Not by Sanctions Alone: Using Intelligence and Military Means to Bolster Diplomacy with Iran

The U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN-74), steams alongside the British Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious (R 06) in the Persian Gulf on April 9, 1998.  DoD photo by Airman Robert Baker, U.S. Navy.

Stringer/Iran/Reuters – Military personnel place a flag on a submarine during the Velayat-90 war games by the Iranian navy in the Strait of Hormuz in southern Iran December 27, 2011. Iran is rapidly gaining new capabilities to strike at U.S. warships in the Persian Gulf, amassing an arsenal of sophisticated anti-ship missiles while expanding its fleet of fast-attack boats and submarines.

 

In “Not by Sanctions Alone: Using Intelligence and Military Means to Bolster Diplomacy with Iran,” Michael Eisenstadt of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy recommends ways to reinforce American diplomacy regarding Iran, and thereby diminish the prospects of military confrontation with Tehran. He suggests the United States intensify intelligence operations and use the military instrument in ways it has not been willing to thus far:

Successful diplomacy may well depend on the administration’s ability to convince Tehran that the price of failed negotiations could be armed conflict. To make this threat credible, Washington must first show Tehran that it is preparing for a possible military confrontation—whether initiated by Iran or a third country—and that it is willing and able to enforce its red lines regarding freedom of navigation in the Gulf and the regime’s nuclear program.

Eisenstadt concludes:

If nuclear diplomacy with Tehran is to succeed, Washington must be prepared for the kind of brinkmanship it has not engaged in since the Cold War. This means ratcheting up pressure, while, backstopping diplomacy with preparations that underscore its readiness for a confrontation, in order to deter Iran from additional steps toward a nuclear breakout. To this end, Washington should reinforce three key notions in Tehran: that the Iranian nuclear program has been penetrated by foreign intelligence services, that the regime would not be able to conduct a clandestine breakout without getting caught, and that if it does try to build a nuclear weapon, the United States will destroy its nuclear infrastructure. In this way, the administration would make clear to Tehran that the only way to obtain sanctions relief, escape from its growing isolation, and avert the possibility of war is through a diplomatic solution—one that meets Iran’s desire for peaceful nuclear technology without allowing for the possibility of a breakout.

While IPC research is in line with most of the recommendations of Eisenstadt, the research also suggests:

Removal of Iranian opposition groups, such as the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), from the U.S. foreign terrorist organizations list to send a signal to Tehran that survival of its regime is on the table.

Enhanced use of Iranian dissident information as “lead intelligence” to complement surveillance information based on United States, Arab Gulf States, and Israeli services to make it more difficult for Tehran to plan or implement retaliatory action in the event of Israeli or American military strikes.

MAR 2012, Image of police presence in Camp Liberty

Employment of maximum diplomatic and economic pressure on the Government of Iraq for it to implement minimum humanitarian life support requirements to facilitate departure of residents from Camp Ashraf to Camp Liberty, Iraq. The residents are members of the largest unit with the NCRI—the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MEK), and it is critical for them to survive as an indication the Iranian regime’s survival is at stake.

Outside View: Nuclear Revelations and Nuclear Talks with Iran

CLICK HERE FOR ORIGINAL ARTICLE ON UPI.COM

Mehdi Abrishamchi, chairman of NCRI’s Peace Committee

WASHINGTON, June 14, 2012

After a brief wave of optimism, talks with Iran slowed as senior inspectors from the UN nuclear watchdog, said they had made no progress in gaining access to Iranian restricted sites suspected of being used to test potential triggers for nuclear warheads. On one hand, Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator stated the next round of talks, set to open in Moscow June 18-19, could end in failure. On the other hand, European Union officials announced that Iran agreed to discuss a proposal from the six world powers to curb production of high-grade uranium in Moscow, seemingly deescalating tensions ahead of the talks.

Irrespective of the flip-flopping by Tehran, the story behind the story is how the international community gains information on such sites: Iranian nuclear intelligence comes from a variety of sources, including Tehran’s opposition.

In December 2005, one dissident group, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), revealed a nuclear site near the city of Qom: Tunneling activity in the mountains outside of Qom was initiated in 2000, with the goal of constructing an underground nuclear facility; the United States and its allies publicly acknowledged the Qom site in 2009. And the NCRI revealed in September 2009 two additional sites in and near Tehran; there, the Iranian regime may be working on detonators for nuclear warheads.

In a seemingly unrelated story, which was the main input to calls for congressional inquiries, The New York Times reported that upon coming to office in 2009, President Obama gave the order to speed up a wave of cyberattacks against Iran. The article states, “Tehran sensed his vulnerability, resumed enriching uranium at an underground site at Natanz, one whose existence had been exposed just three years before.”The Washington Post, however, credited, “An exiled opposition group, the National Council of Resistance of Iran, [which] first publicly revealed the existence of Iran’s much larger uranium facility at Natanz in 2002.”

And the NCRI revealed in September 2009 two additional sites in and near Tehran; there, the Iranian regime may be working on detonators for nuclear warheads.

But the NCRI and its largest unit, the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MEK), are designated on the U.S. terrorist list, although the U.S. judiciary increasingly sees the listing as illegal; similarly, former Attorney General Michael Mukasey in the George W. Bush administration finds the designation both unwarranted and unwise. And President Bush even credited the NCRI with revelations that led to inspections of and sanctions against Iran.

The ill-advised designation diverts MEK resources from undermining the regime internally and collecting intelligence to struggling with consequences of designation. Although constrained, the resistance has made blockbuster revelations that helped make the case for international sanctions against Iran. The Center for Strategic and International Studies states, “The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) revelations about Iran’s secret nuclear program did prove to be the trigger point in inviting the IAEA into Tehran for inspections…”

In August 2002, the NCRI exposed a secret nuclear facility near an Iranian city called Natanz. An independent think tank, the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS), confirmed the revelation, identified the site as a uranium enrichment facility, and released imagery of Natanz in December 2002.

The NCRI made several other critical revelations, including:

  • August 2002, a heavy water production facility at Arak

ISIS stated, “The existence of this facility was first revealed publicly by the Iranian opposition group, National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), in August 2002. ISIS then located the site in commercial satellite imagery after a wide-area search. By United Nations Security Council resolution 1737 (2006), Iran was to suspend all work on heavy water related projects.”

  • A nuclear facility at Lavizan-Shian

Again working independently from the NCRI, the ISIS wrote: “This site first came to public attention in May 2003 when the Iranian opposition group, National Council for Resistance of Iran, announced…the site.”

  • August 2004 laser enrichment facility at the Center for Readiness and New Defense Technology (known as Lavizan 2), built with equipment removed from the Lavizan-Shian site, kept off limits to international inspectors since its revelation by the NCRI

Regarding the validity of these Iranian resistance revelations, Dr. Frank Pabian, Senior Nonproliferation Analyst at the U.S. Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, stated, ‘They’re [the NCRI] right 90 percent of the time. That doesn’t mean they’re perfect, but 90 percent is a pretty good record.” Even if the NCRI and MEK did not have such an impressive track record, intelligence, especially those from resistance sources, is at least a “lead” to compare with information using other sources and methods.

Regarding sources of intelligence revelations, a U.S. Federal Court informed the State Department that the Court will delist the MEK (and the larger coalition, NCRI) unless State acts to continue the listing or remove it before October 1, 2012. The bottom line is that the MEK designation hampers the resistance from pursuing its opposition against the Iranian regime and harms intelligence collection on Tehran’s nuclear progress, let alone cyberattacks and military operations against Iran.

———-

Raymond Tanter served on the White House National Security Council senior staff in the Reagan-Bush administration, and is Professor Emeritus at the University of Michigan.

Iran Policy Committee: Violations of Human Rights of Iranian Dissidents in Iraq and the Unwarranted Terrorist Designation of Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MEK)

Coordinator for Counterterrorism, Department of State, Ambassador Daniel Benjamin

CLICK HERE FOR THE ORIGINAL POST

WASHINGTON, July 17, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — On 17 July 2012, the Iran Policy Committee (IPC) issued a press release. A State Department teleconference on 6 July 2012 prompted the release. Briefing the media were Coordinator for Counterterrorism, Ambassador Daniel Benjamin as well as Special Advisor to the Secretary on Camp Ashraf, Ambassador Daniel Fried. They briefed on the situation at Camp Ashraf, Iraq and the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MEK) designation. Developments over the past few days also stimulated the release.

Regarding human rights, Ambassador Benjamin stated, “The Iraqi Government and the United Nations continue to encourage the secure, humane relocation of residents to Hurriya [Liberty] for refugee status determinations by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.” Benjamin added that because no other convoys of the residents of Camp Ashraf have relocated to Liberty since early May, “…the patience of the Iraqi Government is wearing thin.”

Special Advisor to the Secretary of State on Camp Ashraf, Ambassador Daniel Fried

Three former U.S. military officers of the IPC issued a joint statement taking issue with Ambassador Benjamin’s assertions about Baghdad and the UN encouraging secure and humane relocation: Lt. Gen. Tom McInerney (Ret), former assistant vice chief of staff, U.S. Air Force; Maj. Gen. Paul Vallely, (U.S. Army (Ret), former Deputy Commanding General, U.S. Army, Pacific; and Captain Charles “Chuck” Nash, U.S. Navy (Ret).

McInerney, Vallely, and Nash stated, “As former members of the U.S. military, we are concerned that Ambassador Benjamin’s statement will be read as a signal by Baghdad to launch a third attack against Iranian dissidents in Ashraf. Based on IPC research, we believe the Government of Iraq is engaged in serious violations of the human rights of Iranian dissidents in Ashraf and Liberty, Iraq. With the acquiescence of U.S. diplomats, dissidents’ rights as asylum seekers in their quest for refugee status are being violated on a systematic basis by Baghdad.”

Founder and President, Global Initiative for Democracy and former Freedom House Executive Director, Bruce McColm joined Professor Raymond Tanter, President of the IPC and former member of the National Security Council staff in the Reagan-Bush administration to comment on the situation of the dissidents in Ashraf and Liberty.

Ambassador Fried described the relocation of the residents of Camp Ashraf to Camp Liberty as “successful,” because during the transfer there were no “roadside bombs or attacks.” Ambassador Fried added, “I’m more impressed by the progress that has been made than concerned by the problems that remain. This is Iraq…we’re doing all right so far.”

Tanter said, “Such a statement by Fried is in stark contrast to remarks of 71 Members of the Iraqi parliament, who find, ‘Conditions at Liberty are far from humane and have every character of a forced relocation.'”

Tanter  stated, “On 30 June 2012, the Deputy Prime Minister and General Secretary of the Iraqi National Movement informed the UN Secretary General that Camp Liberty was a ‘prison’ for the residents because they are collectively punished with their deprivation from basic humanitarian needs at the behest of the Iranian regime.”

On the basis of IPC research, McColm pointed out examples of necessary equipment to ensure basic human rights, especially for the disabled and to solve the water shortage in Liberty:

Transfer of specially-designed vehicles and specially-designed trailers for the disabled from Ashraf to Liberty and about 50 passenger cars, which would mean one car for about every 40 residents, a minimum in the hot weather for wounded and disabled residents

Permission for construction, including the building of pavements, porches, canopies, ramps, special facilities for the disabled, and permission to build green areas and recreational facilities

Removal of large power generators owned by the residents from Ashraf to Liberty, an adequate number of forklifts to Liberty, and ability to sell their movable and immovable assets in Ashraf to fund their relocation and resettlement abroad

“Having the residents to deliver water on a daily basis from 12 kilometers away by tankers was not a way to meet minimum humanitarian needs,” said McColm.

McColm also stated, “Connecting Liberty to a municipal water network, which was repeatedly promised by Iraqi officials and confirmed by the State Department and UN representatives, would be one solution to the water shortage problem.”

“To improve the life support infrastructure of Camp Liberty to an acceptable level is an absolute necessity for the State Department to live up to its promises made to every resident of Camp Ashraf and deprive Iran from its desire to wear down its opposition into submission in prison-like conditions at Camp Liberty,” said IPC president, Professor Raymond Tanter.

With respect to the terrorist designation of the MEK, on 6 July 2012, Ambassador Benjamin said, “With such a [violent] history, cooperating fully with the UN’s efforts in Iraq would be a tangible demonstration that the MEK has left its violent past behind and that it no longer retains the capability and intent to engage in acts of terrorism.”

Tanter stated, “IPC research shows that linkage of designation of the MEK to non-statutory criteria, such as cooperation in Iraq, is not in accord with the June 2012 Federal Appeals Court ruling ordering the Secretary of State to make a determination on the status of the MEK by October 2012; the Court ignored or rejected such linkage when presented by the State Department representative in briefs and oral argument prior to the June ruling.”

In addition, Tanter said, “Legal criteria for inclusion on the Foreign Terrorist Organizations list are that a group must be a foreign organization; engaged in terrorist activity or retain the capability as well as intent to engage in terrorist activity; and that activity or terrorism must threaten the security of U.S. nationals or its national security. Thus, cooperation in a relocation process is not a legal criterion for designation or continued listing.”

Tanter also stated, “The Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 holds that even if an organization is engaged in terrorist activities or terrorism or retains the capability and intent to do so, national security considerations may warrant removal from the terrorist list. The law, however, does not provide for the reverse—that is, maintaining a designation for non-terrorist reasons. Relisting the MEK because of alleged noncooperation in Iraq would be an example of a non-statuary rationale and legally impermissible.”

McInerney, Vallely, Nash, McColm, and Tanter concluded, “Violations of the human rights of Iranian dissidents in Iraq and linkage of their relocation within Iraq to what several national and international courts have found to be an unwarranted  terrorist designation of the organization to which they belong—the MEK—is a recipe for another violent crackdown by Iraq on the Iranian oppositionists. As the 20 July unilateral Iraqi deadline for perhaps forcibly evacuating the remaining dissidents from Ashraf to Liberty approaches, the international community has a responsibility to pressure Baghdad to improve humanitarian conditions so they can safely relocate within Iraq as prelude to humane resettlement in friendly countries.”

Raymond Tanter Stream on Michigan’s Big Show

Professor Raymond Tanter appeared on the Michael Patrick Shiels Michigan Morning Show on Friday, 20 June 2012, to discuss a mass shooting in Colorado. Tanter provided his reaction to the “Batman” movie shooting on the syndicated radio and television show, along with representatives from the Michigan State Police; a psychiatrist; a criminal defense attorney; and a movie critic.

Because initial evidence suggests lack of international terrorist involvement in the Colorado shooting, it appears to be an illustration of homegrown “lone wolf” terrorism. On one hand, nonstate terrorism is often characterized as a weapon of the weak that sends a message of vulnerability to the strong.  On the other hand, state-sponsored terrorism by rogue regimes like those in Damascus and Tehran, often target defenseless soft targets, such as dissidents, because lack of  popular support for the regimes demands use of force to control their populations.

Unlike lone wolf-homegrown terrorists, a rogue state frequently has a longstanding relationship with a proxy, which makes their combined capability and intent to act much more lethal and may provide “plausible deniability” to the state sponsor. For example, in addition to operating via a proxy organization, Hezbollah, there is evidence the Iranian regime engages in terrorist activities on its own, using intelligence personnel and elite military units.