Tag: Nuclear Bomb

AS NEW IRANIAN PRESIDENT PUSHES NUCLEAR FLIM-FLAM, HE APPOINTS 1983 BEIRUT KILLER AS DEFENSE MINISTER – MEANWHILE ONLY CANADA JUDGES ROUHANI BY DEEDS, NOT WORDS

We welcome your comments to this and any other CIJR publication. Please address your response to:  Ber Lazarus, Publications Chairman, Canadian Institute for Jewish Research, PO Box 175, Station  H, Montreal QC H3G 2K7 – Tel: (514) 486-5544 – Fax:(514) 486-8284; E-mail:  ber@isranet.org

 

 

 Download an abbreviated version of today's Daily Briefing.

 

Judge Iran’s Regime by Its Actions, not by Empty Words: John Baird, The Globe and Mail, Aug. 10 2013—This past weekend, the Islamic Republic of Iran inaugurated Hassan Rowhani as its seventh president. In the weeks and months ahead, the world will be watching to see if the hopes and aspirations of Iranians will be fulfilled.

 

Iran’s Plan B for the Bomb: Amos Yadlin And Avner Golov, New York Times, Aug. 8, 2013—Is Iran finally ready to talk? Iran’s new president, Hassan Rouhani, has said he’s ready for nuclear negotiations. And in recent weeks, the Iranian government has repeatedly expressed its desire to reach a deal on its uranium enrichment program.

 

Iran’s New Defense Minister: Behind  Attack on U.S. Marine Corps Barracks (Beirut 1983): Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Dr. Shimon Shapira, JCPA, Aug. 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.

 

Even if Assad Loses, Iran Gains from its Support of Shia Militias: Phillip Smyth, The National, Aug 12, 2013—As Syria continues to burn, Iran has successfully pushed the narrative that it is the unbridled defender of Shia Islam. Even if Bashar Al Assad loses more ground to the rebel forces, Iran can still benefit from the conflict to bolster that narrative.

 

 

On Topic Links

 

Report: Iran's Arak Reactor to Have Nuclear Weapons Grade Plutonium by Next Summer: Jeruslam Post, Aug. 5, 2013

PM: Iran Has Set 7,000 New Centrifuges Spinning since Presidential Election: Herb Keinon, Jerusalem Post, Aug. 8, 2013

Iran's Mounting Malaise: Jamsheed Choksy, Real Clear World, Aug. 8, 2013

Iran Enters the Peace Process: Khaled Abu Toameh, Gatestone Institute, July 29, 2013

Former MI Chief Yadlin Cautions Over Iran's Plutonium Program: Jerusalem Post, Aug. 9, 2013

 

 

JUDGE IRAN’S REGIME BY ITS ACTIONS, NOT BY EMPTY WORDS

John Baird

The Globe and Mail, Aug. 10 2013

 

This past weekend, the Islamic Republic of Iran inaugurated Hassan Rowhani as its seventh president. In the weeks and months ahead, the world will be watching to see if the hopes and aspirations of Iranians will be fulfilled.

 

Canada’s skepticism of the regime’s commitment to genuine reform stands. Despite the expression of the Iranian people on June 14, Iran’s nuclear non-compliance, its deliberate decision to ignore its human-rights obligations, its ongoing sponsorship of terrorist groups, its support for Syria’s Assad regime, and its own regular and inexcusable anti-Semitic rhetoric continues unabated and undeterred. Mr. Rowhani’s own tome of literature chronicling Iranian subterfuge and clever protraction of nuclear negotiations does little to enhance his own credibility.

 

Irrespective of these dubious confluences, after Mr. Rowhani’s inauguration, this regressive clerical military dictatorship appears to have yet another opportunity. The Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has to decide whether he will continue to march Iran down its current path or whether he wants to allow Mr. Rowhani to roll back the apparatus of tyranny and fear, and place Iran within the community of nations committed to prosperity and freedom.

 

Maintaining the status quo will continue Iran’s isolation as international sanctions will remain in place. The status quo will also mean that Iran will continue its malevolent partnership with Hezbollah and Bashar al-Assad, and deploy the insidious Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. It will retain the same international standing and prestige as North Korea.

 

Alternatively, if the Supreme Leader allows Mr. Rowhani to immediately implement significant and deep changes in the regime’s irresponsible nuclear policies, its disregard for human rights and its destructive meddling in the Middle East, Iranians may yet see a brighter future. Let us be clear about one irreducible fact: The choice is firmly the Supreme Leader’s to make. The Iranian President has historically been constrained and shaped by the Supreme Leader, which highlights the challenges facing Mr. Rowhani.

 

Some of these obstacles have already been underscored since the election in June. On July 31, Iran announced it was extending a $3.6-billion oil credit to the murderous Assad regime so it can continue butchering its own people. Iranians should be asking Mr. Rowhani why Iran is spending $3.6-billion to kill fellow Muslims in Syria, rather than investing in the economic prosperity of the Iranian people.

 

Human Rights Watch recently reported that executions in Iran have increased at an alarming rate since the election and that as many as 71 people have been executed since June 14. The real number is certain to be higher. Was this the change Iranians voted for? The world cannot afford to take hints of moderation on key issues at face value while the regime continues to suffocate the aspirations of its people. Nor can we accept gestures that do not result in the systemic change Iranians demand and deserve. Serious change requires the regime to hold genuine nuclear talks with the P5+1 group, to fully co-operate with the International Atomic Energy Agency, to respect human rights, to stop supporting agents of death, destruction and chaos in the region, and to put the real interests of its citizens first.

 

Iranians deserve a future free of fear in which they can enjoy the benefits of hard work and build more prosperous lives for their children. Iranians deserve to have the institutions that allow them to debate and to determine their future in freedom. Iranians deserve to see the day that Iran takes its rightful place in international affairs as a respected regional power. These are the hopes that Iranians have told us they have invested in Mr. Rowhani.

 

Canada and the rest of the world will be looking to the regime to undertake deep reforms and to genuinely help Iranians realize their aspirations. The world will judge the regime by the actions it takes, not its empty platitudes or symbolic gestures.

 

John Baird is Foreign Affairs Minister of Canada.

 

Contents

 

 

IRAN’S PLAN B FOR THE BOMB

Amos Yadlin And Avner Golov

New York Times, Aug. 8, 2013

 

Is Iran finally ready to talk? Iran’s new president, Hassan Rouhani, has said he’s ready for nuclear negotiations. And in recent weeks, the Iranian government has repeatedly expressed its desire to reach a deal on its uranium enrichment program.

 

A few days after Mr. Rouhani’s election victory, Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, stated that Iran was prepared to limit its enrichment to a level below 20 percent, which is the main goal of a future agreement between the West and Iran. And last month, Iraq’s prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, reportedly told the White House that Iran wanted to begin direct nuclear negotiations with the United States.

 

But it would be dangerous to think that Iran’s proposal for negotiations alone would pave the way for a deal.

What matters is not the talks but the outcome. Whoever negotiates with Iran must acknowledge that the enrichment of uranium from a low level (3.5 percent to 19.75 percent) to weapons-grade level (90 percent) is only one of three dimensions of Iran’s nuclear strategy. A second dimension is Iran’s progress toward a quick “breakout capability” through the stockpiling of large quantities of low-enriched uranium that could be further enriched rapidly to provide weapons-grade fuel. Third, Iran also appears to be pursuing a parallel track to a nuclear capability through the production of plutonium. If there is going to be a nuclear deal with Iran, all three parts of its strategy must be addressed.

 

In the past year, Iran has installed thousands of centrifuges, including more than 1,000 advanced ones. A report by the International Atomic Energy Agency states that Iran already has enough low-enriched uranium to produce several nuclear bombs if it chooses to further enrich the fuel. Iran has deliberately refrained from crossing what is perceived as Israel’s red line: 240 kilograms (about 530 pounds) of uranium enriched to a level of 19.75 percent.

 

Nonetheless, Western experts like Graham T. Allison Jr. and Olli Heinonen estimate that if Iran decided to develop a bomb today, it could do so within three to five months. That is assumed to be sufficient lead time for the West to detect and respond to an Iranian decision. But a recent report from the Institute for Science and International Security estimates that at the current pace of installation, Iran could reduce its breakout time to just one month by the end of this year. The report also estimates that at that pace, by mid-2014 Iran could reduce the breakout time to less than two weeks.

 

Any agreement must ensure that an Iranian breakout is detected quickly enough to allow for a Western response — meaning that the international community must be able to uncover any concealed facilities and activities for the production of fissile material. A solution will also have to address the potential for a plutonium bomb. In May, Iran announced that the heavy-water reactor in Arak would become operational early next year. Some American and European officials claim that Iran could produce weapons-grade plutonium next summer. These two announcements indicate that Iran is making progress on this alternative track. So far, the West has not paid much attention to the potential for a plutonium-fueled weapon. Now it must do so.

 

A functioning nuclear reactor in Arak could eventually allow Iran to produce sufficient quantities of plutonium for nuclear bombs. Although Iran would need to build a reprocessing facility to separate the plutonium from the uranium in order to produce a bomb, that should not be the West’s primary concern. Western negotiators should instead demand that Iran shut down the Arak reactor. This is crucial because the West would likely seek to avoid an attack on a “hot” reactor, lest it cause widespread environmental damage. Once Arak is operational, it would effectively be immune from attack and the West would be deprived of its primary “stick” in its efforts to persuade Iran to forgo a military nuclear capability.

 

Of the three countries that have publicly crossed the nuclear threshold since the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty entered into force in 1970, two — India and North Korea — did so via the plutonium track. In order to deny Iran this route, any agreement between the West and Iran must guarantee that Iran will not retain a breakout or “sneak out” plutonium-production capacity.

 

At the United Nations last September, Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, focused only on uranium enrichment, reinforcing a one-dimensional perception of the Iranian nuclear program. This narrow perception is already widespread in the West and could enable Iran to attain a swift breakout capability using uranium or to build a plutonium bomb without detection.

 

Negotiations with Iran should resume, and the sooner the better. But Western leaders must maintain their current leverage — sanctions and a credible military threat — and ensure that any future agreement with Iran addresses all three dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program. Moderate messages from Tehran should not be allowed to camouflage Iran’s continuing progress toward a bomb.

 

Amos Yadlin, a former chief of Israeli military intelligence, is the director of Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies, where Avner Golov is a researcher.

 

Contents

 

 

IRAN’S NEW DEFENSE MINISTER: BEHIND THE 1983
ATTACK ON THE U.S. MARINE CORPS BARRACKS IN BEIRUT

Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Dr. Shimon Shapira

JCPA, Aug. 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.

 

Contents

 

 

EVEN IF ASSAD LOSES, IRAN GAINS
FROM ITS SUPPORT OF SHIA MILITIAS

Phillip Smyth

The National, Aug 12, 2013

 

As Syria continues to burn, Iran has successfully pushed the narrative that it is the unbridled defender of Shia Islam. Even if Bashar Al Assad loses more ground to the rebel forces, Iran can still benefit from the conflict to bolster that narrative.

 

Iran's guiding ideology of valeyat Al Faqih, or the absolute rule of a religious cleric, is far from the accepted norm among the world's Shia. And Iran's support for sending Shia militants to fight alongside the Syrian regime has put Iran at odds with both traditional Shia clerics, who are followed by the majority of Shia Muslims, and radical clerics such as Iraq's Muqtada Al Sadr. These clerics, particularly Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani in Najaf, Iraq, have rejected the Iranian role and have thus been a persistent thorn in Iran's side. Mr Sistani went so far as to call Shia who go to fight in Syria "disobedient". Mr Al Sadr has said that he would "punish" any members participating in Syria's battles, according to the news agency AFP.

 

Despite such resistance, the Iranian regime has managed to advance its narrative among many Shia in the region. The Iranian regime justifies the involvement of Shia foreign fighters in Syria as fighting to "protect Shia holy sites" – particularly the Sayyida Zaynab shrine in Damascus – from "takfiris", a euphemism Tehran uses to describe all Syrian rebels. The term is generally used to describe radical Sunni Islamists who view Shia and some other Muslims as infidels.

 

The pretext of defending the shrine in Damascus plays well with Shia who have suffered under waves of bombings targeting their mosques, shrines and gatherings from Baghdad to Pakistan. Iran and its proxies have described their operations in Syria as a "sacred defence" and fallen fighters as "holy warriors of jihad".

 

The Iranian "defensive jihad" narrative is meant to be juxtaposed with the statements by Mr Al Sadr or Mr Sistani, who call on their followers not to fight in Syria, to make Shia feel their traditional and radical leaders are out of step in the face of a historic threat.

 

Iran works with numerous regional proxies, such as Lebanon's Hizbollah and Iraq's Asa'ib Ahl Al Haq – which split from Mr Al Sadr's militia – and Kata'ib Hizbollah, to propagate that narrative. These groups have provided members for Shia militias that operate in Syria, such as Liwa Abu Fadl Al Abbas. Working with these groups also helps Iran to expand its influence and create the impression that a broad front, united under Iran's leadership, is committed to keeping Mr Al Assad in power, thus attracting more Shia fighters for the conflict.

 

Even if a militia operates away from the holy sites in Syria, Iran claims that its policy of backing Mr Al Assad is part of its ultimate goal of defending the Shia relics. In May, for example, Liwaa Ammar Ibn Yasir, an Iranian-backed Shia militia, announced that it operates in Aleppo but also "defends" Sayyida Zaynab shrine in Damascus. The clear message is that no matter where one of the Tehran-backed Shia militias operates, it is indirectly defending Sayyida Zaynab.

 

Through this strategy, Iran can achieve three significant results: it can save a strategically important ally, lessen the influence of its Shia clerical rivals and foster a greater acceptance of its own radical doctrine within the Shia Islamic community.

 

Iranian government-controlled media has been proactive in pushing that narrative by highlighting the Sistani statements that jibe with Tehran's agenda while downplaying or simply ignoring his opposition to sending Shia fighters to Syria. For example, remarks made by Sayyid Javad Shahrestani, Mr Sistani's representative in Iran, that the war in Syria was actually a plot to damage Iran's regional standing were widely carried by Iranian state media. But Mr Sistani's clear opposition to Iranian moves in Syria is rarely mentioned.

 

The slogans used by Iranian-backed Shia militias fighting in Syria have also been used to give the impression that certain Shia clerics support the intervention. Liwa Imam Husayn has been branded as "Sadrist" by its creators. (It is worth mentioning that Shia militias in Syria have common leaders, for unstated reasons). According to a photograph used in the promotion of the latter militia on Facebook, one of the militiamen wields a heavy machine gun with a shot of Mr Al Sadr paternally looking down on him. The same photograph was published a few days earlier with Asa'ib Ahl Al Haq's logo on it, which suggests the group cannot be affiliated to Mr Al Sadr, as the latter's forces had sometimes clashed with Asa'ib Ahl Al Haq in Iraq.

 

Mr Al Sadr probably knew that he would need to cooperate with Iranian-backed groups in any joint operations in Syria, including with Asa'ib Ahl Al Haq, which is one of the main providers of combatants in Syria. In May, Mr Al Sadr came to loggerheads with Iraqi prime minister Nouri Al Maliki over the militia's activities in Iraq; according to the Saudi newspaper Asharq Al Awsat, Mr Al Sadr even called on his supporters to clamp down on the militia in Baghdad.

 

Both Syrian rebels and Shia militias have claimed Mr Al Sadr's forces operate in Syria. But he has categorically denied these reports, saying, in June, that "all these claims are lies". Judging from the reports and videos emerging from Syria, Mr Al Sadr appears to be telling the truth.

 

Moreover, Liwa Imam Husayn, in an attempt to suggest that Mr Sistani supports its involvement in Syria, announced recently that it held iftar for residents in the neighbourhood around the Sayyida Zaynab shrine in a Damascus building owned by Mr Sistani. Iran and its proxies will continue to push more Shia into Syria's conflict. The war in Syria has provided a situation in which Iran can assume a leadership role among the region's Shia community.

 

Phillip Smyth is a researcher at the University of Maryland. He focuses on Lebanon and Syria and specialises in Shia militias in Syria

Contents

 

Report: Iran's Arak Reactor to Have Nuclear Weapons Grade Plutonium by Next Summer: Jeruslam Post, Aug. 5, 2013—The Arak heavy water nuclear reactor in Iran will be capable of producing two nuclear bombs' worth of weapons grade plutonium a year and will be capable of producing the material by next summer, according to a Wall Street Journal report on Monday that cited US, UN and EU officials.

 

PM: Iran Has Set 7,000 New Centrifuges Spinning since Presidential Election: Herb Keinon, Jerusalem Post, Aug. 8, 2013—1

Since Iranian President Hassan Rouhani was elected two months ago, Iran has installed 7,000 centrifuges, indicating that he is nothing more than a new face to an old regime, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Wednesday.

 

Iran's Mounting Malaise: Jamsheed Choksy, Real Clear World, Aug. 8, 2013—Hassan Rouhani took charge of Iran with its socioeconomic safety nets unraveling, thanks to deleterious policies exacerbated by tightened sanctions from the West. Addressing the parliament on July 14, while president-elect, he acknowledged that the nuclear impasse is far from the only factor transforming the Islamic Republic of Iran negatively with impact on other countries. Iran's challenges pose severe consequences at home and abroad.

 

Iran Enters the Peace Process: Khaled Abu Toameh, Gatestone Institute, July 29, 2013—Hamas's apparent rapprochement with Iran paves the way for Iran to play a major role in the Palestinian arena. Iranian military experts could soon be arriving in the Gaza Strip to train members of Hamas and other terrorist groups. This does not bode well for the Palestinian Authority and its leader, Mahmoud Abbas.

 

Former MI Chief Yadlin Cautions Over Iran's Plutonium Program: Jerusalem Post, Aug. 9, 2013—Former Military Intelligence chief Amos Yadlin warned Friday that the West's one dimensional perception of Iran's nuclear program, focusing solely on the uranium enrichment path to a nuclear weapon, could enable the Islamic Republic to build a plutonium bomb without detection.

 

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IRAN ELECTS “MODERATE”, INCREASES NUCLEAR PACE AS U.S. SEEKS MORE TALKS; CRISIS LOOMING!

We welcome your comments to this and any other CIJR publication. Please address your response to:  Ber Lazarus, Publications Chairman, Canadian Institute for Jewish Research, PO Box 175, Station  H, Montreal QC H3G 2K7 – Tel: (514) 486-5544 – Fax:(514) 486-8284; E-mail:  ber@isranet.org

 

 

 Download a pdf version of today's Daily Briefing.

 

Another Iran Crisis Is Looming: Yaakov Lappin, Gatestone Institute, June 12, 2013— At a time when news headlines from the Middle East are dominated by battles in Syria, growing Sunni-Shi'ite conflict in Iraq and Lebanon, and mass disturbances in Turkey, it is easy to forget about Iran's nuclear program; but early warning indicators are signaling an impending, explosive crisis over Iran's refusal to halt its covert nuclear weapons program.

 

Hassan Rowhani: A Honey Trap for Iran and the World?: Lt. Col. (ret.) Michael Segall, JCPA, June 17, 2013—Sayyed Hassan Rowhani, who adopted the color purple during the election campaign, won an overwhelming victory in the first round of the Iranian presidential election with a majority of over 50 percent, leaving Saeed Jalili (who came in second), his bitter rival during the campaign and the favorite of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and certain other conservatives, far behind.

 

Iran's Terror Threat in Latin America: Sebastian Rotella, Real Clear World,  July 13, 2013—A senior officer in the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) traveled secretly with the presidential delegation and met with Venezuelan military and security chiefs. His mission: to set up a joint intelligence program between Iranian and Venezuelan spy agencies, according

Iran uses Iraq as Economic Gateway to Evade Sanctions: Omar al-Shaher, Al-Monitor Iraq Pulse, June 28, 2013— The Iranian Fars News Agency quoted TPOI deputy Kiumars Fathallah Kermanshahi as saying that “Iraq receives 72% of the total volume of Iran's foreign trade, and is ranked first as the biggest importer of Iranian goods.”

 

On Topic Links

 

U.S. to Seek Direct Nuclear Talks with Iran: Jay Solomon, Wall Street Journal, July 15, 2013
Netanyahu Calls for Stronger Iran Sanctions, ‘Credible’ Military Option: Gavriel Fiske, Times of Israel, July 14, 2013

Rowhani and the Iranian Elections: Dore Gold, JCPA, June 16, 2013
Israeli or U.S. Action Against Iran: Who Will Do It if It Must Be Done?: James Cartwright & Amos Yadlin, The Atlantic, May 28 2013
Dubai Frozen Yoghurt Firm Feels Iran Sanction Chill: Asa Fitch and Rory Jones, Wall Street Journal, July 15, 2013

 

ANOTHER IRAN CRISIS IS LOOMING

Yaakov Lappin

Gatestone Institute, June 12, 2013

 

At a time when news headlines from the Middle East are dominated by battles in Syria, growing Sunni-Shi'ite conflict in Iraq and Lebanon, and mass disturbances in Turkey, it is easy to forget about Iran's nuclear program; but early warning indicators are signaling an impending, explosive crisis over Iran's refusal to halt its covert nuclear weapons program.

 

At enrichment facilities in Natanz and Fordow, Iran is continuing to inch closer to the point of nuclear breakout, as a report by the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) recently noted. The report confirmed what defense analysts had been saying for months: that Iran installed hundreds of additional centrifuges for uranium enrichment, enhancing its nuclear program, while continuing enrichment activities.

 

Tehran has also taken steps to create a parallel path to nuclear weapons through its plutonium plant at Arak.

 

Iranian engineers are constructing a reactor at the heavy water plant at Arak, which could enable the production of a plutonium-based atomic bomb. Meanwhile, Iran continues to deny IAEA inspectors access to its suspected nuclear trigger facility at Parchin, and has been busy shifting earth around the site to cover its activities. At this point, the IAEA said, even if inspectors were allowed to visit, the cover-up would mean they may not find a thing.

 

These developments have led leading Israeli defense experts at the Institute for National Security Institute in Tel Aviv to conclude that unless the White House soon adjusts its policy on Iran, the U.S. may end up adopting a policy of nuclear containment rather than prevention.

 

The analysts, Emily Landau, director of the Arms Control and Regional Security Program at the INSS, and Ephraim Asculai, a senior research associate, questioned President Barack Obama's assertion that the US will know ahead of time if Iran took a decision to produce nuclear weapons. They cited historical failures by intelligence agencies, and cautioned that relying on the IAEA to identify the danger in time could prove disastrous.

 

Even if a timely warning were received, they said, it remains unclear that there would enough time to reverse Iran's trajectory, or that the White House would be willing to employ force. Most importantly, their paper said that it is now "blatantly apparent" that the diplomatic approach for solving the Iranian crisis has failed, "even though the US administration has yet to admit this."

 

Their stance was echoed on Monday by the United Nation's top nuclear diplomat, IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano. Amano told the IAEA's board of governors that talks with Iran are simply "going around in circles," and described the past ten rounds of negotiations as failures. Using unusually blunt language to underscore the dead-end situation, Amano said: "To be frank, for some time now, we have been going around in circles. This is not the right way to address issues of such great importance to the international community, including Iran."

 

Iran's intransigence, and its unwillingness to cooperate or provide assurances about the absence of nuclear material and activities were all to blame, he said. "These activities are in clear contravention of resolutions adopted by the Board of Governors and the United Nations Security Council," Amano added. Israel, which is more threatened by Iran's nuclear program than is the U.S., as well as militarily weaker than Washington, has less time to make its up mind on how and when to proceed to avert a threat to its existence.

 

Israel's Minister for Strategic Affairs, Yuval Steinitz, reflected the urgency of the situation in a warning he sent out to the public last week. "Time is running out," he said. "We have only a few months. The danger is a global one, which will change the face of history. Iran could have hundreds of atomic bombs and hundreds of long-range missiles." He added: "The danger is many times bigger than North Korea."

 

Against this background, the Israeli military's former intelligence chief, Maj.-Gen. (res.) Amos Yadlin, and former Vice-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. James Cartwright USMC (ret.), published an analysis in The Atlantic examining what would happen if either Israel or the US launched military strikes on Iran's nuclear program. Yadlin and Cartwright simulated a classified phone call between Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and U.S. President Barack Obama, which would take place later this year. During the call, the two leaders agree that the diplomatic-sanctions route to stopping Iran has failed.

 

Their starting position is the current situation, and the timing of their piece is not coincidental. Their envisaged phone call may well occur sooner rather than later. A central conclusion reached by the defense figures is that Israel has the highest moral authority to launch military action, as it faces the greatest threat. Practically, an Israeli strike might also safeguard the U.S.'s ability to act as a broker and negotiate a permanent diplomatic solution to the crisis after a strike – a role the U.S. could not undertake if it carried out the strike itself. Nevertheless, the U.S. enjoys superior military capabilities to launch such an operation.

 

Iran's response to an attack from either side could range from a limited retaliation to launching a regional war.

The other day, an Israeli defense official said the production of Arrow-3 anti-ballistic missile defense systems – which intercept incoming long-range missiles in space – have been fast-tracked. Eight months ago, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told the international community at the United Nations that the clock was ticking for a resolution to the Iranian crisis, and that time could be up by the spring or summer of 2013. A growing number of alarms are ringing.

 

Contents

 

 

HASSAN ROWHANI: A HONEY TRAP FOR IRAN AND THE WORLD?

Lt. Col. (ret.) Michael Segall

JCPA, June 17, 2013

 

Sayyed Hassan Rowhani, who adopted the color purple during the election campaign, won an overwhelming victory in the first round of the Iranian presidential election with a majority of over 50 percent, leaving Saeed Jalili (who came in second), his bitter rival during the campaign and the favorite of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and certain other conservatives, far behind.

 

The win for Rowhani, a dyed-in-the-wool member of the revolution, will likely give the Iranian regime medium-term breathing space both at home and abroad. At home, the victory has deflected the pressures of the “Iranian street” and forestalled a (weak) possibility of a “Persian Spring.” Abroad, it will afford Iran breathing space in the international arena to gain a little more time, and possibly to ease the sanctions a bit by presenting the “moderate” Rowhani to the West. The West will likely “adopt” Rowhani – the only cleric among the candidates – and award Iran yet another opportunity to resolve the nuclear issue without a confrontation.

Yet Iran is unlikely to alter its plan to achieve regional hegemony, and will go on exploiting Sunni weakness and American hesitations. In any case, Rowhani does not formulate Iran’s foreign and nuclear policy, which is dictated by Khamenei and the Revolutionary Guard. Rowhani could even serve as a sort of buffer between Khamenei and the West, thereby winning more time to complete the nuclear program and move to a “breakout” at the right moment.

The Iranian people voted for the only “reformist” candidate, even though Rowhani is a conservative and part of the regime. Within the rules of the game of the Islamic regime, Rowhani will try to promote freedom of expression and to free some of the detainees (including Mehdi Karroubi and Mir-Hossein Mousavi, who are under house arrest). He is likely, though, to encounter the opposition of the Revolutionary Guard if he tries to move too fast. In 1999 the Revolutionary Guard sent a threatening letter to President Khatami, who instituted far-reaching reforms, in which they warned against continuing such a policy that threatened the Islamic nature of the regime.

Rowhani, unlike Jalili, is a diplomat and a sophisticated negotiator in the nuclear field. In interviews before the 2009 elections, he explained the rationale behind Iran’s decision to suspend uranium enrichment in 2003. It came, he said, from a situation assessment of the regional and international circumstances at that time. “The presence of the United States all around Iran and along its borders, the American invasion of Iraq on the pretext that there was mass-destruction weaponry there, posing the potential threat of a similar move against Iran…these were certainly very uncomfortable circumstances for Iran.”

Rowhani emphasized at the time that, given these conditions, the decision to suspend the uranium-enrichment program was one of the ways to break the international consensus against Iran. In agreeing to suspend enrichment, Rowhani made clear, Iran managed to neutralize any such broad international consensus and to remove the threat of the United States bringing the Iran-related issues to the United Nations Security Council during his tenure as negotiator.

Rowhani also revealed part of Iran’s negotiating strategy with the Western countries; implicit in his remarks is that it was based on deception. He underlined that, while Iran indeed suspended enrichment at Natanz (where Iran enriches uranium in centrifuges), it simultaneously continued its activity at Isfahan, where the uranium-conversion facility is located that produces the UF6 gas needed to supply the centrifuges at Natanz. Rowhani explained that at the time the Isfahan facility was not yet operational and more work and installation of equipment were needed there. He also said Iran did not agree to suspend the assembly of centrifuges; instead it continued that endeavor since it only had a few centrifuges and needed a larger number.

Iran under President Rowhani will keep using similar tactics of cautious, non-defiant diplomacy. The West has obtained its “moderate president.” Iran will exploit this ongoing Western delusional tendency to the end. Numerous fruitless rounds of nuclear negotiations have been held since Rowhani’s time as negotiator. He was one of those who, carefully and prudently, set Iran on its nuclear course, and it looks as if he will be the one to bring it toward the bomb.

Contents

 

 

IRAN'S TERROR THREAT IN LATIN AMERICA

Sebastian Rotella

Real Clear World,  July 13, 2013

 

A senior officer in the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) traveled secretly with the presidential delegation and met with Venezuelan military and security chiefs. His mission: to set up a joint intelligence program between Iranian and Venezuelan spy agencies, according

 

Last year, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited his ally President Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, where the firebrand leaders unleashed defiant rhetoric at the United States. There was a quieter aspect to Ahmadinejad's visit in January 2012, according to Western intelligence officials. A senior officer in the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) traveled secretly with the presidential delegation and met with Venezuelan military and security chiefs. His mission: to set up a joint intelligence program between Iranian and Venezuelan spy agencies, according to the Western officials.

 

At the secret meeting, Venezuelan spymasters agreed to provide systematic help to Iran with intelligence infrastructure such as arms, identification documents, bank accounts and pipelines for moving operatives and equipment between Iran and Latin America, according to Western intelligence officials. Although suffering from cancer, Chavez took interest in the secret talks as part of his energetic embrace of Iran, an intelligence official told ProPublica.

 

The senior IRGC officer's meeting in Caracas has not been previously reported. "The aim is to enable the IRGC to be able to distance itself from the criminal activities it is conducting in the region, removing the Iranian fingerprint," said the intelligence official, who requested anonymity because he is not authorized to speak publicly. "Since Chavez's early days in power, Iran and Venezuela have grown consistently closer, with Venezuela serving as a gateway to South America for the Iranians."

 

A year and a half later, Chavez has died and Ahmadinejad is no longer president. But the alliance they built is part of an Iranian expansion in the Americas that worries U.S., Latin American, Israeli and European security officials. Experts cite public evidence: intensified Iranian diplomatic, military and commercial activity in the region; the sentencing this year of an Iranian-American terrorist in a plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in Washington; U.S. investigations alleging that Hezbollah, Iran's staunch ally, finances itself through cocaine trafficking; and a recent Argentine prosecutor's report describing Iran's South American spy web and its links to a 2007 plot to bomb New York's JFK airport.

 

There is considerable debate inside and outside the U.S. government about the extent and nature of Iran's activities, however. That debate dominated a U.S. congressional hearing this week about a new State Department report that assesses the Iranian threat in Latin America, a region made vulnerable by lawlessness and an increasingly anti-U.S. bloc of nations.

 

The report resulted from a bipartisan bill, the Countering Iran in the Western Hemisphere Act, signed into law by President Obama in January. That measure called for a comprehensive U.S. response to Iranian incursions and a study based on threat assessments by intelligence and law enforcement agencies. Most of the study is classified. A two-page unclassified section says that "Iran has increased its outreach to the region working to strengthen its political, economic, cultural and military ties."

 

Nonetheless, the State Department assessment concludes that "Iranian influence in Latin America and the Caribbean is waning" as a result of Western sanctions, U.S. cooperation with allies and "Iran's poor management of its foreign relations." In a recent interview about the issue, a senior U.S. government official gave a measured assessment comparable to the new report. "The countries of the region need to watch carefully for Iran as a threat within a spectrum of issues of concern in the region," said the official, who was not authorized to speak publicly. "I don't see it as a major threat now. This is worth watching. It is something there is legitimate attention to given Iran's history."

 

Contents

 

 

IRAN USES IRAQ AS ECONOMIC GATEWAY TO EVADE SANCTIONS
Omar al-Shaher
Al-Monitor Iraq Pulse, June 28, 2013

 

The Iranian Fars News Agency quoted TPOI deputy Kiumars Fathallah Kermanshahi as saying that “Iraq receives 72% of the total volume of Iran's foreign trade, and is ranked first as the biggest importer of Iranian goods.” For years, the UN and Western countries have imposed a series of sanctions against Iran, which is accused of seeking to develop nuclear weapons, under cover of an alleged civil program. Yet, Tehran denies these accusations.

In the most recent round of sanctions against Tehran, US media quoted on Wednesday, June 26, White House spokesman Jay Carney as saying that US President Barack Obama gave the green light to the imposition of sanctions on foreign institutions that purchase or sell significant amounts in Iranian rials, and those who hold amounts in rials in bank accounts outside Iran.

The Iranian rial fell to its lowest level because of international sanctions. The new set of US sanctions included Iran’s automotive manufacturing sector. Iraq is the largest external market for Iranian cars. Iraqi political analyst Ihsan al-Shammari said, “Iran is convinced that Iraq is currently its only economic lung, and it is normal that Iraq receives the majority of Iranian exports.”

In an interview with Al-Monitor, Shammari added that “what helps Iran strongly enter the Iraqi market is that Iraq is a consumption society.” Shammari believes that “deepening Iraqi-Iranian ties this way will inevitably cause damage to Iraq's foreign relations, particularly with the United States, which feels that Iran’s nuclear program is a threat to its interests and security.”

 

According to Shammari, “Iran is in dire need of Iraq, particularly at this stage; not only to market its goods, but to export them to other countries, or to facilitate the movement of Iranian funds through Baghdad to Damascus and Beirut.” He said, “Iraq is Iran’s economic outlet to the world.”

 

According to many Arab and Western countries, Iran has been supporting Assad’s regime by providing it with fighters, weapons and funds. The regime was trying to contain popular protests, which degenerated into an armed rebellion more than two years ago.

 

Iraqi economic expert Majid al-Souri believes that “that the increasing trade relations with Iran will definitely help it lift part of its blockade.” In a statement to Al-Monitor, Souri said that “the increasing pressure on Iran due to the international blockade has given Iraqi traders the chance to deal with their Iranian counterparts in cash, rather than through bank transfers, as is the customary method in cross-border trade. Therefore, the demand for the dollar has increased in Iraq.”

 

“The relations between traders of different nationalities are only normal, provided that they do not go beyond the limits that could affect national interests. The Iraqi government has sympathy for Iran. However, this sympathy is akin to that shown by some countries towards Iraq during the economic blockade that was imposed on it in the 1990s,” he added. Souri noted that “Iran has been trying to make the most of the remaining relations it has with neighboring countries,” emphasizing the growing economic relations between Iran, Russia and India. Iran has been also trying to set up gas pipelines through Pakistan, despite the strong opposition on the part of the US. Moreover, the large commercial exchange between Baghdad and Tehran comes in this context.”

 

For her part, Nahida Daini, a member of the Economic Committee in the Iraqi parliament, said that it is very difficult for Iran to control the goods that are sent to Iraq, because of the “many exchange ports on the long border between the two countries.” Speaking to Al-Monitor, Daini said that “what is more important than the ease of export is the nature of consumption in Iraqi society, as goods entering to Iraq are greatly consumed by the population, regardless of the quality.”

 

“There is something like a political veto on the application of a customs tariff in Iraq, as if politicians want to allow Iran and other countries to flood the local markets with goods in order to undermine the domestic industrial capacity,” she added.

Omar al-Shaher is a contributor to Al-Monitor’s Iraq Pulse.

Contents

 

On Topic

U.S. to Seek Direct Nuclear Talks with Iran: Jay Solomon, Wall Street Journal, July 15, 2013—The Obama administration is preparing to communicate to Iran's president-elect Hassan Rohani its desire to hold direct negotiations in the coming weeks over Tehran's nuclear program, senior U.S. officials said. The P5+1 is hoping to schedule a new round of negotiations with Iran by September, U.S. and European officials said.
 

Netanyahu Calls For Stronger Iran Sanctions, ‘Credible’ Military Option: Gavriel Fiske, Times of Israel, July 14, 2013—Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday warned that Iran was still moving forward with its nuclear weapons program, one month after elections that saw the relatively moderate Hasan Rouhani swept into the presidency. Sanctions against the Islamic Republic must be strengthened, he said, along with a credible threat of military action against Iran.

 

Rowhani and the Iranian Elections: Dore Gold, JCPA, June 16, 2013—Dore Gold Debates Former British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw on BBC Radio4 Morning Program: JOHN HUMPHRYS: I’m joined by Jack Straw, former foreign secretary, and by Dr Dore Gold, former foreign policy advisor to the Israeli Prime Minister. Jack Straw, how should we now be treating, dealing with Iran?

 

Israeli or U.S. Action Against Iran: Who Will Do It if It Must Be Done?: James Cartwright and Amos Yadlin May 28 2013—Let's say it's late 2013 and the prime minister of Israel has just received a phone call from the White House relaying the findings of a recent U.S. intelligence assessment: international sanctions and negotiations with Iran have yet to persuade the regime to halt its nuclear drive. Tehran previously rejected a generous U.S. offer that would have allowed it to enrich uranium in exchange for strong nuclear safeguards, and the program continues to advance unabated. After agreeing to convene in Washington in one week to discuss strategy going forward, the prime minister and president each call a meeting with their national security advisors.

 

Dubai Frozen Yoghurt Firm Feels Iran Sanction Chill: Asa Fitch and Rory Jones, Wall Street Journal, July 15, 2013—A Canadian frozen yogurt franchise might seem like an entirely unusual conduit for Iran to evade hardening U.S. government sanctions. But among several companies the U.S. sanctioned in May for illicit dealings with Iran was a cold outlier: Niksima Food and Beverages, a firm based in Dubai that runs local outlets of Yogen Fruz, the Canadian frozen yogurt purveyor.

 

 

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IRANIAN NUCLEAR: U.S. WEAKNESS EMBOLDENS TEHERAN, DESPITE ITS INTERNAL DIVISIONS—NORTH KOREAN BOMB AS MODEL

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Contents:                          

 

(Please Note: articles may have been shortened in the interest of space. Please click link for the complete article – Ed.)

 

 

Iran Can’t Agree to a Damn Thing: Patrick Clawson, Foreign Policy, Feb. 20, 2013During the chaotic days of Iran's Islamic revolution, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the country's emerging "supreme leader," assured Iranians that their supposed oppressor, the United States, would not be able to put the hated shah back on his throne.

 

The US and Iran: Pre-Negotiation Maneuvering: Prof. Eytan Gilboa, BESA Center, Feb. 19, 2013The United States and Iran are exchanging tough messages on possible negotiations towards a diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear weapons crisis. Both sides are presenting conditions for direct negotiations, which would be the first of their kind.

U.S. Weakness Provokes N. Korea and Iran: Max Boot, Commentary, Feb.12, 2013So much for the exaggerated hopes of those that believed Kim Jong-un would turn out to be a different kind of dictator. Following a long-range rocket test in December, North Korea has now apparently tested a nuclear weapon bigger than any it has tested before.

On Topic Links

 

 

Spy Fail: Why Iran is Losing Its Covert War with Israel: Karl Vick, Time World, Feb. 13, 2013
The Collapse of Iran's RialSteven Plaut, Gatestone Institute, Feb. 21, 2013
North Korea Shows Dangers of Half-Deal with Iran: Gary Milhollin, Bloomberg, Feb 24, 2013

Iran's Shrewd Move: Michael Makovsky and Blaise Misztal: Weekly Standard, Feb 22, 2013

Are Iran Sanctions Working?: Elliott Abrams, Council on Foreign Relations, Feb. 21, 2013

 

 

 

 

IRAN CAN’T AGREE TO A DAMN THING

Patrick Clawson

Foreign Policy, Feb. 20, 2013

 

During the chaotic days of Iran's Islamic revolution, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the country's emerging "supreme leader," assured Iranians that their supposed oppressor, the United States, would not be able to put the hated shah back on his throne. "America can't do a damn thing against us," he inveighed, a winning line that became the uprising's unofficial slogan. It's a catchphrase Iran has deployed time and again since….

 

Khomeini's slogan was true enough at the time: There wasn't much U.S. President Jimmy Carter could do to intervene in one of the most stunning uprisings in history. But today, when it comes to Iran's endless nuclear impasse with the West, one might turn the phrase back on the Iranians: The problem, in a nutshell, is that Iran can't agree to a damn thing.

 

Indeed, the slow pace of nuclear negotiations with Iran are only the beginning of the reasons to be discouraged about resolution of the standoff. More worrying is that political infighting in Tehran is so bad that Iran might not be able to bring itself to accept unilateral U.S. unconditional surrender were it to be offered. To be sure, eight months between negotiating sessions — June 18-19, 2012 in Moscow, followed by the upcoming session slated for Feb. 26 in Almaty, Kazakhstan — is bad news enough. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon hit the nail on the head when he warned last week, "We should not give much more time to the Iranians, and we should not waste time. We have seen what happened with [North Korea]. It ended up that they [were] secretly, quietly, without any obligations, without any pressure, making progress" on nuclear weapons.

 

But the pace of talks is only the beginning of the problem. More important is the political meltdown among the Islamic Republic's leaders. Their problems should help put ours in perspective. Many Americans think Washington faces gridlock from hyper-partisan politics, though in fact Iran is an exception to that rule. Bills about Iran's nuclear program typically enjoy stunning levels of support — 100 to 0 in the Senate in the December 2011 round of sanctions. In the November 2012 vote on another sanctions round, several senators were absent, so the vote was a cliffhanger 94 to 0.

 

By contrast, Iranian leaders fight about everything, even where vital national security interests are at stake. In many respects, a divided Iran is nothing new. The Islamic Republic has from its beginning been characterized by sharp internal divisions. And that has long influenced debate about policy toward the United States. For at least 20 years, the rule in Iran has been: Whoever is out of power wants talks with the United States, which they know would be popular, while whoever is in power moves haltingly if at all toward talks. Several times, those on the outs became the ins and then quickly shifted position on relations with Washington. When Mohammad Khatami was running for president in 1997, he was all in favor of talks with the Great Satan, but then once in power, he did little if anything and refused to speak clearly on the issue. And so too with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: When he was riding high, he only had disdain for the United States, but as he got into trouble at home, he called for talks with Washington.
 

But now, the situation is much worse than before. It used to be that once Khomeini's successor, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, spoke, that ended the debate, but no longer. Khamenei no longer enjoys the respect nor commands the power to stop the infighting. No matter how often or bluntly he rejects the idea of negotiations with the United States, other important officials — most loudly and frequently, Ahmadinejad — call for such talks.

 

Khamenei couches his call for obedience as a need for unity and vigilance in the face of the enemy. A typical speech on January 29 warned, "Today the world of Islam is faced with the plot of enemies… We should not fuel the fire of discord by arousing shallow and vulgar feelings. This will burn the fate of nations. It will completely destroy them. It will help the enemies of Islam." Consistent with his longstanding reluctance to publicly weigh in directly on political disputes, Khamenei has usually confined himself to elliptical criticisms, such as his warning in a Feb. 7 speech to Air Force commanders, "The improper conduct which is witnessed in certain areas from certain government officials — they should end this." He concluded with another strong call for unity.

 

Admonished by the supreme leader to close ranks, Iranian leaders promptly put on a full display of their bitter enmity. The Majlis, Iran's legislature, called in for questioning Labor Minister Reza Shaikholsislami, a close ally of Ahmadinejad. In response, the Iranian president went to the Majlis for the Feb. 3 debate and insisted on accusing Speaker Ali Larijani and his family (including his brother Sadegh Larijani, head of the judiciary) of corruption, playing a recording he claimed supported the charge. Ruled out of order, Ahmadinejad stormed out. The Majlis then voted Shaikholislami dismissed by a vote of 192 to 56; Ahmadinejad promptly added him to his official delegation leaving for Egypt. Five days after the Majlis brawl, 100 Ahmadinejad supporters pelted Ali Larijani with shoes, disrupting a speech he was trying to give in Qom.

 

Khamenei was clearly appalled that neither his public admonitions nor his reported firm private orders had been enough to stop the feuding. So he lit into the two sides in a Feb. 16 address, saying, "What is the reason behind impeaching a minister a few months before the end of the life of the government, for a reason that had nothing to do with that minister? … The head of one branch of power [Ahmadinejad] accused the two other branches of power based on a charge that was not raised or proved in a court…Such acts are against the sharia as well as the law and ethics." Turning to the disputes about corruption, he added, "I expect the officials to enhance their friendship at this time that enemies have intensified their [hostile] behavior. Be together more than before. Control your wild sentiments." He warned that if they did not follow his counsel, there would be grave consequences.

 

Khamenei was ignored again. Two days after this speech, the Supreme Court — largely controlled by Sadeq Larijani — upheld four death sentences against close Ahmadinejad allies in a high-profile corruption case. Neither the president nor his equally conservative, hard-line opponents seem to fear Khamenei or much respect his authority anymore.

 

By their actions, Iranian leaders are giving the strong impression that they are so preoccupied by their internal differences that they cannot agree on, well, a damn thing. Disunity helps the enemy, Khamenei frequently says. But the world powers negotiating with Iran would be glad to see more unity in Tehran, because a more unified Iranian government would be better able to reach a deal and then implement it. That seems less and less likely. The time is rapidly approaching when the big powers, or at least the United States, need to set out a stark choice for Iran's leaders: Either accept a generous offer to resolve the nuclear impasse or be prepared for the consequences.

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THE US AND IRAN: PRE-NEGOTIATION MANEUVERING

Prof. Eytan Gilboa

BESA Center, Feb. 19, 2013
 

The United States and Iran are exchanging tough messages on possible negotiations towards a diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear weapons crisis. Both sides are presenting conditions for direct negotiations, which would be the first of their kind. In international relations theory this phenomenon is called “pre-negotiation.” During this phase the sides calculate the benefits and drawbacks of the negotiating process itself and of a possible agreement.

They present tough opening positions which they know the other side can’t accept, and they attempt to obtain concessions from the other side just for agreeing to negotiate. This has been the negotiating style of both the Palestinians and the Iranians. It seems that the West in general and the United States in particular don’t know how to effectively handle this style.

 

During a February 2013 international security conference in Munich, American Vice President Joe Biden said that there “is still time…[and] space for diplomacy backed by pressure to succeed. The ball is in the government of Iran’s court.” He added that the discussions would be held on condition of a “real and tangible” Iranian offer. Biden hinted that the atmosphere surrounding previous negotiations was not serious, because Iran was not ready to make a single compromise; its sole purpose was to buy time and advance its drive to the nuclear bomb in the interim.

His message was clear: the United States will not agree to such negotiations, and will not remove sanctions merely in exchange for Iran’s entrance into deliberations. In his 2013 State of the Union Address, President Barack Obama called upon Iranian leaders to “recognize that now is the time for a diplomatic solution, because a coalition stands united in demanding that they meet their obligations.” He concluded that the United States “will do what is necessary to prevent [Iran] from getting a nuclear weapon.”

 

The Iranian reply was immediate. The two Iranian leaders – the spiritual and more significant leader, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei; and the political leader, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad – responded negatively and conditionally to Biden’s invitation. We are ready for negotiations, they said, but only if the United Sates and the West announce support for Iran’s right to a nuclear program, and on condition that the heavy sanctions against Iran are removed. It is obvious that the United States can’t accept these demands, because the sanctions’ removal would eliminate any chance, remote as they are, to stop the Iranian nuclear weapons program. The sanctions and the heavy damage they have inflicted on the Iranian economy pushed the Iranian leaders to seek negotiations, and suspending them now will eliminate any incentive they may have to compromise.

 

It is very possible that the tough stance of the Iranian leadership stems from its perception of the new senior appointments of the Obama Administration in foreign and national security affairs: John Kerry as Secretary of State and Chuck Hagel as the nominated Secretary of Defense. Both men are veterans of the Vietnam War and are almost fundamentally opposed to using any type of force to bring results. In the past, Hagel even opposed sanctions and claimed that it is impossible to halt the Iranian nuclear program. In his Senate testimony he also made an embarrassing statement by characterizing the Iranian regime as “legitimate.”

 

The Iranian leaders interpreted these appointments, as well as Obama’s and Biden’s invitation to open talks, as signs of weakness to be exploited for advancing their nuclear weapons program and for setting tough conditions for negotiations. The Iranian leaders have also closely observed the North Korean defiance of the United States and the Western pressure to stop the testing of nuclear weapons and long range missiles, and could have concluded that the US warnings and intimidations are not credible….

 

The current stalemate threatens to cripple Obama’s Iranian strategy. He planned heavy sanctions that he hoped would soften the Iranian position and bring them to negotiations and direct discussions with a good chance to stop the bomb. It is apparent that the goals of the two sides contradict each other: America wants Iran to stop enriching its uranium, while Iran wants to end the sanctions. The Iranians know how to conduct negotiations much better than the Americans; they have thousands of years of experience in bazaar-like bargaining. Thus, if the United States and Iran reach an agreement to begin direct negotiations, the ultimate results may be favourable to the Iranians. The American desire to avoid the military option almost at any cost may produce a vague agreement which will still enable Iran to clandestinely continue developing nuclear weapons. If no direct negotiations are held, or if they are held but fail to stop Iran from continuing to develop nuclear weapons, and if Obama stands by his commitments to prevent Iran from building a nuclear bomb – the Administration may have no choice but to use military force…..

 

Prof. Eytan Gilboa is Director of the School of Communication and Director of the Center for International Communication, both at Bar-Ilan University, and a senior research associate at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies.

 

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U.S. WEAKNESS PROVOKES N. KOREA AND IRAN
Max Boot

Commentary, Feb.12, 2013
 

So much for the exaggerated hopes of those that believed Kim Jong-un would turn out to be a different kind of dictator. Following a long-range rocket test in December, North Korea has now apparently tested a nuclear weapon bigger than any it has tested before. This, despite warnings not only from South Korea, Japan, and the United States, but also from China, not to test. Far from being the reformer as many naively imagined, Kim is showing himself a chip off the old dynastic bloc, once again using North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction to posture before the world and no doubt to shake concessions out of the U.S., South Korea, and other states.

 

What makes this test truly disturbing is the close cooperation that is known to exist between Iran and North Korea in the development of ever-more destructive weaponry. The two countries have worked closely together on missiles and may well be working together on nuclear weapons. If so, the North Korean test is an indication of growing danger not only in Northeast Asia but also in the Middle East.

 

And what is the American response to this latest provocation? To his credit, President Obama has not repeated the pattern of his predecessors in trying to shower North Korea with aid to get it to desist from its dangerous behavior—a pattern that only subsidized North Korean malfeasance. Rather than trying to relaunch stalled six-party talks, he has actually pushed for the toughest sanctions yet on North Korea although their ability to actually coerce Pyongyang is limited as long as China refuses to cut off economic aid.

 

But these tough responses are undermined to a large extent by the symbolism of Obama proposing steep cuts in the American nuclear arsenal—from 1,700 to 1,000 warheads—in the State of the Union address on the very day when North Korea is testing a nuke and Iran is drawing closer to acquiring its own nukes. It is hard to know why the president imagines unilateral American cuts will encourage more responsible behavior from the likes of Iran and North Korea. The more likely consequence is to call into question America’s deterrent capacity, an especially pressing issue if, as Bret Stephens argues in this Wall Street Journal column, China’s nuclear arsenal is actually larger than commonly supposed.

 

With the danger growing from both Iran and North Korea it is all the more incumbent on the US to reassure regional allies—from Saudi Arabia to South Korea–that they will be sheltered securely underneath the American nuclear umbrella. If we cut our own nuclear forces drastically, the credibility of our guarantees diminishes and the likelihood goes up that our allies will seek nuclear weapons of their own, potentially setting off two nuclear arms races.

 

Of course it is not just in the nuclear realm that the US is undertaking defense cuts. Our overall military budget is to undergo drastic cuts within weeks assuming that the Congress and White House do not reach an agreement to turn off the sequester. Already the military services are cutting back on readiness and training. The Navy, for one, has announced that the Persian Gulf area will for the time being have only one aircraft carrier battle group on station, rather than two.

 

It is hard to think of a more threatening prospect than unilateral American military reductions at a time when our enemies our growing stronger. Weakness, it is often said, is provocative. By that measure we are provoking two of the most dangerous rogue states in the world.

 

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Spy Fail: Why Iran is Losing Its Covert War with Israel: Karl Vick, Time World, Feb. 13, 2013Slumped in a Nairobi courtroom, suit coats rumpled and reading glasses dangling from librarian chains, the defendants made a poor showing for the notorious Quds Force of the elite Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.

 

The Collapse of Iran's RialSteven Plaut, Gatestone Institute, Feb. 21, 2013The Iranian economy has been imploding, at times even nudging news of Iran's nuclear program off of the front pages. In the first ten months of 2012, the Iranian currency, the rial, lost more than 80% of its exchange value. In a single day, on October 1, 2012, it dropped by 15%, and, after a brief reprieve, resumed its trend downwards in early 2013. At least one commentator has compared Iran's economic meltdown with that in Zimbabwe.

 

North Korea Shows Dangers of Half-Deal with Iran: Gary Milhollin, Bloomberg, Feb 24, 2013Negotiators from the world’s major powers sit down with Iran this week for more talks on its nuclear program, just weeks after North Korea tested another nuclear weapon. If the connection between these two events isn’t obvious, it should be: North Korea’s nuclear saga is a cautionary tale for anyone attempting to bargain with the Islamic Republic.

Iran's Shrewd Move: Michael Makovsky and Blaise Misztal: Weekly Standard, Feb 22, 2013With the next round of international talks on Iran’s nuclear program scheduled for February 26, the United States needs to understand Iran’s negotiating strategy. Recent Iranian tactics suggest a seemingly contradictory approach: simultaneously slowing down and speeding up their nuclear program. But by buying time now, Iran is shrewdly seeking to evade international pressure while hastening its advance to nuclear weapons capability.

 

Are Iran Sanctions Working?: Elliott Abrams, Council on Foreign Relations, Feb. 21, 2013It’s a commonplace to say that sanctions against Iran are tighter than ever and are working. Here’s an example from White House spokesman Jay Carney last Fall: ”We have diplomatic isolation and international isolation that’s unprecedented in history and it’s having a profound impact on both the Iranian economy and the Iranian regime’s internal political structure.”

 

 

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