Category Archives: Persian Gulf

Iran: Negotiations That Matter

By REUEL MARC GERECHT// Since we don’t know what Saeed Jalili, Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, said at the recent confab in Istanbul, we can’t be sure that Israeli prime minister Bibi Netanyahu was right to dismiss the powwow as a “freebie” for Tehran. Also, the Islamic Republic is a theocracy: The most senior officials need to report face-to-face to their master. Jalili, an ill-tempered, narrow-minded, one-legged veteran of the Iran-Iraq war, lost face after a disastrous meeting in Geneva in October 2009, when he tentatively agreed to a nuclear-fuel swap, only to see the supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, bat the deal down from Tehran. So no matter how well rehearsed, Jalili would need time for his boss to digest what was demanded and offered. In any case, as long as the Iranians were polite, we were going to have two meetings. And so there is another get-together scheduled for May 23 in Baghdad.

Iranian Man in Turban

The odds are high, however, that the next session will lead to no diplomatic yellow-brick road. Round two could be a success, and lead to a round three, if Khamenei agreed to do five things: (1) Stop all uranium enrichment to 20 percent purity, which is near bomb-grade; (2) ship abroad the entire stockpile of 20 percent enriched uranium; (3) close the Fordow enrichment facility, which is buried under a mountain near the clerical city of Qom; (4) allow inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency immediate and unfettered access to any suspected nuclear site; and (5) permit the IAEA to install devices on centrifuges for monitoring uranium-enrichment levels. Khamenei is, to say the least, unlikely to agree to this.

It’s worth stressing that it is a serious mistake to allow Khamenei and his Revolutionary Guards, who oversee terrorist operations and the nuclear program, any domestic enrichment capacity. This was the position of the Obama administration and our Western European allies. Now that consensus has apparently collapsed because Iranian agreement seems impossible. Khamenei’s determination to keep advancing uranium enrichment despite increasingly severe sanctions has paid off. Tehran has enough low-grade, 3.5 percent enriched uranium stockpiled to produce at least one, soon two, nuclear weapons. It also has a 163-pound stockpile of 20 percent enriched uranium. As Oli Heinonen, the former deputy director general of the IAEA, has pointed out, mastering 3.5 percent enrichment is 70 percent of the way to mastering the fuel cycle for an atomic weapon. Twenty percent enrichment is 90 percent of the process.

As of February, Iranian centrifuges were producing 256 pounds per month of 3.5 percent enriched uranium and 15 pounds per month of 20 percent enriched uranium (the Fordow facility accounted for 9.5 pounds of this total). The Iranian regime had 8,800 centrifuges spinning at Natanz and 696 at Fordow. Once the Islamic Republic can produce 44 pounds of highly enriched uranium per month, which is not that far off given the increasing rate of production, the supreme leader and his guards can have a nuclear weapon in their hands in as little as 43 days, provided Iran’s nuclear scientists have mastered the manufacture of a nuclear trigger (technically much less difficult than enrichment). Per the IAEA’s most recent report, “information indicates that Iran has carried out activities relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device.” In other words, Khamenei will win his race for a nuclear weapon unless something dramatic intervenes to stop him.

The best that can be hoped from another round of negotiations with Tehran is that Khamenei is hooked into a process that enfeebles him. The cleric has consistently avoided any meaningful embrace of the negotiating process because he sees it as dangerous, a slippery slope where the Americans and Europeans dictate limitations on his nuclear program. Many American critics of negotiations have seen this process as the reverse, a slippery slope that has Western diplomacy enabling the Islamic Republic’s nuclear ambitions. Khamenei may have the stronger argument. But he shows no sign of yielding to pressure.

There is certainly a risk that continuing these negotiations puts Israeli prime minister Bibi Netanyahu and defense minister Ehud Barak into a real pickle, since it’s more difficult for the Israelis to make the case for bombing Iran’s nuclear sites while the negotiations are going on. Nonetheless, the Israelis need to decide whether a preventive attack on the Islamic Republic can work. Their internal deliberations should not be constrained by a false promise of a diplomatic solution. Moving forward with negotiations now is actually more likely to free the Israelis to act in the summer, if they choose to, than to entrap them.

Americans, too, need to have an honest debate about whether they are willing to permit Khamenei and the Revolutionary Guards—the principal state sponsors of terrorism in the Middle East, whom the Obama administration has increasingly nailed for their operational relationship with al Qaeda—to develop atomic weapons. It would be healthy for Democrats and Republicans to debate the Iranian conundrum, which is not going to happen as long as sanctions-backed diplomacy seems viable. We are fortunate that the nuclear timeline overlaps well with the 2012 presidential campaign: It’s the ideal moment for a ripping discussion about probably the most momentous foreign-policy question before us.

The above five requirements—nearly identical to the reported minimum requirements of the White House—ought to clarify where we are on May 23. These conditions will be extremely difficult for Khamenei to accept because they are so humbling. Shuttering the Fordow facility, which Iran’s state-controlled press has reported on with pride, would be gut-wrenching for the supreme leader. It’s likely that Khamenei wants to build more Fordow-like facilities—bomb-resistant sites that signal spiritual resistance to the West. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s boast that Iran intends to open 10 more enrichment facilities no doubt was hyperbolic, but the sentiments clearly reflect Khamenei’s disposition. Closing Fordow would offend the supreme leader’s identity as the anti-American Islamic paladin.

Even more galling and dangerous, U.N. inspectors under this agreement would have the right to fan out across the country hunting for suspicious nuclear activity. The IAEA’s Additional Protocols, to which Khamenei would have to assent, are intrusive and would allow inspectors access to Iranian military and Revolutionary Guard bases. No doubt, the supreme leader and his guards could still cheat (they have lied about the nuclear program from the beginning). Iran is a big country. Satellites and other technical means of observation can only do so much. The regime is surely working clandestinely to perfect more advanced centrifuges that could be hidden in smaller buildings and underground facilities.

Nevertheless, the odds are decent that these inspectors would catch the regime in its big lie about the “peaceful” intent of the program. Nuclear experts have some idea where the Iranians have been militarizing their nuclear “research.” Even so, an astonishing number of intelligent people in America and Europe appear to believe that Khamenei’s fatwa about the “sinfulness” of nuclear weapons is significant, that it isn’t just ketman, deception deployed against a stronger enemy. Exposing Khamenei’s flagrant mendacity, for both Iranians and foreigners, is not without value and would again refocus the discussion on the real question: Is it acceptable for Khamenei and the Revolutionary Guards to have nuclear weapons?

But what if the Iranians accept all of the demands? Could we still be staring at an Iranian nuke, just delivered at a slower pace? It’s possible. If Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the former major-domo of Iranian clerical politics and the true father of the Islamic Republic’s nuclear-weapons program, were still in charge, we’d likely be enmeshed in the rope-a-dope tactics that he successfully used against the trade-happy Europeans in the 1990s. Rafsanjani has always advocated the go-slow nuclear approach. He has even broached the idea of direct talks with Washington. But we’re not confronting Rafsanjani, who was purged after the crackdown on the Green Movement in 2009. Moving forward with one more round of negotiations now is much more likely to expose the supreme leader’s intransigence than entangle America (and Israel) in a pointless, lengthy diplomatic dance.

Senior officials in the Obama administration probably have few illusions about Iranian mendacity. The last three years have been an education: Candidate Obama and lots of Democrats believed that President Obama could transform American-Iranian relations. But Ali Khamenei has tried hard to show that George W. Bush was not the problem. Although it’s dangerous to suggest that diplomacy with the Islamic Republic has just about run its course (for die-hard diplomats, the process never ends), it’s going to be challenging for the administration to pretend that sanctions-backed diplomacy can work given the increasing enrichment at Natanz and Fordow. If the Israelis decide to strike, the president will be hard pressed not to back them, as he promised to do in his speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. The collapse of the negotiating process in May most likely will not provoke the White House to do anything more bellicose, but it will at least get us talking seriously, at last, about the nature of the Iranian regime and how best to deal with it—and how to help Israel deal with it, if Israel feels it must act. That would be an enormous step forward.

Video: Israel Facing Iran to Save the World

Share this video and support Israel‘s right to defend and protect! NEVER AGAIN will Israel depend on the help of other countries for our survival. Israel must always protect the future of the Jewish People.

Israel is facing unprecedented danger, threatened by the president of Iran who has publically called for the death of every Jew and Christian and the destruction of Israel, America and the West. He has built intercontinental ballistic missiles to carry a nuclear warhead and is now moving his nuclear facilities under ground. He is a breath away from a nuclear bomb.

As arguably the oldest nation in the world, we must learn from our history to ensure and direct our future. We are reliving the year 1939, but the Jewish People today are not the Jewish People of 1939, or 1944. The Jewish People of the last 2,000 years have been resurrected as the Nation of Israel in our homeland. God has shined His face upon Israel once again and we are finally free.

The Jewish People did not return to Israel after 2,000 years to now rely on Washington or the UN. Israel must never depend on the help of any other country for its survival. The Jewish People must never again be at the mercy of any nation again.

Israel must always protect the future of the Jewish People.

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Why Iran Thinks America Won’t Attack

Iranian agents have successfully infiltrated American think-tanks, universities, and our political system as part of a plot to keep the United States from attacking the Islamic regime as it continues to expand terrorism worldwide and pursue its nuclear weapons and missile programs.

By Reza Kahlili

The infiltration goal is to mold American opinion and create doubt about the advisability of attacking Iran’s nuclear facilities — all part of a longstanding strategy to pull the strings of America and the West.

Iranian leaders first successfully engaged U.S. forces in Iraq at a time when President Bush was in an offensive policy of confronting Islamists after 9/11.  The Iranians correctly believed that if America got bogged down in Iraq, it would not want to open another front with Iran before stabilizing Iraq, buying Iran time for nuclear development.

Revolutionary Guards

Iran had already infiltrated the Shiite majority in Iraq during the Iran-Iraq War.  At that time, I was working as a CIA spy in the Revolutionary Guards and was reporting their activities to America.  When the U.S. went to war against Saddam, the Iranians began a campaign of terror in Iraq that not only crippled America financially by stringing out an unfunded war, but killed many U.S. soldiers.

The same infiltration policy was enforced in Afghanistan with the training and arming of Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters against NATO forces.

That strategy kept Iran’s rulers out of harm’s way, allowed them to pursue their nuclear and missile programs with impunity, and forced America to rethink its involvement in the region.  They called their strategy a great victory over the “Great Satan.”

Their planning was multilayered.  Another aspect of it was to infiltrate America itself, a plan right of the KGB playbook.  Fake dissidents were placed in America’s think-thanks and pro-Iran academics in its universities.  Nonprofit organizations were formed.  All the ensuing propaganda targeted American public opinion and foreign policy.

The Iranian agents easily became the voice for negotiations and argued against sanctions and war.  They successfully attached themselves to antiwar groups, including Occupy Wall Street, and infiltrated the American media, mostly those open to their softer approach.

In this Iranian Intelligence Ministry plot, outlines were passed to its assets in the U.S. to use such arguments as:

  1. Sanctions hurt innocent Iranians and not the regime;
  2. any act of war will unite Iranians around the very regime they despise;
  3. the nuclear issue is a nationalistic issue that the majority of Iranians support and therefore cannot be the center of the West’s confrontation with Iran;
  4. Iranian dissidents don’t want the West’s support because if the West supports them, the regime will label them as Western agents; and
  5. Iran is a rational regime, and negotiations are the only way to resolve the issues.

The strategy sought to buy time to build a formidable military so the West would fear retaliation should it attack the regime, which knew full well that the global economy is dependent on a stable flow of energy out of the Persian Gulf and that any long-term disruption could create havoc for the U.S. and West.

The Islamic regime today has over 1,000 ballistic missiles, many in underground silos spread throughout the country and capable of reaching not only every U.S. military base in the region, but also capitals in Western Europe.  Meanwhile, it is working on intercontinental ballistic missiles with the help of China and North Korea.

It also has armed Hezb’allah with 40,000 rockets and missiles and armed Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Syria with missiles, explosives, and conventional weapons.  Meanwhile, it has expanded its collaboration with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and rebels in Yemen and Bahrain, and extended its reach into Latin America and Africa.

This strategy has bought Iran sufficient time to produce enough enriched uranium for six nuclear bombs and speed up its enrichment to the 20-percent level at the Natanz and Fordow facilities.  That material within weeks could be further enriched to weaponization grade.

Iran’s leaders believe that with the current global economic climate, specifically in the United States and Europe, and it being an American election year, the talks of a military option to take out the nuclear facilities amount to a bluff.  They believe they hold the key to President Obama’s re-election, as any instability in the region and in the price of energy will send America back into a severe recession.

More dangerous is their belief that even a limited conflict with America will help their status as the leader of a worldwide Islamic movement and trigger the downfall of regimes in the region more friendly to the U.S.; help the Syrian regime out of its current crisis; and push the military junta out of power in Egypt, helping solidify control by the Muslim Brotherhood.

As the Iranian strategist Mehdi Mohammadi recently stated, as Iran progresses on the nuclear front, the West will realize that not only will a military option no longer work, but neither will sanctions.  Then the West will have to accept a nuclear Iran.

Iranian leaders also believe that since Israel would now have to act alone, it will not risk thousands of missiles from many fronts raining down on Tel Aviv and ultimately will also accept a nuclear Iran.

Most of all, they believe that once Iran is nuclear-armed, the West will be checkmated, as the cost of any confrontation at that time would be the destruction of the world.

The leaders of the Islamic regime have often said, “While the West loves life, martyrdom is an honor for us.”

Therein lies the dilemma for the West: bear the economic and human costs of destroying Iran’s nuclear facilities now, or accept a nuclear-armed Iran that is bent on paving the way for the return of the 12th  Imam Mahdi and the global dominance of Islam.

Reza Kahlili is a pseudonym for a former CIA operative in Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and the author of the award-winning book A Time to Betray.  He is a senior fellow with EMPact America, a member of the Task Force on National and Homeland Security, and teaches at the U.S. Department of Defense’s Joint Counterintelligence Training Academy (JCITA).