agreement is to be reached. Netanyahu said he reminded Kerry of Iran’s true nature, a foe of America and supporter of Islamic terror attacks worldwide.
Bernadette Meehan, a spokeswoman for President Obama’s National Security Council, said Friday the so-called “first step” offer, “would address Iran’s most advanced nuclear activities, increase transparency so Iran will not be able to use the cover of talks to advance its program, and create time and space as we negotiate a comprehensive agreement.”
If Iran does not live up to its commitments, “the temporary, modest relief would be terminated, and we would be in a position to ratchet up the pressure even further by adding new sanctions,” Meehan said.
Mark Dubowitz, executive director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, says the parts of the offer he was briefed on by the White House undercut sanctions meant to block Iran from acquiring equipment it could use to develop its nuclear program or for weapons, and to convince Iran to negotiate a solution with world powers. The plan would give Iran a cash infusion from frozen accounts it can use to expand nuclear facilities or to fund terrorism, Dubowitz said.
“It totally eviscerates the sanctions regime if you allow Iran to spend money at its discretion to fund the very nuclear program it’s funding, the very nuclear program you’re trying to stop, or to fund terrorist activities against American citizens,” said Dubowitz, who had proposed a different plan to allow Iran to buy non-sanctioned goods in Europe while negotiations continue.
Iran has $80 billion in foreign accounts, with unrestricted access to only $20 billion, Dubowitz said. He said he was not told the amounts under consideration in the plan.
“They told me, don’t worry, it’s reversible. If they cheat it won’t happen again. But that’s not reversible, unless you only give them 1% up front and more later.”
Israel considers a nuclear-armed Iran to be an existential threat, citing hostile Iranian rhetoric toward the Jewish state, Iran’s missile capabilities and its support for violent Middle Eastern militant groups.
Netanyahu says pressure must be maintained until Iran halts all enrichment of uranium, a key step in producing a nuclear weapon; removes its stockpile of enriched uranium from the country; closes suspicious enrichment facilities and shutters a facility that could produce plutonium, another potential gateway to nuclear arms.
Iran airs animated strike on Israel
TV and pro-regime website show computer-generated footage of imagined Iranian missile attack on airports, malls, IDF bases, Dimona
Haviv Rettig Gur
November 7, 2013
Iranian state television aired a computer-animated video that showed an imagined Iranian missile strike on Israeli cities including Tel Aviv and Dimona, malls and IDF bases.
The video was also posted online by the pro-regime website Iran’s View, which said Thursday the four-minute clip was part of an “hour long documentary [that] includes a video simulation of Iranian respond [sic] to an airstrike by Israel against Iran’s nuclear facilities.”
The video glamorizes such a strike, showing computer-generated video of Iranian missiles being pointed upward against a backdrop of scenic skies and swelling musical accompaniment.
In the animated video, the missiles launch toward Israel, where some are destroyed by Israeli ground-based anti-missile systems reminiscent of the IDF’s Iron Dome, Arrow and David’s Sling batteries. But Israeli systems, depicted as a translucent dome over Israel, fail to stop all the missiles. The video then depicts the missile’s-eye view, zooming in on targets throughout the country using footage that appears to have been gleaned off online video-sharing and mapping sites.
The targets include a few military and governmental sites, including IDF Headquarters in Tel Aviv’s Kirya military base, at least one airbase, the Dimona nuclear installation in the Negev, and others. But it also includes civilian targets, such as a bank in Tel Aviv’s Rothschild Boulevard, the iconic Azrieli Mall and Ben Gurion International Airport.
According to Iran’s View, the full documentary was “about Iran’s missile capabilities in confronting external threats and responding to any strikes against its soil.”
“In March 21 [sic],” at a speech in honor of the Persian new year, “Iran’s supreme leader ayatollah [sic] Khamenei said his country will destroy Israel [sic] cities of Tel Aviv and Haifa if attacked,” the website noted.
Why Iran Has No ‘Inalienable’ Right to Enrich Uranium
American Israel Public affairs Committee (AIPAC)
November 06, 2013
Leading up to nuclear talks with the P5+1 in Geneva this week, Iran continues to assert that it has an inalienable right to enrich uranium. The Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), however, does not bestow any such right. And even if it did exist, Iran’s decades-long violations of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) would negate it.
The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) has addressed Iran’s enrichment activity by passing mandatory resolutions under Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter demanding Iran suspend all enrichment and reprocessing activity. There is no higher expression of international law than these resolutions.
Nowhere in the NPT is there a granting of enrichment rights. Instead, Article IV of the Treaty permits the “inalienable right to develop research, production, and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes without discrimination and in conformity with Articles I and II of this Treaty.”
Article II of the NPT states that non-nuclear countries must not “manufacture or otherwise acquire nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.” The United States has long maintained that “manufacture” refers to all nuclear-related development, component fabrication, and testing.
Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman told a Senate committee on Oct. 3 that the United States has always believed “that article IV of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty does not speak about the right of enrichment at all [and] doesn’t speak to enrichment, period. … So we do not believe there is an inherent right by anyone to enrichment.”
There are at least 17 nations, including Argentina, Canada, Mexico, and Spain, that produce nuclear energy but maintain no domestic enrichment capabilities, instead purchasing their nuclear fuel from other states.
“The United States has not spoken about a right of Iran to enrich,” said National Security Advisor Susan Rice on Sept. 29. Rather, she said, America believes Iran must fulfill its international obligations in order to become “a good-standing member of the NPT” with “a right to the use of peaceful nuclear energy.”
Despite NPT regulations, Iran continues its illicit nuclear activities. According to a Nov. 2011 report from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Iran violated the NPT by conducting nuclear work that had no civilian purpose. Tehran’s transgressions include tests on nuclear triggers and technology used to simulate nuclear explosions.
Iran is also barred from seeking or receiving any assistance to manufacture nuclear weapons. But Tehran reported to the IAEA in 2004 that it had received help in developing key technologies needed to produce nuclear weapons. A. Q. Khan, the father of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program, was one of those who assisted Iran.
The NPT further requires countries provide design information to the IAEA for any new nuclear facilities “as early as possible before nuclear material is introduced.” Iran has repeatedly built secret nuclear facilities—including the enrichment facilities at Natanz and Qom—and only notified the IAEA once their existence was disclosed to the press by Iranian dissidents or foreign intelligence organizations.
Iran is also required under the NPT to provide the IAEA with information “concerning nuclear material subject to safeguards … and the features of facilities relevant to safeguarding such material.” Beginning in the early 1990s, Iran acknowledged it carried out uranium conversion experiments without notifying the IAEA or allowing it to monitor them.
Iran’s repeated violations of the NPT have caused other countries to doubt the Islamic regime’s stated desire for a peaceful nuclear program. The UNSC has passed six resolutions seeking to halt Iran’s illicit nuclear efforts, but Tehran continues to defy these resolutions, advancing its nuclear program unabated.
UNSC Resolution 1696 – passed unanimously in July 2006 – requires Iran to “suspend all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities, including research and development, to be verified by the IAEA.” Resolutions 1737, 1747, 1803, 1835, and 1929, which passed between 2006 and 2010, repeat this demand.
As of August 2013, Iran had installed nearly 20,000 centrifuges to enrich uranium, produced more than 21,000 pounds of low-enriched uranium, and produced more than 800 pounds of uranium enriched to the 20-percent level. If further enriched, this quantity would serve as the cores for at least six nuclear weapons.
Despite UNSC resolutions and NPT regulations, diplomacy has yet to produce objectives established by the international community. The P5+1 should clearly state to Iran that while it has the right to the peaceful use of nuclear energy, it has no right to enrichment. Given the advanced stage of Iran’s nuclear activities, only a suspension of enrichment and other nuclear-related activity would provide the time and space for negotiations to succeed.
Morton A. Klein, president, ZOA
November 5, 2013
- In July 2009, President Obama’s then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that the U.S. would extend a “missile shield” over the Middle East, implying acceptance of a nuclear Iran. Would Secretary Clinton have said this without approval from her boss, President Obama?
- Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel argued for years before his confirmation in 2013 that the U.S. should reject all measures, not only military but economic as well, to prevent Iran becoming a nuclear power.
- During his confirmation hearings earlier this year, Hagel may have inadvertently exposed Obama’s behind-the-scenes policy when he shockingly said that he supported the Obama Administration’s Iran policy on “containment” before an aide rushed up to whisper to him that the position of the Obama Administration was to oppose containment and not accept a nuclear Iran.
- Both Clinton and Hagel reversed their positions when they attracted controversy but doubts remain. After all, why more than imply containment, why appoint as Defense Secretary one who supported containment, if that is not the actual, intended, behind-the-scenes policy in the White House? It is also reasonable to conclude, on the basis of their past statements, that both have had discussions with President Obama that tended in the direction of a policy of containment.
- In April 2009, President Obama’s Vice-President Joseph Biden publicly warned Israel of the Administration’s opposition to any Israeli military action against Iran.
- The same month, then-Secretary Clinton declared that American support in countering the Iranian nuclear threat was conditional on Israel making concessions to the Palestinians.
- In September 2009, Obama adviser and supporter and former National Security Adviser under President Jimmy Carter, Zbigniew Brzezinski (whom Obama has praised publicly) said that, were Israel to launch a military strike at Iran, the U.S. should confront the Israeli planes and shoot them down.
- In February 2012, the Chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, also explicitly opposed an Israeli strike.
- According to reports, President Obama last year privately warned Israel, which has fewer military capabilities and thus less time to wait, not to strike Iran and warned of penalties for striking Iran if he were to win re-election in November 2012.
- In all these cases, there was nothing about Israel’s ‘sovereign right to make its own decisions.’
- For over a year after entering office, President Obama would not allow a Congressional vote on new U.S. sanctions on Iran, despite having overwhelming, veto-proof majorities in both Houses of Congress.
- The 2010 UN Security Council sanctions President Obama supported did not cover Iran’s vital oil, financial and insurance sectors. Also, the sanctions included exemptions for numerous countries that are heavily invested in Iran, like China, which has huge contracts in Iran’s energy sector developing oil refineries, and Russia, which supplies S-300 surface-to-air missiles to Iran. (Japan and several European countries also enjoy exemptions from the application of these sanctions. These Obama exemptions weakened the impact of the sanctions).
- In additional sanctions bills, the Obama Administration sought to torpedo or weaken new and stronger Congressional sanctions on Iran, even after these had been softened and waivers providing greater presidential discretion had been incorporated at the Administration’s request, leading Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, to publicly and angrily criticize the Administration.
- In his 2012 AIPAC speech, President Obama took credit for imposing sanctions on Iran’s Central Bank. Yet, not only had he not implemented these sanctions at the time but he tried to slow their passage and dilute their strength.
- Now, when Iran has made no concessions at all but agreed to further talks, President Obama, instead of maintaining what pressure he has exerted through existing sanctions, has urged Congress not to impose new sanctions on Iran’s mining and construction sectors, even though sanctions are the only form of pressure than can be exercised to bring about Iranian concessions.
- New reports indicate that President Obama is not only opposed to imposing further sanctions on Iran, but that he is prepared to weaken them and unfreeze some Iranian assets if Iran merely takes some steps to curb –– not terminate –– its nuclear program.
- In a meeting with a group of American Jewish leaders last month, President Obama urged American Jewish leaders to desist from urging Congress for additional sanctions on Iran.
Washington Must Strike Iran, Not Bargain With It
Prof. Efraim Inbar
BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 217
October 31, 2013
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Iran is buying time until it has a nuclear break-out capability. A nuclear Iran will bring about nuclear proliferation, threaten energy prices, pose a threat to regional and global security, and further undermine America’s international position. The US must act militarily to stop Iran and restore its credibility in the eyes of its skeptical Middle Eastern allies.
The Iranians have once again been successful in pushing the West into prolonged negotiations over their nuclear program. They have done so almost for two decades, and in the meantime have expanded their uranium enrichment program, worked on weaponization, and built long-range missiles. This indicates without a doubt that they are after a nuclear bomb. The belief and hope that Iran has changed is pathetic. It is obviously interested in removing the economic sanctions imposed on it by the international community, but what Iran is really after is not an agreement, as its gullible interlocutors tend to believe, but rather time. Iran needs time, probably months, to present the world with a fait accompli: a nuclear break-out capability, i.e. the infrastructure to assemble a nuclear arsenal within weeks.
Unfortunately, much of the world, including the US, is going along with the Iranian procrastination, failing to realize that Iran is a strategic problem of no comparable regional and global significance. No other issue in the Middle East or elsewhere around the globe can have as negative an impact on world affairs: nuclear proliferation, the prices of a strategic commodity like oil, international terrorism, and the global stature of the US.
Regional Nuclear Proliferation
Allowing Iran to go nuclear or acquire break-out capability will bring about nuclear proliferation at least in the immediate region. States such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Turkey are unlikely to stay behind, which will bring about a nuclear multi-polar Middle East – a strategic nightmare in this volatile region. A nuclear Iran is very different from a nuclear North Korea, whose geopolitical environment already includes two nuclear states – China and Russia – to keep it in check. A nuclear Iran will unquestionably bring about the demise of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), a stabilizing factor on the international scene.
Effects on the Global Oil Economy
A nuclear Iran will affect the global political energy economy. Iran’s location along the Persian Gulf and the Caspian Sea – the “energy ellipse” where about 75 percent of the oil reserves are situated – gives it a handle on the price of oil, a strategic commodity. The oil-producing states in the region will inevitably have to consider the desires of an intimidating, nuclear Iran. Iraq is already an Iranian satellite, and Azerbaijan and other Central Asian countries may follow suite. A nuclear Iran might also become more aggressive and take over the eastern province of Saudi Arabia that is mostly populated by Shiites and holds most of the Kingdom’s oil. While it is true that Iran and other oil-producing states cannot desist from selling oil, Tehran will be able to decide to whom to sell and at what price.
Increased Terror and Military Threats
A nuclear Iran will be emboldened to be more active as a sponsor of international terror. Its terrorist infrastructure is global, with active and dormant cells in Latin American, North America, Europe, Asia, and of course the Middle East. Iranian tentacles have been observed activating terrorist activities all over the world.
An Iran in possession of long-range missiles armed with nuclear bombs could pose a real threat to many countries within a range of over 2,500 kilometers. This radius includes Eastern Europe, the whole Middle East, Central Asia, and the Indian sub-continent. Iran is working assiduously to extend the range of its missiles to hit North America as well. Hoping for deterrence to be fully effective in the Iranian case is an irresponsible response.
Undermining America’s International Standing
Finally, Iran is the supreme test of American credibility in world affairs. After saying so many times that a nuclear Iran is unacceptable, allowing the radical regime of the mullahs to acquire a nuclear bomb or develop a nuclear break-out capability will be a devastating blow to American prestige. Today the US is probably at its lowest ebb in the region. Friends and foes alike are bewildered by the policies of the Obama administration, seeing an extremely weak president who seems to be clueless about Middle East international politics. The American willingness to allow Iran enrichment capabilities and readiness to strike a bargain with Tehran is mind-boggling in this part of the world.
The Need for a Military Strike
At this stage, after several years of confused and misguided American behavior, the only thing that can salvage US influence in the region is an American military strike on Iran’s nuclear infrastructure. Without exception, Middle Eastern leaders have a power politics prism to international affairs, and have little patience towards the liberal-inspired speeches of President Obama, who has become a laughingstock among Middle Easterners. Therefore, the only thing that can win their respect is a muscular response on Washington’s part. This is what America’s allies in the region need and want. They understand, much better than Washington, the current regional realities and dangers of a nuclear Iran.
A military strike is also needed to prevent a nuclear Iran from destabilizing international order. If Washington wants to prevent nuclear proliferation, preserve stability in the energy sector, minimize the risks of international terror, and reduce the nuclear threat from a fanatic regime, it must live up to its obligations as a superpower and the leader of the free world. Going along with the delaying tactics of Iran is dangerous and irresponsible.
Prof. Efraim Inbar, director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, is a professor of political studies at Bar-Ilan University and a fellow at the Middle East Forum.
BESA Center Perspectives Papers are published through the generosity of the Greg Rosshandler Family
September 24, 2013
Iran’s New Defense Minister: Behind the 1983 Attack on the U.S. Marine Corps Barracks in Beirut
Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Dr. Shimon Shapira
August 11, 2013
The newly-elected president of Iran, Hassan Rouhani, has appointed Brig. Gen. Hossein Dehghan as the new defense minister in place of Brig. Gen. Ahmad Vahidi. The appointment will take effect as soon as it is approved by the Majlis.
Brig. Gen. Hossein Dehghan spent his entire military career in the Revolutionary Guard, which he joined immediately after it was established in the last months of 1979. He came to the capital, Tehran, from his hometown of Shaharda in Isfahan Province, and until 1982 was commander of the Revolutionary Guard in the capital.
After the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in the summer of 1982, Dehghan was sent to Lebanon. He served as commander of the training corps of the Revolutionary Guard, first in Syria and soon after in Lebanon. This role made him responsible for building up the military force of Hizbullah, which also was established at that time. After most of the Revolutionary Guard force returned from Lebanon to Iran, and the force’s commander, Ahmad Motevasselian, was kidnapped along with three other Iranians in the summer of 1982 by the Christian militia – the Lebanese Forces, Ahmad Kanani was appointed commander of the Revolutionary Guard force in Lebanon.
About a year later Hossein Dehghan replaced Kanani in that position. One of his first goals was to set up a central command for the Iranian force, which at that time was scattered among small towns and villages in the Baalbek region. At the beginning of September 1983, Hizbullah, with the help of the Revolutionary Guard headed by Dehghan, took over the Sheikh Abdullah barracks, which was seized in the course of a procession led by three Hizbullah sheikhs: Abbas Mussawi, Subhi Tufayli, and Muhammad Yazbek. It had been the main base of the Lebanese army in the Beqaa Valley and now became the Imam Ali barracks, the main headquarters of the Revolutionary Guard.
It was from this headquarters that Iran controlled Hizbullah’s military force and planned, along with Hizbullah, the terror attacks on the Beirut-based Multinational Force and against IDF forces in Lebanon. The attacks were carried out by the Islamic Jihad organization, headed by Imad Mughniyeh, which was actually a special operational arm that acted under the joint direction of Tehran and Hizbullah until it was dismantled in 1992.
Instructions for the attack on the Multinational Forces were issued from Tehran to the Iranian ambassador to Damascus, who passed them on to the Revolutionary Guards forces in Lebanon and their Lebanese Shiite allies. According to the U.S. Marine commander, the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) intercepted the Iranian orders to strike on September 26, 1983. It is difficult to imagine that such a high-level directive to the Revolutionary Guards in Lebanon would be transmitted without the knowledge of their commander, Hossein Dehghan.
On October 25, 1983, a Shiite suicide bomber detonated a water tanker at the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, killing 241 Marines; simultaneously, another Shiite suicide bomber blew up the French paratroopers’ barracks in Beirut, killing 58 soldiers. It was Mughniyeh who dispatched both bombers. The order to carry out the attacks was transmitted, and the funding and operational training provided, with the help of the Revolutionary Guard in Lebanon under the command of Hossein Dehghan.
With Nothing to Lose: The Limits of a Rational Iran
BESA Center Perspectives
Prof. Steven David
June 20, 2013
Executive Summary: Lost in the debate over Iran is the possibility that Iran is a rational actor that cannot be deterred. Historical examples show that even rational leaders, when faced with the loss of their regimes, are willing to destroy despite not having much to gain. Iranian leaders may strike Israel with nuclear weapons if they feel they have nothing to lose.
There is no debate that a nuclear-armed Iran would have the capability to destroy Israel. Israel is a small country, with half of its Jewish population and GDP confined to three cities (Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and Haifa); the destruction of any two of them would be devastating. Iran also has the technological means to launch such a strike. Furthermore, there is not much debate that Iran is gaining the capability to develop nuclear weapons, despite its denials. There is a debate, however, over how much of a threat a nuclear Iran would be to Israel, and whether it can be deterred. If it can be deterred, Israel can accept a nuclear Iran. However, if it cannot be deterred then all actions, including a military strike, would be preferable to a nuclear-armed Iran.
Can Iran Be Deterred?
On one side of the debate are the realists – among them former Secretary of State Zbigniew Brzezinski and the late Kenneth Waltz – who claim that Iran is a deterrable country, led by rational and cost-calculating leaders who do not wish to commit suicide. Just as the Soviet Union, China, Pakistan, and North Korea were deterred from using nuclear weapons, they argue, so too Iran can be deterred from using nuclear weapons.
On the other side of the debate are those who argue that Iran may not be deterrable, and that a comparison to the Cold War is incorrect. Iran’s leaders could be religious fanatics bent on causing a global catastrophe that would usher in the “hidden Imam” and an Islamic paradise. Iran has the capability to transfer its weapons to terror groups, such as Hizballah and Hamas. Accidents, such as a mistakenly-detonated nuclear weapon, could trigger Iranian leaders to blame Israel and launch missiles. The lack of ties between Iran and Israel also limit Israel’s ability to deter Iran (as opposed to the Cold War, during which the US and USSR had diplomatic relations). Unauthorized launchings by lower-level government members could also conceivably occur. It is for these reasons, it is argued, that Iran cannot be deterred.
An overlooked possibility, however, is that Iranian leaders are rational but likely to launch nuclear weapons against Israel or the US anyway. This would happen if Iranian leaders feel they are at the point of being toppled from within. Facing the end of their rule, and possibly their lives, they are likely to lash out against Israel or the US in a parting shot for posterity.
Rational Leaders Behaving Erratically
History has shown us that several rational leaders, when faced with the end of their regimes, were willing to behave erratically. Waltz’s view that no leader would launch nuclear weapons against a nuclear-armed state, knowing that such an action would be suicidal, is called into question by former Cuban leader Fidel Castro’s behavior during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. Castro’s ability to seize and hold onto to power for five decades proves that he was a rational actor. During the crisis, fearing for the survival of his regime, he lobbied Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev to strike the US with nuclear weapons, knowing that such a strike would plunge the world into nuclear war and kill millions. What saved the world was not the rationality or restraint of Castro, who was determined to save his regime at all costs, but rather his lack of ability to start a nuclear war.
Another example is Saddam Hussein’s behavior during the First Gulf War in 1991. When faced with the loss of Kuwait and his hold on power, Saddam ordered his troops to set Kuwait’s 700 oil wells ablaze and pour 11 million barrels of oil into the Persian Gulf. Burning the fields caused an environmental hazard across the region and made no sense; it was destruction for destruction’s sake. This is yet another example of a desperate leader doing anything to hold to power when he felt threatened.
A third example is Syrian President Bashar Assad’s actions during the ongoing Syrian civil war, which has claimed almost 100,000 lives. US President Barack Obama threatened Assad that should the Syrian leader use chemical weapons he would be crossing a “red line” that would provoke an American response. In November 2012, Israel told the US that Syrian agents were loading Sarin gas into bombs. In March 2013 there was strong evidence that Assad used Sarin against insurgents and civilians in Aleppo, yet we have not yet seen an American response. It is clear that American deterrent threats against Syria have not worked.
What About Iran?
These examples can be reassuring when it comes to Iran, because none of them involve the use of weapons of mass destruction. Furthermore, the “Arab Spring” has not seen the use of such weapons despite losses of power across the region. This does not mean, however, that concerns over a falling Iranian regime are exaggerated. The above examples prove that it was not the rational behavior of leaders or deterrence that prevented catastrophe, but rather the absence of a key ingredient in each case.
There are three components of catastrophe: the leadership believes it has nothing to lose; it has extreme hatred against a country or group; and it has the capability to unleash weapons of mass destruction. Though Castro, Saddam, and Assad believed they had nothing to lose, and hated a country or group, they were each missing the capability to wreak havoc. This was also true in the “Arab Spring.” However, the Iranian leadership is close to meeting all of the requirements for disaster. The regime’s hold on power is increasingly shaky, especially in the wake of the “Arab Spring,” from which the winds of change may arrive in Iran. The leadership hates the US and Israel, and has made many statements threatening Israel’s existence. If the Iranian regime teeters on the brink of oblivion, all that would stop it from striking Israel is a lack of capability. With thousands of centrifuges spinning, Iran will soon get the capability to develop the nuclear weapons to do what it has threatened. If the prospects of horrendous retaliation were not enough to deter the above leaders, why should we expect the Mullahs to be different?
Israel is now considering launching a military strike on Iran. There are many reasons not to do so – it might not work; it might only help in the short term; Iranian retaliation would be costly; it could potentially damage ties with the US – but if Iranian cannot be deterred, a nuclear-armed Iran is unacceptable, whatever the cost. Israel will never know with 100 percent confidence whether or not Iran can be deterred, but is this uncertainty a risk it is willing to take?
As Iran’s leaders pursue their nuclear quest, Israel and the US have reason to be afraid. While there is hope that diplomacy and economic sanctions will divert Iran from its nuclear path, if they are not successful there may be no choice but a military option. Despite its horrendous implications, a military strike is preferable to a nuclear-armed Iran whose leaders are likely one day to find themselves with nothing to lose and everything to destroy.
This Perspectives Paper is based upon a presentation given at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies on June 11, 2013.
A Third Way to Address the Iranian Threat
Support the opposition and let Iranians topple a regime they despise.
Foundation for the Defense of Democracies
April 16, 2013
With an Iranian presidential election coming in June, President Obama may be presented with a second chance to get his policy right. In 2009, when massive protests followed Iran’s disputed presidential vote, Mr. Obama sat by as the insurrection was brutally put down by the Tehran regime. But the rage against the regime is still intense, and if similar protests explode in June, the White House should be prepared.
The president ought to know from the example of the Arab Spring that seemingly secure despots can be toppled by popular will. The coming elections offer a chance for America to demonstrate its belated support for the Iranian opposition, and Washington would do well to encourage the Iranian people to rise up in the coming months.
Mr. Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have said that Iran is unlikely to produce a nuclear weapon in less than a year. That period gives the U.S., Israel and their allies breathing room to pursue an alternative to the two stark choices of accepting a nuclear Iran or launching a military strike to stop it. A third option is encouraging and supporting the opposition in Iran, where millions of people yearn to be freed of the ayatollahs’ oppressive rule.
Like the Soviet Union in its latter days, Iran’s regime is hollow and detested by most of its people. Few believed that Soviet rule would end without war, yet it imploded with little violence. At the time, intelligence assessments described the Soviet regime as stable and the economy as relatively healthy—even though unrest was actually rampant, the economy moribund.
Thanks to sanctions and government mismanagement, Iran can’t even make a pretense of economic health: Official analyses from the Iranian parliament’s research center show that, in a survey of 98 companies, production over the past 12 months has declined 40.3%. Employment has dropped 36.5% over that same year. Inflation is roaring: Finished products cost 87.9% more, and raw materials are up 112%. The country is riddled with strikes and protests from workers who haven’t been paid for months.
The Iranian government is also widely viewed within the country as corrupt and illegitimate, having stolen the 2009 elections. The Green Movement, which briefly flourished after the vote, has seen its leaders arrested by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who has also shut down scores of newspapers, magazines and websites.
Most Iran watchers believe that the opposition has been crushed, but they held the same view before June 2009, when millions of Iranians took to the streets and fought for months. The supreme leader is so concerned that his security forces prevent even small public gatherings, including the funerals of apolitical artists and musicians. He has repeatedly purged top officers of the Revolutionary Guard Corps, fearing betrayal. The arrest and torture of journalists, bloggers, union leaders and other potential sources of unrest has increased in the past year, too.
The clearest indication of the opposition’s strength is the regime’s treatment of the Green Movement’s two main leaders, Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi. Both have been under house arrest for more than two years, yet neither has been put on trial. Ali Saeedi, the supreme leader’s representative to the Revolutionary Guards, admitted last year to an interviewer that the men weren’t being prosecuted “because they have supporters and followers.”
Yet the opposition persists, routinely striking the regime’s most valuable assets. Gas pipelines, ports and oil refineries have been sabotaged and Revolutionary Guards attacked. A source within the opposition tells me that seven Revolutionary Guard officers were ambushed and killed last month on a highway north of Tehran. Opposition leaders have told me that antiregime forces—including the Greens, the trade unions and the major tribes, including Kurds, Baluch and Azeris—are coordinating their actions.
Supporting the Iranian opposition and overturning the Islamic regime wouldn’t just be a way for the West to avoid a nuclear confrontation. It would also cut off the lifeblood for terrorist groups around the world.
What can the U.S. do to make this happen? Take a page from the playbook used to stir internal challenges to Moscow’s rule.
Leaders in both the executive and legislative branches should publicly call for the end of the regime, just as President Reagan decried the “evil empire.” And the Iranian people must hear about it: At present, American broadcasting to Iran focuses heavily on American events and policies, often very critically. A more concerted effort should be made to give Iranians real news about their country. And members of the opposition should be furnished with the hardware to better communicate with each other and the outside world.
The U.S. should also mount a relentless campaign for the release of political prisoners in Iran, naming them in every available international forum.
As with Soviet workers’ organizations, the U.S. should encourage international trade unions to build a strike fund for their Iranian brothers and sisters.
The essential thing is for the West to be in regular contact with the opposition so its needs will be known. Sources in Iran tell me that no Western nation has communicated with leaders of the Green Movement since the days before the 2009 elections. That is shameful. But it is not too late to get started.
Israel May Fast-Track Plans to Attack Iran
David A. Patten
April 12, 2013
Analysts fear a dramatic advance in North Korea’s nuclear missile technology, revealed inadvertently during a Congressional hearing Thursday, will quickly find its way to Iran — forcing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to fast-track a long-contemplated attack against Tehran’s nuclear-enrichment facilities.
Pentagon officials are playing down a U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency assessment that North Korea probably has the ability to miniaturize a nuclear weapon and place it on an ICBM. U.S. officials say that miniaturization capability, if it exists, is untested and unreliable.
In February, North Korea detonated what is described as a “lighter, miniaturized atomic bomb.” At the time, there was speculation this could signal the Hermit Kingdom had developed a nuclear warhead that it could place on its long-range missiles. Pentagon officials, however, continued to insist North Korea was at least a year away from developing that capability.
Jerusalem Post defense analyst Yaakov Katz, author of “Israel vs. Iran: The Shadow War,” tells Newsmax that U.S. and Israeli intelligence officials have generally agreed that it would take Iran six to 12 months to build a nuclear device once it tried to break out and enrich its material from the 20-percent to the 90-percent level required. Beyond that, intelligence experts have projected, it would then take Iran another year or two to produce a miniaturized warhead that could be installed on a missile.
Now, Katz says, the time lag between reaching nuclear capability and Iran’s ability to arm a missile with a nuclear warhead appears to have vanished. That means Thursday’s revelation could reduce Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s nonmilitary options against Iran, forcing the Jewish state to step up its timetable for attacking the Persian nation should it acquire enough enriched uranium to be a significant threat.
“If the North Koreans are much more advanced than we assumed, then that could mean that when the Iranians surge to move forward, that the whole time frame would change also,” Katz tells Newsmax. “It would mean Israel and the West would have to revisit the time frames that they’ve put in for the Iranians, and that could be much shorter now — which means your window of opportunity [to attack] is also becoming smaller.”
Experts say Israel would have to assume that any North Korean miniaturization technology would soon find its way into the hands of Iran’s mullahs. In fact, it is possible Iranian technology enabled North Korea’s push to miniaturize its warheads — the step that makes them capable of being installed on an ICBM. There is widespread agreement in the intelligence community that the two embattled nations routinely exchange technology, and sometimes military hardware as well.
“That’s no secret,” says Katz. “There’s been a lot of cooperation between the Iranians and the North Koreans.”
He adds: “Israel has always made the assessment that whatever is going on in North Korea, you have to assume it’s also … taking place in Iran. So that technical cooperation is still working.”
Obama administration officials have been downplaying the immediate threat from North Korea, even as the Pentagon rushed a THAAD missile interceptor system, which had not been scheduled to enter service until 2015, to Guam to protect American interests. It also announced it would revive the Bush-era plan to add 14 more interceptors to the missile shield that protects America’s West Coast, which it had previously canceled.
The news that one U.S. intelligence agency believes North Korea already has achieved the ability to design nuclear-missile warheads was inadvertently disclosed by GOP Rep. Doug Lamborn of Colorado on Thursday during a hearing of the House Armed Services Committee. He was reading a portion of a classified document that had been erroneously marked declassified.
That disclosure means Israeli leaders must now assume the window between the moment Iran acquires nuclear capability, and the horrific moment when it could launch an attack on a major Israeli city such as Tel Aviv, would be a matter of months or weeks rather than years, experts say.
That North Korea has helped Iran bolster its missile technology is well established. In recent years, as Iranian technology surpassed that of North Korea, the technical assistance flowed the other way as well, sources say.
According to Heritage Foundation senior research fellow Bruce Klingner: “Clearly there has been a decades-long missile relationship, and it began with a one-way sale of missiles to Iran. … Over time it became a two-way, collaborative relationship.”
Klingner adds that a collaborative relationship between the two rogue nations on nuclear technology “is beyond question,” although much more difficult to assess due to its secretive nature.
One example of that cooperation: A February 2010 diplomatic cable released by the WikiLeaks organization revealed that Iran had obtained 19 advanced North Korean missiles with a Russian design known as R-27. The R-27 was initially used aboard Soviet submarines to launch nuclear missiles. At the time, analysts predicted the acquisition of the R-27 would enable Iran to reverse-engineer a new class of missiles with greater range and payloads.
“Every once in a while, you hear reports a North Korean scientist has popped up in Iran or vice versa,” Human Events senior writer John Hayward tells Newsmax.
“We have been assuming … we’ll know the exact moment when Iran has everything it needs to make a devastating weapon,” Hayward adds. “But it seems from today’s news we don’t really have that confidence anymore. We don’t know where either Iran or North Korea really is.”
Intelligence experts have decried the dearth of U.S. “humint,” or human intelligence, from North Korea. As for Iran, Israeli intelligence is believed to have both human and electronic intelligence sources. While North Korea’s capabilities are often opaque, Katz says intelligence officers in Israel and the West have “always been quite confident” that they will know almost immediately should Iran try to break out and enrich its uranium to be nuclear-weapons capable. And so far that has not occurred.
In his September speech to the United Nations, Netanyahu spoke of a “red line” that Iran must not be allowed to cross. He also stressed that time was already running out to rein in Iran’s nuclear activities.
“Each day, that point is getting closer,” he said. “That’s why I speak today with such a sense of urgency. And that’s why everyone should have a sense of urgency. … The relevant question is not when Iran will get the bomb. The relevant question is at what stage can we no longer stop Iran from getting the bomb.”
Thursday’s revelation hardly marked the first time national-security experts have underestimated the Hermit Kingdom’s nuclear progress. Just months before the CIA announced in January 1994 that North Korea probably had developed nuclear weapons, U.S. diplomats were negotiating with North Korea in the belief there was still time to reach an agreement.
Now, U.S. analysts appear once again to have underestimated its capabilities.
Before the DIA analysis was revealed, Michael A. Dodge of the conservative Heritage Foundation told Newsmax: “North Korea has demonstrated the basic technology to hit the U.S.; the question is whether they can miniaturize the nukes to put on the missiles. We think we have some time before they can do that, but in the past we have had a tendency to underestimate the North Korean threat.”
Hayward of Human Events doubts Israel would take action against Iran while the U.S. national security apparatus is on tenterhooks over North Korea. But he says the news that North Korea may have mastered the ability to miniaturize its nuclear weapons and put them on a ballistic missile has moved up Netanyahu’s red line for unilaterally launching an attack on Iran’s nuclear-enrichment facilities.
“He believes that ‘moderate confidence’ assessment, and he has said many times they can’t afford to take risks. That was the whole point of that speech where he drew the bomb on that piece of paper at the U.N. He was busy explaining: ‘We can’t gamble; we can’t suppose they’re years away when they’re not. We have to stop this before it crosses a certain point.’
“And if you’ll remember, that ‘certain point’ was basically getting things that are small enough to be assembled in locations that are almost impossible to strike, and then getting them into ballistic missiles. It’s not just the missile capability. It’s the fact that once you get there, it becomes very difficult to stop the process. So I think he may see that red line being right on top of him.”
In December, North Korea launched a Unha-3 missile that placed an object into orbit. U.S. officials have estimated the range of that missile at some 6,200 miles, sufficient to threaten Guam, Hawaii, Alaska, and the U.S. West Coast. The Musudan missiles North Korea is expected to launch in coming days have a much shorter range, about 2,500 miles. But that still puts Japan and Guam well within range. The United states has 28,000 military personnel in South Korea; 40,000 in Japan; and Guam, a U.S. territory, has a population of approximately 160,000. It also hosts major U.S. Navy and Air Force bases.
In recent days the administration has responded to the North Korean threat by rushing advanced radar systems and anti-missile capabilities to the Pacific theater, and decided to beef up its missile interceptor capability on the West Coast.
Says Klingner: “I think the Obama administration’s reversal on the missile interceptor programs was the administration getting caught flat-footed apparently, supposedly by the long-standing North Korean nuclear and missile threat. … They based it on a sudden, unexpected acceleration of the Korean missile threat. Well, it was not.”
In fact, Klingner tells Newsmax, a 2001 intelligence assessment predicted that by 2015, at the current rate of progress, the United States would face an ICBM threat from North Korea.
Former U.S. ambassador to North Korea Christopher Hill, meanwhile, told Fox News on Friday that the Pentagon’s insistence that North Korea has yet to test the accuracy of its nuclear-missile technology is largely irrelevant. Whether the DIA’s projection, which is made with “moderate” rather than “high” confidence, is accurate now misses the larger point, he says.
“Sooner or later that report is going to be correct, so the same old question is, what are we going to do about it? … We’ve got to make very clear that we are not going to accept this,” Hill said.
He added that North Korea’s bellicose missile launches and nuclear-arms development must now be the No. 1 diplomatic issue between the United States and China.
Understanding the Current State of the Iranian Nuclear Challenge
By Ambassador Dore Gold, President of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
March 27, 2013
▪ To produce its first atomic bomb from 20 percent enriched uranium, Iran would need a stockpile of 225 kilograms, which upon further enrichment to the weapons-grade level would yield the 25 kilograms of uranium metal for a nuclear warhead. Since it began enriching 20 percent uranium, Iran had produced 280 kilograms of this material – well above the Israeli red line drawn by Prime Minister Netanyahu. But it had removed a total of 112.6 kilograms of this 20 percent stockpile, leaving itself with a net total of 167 kilograms of 20 percent enriched uranium. This changed the entire timeline of the Iranian bomb, pushing it off from the fall of 2012 to a later date.
▪ In May 2011, the IAEA raised concerns about the “possible existence” of seven areas of military research in the Iranian nuclear program, the last of which was the most alarming: “the removal of the conventional high explosive payload from the warhead of the Shahab-3 missile and replacing it with a spherical nuclear payload.” In November 2011, material that the IAEA presented pointed clearly to the fact that Iran wanted to develop a deliverable nuclear weapon. The planned warhead design also underwent studies that investigated how it would operate if it was part of a missile re-entry vehicle and had to stand up to the stress of a missile launch and flying in a ballistic trajectory to its target. The IAEA concluded that “work on the development of an indigenous design of a nuclear weapon including the testing of components” had been executed by the Iranians.
▪ Iran is not a status quo power. A few years after he assumed the position of Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei gave a revealing interview to the Iranian daily Ressalat, in which he asked a rhetorical question: “Do we look to preserve the integrity of our land, or do we look to expansion.” He then answered himself, saying: “We must definitely look to expansion.” This world view is still sustained to this day. Khamenei’s senior adviser on military affairs, Major General Yahya Rahim Safavi, who was the previous commander of the Revolutionary Guards, described Iran in 2013 as “the regional superpower” in the Middle East.
▪ In the meantime, Iran has substantially increased the number of centrifuges that it installed for uranium enrichment. It also introduced its more advanced centrifuges into its nuclear facilities and it is making progress on its heavy water reactor that will allow it to produce plutonium. Iran, so far, has been careful not to cross the Israeli red line, but that hasn’t prevented it from moving ahead on other aspects of its program. Indeed, just after the last P5+1 talks in Kazakhstan, Tehran announced it was building 3,000 advanced centrifuges that it intended to install at Natanz.
▪ Thus, if proposals are to be made that protect the international community as a whole from the threat of Iranian nuclear weapons, they must address other aspects of the program which might become fully operational in the years to come: the plutonium program, weaponization, delivery vehicles, and continuing upgrade of Iran’s centrifuge technology. If negotiations only halt one aspect of the Iranian effort to reach nuclear weapons, while letting the other parts of the program go forward, they may preclude an immediate crisis, but the world will still face a new Iranian challenge in the years ahead.
Over the last decade, a clear international consensus has slowly emerged that Iran was not just pursuing a civilian nuclear program, as Tehran argued, but rather was seeking nuclear weapons. True, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty guarantees the right of signatories, like Iran, to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, but that did not include a right to enrich uranium in order to produce indigenous nuclear fuels that could be employed for nuclear weapons.
Many countries with nuclear power infrastructures, like South Korea, Finland, Spain, and Sweden, actually received their nuclear fuels from abroad.1 Even in the U.S., 92 percent of the uranium used in 2010 by nuclear power plants was of foreign origin.2 But unlike these other cases, Iran chose to establish its own uranium enrichment infrastructure at Natanz and suspiciously kept it totally secret from the world until 2002, when it was revealed by the Iranian opposition. A second secret enrichment facility, near Qom, buried deep inside a mountain, was disclosed in 2009.
Because of the way Iran proceeded with its nuclear program, international suspicions of its purpose only increased. The official Iranian line that its nuclear infrastructure was for the production of electricity lost all credibility over time, especially in light of its enormous oil and gas reserves which were a far more economical source of energy. In February 2006, French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy bluntly stated that “it is a clandestine military program.”3
Even the Russians could no longer protect what Iran was doing by saying that it was for purely civilian purposes. Thus, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev frankly admitted in July 2010, “We are not indifferent to how the military components of the corresponding [nuclear] program look.”4 Using careful language, James R. Clapper, President Obama’s Director of National Intelligence, reported to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on March 12, 2013, that Iran’s technical advancements “strengthen our assessment that Iran has the scientific, technical, and industrial capacity to eventually produce nuclear weapons.” For Washington, it was no longer a question of whether Iran wanted a nuclear bomb, but rather when it would decide to build it.
The Israeli View
In successive public appearances during the month of September 2012, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu laid out what he believed was the timeline for Iran to cross the nuclear threshold and acquire an atomic bomb. In a September 16 interview with CNN’s Candy Crowley, he stated that the Iranians were moving into the final phase of their nuclear work, saying that they were entering a “red zone” in which they were coming extremely close to achieving their goal. He specified during the interview that this meant that within six months the Iranians will have accumulated a sufficient quantity of uranium at a level of enrichment that is 90 percent of the way to completing an atomic bomb.
The prime minister restated this same idea during his address to the UN General Assembly on September 27, when he said that after this 90 percent point, what he characterized as the final phase of enrichment would only require “a few months, possibly a few weeks.” Looking at the trends in the Iranian nuclear program as a whole, he warned during his address: “the hour is getting late, very late.” For that reason, he declared that a clear red line needed to be drawn in front of the leadership in Tehran before the Iranian program entered into this final phase of enrichment and was still within the second phase of enrichment.
To understand the phases of the Iranian program to which Prime Minister Netanyahu referred, it is important as background to recall that nuclear scientists have long explained the levels of enrichment as follows. Uranium comes in several isotopes: U-235, which can undergo nuclear fission, thereby releasing the explosive energy of an atomic bomb, and U-238, which is not usable for this purpose. But natural uranium is made up of only an infinitesimal amount of the potentially explosive U-235, approximately 0.7 percent, and a much larger proportion of U-238, approximately 99.3 percent. Enrichment involves increasing the percentage of U-235 isotope in uranium, usually by spinning uranium as a gas in thousands of centrifuges, and taking away the less useful U-238.
What did the prime minister mean when he said that Iran had reached level of enrichment with its uranium that is 90 percent of the way to a bomb? When uranium is enriched to the 3.5 percent level, in the first phase of enrichment, it is called low-enriched uranium and is mainly a suitable fuel for a civilian nuclear reactor producing electricity. Given the low starting point of U-235 in natural uranium, the amount of energy required to reach even this first level of low-enrichment is about 70 percent of the total energy needed to get to weapons-grade uranium. In other words, when Iran enriches uranium to the 3.5 percent level it has essentially advanced 70 percent of the way to the weapons-grade level.
More alarmingly, when Iran reaches the second level of enrichment, meaning 20 percent enriched uranium, it is essentially advancing 90 percent of the way to weapons-grade uranium. By beginning the last sprint to weapons-grade uranium from feedstock that is already at the 20 percent level, Iran could cut in half the time needed to undertake the same enrichment if it started with only 3.5 percent uranium. In short, a stock of 20 percent enriched uranium is ideally suited for what security experts call “nuclear breakout” – a rapid move by a state with what it declares to be a civilian nuclear industry if it wants move to a nuclear weapon, in violation of its commitments to the international community.
In his UN address, Prime Minister Netanyahu was saying that the international community must warn Iran that it will not be allowed to complete the production of enough 20 percent enriched uranium for its first atomic bomb. Like in his CNN interview, he stated during his UN address that Iran might cross this threshold by next spring or at the latest by next summer, but he carefully conditioned this assessment on the assumption that Iran maintains its current enrichment rates, leaving open the possibility that they could be accelerated.
For example, if Iran outfitted its uranium enrichment facilities with large numbers of more advanced centrifuges, like the IR-2M, that operate at four or six times the speed of the current IR-1 model they mostly use, then the rate of Iranian enrichment could be dramatically accelerated. Iran formally notified the IAEA on January 23, 2013, that it was going ahead and installing the IR-2M centrifuges. Alternatively, if Tehran installed and began to operate many more IR-1 centrifuges, then the volumes of uranium that the Iranians could process would also increase substantially.
The Failure of Past International Pressures on Iran
The world was not supposed to be in this kind of position at present. Since 2002, when the Iranian clandestine nuclear program was first revealed by the Iranian opposition, the main diplomatic assumption held across the international community was that a mixture of international sanctions and negotiations would force Iran to give up its military nuclear program. Subsequently, it was also thought that the threat of the use of force would compel Iran to halt its nuclear work.
Iran’s concealment of its nuclear activities, particularly its work on uranium conversion, uranium enrichment, and plutonium separation constituted outright breaches of its international obligations under its 1974 Safeguards Agreement that had been concluded in accordance with the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Attention was particularly drawn at this time to the large uranium enrichment facility at Natanz.5
Iran’s violations of its treaty obligations were serious. As a result, diplomatic pressures were placed on Iran that appeared to be impressive. From 2006 onward, six UN Security Council resolutions were adopted that called on Iran to halt all uranium enrichment activity. Moreover, just like the resolutions adopted against Iraq under Saddam Hussein in the 1990s, these resolutions against Iran were adopted under Chapter VII of the UN Charter making them binding international law.
Yet this global effort against Iran clearly failed, for the resolutions plainly had no impact on Iranian decision-making. After UN sanctions were first imposed under Resolution 1737, in late 2006, the Iranians began enriching uranium anyway in February 2007 in ever growing quantities. It was also at this time that, despite UN pressures, Iran constructed a second secret enrichment facility, which was dug deeply into the side of a mountain at Fordow, near the city of Qom.
By 2009, Iran’s stocks of low-enriched uranium first went above 1,500 kilograms – the minimal amount for producing the quantity of weapons-grade uranium needed for a single atomic bomb. A little less than a year later, in February 2010, despite ongoing UN sanctions, Iran for the first time produced uranium at its Natanz facility enriched to the 20 percent level, which, as noted earlier, could be converted to weapons grade uranium in half the time in comparison with uranium at the low-enriched level. The Iranians began to enrich uranium to the 20 percent level at their Fordow facility in December 2011.
The Iranian regime also used these years to unilaterally alter the rules affecting the involvement of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in its nuclear program in order to erode some of its most important restrictions. For example, Iran is required to notify the IAEA that it has decided to construct a new nuclear facility the moment such a decision is taken. In other words, even when construction begins for a new nuclear facility, the IAEA should be fully informed. In the technical jargon of the IAEA this obligation is known as “modified Code 3.1” and was formally accepted by Iran in an exchange of letters between Iran and the IAEA in February 2003.6
But in March 2007, Iran suddenly declared that it was suspending its acceptance of this obligation and going back to earlier IAEA rules that only required Tehran to declare a new nuclear facility six months before it receives nuclear material for the first time. This was not just a technicality. For having loosened the IAEA’s restrictions, the Iranians then argued that their formerly secret enrichment facility at Fordow, which was revealed in 2009, did not violate their legal obligations to the IAEA. Clearly the pressures placed on Iran by the UN Security Council during 2006 and 2007 were insufficient to prevent Tehran from taking such actions.
Then Tehran came up with the excuse that it needed 20 percent uranium for manufacturing medical isotopes at the Tehran Research Reactor. But the quantities of 20 percent uranium produced have by the admission of Iranian officials themselves exceeded their own domestic requirements for this purpose. Indeed, in an August 2011 interview published by the Iran News Agency, Fereydoun Abbasi-Divani, the head of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization, admitted that the quantities of 20 percent enriched uranium produced “already exceeded the required amount for the Tehran Research Reactor.” The latest transparent excuse for further enrichment has been an Iranian proposal that they might have to enrich up to 90 percent uranium for powering nuclear reactors for future nuclear submarines.
Enriched uranium was not the only fuel that the Iranians planned to use for assembling a nuclear bomb. Since the first revelations about their nuclear program in 2002, it was known that Iran was building a heavy-water production plant at Arak, as well as a heavy-water nuclear reactor. Iran could extract plutonium fuel rods from the heavy-water reactor and reprocess them for producing weapons-grade material. The uranium route to an atomic bomb would still be shorter for Iran than the plutonium route, since Tehran will only first begin to operate its Arak reactor during the first three months of 2014, according to notification it gave to the IAEA.7
Time Line to an Iranian Bomb
If the countervailing pressures of the international community against Iran do not get it to halt its 20 percent enrichment, then when is it likely to obtain sufficient quantities of uranium at this level of enrichment that allow it to move quickly to the weapons-grade level and subsequently assemble its first nuclear bomb? According to the August 2012 IAEA report, Iran had already produced at that point a total of 189.4 kilograms of 20 percent uranium since it began to enrich to this level in February 2010.
To produce its first atomic bomb from 20 percent enriched uranium, according to the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS), Iran would need a stockpile of 225 kilograms, which upon further enrichment to the weapons-grade level would yield the 25 kilograms of uranium metal for a nuclear warhead.8 In professional circles a “bomb’s worth” of high-enriched uranium is called a “significant quantity.” Iran should have been able to accumulate an adequate quantity of 20 percent uranium for one bomb by the end of October 2012, assuming it maintained its recent rate of production of 14.8 kilograms per month, using both of its enrichment facilities at Natanz and Fordow. Thus, the Iranians should have hit Prime Minister Netanyahu’s red line this past fall.
However, between December 2011 and August 2012, Iran drew down from its 20 percent stock by 96.3 kilograms, which it used to manufacture other uranium products, like uranium oxide powder for fuel plates. As a result, the net stock of 20 percent uranium fell to 91.4 kilograms. This changed the entire timeline of the Iranian bomb. According to the recent February 2013 IAEA report, Iran indeed continued its dual track approach to uranium enrichment in the first months of the year: it produced more 20 percent uranium and at the same time removed some of its 20 percent stock in order to produce other uranium derivatives that were not immediately useful for the eventual production of weapons-grade uranium. ISIS concluded on the basis of the February report that since it began enriching 20 percent uranium, Iran had produced 280 kilograms of this material – well above the Israeli red line drawn by Prime Minister Netanyahu. But it had removed a total of 112.6 kilograms of this stockpile, leaving itself with a net total of 167 kilograms of 20 percent enriched uranium.
Assuming Iran maintains its recent rate of production of 14.8 kilograms per month, and does not divert more 20 percent uranium for other uses, it should accumulate enough 20 percent uranium for a single bomb by the summer of 2013. For this reason, it is possible to project that Iran might hit the Israeli red line at that time. As stated earlier, this could happen even earlier if Iran manages to increase the rate of enrichment, especially if it utilizes centrifuges that have been installed but are not yet operational.9
For example, Iran installed 1,076 centrifuges in its Fordow facility between May and August 2012, bringing the number of centrifuges in Fordow alone to 2,140. Of that total only 646 centrifuges were actually operating. But Iran could substantially accelerate its production of 20 percent uranium in the months ahead if it decides to utilize all the new centrifuges it is in the process of installing. This would cut the time needed in half to produce enough 20 percent uranium that could be further enriched to the weapons-grade level.
Of course, Iran could reconvert its uranium oxide powder back to uranium gas for injecting into its centrifuges for further enrichment. Moreover, Iran also has a huge stock of 3.5 percent enriched uranium, which according to the February 2013 IAEA report reached 5,974 kilograms (after subtracting the uranium that was enriched to 20 percent). This stock alone could provide enough weapons-grade uranium for at least 3 to 4 atomic bombs, after further enrichment. But enriching from the 20 percent level would be the fastest way for the Iranians to break out and establish a fait accompli.
It is important to note that there are further steps that Iran must undertake to reach a nuclear weapon, whenever it amasses enough 20 percent uranium for its first bomb and enriches that stock to the weapons-grade level. Most estimates of the time needed to make this leap to weapons-grade uranium are between two and four months. All uranium enrichment requires uranium in a gaseous form: by spinning the gas at high speeds in a centrifuge the heavier U-238 can be separated from the lighter U-235, which is needed for a fission bomb. But once Iran has weapons-grade uranium as a gas, it needs to convert it into a metal for fashioning a nuclear warhead, which takes additional time.
The problem with precisely calculating time lines is also made complicated by the size of the weapon that Iran decides ultimately to make. As noted earlier, the IAEA established that further enrichment of this uranium must yield 25 kilograms of weapons-grade uranium for a nuclear explosive device. Yet critics charge that this number should be far lower. Even 15 kilograms of weapons-grade uranium would be sufficient for a bomb (historically, the U.S. conducted a nuclear test in 1951 with only six kilograms of high-enriched uranium).10
The Iranian timeline to an atomic bomb would thus be influenced by whether they seek to produce 25 kilograms of weapons-grade uranium or decide to settle on an initial device with less nuclear material and a smaller nuclear explosive yield. This difference could bring Iran much closer to crossing the nuclear red line much sooner.
Nuclear Warhead Design
There are, of course, three dimensions to any nuclear weapons program: enriched uranium, ballistic missiles, and nuclear warheads. The latter issue also grew in importance for the IAEA. This began to become evident in February 2008 when Olli Heinonen, then IAEA deputy director-general, gave a highly classified briefing to representatives of more than 100 states. According to a description of the meeting reported by David Sanger of The New York Times, Heinonen displayed original Iranian documents that he stressed came from several member states of the IAEA, and not just from the U.S.11 In June 2010, the German newspaper Der Spiegel reported that the material came from a joint operation by German and American intelligence agencies. The IAEA had the international standing to authenticate U.S. intelligence reports for those who doubted their veracity. When the IAEA said they were true, many more states were willing to accept them.
The Iranian documents detailed how to design a warhead for the Shahab-3 missile, which has been operational in the Iranian armed forces since 2003. While the Iranian documents made no reference to a nuclear warhead, they did show the arc of a missile’s flight and that the warhead of the missile had to be detonated at an altitude of 600 meters. To the IAEA experts, a conventional explosion at that altitude would have no effect on the ground below. But 600 meters was the ideal altitude for a nuclear explosion over a city. As Sanger points out, it was in fact the height of the Hiroshima explosion. Despite the substance of his presentation, Heinonen did not yet say that the Iranians were producing nuclear weapons, but he left his audience in Vienna with many questions they had not asked before.
By May 2011, the IAEA became far more explicit in its report on Iran than Heinonen had been in 2008. Its report raised concerns about the “possible existence” of seven areas of military research in the Iranian nuclear program, the last of which was the most alarming: “the removal of the conventional high explosive payload from the warhead of the Shahab-3 missile and replacing it with a spherical nuclear payload.”
Yet, the IAEA was not ready to say it had reached any conclusions. It only sought “clarifications” about its suspicions.
The most important of the IAEA reports on Iran was released in November 2011 and proved to be significant in a number of ways. First, it showed that the IAEA no longer had “suspicions” about the Iranian weaponization program – it had what it called “credible” intelligence. The appendix of the report, moreover, devoted a whole section to the “credibility of information.” It was not relying on the Iranian laptop that was at the heart of Heinonen’s 2008 presentation, but also on a much larger volume of documentation. The report states that the agency has more than 1,000 pages of material to substantiate its claims. In case there were suspicions that this material came from U.S. intelligence agencies alone, the report makes sure to clarify that the sources involved “more than 10 member states.”
Second, the material that the IAEA presented pointed clearly to the fact that Iran wanted to develop a deliverable nuclear weapon. The Iranians had sought to obtain uranium for a secret enrichment program that would not be under IAEA safeguards. The uranium that would come out of this clandestine program would be further processed to produce the uranium metal required for a nuclear warhead. The planned warhead design also underwent studies that investigated how it would operate if it was part of a missile re-entry vehicle and had to stand up to the stress of a missile launch and flying in a ballistic trajectory to its target. The IAEA concluded that “work on the development of an indigenous design of a nuclear weapon including the testing of components” had been executed by the Iranians.
Why Does Iran Persist with Its Nuclear Drive?
Iran’s audacity in violating its international obligations has surprised many in the West. The Iranian government has paid a steep economic price in terms of international sanctions, but nevertheless continues its drive to obtain nuclear weapons. It is impossible to separate Iran’s determination to acquire nuclear weapons from its broader ambitions to become the preeminent power in the Middle East.
For Iran is not a status quo power. A few years after he assumed the position of Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei gave a revealing interview to the Iranian daily Ressalat, in which he asked a rhetorical question: “Do we look to preserve the integrity of our land, or do we look to expansion.”12 He then answered himself, saying: “We must definitely look to expansion.” In essence, he was reflecting what is written in the Constitution of the Islamic Republic, which calls for the “continuation of the Revolution at home and abroad.”13 Khamenei is the commander-in-chief of the Iranian armed forces and hence his definitions of Iranian national strategy are essential to follow.
This world view is still sustained to this day. Khamenei’s senior adviser on military affairs, Major General Yahya Rahim Safavi, who was the previous commander of the Revolutionary Guards, described Iran in 2013 as “the regional superpower” in the Middle East.14 He asserted that a “new global power is emerging in the Muslim world.” He explained that Washington was trying to prevent this from happening.
In the last five years, Iranian spokesmen close to Khamenei have voiced expansionist goals for the Islamic Republic, insisting that Bahrain is an Iranian province and reminding the other Arab Gulf states that they used to be part of Iranian territory. Moreover, on the ground, Khamenei uses the Qods Force of the Revolutionary Guards, under the command of Major General Qassam Suleimani, throughout the Middle East in order to export its revolutionary agenda.
Two years ago, The Guardian reported that a senior Iraqi politician gave General David Petreaus a text message in 2008 from Suleimani that read: “General Petraeus, you should know that I, Qassem Suleimani, control the policy for Iran with respect to Iraq, Lebanon, Gaza, and Afghanistan.”15 This story was partly verified this January, when the Iranian news agency ISNA reported that in a speech about Lebanon and Iraq, Suleimani asserted: “These regions are one way or another subject to the control of the Islamic Republic of Iran and its ideas.”16 Also in January, Iran admitted for the first time that the Quds Force had been deployed in both Lebanon and Syria.
In terms of the Iranian nuclear program, the distinction that Khamenei made between defensive goals for the Islamic Republic, which he did not adopt, and the offensive doctrine that he appeared to embrace, means that an Iranian nuclear weapons capability would not be for the purpose of deterrence alone, as with many other regimes, but for serving its drive to achieve regional hegemony and improve its power position vis-à-vis its Arab neighbors and the U.S. Ali Larijani, who once served as the National Security Advisor of Iran and as its chief nuclear negotiator, made this very point, asserting that “if Iran becomes atomic Iran, no longer will anyone dare challenge it because they would have to pay too high a price.” In short, nuclear weapons secure Iran’s status as a great power that does not have to accept the demands of any other power.17
Larijani’s remark is important for understanding another feature of Iran’s drive to cross the nuclear threshold. Recent history demonstrates that once a state like North Korea conducted its first nuclear test, then the U.S. and its Western allies became reluctant to challenge its nuclear status. In contrast, once Libya gave up its nuclear weapons program, the U.S. and its NATO allies felt free to back the revolt in 2011 against the regime of Muammar Gaddafi. Thus advances in the Iranian nuclear program could put it in a position in the near future to be able to deter even the U.S. from taking action against its nuclear facilities because of the risks involved.
Clearly, there are a number of benchmarks that Iran must traverse on its way to a full nuclear weapons capability. First, there is the completion of the minimal quantity of 20 percent enriched uranium needed for manufacturing an atomic bomb after it is enriched further to weapons-grade uranium. Second, there is the manufacture of uranium metal that is used in a nuclear warhead. Third, there is the production of the warhead itself and it being outfitted on a ballistic missile, like the Shahab-3, that can strike Israel, Saudi Arabia, or Turkey, as well as Western forces deployed in those countries. The November 2011 IAEA report on Iran concluded that Iran had worked on a nuclear warhead. A top Israeli official specified that Tehran had already undertaken activities “to integrate a payload on a Shahab-3 missile.”18
The Final Stages of the Iranian Nuclear Program
As Iran advances in its nuclear program, it undoubtedly acquires a great degree of deterrence even before it has a fully operational weapon. Looking at the example of North Korea, it removed IAEA surveillance equipment and evicted its nuclear inspectors in December 2002, while telling U.S. officials that it had nuclear weapons in April 2003. The North Koreans only conducted their first nuclear test in 2006 and a second test in 2009. From their experience, the North Koreans probably raised concerns in the West about their having an impending nuclear weapons capability even before their first nuclear test. Two U.S. analysts have written that the U.S. already began adjusting its military planning on North Korea in the late 1990s when intelligence analysts concluded that North Korea was capable of assembling a nuclear weapon. The point is that rogue states began acquiring strategic advantages from nascent nuclear programs even before they make the final assembly of a nuclear warhead for their missiles.19
How would this work in the case of Iran? As the indications mount in 2013 that Iran is making its final preparations to cross the nuclear threshold and become a nuclear weapons state, there will be a renewed debate in the West over the question of the use of military force. But that debate will be clouded with the question of whether Iran already has nuclear weapons. Presumably those who will assert that Iran already has nuclear weapons will argue that any preventive strike will be too risky at this point in time. The main problem is that at this stage intelligence agencies will be operating largely in the dark.
This point has been made occasionally even by senior levels in the U.S. Appearing on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” on April 11, 2011, former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates made this very point: “If they – if their policy is to go to the threshold but not assemble a nuclear weapon, how do you tell that they have not assembled? So it becomes a serious verification question, and I, I don’t actually know how you would verify that.” Gates’ assessment was particularly significant given the fact the he served as the Director of the CIA in the 1990s and understood better than most officials the true limits of Western intelligence agencies when it comes to the detection of weapons of mass destruction programs.
This explains the enormous risks of letting the Iranian nuclear program progress to its final stages, when Western knowledge about how far Iran has progressed will be problematic. Indeed, Prime Minister Netanyahu made this very point during his UN address. He noted that the Iranian enrichment facilities containing thousands of spinning centrifuges were “very big industrial plants.” That meant they were both visible and vulnerable. However, he added that once the Iranian weapons program has moved on to the next stage involving the production of a nuclear detonator, then it would no longer be reliant on large plants but rather could be completed in a small workshop that is the size of a classroom. At the very final phase of Iran’s nuclear activity, it would be far less visible to Western surveillance and hence it would be far less vulnerable.
It is for this reason that Israel has had to draw its red line on Iran’s drive for nuclear weapons on the enrichment phase of the program and not wait for the weaponization phase which would be too late. In summary, it is difficult to say with precision when Iran will acquire enough 20 percent uranium that can be enriched further to the weapons-grade level for the manufacture of an atomic bomb. But what is clear is that this moment in time is fast coming close and Iran must be halted well before it arrives. In the meantime, according to the latest IAEA report, Iran has substantially increased the number of centrifuges that it installed for uranium enrichment. It also introduced its more advanced centrifuges into its nuclear facilities and it is making progress on its heavy water reactor that will allow it to produce plutonium.20
In the present negotiations between the P5+1 and Iran, the West will undoubtedly be cognizant of Israel’s focus on uranium enrichment to the 20 percent level and the red line drawn by Prime Minister Netanyahu. Iran, so far, has been careful not to cross the Israeli red line, but that hasn’t prevented it from moving ahead on other aspects of its program. Indeed, just after the last P-5 plus 1 talks in Kazakhstan, Tehran announced it was building 3,000 advanced centrifuges that it intended to install at Natanz. Thus, if proposals are to be made that protect the international community as a whole from the threat of Iranian nuclear weapons, they must address other aspects of the program that were discussed here and which might become fully operational in the years to come: the plutonium program, weaponization, delivery vehicles, and continuing upgrade of Iran’s centrifuge technology. If negotiations only halt one aspect of the Iranian effort to reach nuclear weapons, while letting the other parts of the program go forward, they may preclude an immediate crisis, but the world will still face a new Iranian challenge in the years ahead.
Face the Iranian Reality
by BILL SIEGEL September 4, 2012
Perhaps President Barack Obama has cleverly back-timed his Iran policy so that he retains the option to act in some forcible manner immediately prior to, and to garner votes for, the 2012 election. He has allowed three years to pass between the time he received a clear rejection of his efforts at “engagement” and the time that sanctions were deployed. If an “October Surprise” is part of his strategy, it will certainly result in something short of addressing the real problems of a nuclear Iran.
For the most part, however, our decades of failed policies with respect to Iran are the product of our Control Factors – that active and continuous effort we engage to distort our perception in order to give us the sense that we are in control of a threat we truly are not. The Control Factor utilizes an array of beliefs, fantasies, and other psychological defenses to generate the illusion that we are in control. The consequence is that Iran, having declared war on America over three decades ago, has never been held responsible for its words or actions as the greatest purveyor of global terror. Instead, we take on that responsibility for ourselves by declaring in multiple ways that it is our inability to understand, behave or negotiate adequately that is the cause of our predicament and Iran’s actions. If we are the cause, we are in control.
A brief catalog of just some of these maneuvers is illuminating. First, many were generated under the ridiculous “change regime behavior not the regime” theme that has dominated not just NY Times columnists such as Tom Friedman but our academics, media voices, and State Department for decades. Some have fantasized that either an “extended hand” or “crippling sanctions” would force the regime into true and honest compliance with UN and US demands. Oddly, these tend to be the same voices that rush to relieve sanctions at the first sign of discomfort in the hope that the regime will dispense with any potential future aggressive retaliation. They are also the first to lower demands to ensure that any deal is consummated rather than allow it to be proven once again that there is no reliable deal to be made. And while Obama has strongly pressed for the change of regimes throughout the rest of the Middle East, he uniquely avoided the opportunity he was given by the Green Revolution in 2009 and subsequently. Simply put, any true solution requires, at a minimum, regime change.
Many confuse the regime acting “rationally” with its pursuit of rational goals. Others conflate mutually tolerant notions of “peace” with the intolerant “peace” the regime seeks. Some imagine that Russia and China are our allies. Some cling to the notion that the nuclear science required is still too difficult for the regime to master. Curiously, many who berated our reliance on well agreed upon intelligence concerning Iraq’s WMD are those who readily rely on the most meager intelligence so long as it concludes there is plenty of time left before the regime reaches its goal. This is so even as more evidence emerges now that Iraq did, in fact, ship its chemical weapons to Syria as Saddam Hussein’s regime collapsed.
Some have been endlessly preoccupied with ensuring that “the world” sees us as “reasonable” without any idea when enough is enough; much less recognizing that much of that “world” does not share our standards in the least while much of the remainder would prefer for us to act with great strength and clarity.
As Iran gets dangerously close to its nuclear goal, another tempting theme our Control Factors project suggests that even a nuclear Iran can be handled effectively. Ideas such as “containment” began to circulate attempting to calm ourselves that Iran, like the Soviet Union, can be lived with until eventually changed. Interestingly, Hillary Clinton’s State Department (which incredibly declared the “war on terror” over) and Obama both eventually stated that “containment” is not US policy. On the surface this was interpreted as declaring that the US would not accept containment because it would not even allow a nuclear Iran. But as Hudson Institute scholar Lewis “Scooter” Libby has pointed out, containment was policy against the Soviets even before they were nuclear and it ultimately had little to do with stopping their nuclear program. It referred instead to containing the spread of Soviet influence and ideology. Libby argues that we need both to contain Iran as well as to stop its nuclear program, and he questions whether renouncing containment in fact sends a truly dangerous signal to Iran and the region.
Similarly, many imagine that mutual assured destruction, revered as so effective with the Soviets, will somehow similarly protect against an apocalyptic regime determined to create the global chaos necessary to bring back its most treasured Mahdi (the missing Twelfth Imam). The common refrain is that since the great powers obtained nuclear weapons there have been no wars between them. Still, MAD failed to prevent decades of exhaustive proxy wars and an endless conventional arms race at enormous expense until it broke (perhaps only temporarily given the current trends of Russia) what was a secular enemy devoid of End Times objectives. The US and Soviets were similar great powers not subject to a religiously based call for chaos. Contrarily, the US-Iranian struggle is between asymmetrical entities employing asymmetrical tactics in which Iran thrives on utilizing its proxies. Permitting it to more equalize its power with the US will only asymmetrically advantage Iran and shield it from any true future threat from the US or the West. Why should the US allow such a challenge it is ill-equipped and ill-financed to adequately face again today to arise at all?
And is it really so certain that, should Iran strike first against Israel, the current administration will rush to retaliate? Calls for some “measured” response if not pleas to avoid war altogether are perhaps more likely today. The same goes for calls to not waste any more resources on Israel, especially if it has already taken a substantial beating. Many would question what there would be left to gain. In this case MAD would likely be effective- but only to deter the US, not Iran.
The Control Factor has nothing to do with intelligence; it is often most insidious when manipulating a brilliant mind. Consequently, sophisticated writers such as Time Magazine’s Fareed Zakaria have ridiculously argued that causation concerns over starting a nuclear arms race in the region today are unfounded since Egypt and Saudi Arabia did not “go nuclear” after Israel presumably obtained such weapons decades ago- in complete denial that Iran, like Iraq, Libya, Syria, and perhaps others did engage in such pursuit and referenced Israel as their motivation. The Sunni-Shia division, so often cited when trying to comfort ourselves that Shiite Iran does not work alongside al-Qaeda or other Sunni groups, is so curiously overlooked when the deep rivalry between them suggests that a nuclear Iran will necessarily provoke a nuclear march for regional dominance from Sunni Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey, and others.
Many of these thoughts and beliefs are founded on the compelling but false projection that the regime is “just like us” which insulates us from the dreadful realization that it very much is not. Thus, some pontificate that Iran will not act irresponsibly once nuclear. In fact, prominent academics, including icon Kenneth Waltz in Foreign Affairs, even argue that allowing Iran to get the bomb is the best outcome. They comfort themselves with the fantasy that once nuclear, the regime will be magically transformed into a responsible member of the (also fantasized) world community of other reasonable and rational players.
While deception and dissimulation-taqiyya- are critical tools of this Shiite regime, the Control Factor frequently misjudges when words speak lies or truth. For years, obviously false crucial representations made by Iran to the UN and IAEA were trusted by many. Similarly, Western diplomats would hang on any words that Iranian officials would speak in order to justify inaction, setting the stage for taqiyya to thrive. Our deep desire that Iran actually be honest and forthright concerning its nuclear activities has allowed it to advance to possibly irretrievable levels.
On the other hand, others comfort themselves that Iranian declarations of war and hate are political rhetoric designed simply to unite the local population (except that the local population is largely not in agreement with the declarations) and therefore to be ignored. They declare for themselves that the regime’s apocalyptic talk is deceptive bluster, merely designed to frighten the West by utilizing the power inherent in irrationality.
Others, ignoring completely the express dictates of Iran’s own Constitution as well as three decades of terror across the globe, have argued there is nothing to fear with a nuclear Iran because Iran/Persia has little history of “offensive jihad”- the aggressive waging of war in non-Muslim lands.
First, history has shown time and again that failing to hold tyrannies accountable for their words only serves to encourage manifestation of those words. Consequently, the US has allowed Iran to perfect its use of ambiguity as a political and strategic tool that dangerously supplies the Control Factor with endless excuses and explanations.
Secondly, some foolishly believe current Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei has issued a fatwa declaring that an Iranian nuclear weapon would be “un-Islamic.” As esteemed journalist Amir Taheri points out, this unseen fatwa which Khamenei is not qualified to issue directly contradicts the policies of the regime’s founder Ayatollah Khomeini whose own fatwa to obtain such weapons has never been rescinded.
It is true that some periods of Shiite Islam have placed restrictions on offensive jihad. While the authority to declare such jihad was generally left to the Mahdi, Khomeini assumed the role of “just ruler” and gave himself such power. Most importantly and completely ignored however, as far back as 1986, Iran’s Islamic Propagation Organization cited a minority Shiite view that offensive jihad becomes permissible if an Islamic government clearly has sufficient overwhelming power so as to be “sure to win.” Under this view, which has no doubt gained favor under the current regime, a nuclear Iran would certainly qualify.
As a result, the most overlooked consequence of a nuclear Iran is that there would not only be a political and military change in the global balance of power. There would be a theological change in the balance of objectives. Obtaining such weapons itself becomes the license for their use. Familiar notions of containment, stability under MAD, and a responsible nuclear power are suddenly rendered dangerously delusional.
Fighting the Control Factor on our mind’s battlefield is often as difficult as confronting our enemies themselves. Because the Control Factor is active and continuous, once one case is tackled, new ones are certain to arise immediately in its place to continue our “willful blindness.” We must realize that much of what our minds do is to create the very problem we attempt to avoid and take responsibility for our own perceptions. That is, the Control Factor seeks to have us believe we are more in control with the inevitable paradoxical result that we wind up less in control. We must end our addiction to these self-destructive beliefs that have guided our Iran policies. We must take back the projection that the regime is “just like us.” We must transfer back the responsibility we have assumed for its words and behavior in order to foolishly comfort ourselves we are in control.
Finally, we must relentlessly recognize we have only one choice – to fight now while we still have advantages, as potentially painful as the consequences may be – or fight later when we will have already suffered severe destruction. All else is active obfuscation which may satisfy some idealized sense of morality or hope but will, instead, lead to unimaginable horrors.
Obama has already wasted his first term at the nation’s expense. Should he fail to lead/join Israel in a full effort (and not merely as an “October Surprise” to sway the election) while it is hopefully still timely, he will truly bring about a fundamental transformation of America – just not the one we ever imagined.
(How) Should Israel Bomb Iran?
Diplomacy has run its course, sanctions are too late, and Israel can’t cry wolf again.
Can Israel attack Iran? If it can, will it? If it will, when? If when, how? And what happens after that?On Sunday with Matt Lauer, President Obama said “I don’t think that Israel has made a decision on what they need to do.” That didn’t square with the view of Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who’s been reported as saying he expects an Israeli attack this spring. Nor does it square with public warnings from Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak that the Iranians would soon enter a “zone of immunity” from foreign military attack if nothing is done to stop them.
Yes, these war drums have been beaten before. But this time it’s different.