A Plan to Prevent a Nuclear-Armed Iran

february 24-2016

For the Islamic Republic of Iran, Jan. 17 Implementation Day of the nuclear deal and Feb. 11 commemoration of the founding of the Islamic Republic highlight two faces of the state. On one side, the deal shows a normal state that can become nuclear-arms capable within 10 years.

On July 14, 2015, The U.N. Security Council adopted UNSCR 2231: “The resolution’s provisions should, pending confirmation of implementation, expire 10 years after its adoption, and with that, it would remove the Iranian nuclear issue from its agenda.” And on Aug. 18, 2015, the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) released a report that said, “The JCPOA has many strengths but one of its most serious shortcomings is that it almost ensures that Iran can emerge in 15-20 years as a nuclear power with the potential, at a time of its choosing, to make enough weapon-grade uranium for several nuclear weapons within a few weeks.”

The major powers, however, do not care, because Iran will have moderated even more than it is today.

On the other side, the deal is with a revolutionary state. Critics say Iran cannot ever be trusted with the bomb; that the deal expands its revolution across borders; and the country suppresses its people so that the religious dictatorship survives challenges from within.

By becoming a nuclear-armed state (see UNSCR 2231 and ISIS above), Iran signals to its population that — because the regime can get what it wants from the major powers — it surely can dictate to the people, so they need not think about revolting. The first face of Iran requires minimal sanctions, inspections, and scant resolve if detection reveals cheating. The second needs maximum sanctions inspections and resolve.

All but the most generous perspectives recognize that the nuclear deal will fail unless it is embedded in a larger strategy that keeps the pressure on Iran and keeps a very close eye out for cheating. The pressure that will have the greatest effect on Iran is that which holds the regime’s survival at risk and makes double-dealing without detection hard.

The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) and its largest unit, the People’s Mujahedeen of Iran (PMOI) — more commonly known as the Mujahedeen-e- Khalq (MEK) — are in a good position to detect cheating and be the tip of the political spear within Iran. The NCRI’s claim to monitoring is strong, but could be reinforced if it had the support of the West. Likewise its contribution to pressuring the regime requires more backing from the West.

Opponents to working with the NCRI would likely raise objections to the wisdom of this kind of cooperation. They might ask: Because the NCRI is considered as a beleaguered terrorist group besieged at Camp Liberty in Iraq, can it contribute much pressure, and why should the United States risk close association with the NCRI? Or offer that if threatening regime survival makes Iran move more quickly to become a nuclear-armed state, might it not be better to wield pressure in the form of withheld carrots (economic sanctions, for instance) that do not trigger the nuclear itch? Or even say, if the NCRI were essentially irrelevant to the 2009 Green Revolution, the time when Iran really did feel the pressure, is it better to work with the Greens than NCRI?

With the argument and counterargument in mind, consider how sanctions, cheating, and detection form a trifecta.

Sanctions

In Not by Sanctions Alone penned July 13, 2013, for The Washington Institute for Near East Study (TWI), Michael Eisenstadt argued that in addition to sanctions, military and “other means” were necessary to bolster nuclear diplomacy with Iran. Concerning the military, on Jan. 5, 2016, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told former Ambassador Dennis Ross that President Barack Obama said to Netanyahu that he had taken the military option off the table.

If military strikes are not relevant, what other means are there to pressure Tehran? The Iranian regime fears that it might fall from within. Because it came to power through revolution and has dealt with episodic domestic unrest since its inception, regime survival is the foremost concern of the Supreme Leader and those around him, including those who are considered as moderates by Western nations. So regime change from within is a principal fear of Tehran.

At issue is what groups might be most suitable to lead internal regime change. The NCRI is in a good position to help lead a coalition that rejects clerical rule in Iran. There is evidence that other groups that sought to make deals with the regime have withered away. As reported in my 2006 book, Appeasing the Ayatollahs and Suppressing Democracy, a number of groups were destroyed by the regime. To name but a few, the Organization of Iranian People’s Fedai Guerrillas fell victim to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini’s efforts to create disunity, and by 1980, the group fractured.

Some of the leadership cooperated with Khomeini and aligned itself with the communist Tudeh Party. This faction changed its name to the Organisation of Iranian People’s Fedaian Majority, dropping the “guerrillas” to reflect a plan to participate peacefully in government. Despite its endorsement of the clerical establishment and call to arm the Revolutionary Guard with heavy weaponry, the Fedaian Majority was suppressed by Khomeini in the 1980s. It regrouped in exile but remained dedicated to working through the existing political system to achieve reform. How? By throwing support behind approved parliamentary and presidential candidates, the group sought the favor of the regime, but to no avail.

The Green Movement has taken a page from the failed playbook of others that withered on the vine, despite cutting deals with the regime. The Iranian Green Movement faction headed by former Prime Minister Mir Hossein Mousavi, accepted clerical rule. On Feb 11, 2015, Akbar Ganji, an Iranian investigative journalist and dissident who is a friend of the “Greens” and imprisoned in Tehran from 2000 to 2006, stated that, “Since February 2011 the leaders of Iran’s Green Movement, former Prime Minister Mir Hossein Mousavi and his wife Dr. Zahra Rahnavard, and former Speaker of the Majles [parliament] Mehdi Karroubi have lived under strict house arrest, ordered by Iran’s Supreme National Security Council (SNSC).”

The Iran Primer, an organ of the U.S. Institute of Peace, issued a report favorably inclined toward the Green Movement. It stated that during the fall of 2009, demonstrators yelled slogans: “Others chanted, ‘Khamenei is a murderer. His rule is null and void.’” This post infers that “others” is an indirect reference to the NCRI, which is often not mentioned explicitly by supporters of the Green Movement. Circumstantial evidence that the chants were NCRI in origin may be seen in that its supporters received the most severe suppression from the demonstrations.

The NCRI alone has survived because it refused to compromise, despite humongous losses inflicted by the regime and has the support of the students on the streets of Tehran. How do we document such support? Look at over 100,000 supporters of the NCRI who annually gather in Paris. The gatherings are to express adherence to the ideals of the organization. Such numbers reflect the backing within Iran because each attendee has family members who are in Iran in quiet support.

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Democratic transition to prevent revolutionary Iran from nuclear-armed status

US-VOTE-2012-DEMOCRATIC CAMPAIGN-OBAMAKey senators in the incoming Republican majority and like-minded Democrats have a vision of Iran as a revolutionary state. It is risky to conduct business as usual with revolutionary Iran. If “regime change from within” were an implicit part of U.S. policy, emergence of a free Iran that does not become a nuclear-armed state is likely. President Barack Obama, however, treats Iran as if it were a normal state to engage in give-and-take bargaining.

Regarding current talks to prevent Iran from getting the bomb, Republican senators believe they have votes from both parties to pass additional economic sanctions on Tehran to overcome a veto by Obama. The White House is on record to avoid congressional scrutiny of any agreement. But a bipartisan coalition could use its majority to compel a vote on any accord from the November 18-24, Vienna talks between the major powers and Iran.

Opposing congressional oversight, supporters of reaching out to Iran say it has not decided whether it is a revolutionary movement or a normal state; hence, U.S. diplomacy can strengthen pragmatists against revolutionaries. This unsuccessful search for a moderate highlights the fallacy of treating Iran as a normal state. Even “pragmatistsaccept rule by Iranian clerics.

Business as usual is consistent with a report that Washington may reestablish an economic-diplomatic presence in Tehran, if there were a positive outcome in Vienna. But expectations are rising that an agreement is likely to be a “bad deal.” If so, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), chair of foreign operations subcommittee of the incoming Appropriations Committee and Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), incoming Foreign Relations Committee chair are cosponsoring a bill intended “to kill” a bad deal, according to Graham.

In addition to being a nuclear threat, Iran may be building missile facilities in Syria to prop up the Assad regime. Such missile production is acclaimed on religious beliefs inherent in the Iranian Revolution: “Today, the Islamic Iran has grown into the world’s sixth missile power and this is a major source of pride for the Revolution,” stated an officer of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). It has enhanced military capabilities in Iraq “to steal the show from Washington,” with a blow by the IRGC to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, (ISIS).

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ISIL militants execute 300 Sunni tribesmen

noviembre 9On November 2  2014, Professor Raymond Tanter was on CCTV America.

Islamic State militants massacred Sunnis in Iraq’s western Anbar province, including dozens of women and children. At least 322 members of the Iraqi tribe died in the bloodshed with some bodies dumped in a well, according to the government.

Iraqi forces retaliated with airstrikes against ISIL targets in Anbar province. The Islamic militants are also destroying tombs, mosques and churches as they seize large areas of northwest Iraq and neighboring Syria, prompting the head of UNESCO to call on the international community to work together to preserve Iraqi cultural heritage.

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Are U.S. Ground Troops in the Middle East Inevitable?

bloomberg september 23On September 23 2014, Professor Raymond Tanter was on Bloomberg  TV. Discussing the U.S. battle against the Islamic State military group in Syria with Trish Regan on “Street Smart.”

US Boots On Ground unnecessary for Obama  to Succeed if Arab States Keep Iran from Iraq & Help Kurds.

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Stopping the Islamic State Might Be Obama’s Chance to Salvage His Middle East Policy

453868884_720The social media-produced execution of journalist Jim Foley released on Aug. 19 focuses attention on whether President Obama will stay the course in Iraq or take necessary actions to defeat the Islamic State (IS).

Now, in the context of Foley’s execution, will the president stick to hisstrategy of defensive containment or adopt a mini-surge, sending additional military advisors to Iraq in a rollback strategy to defeat IS? The latter, however, makes sense only if the president authorizesconduct raids into Syria, or America’s partners do, because IS forces may flee there as they are attacked in Iraq. And unless Special Operations spotters were deployed to identify IS targets in Syria as spotters do in Iraq, widening the battlefield space would not be as effective.

According to a report in the Washington Post on Friday, the administration has prepared options for legal authority to use force against IS across both Iraq and Syria. They include temporary justification under the War Powers Resolution, constitutional authority for emergency action to protect U.S. citizens, and consulting with the Congress for open-ended authorization to fight IS. But the same article states that the president has not requested to see contingency plans for broader airstrikes in Syria. If the administration goes the open-ended consultation route with Capitol Hill and the president ignores the contingency plans, it might be a signal that he is not serious about defeating IS.

But if the president does adopt a strategy to include Syria, the American people can be persuaded with an Obama-like 2008 address — such a midcourse correction is optimally-timed to save his presidency from further ignominy. As Daniel Pipes wrote, however, “I do not customarily offer advice to a president whose election I opposed,” I also hesitate to make suggestions that might save the Obama presidency. But the national interest in preventing IS from using Iraq and Syria as launching pads to execute attacks overrides political concerns.

According to Real Clear Politics, the president’s overall popularity is quite low: Between July 29 and Aug. 20,  42 percent approved and 52 percent disapproved of the overall job he was doing across nine different polls. The numbers were worse for his handling of foreign affairs, which, between July 29 and Aug. 12, only 35.8 percent of those polled approved versus 53.8 percent who disapproved over six polls.

A poll by Pew-USA TODAY taken Aug. 14 to 17 — prior to release of the execution video — indicates support (54 percent approve, 31 percent disapprove) of U.S. airstrikes in Iraq, but concern about getting too involved (51 percent worry about mission creep, 32 percent worry Washington will not do enough to stop the Islamists). Responsibility to act in Iraq increased between July and August, suggesting the assassination will result in greater support for airstrikes and responsibility to act in Iraq.

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Still no help for Iranian dissidents

iraq-deaths_c0-16-512-357_s300x200Consider three principles. First, in Plato’s Republic, one definition of justice is to give each person that which is due. Second, Martin Luther King stated, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Third, King also said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”

Two groups receiving “due justice” are Iraqi Yazidis and Afghan interpreters. It is intolerable for the State Department to ignore virtual imprisonment by Baghdad of Iranian dissidents stuck in Iraq. To defend Yazidis and offer visas to Afghan interpreters but not to Iranian dissidents is an injustice to those whom we promised to protect and have provided useful intelligence to us; such actions degrade the good deeds done for Yazidis and Afghans.

With United Nations actions in support of Yazidis, the arc of justice tilts in their favor. They belong to a pre-Christian and pre-Islamic sect, which is vulnerable to the Islamic State (IS); it believes Yazidis are apostates deserving execution. The International Rescue Committee describes how 30,000 Yazidis are on Mount Sinjar, Iraq, under siege by IS. The UN Security Council condemned attacks by IS and expressed its “deep outrage” about the treatment of Iraqis from vulnerable minority communities, especially Yazidis and Christians, displaced by such attacks.

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The War Over How Washington Should Think About Iraq

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A grand debate is gaining traction in a virtual war for the eye of Washington policy analysts about the nature of the threat facing Iraq. The stakes are high: Whoever can define the threat can help shape the policy response.

On one side are counterterrorist analysts. Because of risks, they are unable to conduct field research embedded with terrorist groups. In the other camp are those who emphasize political factors in Iraq among Sunni Arabs, Kurds, and moderate Shiites.

The press defines the threat to Iraq as the Islamic State (formerly the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham. If the threat is mainly the Islamic State, then military options, such as airstrikes, are feasible, though risky because Islamic State fighters embed within populated areas.

Indicative of those whose focus is on the Islamic State is our Shadow colleague Paul Miller. He states that, “The Middle East is now a more favorable operating environment for jihadist groups than ever before … [and they operate in] a wide swath of territory across Iraq and Syria that is essentially safe haven for jihadist militants.” Miller is correct; at issue, however, is emphasis.

Read more:http://shadow.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2014/07/10/the_war_over_how_washington_should_think_about_iraq

 

Video

World Insight – CCTV News: Iraq divided; Ukraine crisis; Cross-Straits relations

RT CCTNews Paris 3

Actions by Tehran in support of Damascus and Baghdad give the impression that the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, (ISIS rebranded as The Islamic State (IS), is acting alone. In fact, The IS implicitly acts in concert with Damascus and Tehran, which creates a narrative for Assad and Maliki to argue they are fighting terrorists; but Damascus and Baghdad are also suppressing dissent from their respective populations.

The Mysteries of Nuclear Iran—Two letters responding to ‘Iran’s Nuclear Masters’ (editorial, 27 May 2014), 3 June 2014

Requires Subscription at: http://on.wsj.com/1kpl1jW

 Image<– (Iran’s uranium processing site just outside the city of Isfahan)

Hamid Babaei,Counselor and head of press office, Mission of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the United Nations, New York

 Regarding your editorial “Iran’s Nuclear Masters” (May 28th): It is highly unfortunate that The Wall Street Journal has opted to choose the Mujahedeen-e Khalq, a known terrorist group which until recently had been listed as a terrorist group in the U.S., and still is in many other places around the world, as its main source of information.

This has resulted the aforementioned article to become an unfounded set of allegations against the exclusively peaceful nuclear program of Iran. Such fabrications only serve as means to derail the ongoing talks between Iran and P5+1 as well as ongoing cooperation of Iran with the International Atomic Energy Agency to resolve this issue in a comprehensive manner.

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Raymond Tanter, Professor Emeritus, University of Michigan, Washington DC

[The following letter is slightly edited from the published version in the WSJ, e.g., with the addition of hyperlinks that do not require subscription to access]:

Kudos for your editorial on the Islamic Republic’s nuclear-weaponization program! As a former member of the senior staff of the Reagan National Security Council and a scholar of Iranian dissidents, I follow Tehran’s nuclear cheating closely.

The editorial uses information from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA); the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS); and the National Council of Resistance of Iran, the Iranian opposition group also known as MEK, which has done much to expose the mullahs’ nuclear-weapons program in the past.

“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,” the Center for Strategic and International Studies declared in a 2006 report (though the report questioned some aspects of those revelations).

The MEK in August 2002 exposed a secret nuclear facility near Natanz. ISIS confirmed the revelation, identified the site as a uranium-enrichment facility and released imagery of Natanz in December 2002.

Also in August 2002, NCRI intelligence blew the lid on Iran’s heavy-water production facility at Arak. As ISIS has written: “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.”

Regarding a nuclear facility at Lavizan-Shian, ISIS wrotein a 2004 report: “This site first came to public attention in May 2003 when the Iranian opposition group, National Council for Resistance of Iran, announced that the site, called the Lavizan-Shian Technical Research Center, was associated with biological weapons research.”

In August 2004, NCRI exposed a laser enrichment facility, Lavizan 2, built with equipment removed from the Lavizan-Shian site, which had been kept off limits to international inspectors.

In December 2005, NCRI revealed a site near Qom, where tunneling activity in the mountains was initiated in 2000 to construct an underground nuclear facility; the Western allies publicly acknowledgedthe Qom site in September 2009.

NCRI intelligence revealed in September two additional sites in and near Tehran, where the Iranian regime may be working on detonators for nuclear warheads. Prompted by publicity, the Iranian regime admitted in September existence of a uranium enrichment facility about 20 miles north of Qom. And by January 2012, Iran stated it had begun enrichment at the heavily fortified site—the Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant. I could go on.

The record shows that Tehran’s nuclear mendacity has been and can continue to be exposed by the NCRI.

Wall Street Journal Editorial, Iran’s Nuclear Masters—Tehran has kept its core team of weaponization researchers intact, 17 May 2014 and Letters to the Editor about the Editorial

Requires Subscription: on.wsj.com/1nRkDgB

Image <–(An Iranian opposition group says this is Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the father of Iran’s nuclear-weaponization program. National Council of Resistance of Iran)

The International Atomic Energy Agency and Iran last week issued a joint statement in which Tehran pledged to apprise the Agency of “the initiation of high explosives, including the conduct of large scale high explosives experimentation in Iran.” In a word: weaponization, the most secretive dimension of the Iranian nuclear program. Tehran’s willingness to broach the topic will be hailed by supporters of the current talks as a sign that they’re yielding results.

Yet Iran has thus far dismissed as “fabrications” evidence of its weaponization work compiled by the IAEA. We’ll believe honest disclosures of prior weaponization activity when we see them. More to the point, we’ve obtained a plausible new report from the Mujahedeen-e Khalq, an Iranian opposition group, suggesting that Tehran has kept active and intact its core team of weaponization researchers.

The Islamic Republic’s attempts to develop a nuclear explosive device date to the late 1980s, when the regime established a Defense Ministry-linked physics research center in Tehran, according to Western intelligence agencies. By the next decade, according to the IAEA, the regime would consolidate its weaponization researchers under an initiative called the “AMAD Plan,” headed by Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, a Ph.D. nuclear engineer and senior member of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

The AMAD Plan was charged with procuring dual-use technologies, developing nuclear detonators and conducting high-explosive experiments associated with compressing fissile material, according to Western intelligence agencies. The AMAD Plan’s most intense period of activity was in 2002-03, according to the IAEA, when current President Hasan Rouhani headed Iran’s Supreme National Security Council before becoming its chief nuclear negotiator.

Feeling the heat from the MEK’s disclosure of two nuclear facilities in 2002 and the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, the mullahs apparently halted the AMAD Plan’s activities in late 2003. But Mr. Fakhrizadeh and his scientists didn’t stop their weaponization work. As former United Nations weapons inspector David Albright told us, “Fakhrizadeh continued to run the program in the military industry, where you could work on nuclear weapons.” Much of the work, including theoretical explosive modeling, was shifted to Defense Ministry-linked universities, such as Malek Ashtar University of Technology in Tehran.

Mr. Fakhrizadeh has continued to oversee these disparate and highly compartmentalized activities, now under the auspices of Iran’s new Organization of Defensive Innovation and Research, known by its Persian acronym, SPND. The MEK first disclosed the SPND’s existence in 2011. Now the opposition group has obtained what it says are key new biographical details and the first photograph of the 56-year-old Mr. Fakhrizadeh, whom Iran has refused to make available to the IAEA for long-sought interviews.

The MEK has also compiled a list of what it says are 100 SPND researchers. Far from disbanding the SPND, the MEK alleges, the Tehran regime has kept its nucleus of researchers intact. Possibly to avoid detection by the IAEA, the MEK says, the regime recently relocated the SPND’s headquarters from Mojdeh Avenue in Tehran to Pasdaran Avenue. “The new site,” the MEK adds, “is located in between several centers and offices affiliated to the Defense Ministry . . . , the Union of IRGC, the sports organization of the Defense Ministry . . . and Chamran Hospital.”

To further mask the illicit nature of the relocation from the IAEA, the MEK says, “parts of Malek Ashtar University’s logistical activities were transferred to the former site of SPND. The objective was to avoid closing [the former] center, and in the event of inspections, to claim that the site has always had the current formation.” Don’t expect the regime to fess up to much of this by the August 25 deadline set in its joint communique with the IAEA.

The fact that the IAEA and the Western powers are now turning to the weaponization question is a sign of how far the Iranian nuclear-weapons program has progressed. As the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center’s Henry Sokolski, a former nonproliferation director at the Pentagon, told us: “A concern about weaponization followed by testing and use is the moral hazard when you don’t pay attention to fissile-material production.”

In other words, having ceded a right to enrich and permitted the Islamic Republic to develop an advanced enrichment capability, the West is now left with preventing weaponization as the final barrier against a nuclear-capable Iran. The diplomacy of Mr. Rouhani and his Foreign Minister, Javad Zarif, is intended to soothe jittery Western nerves on weaponization.

That palliative effect will be reinforced by the IAEA’s latest quarterly report, also released last week, in which the Agency reported that Iran has sharply reduced its stock of 20% uranium and hasn’t enriched above 5% since the November interim agreement took effect. The report also highlights the Islamic Republic’s new willingness to address at a technical level the “possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear program,” including Tehran’s development of exploding bridge-wire detonators and high-explosives testing.

But if past is precedent and the MEK’s new disclosures are to be believed, Mr. Fakhrizadeh will continue to do his work as he has to this day. The snake may shed its skin but not its temper, runs an old Persian proverb.