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Posts Tagged ‘Iran’s nuclear program’

And the Winner is… Iran’s Nuclear Program

Tuesday, June 18th, 2013

Originally published at the Gatestone Institute.

Khamene’i has again proven what a great master strategist he is. He has succeeded in pacifying the West and his own people, thus buying the time his scientists need to complete his nuclear project.

The Iranians are the best strategists in the Middle East, better than those in the West, and the reason the Iranians constantly succeed in out-maneuvering the West.

In the West, we constantly look for ways not to engage in military conflict; the Iranians are more than willing to offer us those ways. We will almost assuredly give the new president Hasan Rouhani time to “consolidate” his position, thereby granting Iran even more time to develop its nuclear weapons capability. That is the meaning of this Iranian presidential “election.”

Of the 686 men who wanted to run for president, the Guardian Council, totally under Khamene’i’s control, chose eight candidates. All of them clearly supported Khamane’i’s continued rule, which so many of the Iranian people, including senior clerics, loathe. So the choice for Iranian voters was not between candidates with widely differing views. Nevertheless, within that narrow framework, there were differences. Whoever the people actually voted for (we have no way of knowing how free and fair the election was), this result was one of the best of all possible outcomes — for the Iranian regime.

Since Rouhani spoke “moderately” during the campaign and had a previous reputation for being “moderate,” having him win almost guaranteed that the Iranian people — who came out into the streets after the previous elections were stolen from them — would not this time protest the election results. Rouhani’s “election,” therefore, pacifies the reformers who clearly will not demonstrate against him, thereby sparing the Iranian regime having to suppress, arrest, and murder people, actions which had horrified the international community.

Moreover, the West could lull itself into believing that since Rouhani is a “moderate,” maybe he is someone we can “deal with.” The election result, therefore is a huge win for Khamene’i and his clique, and a defeat for the West, Israel, and the Iranian people.

* * *

What can we learn from past experience about dealing with the results of this “election”?

During the early stages of the Iranian hostage crisis in 1979, we negotiated with the then Iranian President Abolhassan Bani Sadr, even though anyone who understood the Iranian revolution would have realized that Bani Sadr, despite his title as President, had no power. The real and only power was Ayatollah Khomeini, called the rahbar (guide or leader). Probably the best translation of that word into any Western language is the German word Führer, the term the Germans used to describe Adolf Hitler.

Khomeini, Iran’s Führer, hated us. But we in the U.S. ignored him and concentrated our negotiating efforts on Iran’s President Bani Sadr. After all, having had a president by then for almost 200 years, we knew what powers a president had. We consequently ascribed those same powers to Iran’s president. We negotiated with him — but he was powerless to make decisions. Only Khomeini could decide. So while we wasted time, we handed Iran a huge victory. During that period, the U.S constantly made concessions to the Iranian regime. In Middle Eastern terms, these enabled Iran to shame the U.S., and consequently gain huge numbers of supporters — both Shi’ites and Sunnis — throughout the Muslim world.

That situation is almost exactly the one we face today. Just as with Khomeini, Khamene’i is today the only decision-maker in Iran. The Iranian president is nothing more than a figurehead who carries out of the will of the rahbar, or suffers the consequences of not carrying it out.[1]

By pinning our hopes on President Rouhani, and parsing his every word, we will find ways countless to give him time to “consolidate his power,” as if he really has power, while we will be less demanding of Iran as it races to cross the nuclear threshold.

Most likely, we will obtain the same results we did when we negotiated with Bani Sadr. We will therefore almost assuredly give Iran the time it needs to cross the nuclear threshold. Just as with Bani Sadr, we will ignore the fact that he is basically powerless and that it is only Khamene’i who rules the country.

Making Rouhani the president was a brilliant strategic move for Khamene’i — not just to pacify the West, by also to pacify the Iranian people, who want nothing more than Iran to be accepted as a normal country and regain the international standing it had before the Islamic revolution.

Rouhani’s more religiously “moderate” rhetoric led the Iranian people to believe he would be able to negotiate Iran out of the catastrophic economic reality they face. So the “reformers” pin their hopes on him, instead of going out into the streets and demonstrating against him and the regime, as they did after Iran’s previous presidential “election.”

Khamene’i has again proven what a great master strategist he is. He has succeeded in pacifying the West and his own people, thus buying the time his scientists need to complete his nuclear project. This is, in short, a “win” for Khamene’i and a “lose” for the West, Israel, and the Iranian people who have shown many times how much they want to be rid of the regime’s tyranny.


[1] Bani Sadr eventually escaped Iran partially because he realized he was powerless. Subsequent Iranian presidents have realized that they either bow to the will of the rahbar or suffer the consequences. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran’s outgoing President, tried to do things his own way, but was humiliated by Iran’s governmental system, controlled by Khamene’i. Ahmadinejad was hauled before the Iranian parliament, then publicly questioned and humiliated. It remains to be seen how the newly “elected” Iranian President Rouhani will handle similar situations.

So Called Moderate Rohani Wins Iranian Vote

Saturday, June 15th, 2013

Hassan Rohani won outright majority of the votes and was declared President-elect of the Islamic Republic of Iran, IRNA reported.

Just under 37 million Iranians voted in Friday’s elections, out of some 50 million eligible voters—close to a 75 percent turnout—with about one million votes disqualified. Hassan Rohani won 18,613,629 votes, or just around 51 percent, which means there won’t be a runoff election.

According to a Reuters reporter stationed in Dubai, it appears the elections were surprisingly free and fair – of course, after a very large number of candidates had been shaved off the ballots by the ruling ayatollahs before the vote began.

The British Foreign Office said in a statement that it hoped President Elect Rohani would use his victory to engage with international concerns over Iran’s nuclear program.

“We note the announcement that Hassan Rouhani has won the Iranian presidential elections,” the statement said. “We call on him to use the opportunity to set Iran on a different course for the future: addressing international concerns about Iran’s nuclear programme, taking forward a constructive relationship with the international community, and improving the political and human rights situation for the people of Iran.”

Rouhani has been a member of the Assembly of Experts since 1999, member of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Expediency Council since 1991, member of the Supreme National Security Council since 1989, and head of the Center for Strategic Research since 1992.

Rouhani was secretary of the Supreme National Security Council for 16 years. His career at the Council began under President Hashemi Rafsanjani and continued under his successor, President Khatami. He served as Iran’s top nuclear negotiator from October, 2003 to August, 2005. That period began with international revelations about Iran’s nuclear energy program and adoption of a strongly-worded resolution by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Rouhani and his team based their efforts on dialogue and confidence building. They managed to prevent further accusations against Iran, by suspending some parts of Iran’s nuclear activities voluntarily. While preventing Iran’s case from being reported to the UN Security Council, Iran still succeeded in completing its nuclear fuel cycle. But Rouhani was not liked by incoming president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as president, who made him resign from his post as secretary of the Supreme National Security Council after 16 years of leading it.

Just based on his public record, it is clear that the historic differences between Rouhani and his predecessor Ahmadinejad have never been over substance – they both insist on Iran’s right to a fully developed nuclear program, both for peaceful and ends as for weapons production. Rouhani is simply more patient and better at duplicity.

This could mean a change for the worse in terms of Israel’s worries about the Iranian bomb, because Rouhani could turn out to be a lot more accommodating to the European and American negotiators, which would isolate Israel in its hawkish position against Iran’s nuclear program.

Rouhani is known as a friend of Iran’s Green Movement, but he also enjoys close ties to Iran’s ruling ayatollahs.

According to Reuters, Iranian voters gave Rouhani what amounted to a landslide victory – 51 percent in a very crowded race, because they are weary of years of economic isolation and tightening political restrictions. They’ve greeted his victory with a mix of euphoria and relief that eight years under hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad were finally over.

But, clearly, Israel is not about to let down its guard.

Head of US Central Command: Iran Sanctions Useless

Wednesday, March 6th, 2013

It’s official: the U.S. approach of mixing sanctions and diplomatic outreach in order to persuade Iran to stop its nuclear weapons program is not getting the job done. So testified the top U.S. commander in the Middle East before a Senate committee on Tuesday, describing the Iranian side as using denial and deceit while it continues “enriching uranium beyond any plausible peaceful purpose.”

Gen. James Mattis, head of U.S. Central Command, warned that he believes Iran is using the endless, ongoing negotiations simply to buy time, AP reported.

“That should not be in any way construed as we should not try to negotiate. I still support the direction we’re taking,” Mattis told the Senate Armed Services Committee. “I’m just — I’m paid to take a rather dim view of the Iranians, frankly.”

Mattis’ no-nonsense view should work like a bucket of icy water poured over any Western diplomat’s remaining delusions regarding the course of sanctions and talks. In fact,

Continuing international worries and uncertainty over the purpose of Iran’s enrichment programs. Tehran denies any work on, or interest in, nuclear weapons, but international leaders believe its uranium enrichment is aimed at developing atomic weapons. Yukiya Amano, the director general of the UN International Atomic Energy Agency, said on Monday that he cannot guarantee that Iran’s nuclear activities are peaceful. Not as long as Tehran remains uncooperative and inspectors are not allowed access to sites where they believe work on weapons development is taking place.

The Obama administration has not ruled out—at least theoretically—using military action to prevent Iran from possessing a nuclear weapon. Gen. Mattis told senators that the U.S. military has the capability of forcing Iran to shut down its nuclear business.

“There are number of means to do that,” he said, “perhaps even short of open conflict. But certainly that’s one of the options that I have to have prepared for the president.”

Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., asked what the U.S. needs to do to prove that it is serious that it will not accept a nuclear-armed Iran.

“I fear that if they (Iran) continue to use negotiations to delay, that we will be at a point where they have nuclear-weapons capability, and then it’s too late,” she said.

Gen. Mattis pointed out that Iran is still dangerously involved in the civil war in Syria, backing the Bashar Assad regime against rebel forces, and that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard is directly involved in the fighting, with assistance from foreign mercenaries.

The General said chemical weapons sites in Syria are more vulnerable today, even after some of the weapons have been stored in more secure locations.

“Our planning is taking this into account to the degree that it can. And I’ll just tell you that we have options prepared,” he said.

Gen. Mattis noted that should the Assad regime fall, it would cause the “biggest strategic setback for Iran in 25 years.” Assad’s collapse, Mattis believes, would push Iran to arm and fund militias inside Syria, Iraq and Yemen.

Asked about arming the rebels seeking to overthrow Assad, Mattis said he was troubled by the fact that a “significant minority” of the rebel forces has extremist Islamic views and are linked to al-Qaida.

Iranian Defector on Army Radio: ‘Big Explosion at Fordow’

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013

Following as string of unconfirmed reports, speculation and guesses, the U.S. has announces that it does not believe there was an explosion at the Fordow nuclear facility in Iran.

Last Friday, right wing news website World News Daily reported an explosion at Fordow that led to the collapse of the bulk of the facility built under a mountain near the city of Qom, burying some 240 employees.

The report was said to have come from defecting Iranian Intelligence operators and Revolutionary Guards. One of those alleged defectors, Hmidrza Zaakiri, on Tuesday told Israel Army Radio about the event and its outcome.

“It was a big explosion, and because the facility is built under the mountain rock, it is very hard to reach workers trapped in there,” said Zaakiri. “All the elevators and emergency stairs have collapsed.”

Tehran has already denied the reports that its main uranium enrichment plant was damaged, and now the United States also rejects this report.

“We have no information to confirm the allegations in the report and we do not believe the report is credible,” said White House spokesman Jay Carney. “We don’t believe those are credible reports.”

Meanwhile the world is waiting for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which keeps track of the Fordow facility, to state whether there is evidence of sabotage there.

Iran has not updated its original response to the rumors, published on Sunday, which blamed the “Western propaganda machine” for the news.

“There has been no explosion in Fordow nuclear Facility,” the deputy head of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization Seyyed Shamseddin Barbroudi said on Sunday.

The credibility of the initial report’s author has been called into question: Reza Kahlili worked for CIA in Iran in the 1980s, then was moved to the U.S. with his family.

Haaretz’s Anshel Pfeffer reported that “Kahlili himself is a frequent speaker at events in US organized by right-wing organizations and those that support the right in Israel … He also compared the regime in Tehran to that of the Nazis, and called upon Israel to bomb Iran’s nuclear installations.”

Currently Kahlili writes books and lectures on Iran. He claims “to still have an impressive network of sources in various government agencies.”

Kahlili has never shown his face in public, for fear of retribution. He always appears wearing a baseball cap, dark glasses and a surgical mask.

Pfeffer verified, however, that Kahlili’s “employment by the CIA has been confirmed by agency sources and an approving review of his book [A Time to Betray] even appeared on the CIA website.”

Now, with defector Hmidrza Zaakiri adding his voice to the story, it appears that there has been some smoke at Fordow, and we only need to find out how much fire created it.

Steps to Disempower Iran

Thursday, September 13th, 2012

Canada has expelled Iranian diplomats and shut down its embassy in Iran, citing the regime as “the most significant threat to global peace and security in the world today.” Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird condemned Iran on many fronts: its military assistance to Syria, its nuclear program, threats to Israel’s existence, and incitement to Jewish genocide; and he also announced that Canada has now formally listed Iran as a state sponsor of terrorism under the country’s Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act. While the many infractions of the regime were pointed out, the decision also stems an internal security threat: that the Iranian embassy in Canada was being used to promote a fifth column in Canada.

The West would do well to take note as to how far the tentacles of the Iranian regime have spread into global and regional affairs as delegates from Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s office impose strict expectations on their embassies to find the weaknesses in each country as well as to increase and empower their own supporters there politically, economically and culturally.

Despite the news of Canada’s decision and Baird’s justification for breaking diplomatic ties with Iran, much more action needs to be taken by Western nations. Baird, for example, referred to Iran’s blatant disregard for the Vienna Convention, which defines diplomatic relations between countries, forms the legal basis for diplomatic immunity and enables diplomats to perform functions without fear of being coerced or harassed by the host country.

Baird said he was worried about the safety of diplomats in Tehran following recent attacks on the British embassy in the country. A mob of Iranian students stormed the British embassy in Tehran last November. They tore down the Union Flags and threw documents from windows in a show of civil disobedience that followed London’s support of upgraded Western sanctions on Tehran over its nuclear program. The attack on the British embassy was not only illegal and brutal but it revealed something disturbing about Iran: that the regime is now willing — through violence and destruction — to take extreme risks on the international stage.

Baird has advised Canadian citizens in need of services in Iran to contact the Canadian Embassies in Ankara , Turkey and anywhere else that might provide it. He also issued a safety warning for Canadian travellers to Iran.

In the Syrian crisis to which Baird referred, Iran has shipped hundreds of tons of military equipment to Syria to ensure that the Assad regime survives the threat to its survival, and to aid Assad’s strategic offensive against rebel strongholds in Damascus and Aleppo. As Syria is Iran’s most important regional ally, Western intelligence officials have credited the Iranian regime’s elite Quds force and other high ranking members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard with creating the devastation there.

Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, a month ago also ordered renewed terror attacks on Western targets for supporting an overthrow of the Syrian regime, issuing a directive to Qassem Suleimani, commander of the elite Quds Force unit. An emergency meeting was called of Iran’s National Security Council in Tehran to discuss the implications for Iran in the event of the overthrow of Assad’s regime.

The survival of Syria’s Assad regime is regarded as critical to sustain the Iranian-backed Hezbollah militia, which controls southern Lebanon. A report commissioned by Khamenei concluded that Iran’s national interests were being threatened by U.N. sanctions over Iran’s nuclear program and the West’s support for the Syrian opposition.

Qassem Suleimani is apparently the mastermind behind the killing of more Americans than anyone, according to a Telegraph article in the U.K. that alleges this man to be the world’s most dangerous terrorist since Osama bin Laden. As head of the Quds Force, Suleimani not only works with Hezbollah in Lebanon, he has also plotted and executed mass murder in dozens of countries; and what Hezbollah has in mind for Israel is no secret, according to its leader who once said he hoped that the Jews would gather in Israel so he would not have to hunt them down globally. According to the Telegraph, however, the EU continues to categorize the Iranian-backed Hezbollah as a charitable organization, thereby enabling supporters to raise millions of dollars to inspire, recruit and train terrorists.

In July, Hezbollah was implicated in the bombing of a bus carrying Israeli tourists in Bulgaria . Yet despite the massive evidence of global terrorism by Hezbollah, one EU foreign minister has said a change in policy would be considered if and when “tangible evidence existed” that Hezbollah is engaging in acts of terrorism. Yet Iran and Hezbollah have slaughtered men, women and children in bombings “from Argentina to Saudi Arabia to Bulgaria;” and have targeted US servicemen in direct attacks, and through proxies in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The End of U.S.-Israel Strategic Cooperation?

Saturday, September 8th, 2012

“I don’t want to be complicit if they (Israelis) choose to do it (attack Iran’s nuclear program),” said Joint Chiefs Chairman Martin Dempsey.

News flash, General Dempsey: You are complicit in the way that counts; you are trapped: the Iranian leadership does not care what we say — or what we do — about our military relations with Israel. The Iranian leadership needs the U.S. as its adversary and will not allow you deniability. If there is a strike on Iran, they will need for it to have been the U.S. – will need, General Dempsey, for it to have been you.

It is unlikely, General, that you spoke on your own hook as you are still wearing your stars. The last General who spoke to journalists out of turn and out of the country was Stanley McChrystal – and he lasted only as long as it took to arrive in the Oval Office. Your Commander in Chief appears to have used you to hammer another nail in the coffin of a relationship that had, until he got here, been remarkably productive for more than 30 years.

Since the Reagan administration, U.S.-Israel military relations have generally been buffered from US-Israel political relations. They were not always smooth, but the military establishments were largely left to determine their interests together and separately. The late Caspar Weinberger was not enamored of Israel (certainly he was not enamored of the late Prime Minister Begin nor of the 1982 war in Lebanon), but the designation and early growth of “U.S.-Israel Strategic Cooperation,” and the designation of Israel for Major Non-NATO Ally status came in those years.[1] The Sixth Fleet came to Israel and the Haifa USO was built then to handle the enthusiastic crowds of American sailors and Marines.

Israel had the first wartime operational drones in 1982. The war that Weinberger opposed was a catalyst for U.S. thinking about remotely piloted vehicles. I took a small group of retired American military officers (including the former head of DIA, the former commander of US Air Forces Europe and the former commander of NATO’s Southern Command) to Israel in September 1982 so they could put their hands on the drones that emerged from an Israeli model-airplane-flying club. The officers compared it to the US Army’s then-unsuccessful drone program and the rest is history. U.S. conceived and built drones carry the weight of the Afghan war, but they also carry the history of 1982.

The First Gulf War complicated the relationship when President Bush (41) built a broad Arab coalition to rescue Kuwait. Israel withstood Saddam’s rocket barrage without retaliation because that was what the U.S. wanted, setting into motion deterrence difficulties for Israel that played out later as its closer neighbors acquired and used rockets and missiles. But it also set in motion Israel’s rapid quest for missile defense capabilities, which became an area of close U.S.-Israel cooperation.

After 9-11, Americans instinctively understood that we had been hammered by something with which the Israelis were familiar. “We Are All Israelis Now” was the headline in a major American paper. The Israelis “opened their closets” to help the U.S. deal with Islamic terrorism, urban warfare and counter-terror operations. Israel taught members of the U.S. Army to train bomb-sniffing dogs. While the work was going on, Israel loaned I.D.F. dogs to the Americans – Hebrew-commanded dogs were in Baghdad.

As the U.S. has become more adept in the ways of Middle East ground warfare, it is the Americans who have technology, tips and training to share with Israel.

“Complicity” is the wrong word for a relationship between countries that was grounded in the most fundamental agreement on democratic governance, civil liberties, minority rights, rule of law, and what constituted the enemy – at least until now.

General Dempsey meant Iran, but there is more than a divergence on Iran going on here. There has been a determined shift of emphasis in the current administration. President Obama has elected to focus on how and where the U.S. might find partners in the Arab/Muslim world – not itself a bad thing, but dangerous if it means a) eroding the definition of an ally to mean anyone with any set of political/religious/strategic beliefs that does not involve killing Americans outright; and b) throwing the Jews down the well (to channel Borat).

Should Israel bet the farm on U.S. promises?

Thursday, September 6th, 2012

Recently, Israel’s security cabinet met for 10 hours to discuss, among other things, Iran. Details of  the meeting were secret, but

It is likely that among the issues discussed were the “red lines” that Israel would like the United States to establish as a way of deterring Iran from moving ahead. While Netanyahu has not publicly declared what he thinks those red lines should be, Uzi Arad, the former head of the National Security Council, said that they could include a declaration that any uranium enrichment beyond 20 percent would be a direct trigger for military action.

Arad, in an Israel Radio interview, said other possible red lines could be the discovery of additional uranium enrichment plants – like the once secret facilities at Natanz and Fordow – or the interference with the work of International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors.

In addition, Arad said that the US has not yet spoken in “categorical terms” making crystal clear its determination to stop the Iranian nuclear march.

An example of this, he said, would be clearer presidential declarations to the effect that the US will not tolerate or allow a nuclear Iran, and will use all means to prevent it.

Other “categorical” expressions of this determination, Arad said, could be congressional authorization now of the use of force if diplomacy fails to convince the Iranians to halt, and a clear statement that the military objective of any US action would not be to “buy time,” but rather to prevent Iran from ever being able to build a nuclear bomb.

There is also this, from an AP report:

After tense exchanges with the Americans, Israeli political and defense officials said Tuesday that the sides are now working closely together in hopes of getting their positions in sync. Clearer American assurances on what pressure it is prepared to use against Iran, including possible military action, would reduce the need for Israel to act alone, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were discussing a security matter.

I hope that this does not represent the thinking of Israeli policymakers. It is imperative to deal with reality as it is, not as we would wish it to be. And reality is 1) that only military action or acredible threat thereof will stop Iran from developing deliverable nuclear bombs, and 2) that an Obama administration, or even a Romney administration, is highly unlikely to provide this.

A strategy of stopping Iran by getting the US to promise to enforce red lines is only a promise; and nations — the US is not alone in this — do not keep promises when doing so is not determined to be in their interest.

Here is an example. In 2004, the US was very interested that Israel carry out its proposed withdrawal from the Gaza strip. President Bush wrote a letter to then-PM Ariel Sharon promising that:

In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli population centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949…

Israeli officials insisted that there was also an informal agreement that this would be understood as allowing construction in settlements located in areas that Israel intended to keep in any proposed agreement with the Palestinians.

By 2008, even the Bush Administration was backing away:

National security adviser Stephen J. Hadley, at a news briefing in January [2008], suggested that Bush’s 2004 letter was aimed at helping Sharon win domestic approval for the Gaza withdrawal. “The president obviously still stands by that letter of April of 2004, but you need to look at it, obviously, in the context of which it was issued,” he said.

The Obama Administration finished the job in 2009:

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton rejected Israeli assertions that the Bush administration had reached a binding agreement with Israel on Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

“We have the negotiating record, that is the official record that was turned over to the Obama administration by the outgoing Bush administration,” Clinton said Friday at a joint press conference with her Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoglu.

“There is no memorialization of any informal or oral agreement” concerning the settlements, she said.

Since coming to office in January, President Barack Obama has repeatedly called on Israel to halt all settlement activity in Palestinian areas, a demand rejected by the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The Israelis say they received commitments from the previous US administration of President George W. Bush permitting some growth in existing settlements.

They say the US position was laid out in a 2004 letter from Bush to then Israeli premier Ariel Sharon.

Clinton rejected that claim, saying any such US stance was informal and “did not become part of the official position of the United States government.”

Is this the kind of promise-keeping that a nation can bet its existence on? I don’t think so.

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