Revelations, U.S. Representative Office National Council of Resistance of Iran

NCRIUS-2dec2015-2

As a scholar studying Iranian opposition groups, I am posting this information for the general public.

Click to see the online conference on Wednesday, December 2, 2015, Alireza Jafarzadeh, Deputy Director of the U.S. Representative Office of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, revealed the composition and modus operandi of the secret committee that was set up in Tehran to deceive the IAEA on its probe of the possible military dimensions (PMD) of the Iranian regime’s nuclear program. The revelation was based on reports from various entities and institutions within the clerical regime.

In the conference, specific cases of Tehran’s measures to conceal nature of its nuclear project was examined and exposed.

For the text of the presentation, click here.

The final disposition of the true nature of Tehran’s nuclear program was one of the major points of dispute between world community and the Iranian regime. Following the nuclear agreement in July 2015, Tehran pledged again that it would fully answer the IAEA long-standing questions on the nature of the Iranian regime’s nuclear program. The IAEA report on its findings about PMD was released in December 2015.

Below are the initial reactions of the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS):

  • Despite obfuscation and stonewalling by Iran, the IAEA confirmed that Iran had a coordinated nuclear weapons development program until the end of 2003 and conducted some weapons development activities after 2003.
  • Overall, Iran provided little real cooperation.  Denials and lack of truthfulness should not be confused with cooperation in the context of the JCPOA, any more than such “cooperation” by a defendant in a criminal investigation would be construed as real cooperation.
  • Faced with such outright Iranian efforts to deceive the inspectors, the IAEA broke relatively little new ground.
  • The truth of Iran’s work on nuclear weapons is probably far more extensive than outlined by the IAEA in this report.
  • The IAEA drew conclusions where it was able to.  The bottom line is that the IAEA’s investigation into the possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear programs cannot be understood to be concluded, certainly it cannot be closed.

Click here to see the IAEA report.

Clinton’s diplomatic missile launched at Tehran

CLICK HERE FOR ORIGINAL ARTICLE FROM THE JERUSALEM POST
By Raymond Tanter, Ivan Sascha Sheehan
03 October 2012

Clinton revoked the US terrorist designation of the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MEK), causing much dismay in the Islamic Republic.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton blasted Tehran with a diplomatic bombshell that is ricocheting throughout the mosques and bazaars of Iran: Clinton revoked the US terrorist designation of the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MEK), causing much dismay in the Islamic Republic. Iran’s foreign ministry strongly condemned the decision to revoke the designation and stated that it held the United States responsible for terrorist acts of the MEK in the “past, present, and the future.”
IN CONTRAST, dozens of major Iranian-American organizations hailed Secretary Clinton for her decision to de-list the group. Because the MEK is the main Iranian dissident group that rejects Iranian clerical rule, Tehran pays the most attention to it and dislikes the MEK more than all other opposition organizations combined, according to one study. The de-listing does little to disabuse the regime of their dislike and, in fact, stokes its fears.
It is no coincidence that human rights organizations indicate that most of those sentenced to death or executed after the 2009 summer uprising in Iran belonged to the MEK. A reason the regime pays so little attention to other oppositionists is that they toe the line with Tehran. Consider a leader of the so-called Iranian “Green Movement” faction, Mir Hossein Mousavi, whom many in the West misconstrue as a moderate. Mousavi not only accepts clerical rule in Iran, he also has a history of anti-Israel activities, such as calling for it to be “annihilated.”
And according to documents of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) supplied to the organization by Tehran, Mousavi also approved the secret purchase of centrifuges for Iran’s covert nuclear program when he was prime minister in March 1987. At the time he noted that the “consequences of giving up the country’s nuclear program would be ‘irreparable.’”
In contrast to Mousavi, the MEK opposes an Iranian nuclear capability or weapon; and to back up its words, the MEK has revealed Tehran’s covert activities to procure uranium enrichment and weaponization materials. If the organization wanted to keep open the option of developing such arms, it would hardly disclose intelligence about them.In issuing blockbuster information on Iran’s progress toward a nuclear weapons capability, moreover, the MEK and its parliament in exile, the National Council for Resistance of Iran (NCRI) laid the framework for international inspections of Iran, according to the Center for International and Strategic Studies.In response to the revocation of the terrorist listing, Maryam Rajavi, president- elect of the NCRI, states in no uncertain terms, “We propose a nonnuclear Iran.” And in Rajavi’s 10 Point Platform for a Future Iran, she writes, “We want the free Iran of tomorrow to be devoid of nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction.”Consistent with such statements, during August 2002, NCRI intelligence exposed a secret nuclear facility near the City of 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.

NCRI intelligence was the source of several other critical revelations, including in August 2002, a heavy water production facility at Arak, Iran.

The ISIS stated, “The existence of this facility was first revealed publicly by the Iranian opposition group, National Council of Resistance of Iran 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.”

NCRI intelligence exposed a nuclear facility at Lavizan-Shian, Iran. 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.”

In December 2005, intelligence disseminated by the NCRI revealed a nuclear site near the city of Qum: Tunneling activity in the mountains was initiated in 2000 to construct an underground nuclear facility; the Western allies publicly acknowledged the Qum site in September 2009.

NCRI intelligence revealed, during September 2009, two additional sites in and near Tehran, where the Iranian regime may be working on detonators for nuclear warheads. The matter became a point of dispute between the IAEA and Tehran and also in the nuclear negotiations involving the P5+1.

Prompted by such publicity, the Iranian regime admitted in September of that year existence of a uranium enrichment facility about 20 miles north of Qum. And by January 2012, Iran stated it had begun enrichment at the heavily fortified site, the Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant.

IN VIEW of such prior revelations, the Iranian regime is rightly concerned that the terrorist revocation of what it calls “Enemies of God,” will jump-start their intelligence collection activities. It will.

Unburdened by the need to allocate scarce resources to getting off the US terrorist list – and especially after the issue of Camps Ashraf and Liberty in Iraq are resolved and Camp Liberty is stabilized – the NCRI and its largest unit, the MEK, can accelerate exposing Tehran’s progress toward becoming a nuclear-armed state. At the same time, de-listing provides an avenue to empower Iranian dissident organizations to work in tandem against the regime.

Clinton’s diplomatic missile launched at Tehran has unleashed the Iranian regime’s main opponents that reject clerical rule at a time when Israel and the United States are in dire need of independent sources of information about Iran, as well as an internal counterbalance to keep the regime in check.

This is the time to align with the MEK, which has a proven capacity to obtain “lead intelligence” from its sources on the ground in Iran. Such insights can, of course, be compared with information collected via other sources and methods.

To paraphrase the great Rabbi Hillel, “If not now, when? If not the MEK, who?” Now is the time, and the MEK is the movement. As a part of the diverse opposition coalition of the NCRI, they can grow by incorporating other groups that reject clerical rule. Together, they can deter and facilitate regime change in Iran before the clerics get the Bomb.

Prof. Raymond Tanter served on the senior staff of the National Security Council in the Reagan White House, is a frequent visiting professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and is president of the Iran Policy Committee.

Prof. Ivan Sascha Sheehan is director of the Negotiation and Conflict Management graduate program in the School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Baltimore.

Revocation of the Terrorism Listings of the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MEK)

An Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, published the article below, Now the cards are on the table, on 28 September 2012 in its online and print editions as an insert in the International Herald Tribune in Israel. On the same date, the U.S. State Department formally announced revocation of the designation of the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq and related groups from its Foreign Terrorist Organizations list. Likewise, the U.S. Department of the Treasury Office of Foreign Assets Control revoked comparable designations from its Specially Designated Nationals List.

The State Department announcement included the following:

Property and interests in property in the United States or within the possession or control of U.S. persons will no longer be blocked, and U.S. entities may engage in transactions with the MEK without obtaining a license. These actions will be published in the Federal Register.

Below is the article commenting on the revocations by Professors Tanter and Sheehan.

Now the cards are on the table

In the wake of Secretary Clinton’s decision, Jerusalem and Washington should reset their Iran policy by embracing regime change there as a priority.

By Raymond Tanter and Ivan Sascha Sheehan
28 September 2012

CLICK HERE FOR ORIGINAL POST IN HAARETZ (Note: Must have subscription to read full article on the Haaretz website)

Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s September 21 announcement that she will remove the Mujahedeen-e Khalq from the State Department’s list of foreign terrorist organizations is an important step toward correcting Washington’s Iran policy and an occasion for Jerusalem to adopt a fresh approach toward the Iranian opposition.

Delisting Iran’s primary opposition organization that rejects clerical rule is, in and of itself, a threat to the Iranian regime. Removal from the list is therefore an opportunity to assess and reset American and Israeli policy toward Tehran.

Removing the MEK’s terror designation plays on Tehran’s suspicions that an “unholy alliance” of Jerusalem, Washington and the MEK is colluding to launch covert attacks against Iran’s nuclear program. If there were such an alignment, it would also contribute to deterrence of Iranian assaults against Israeli diplomats and serve as a check on Iranian aggression.

In a September 23 Washington Post article that proposed a fictive scenario involving an Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear facilities, analysts imagined how Israel might be accused of working with the MEK. They speculate that the MEK will be widely perceived as reinforcing Israel’s air assaults with military operations on the ground in Iran: “Within hours, Twitter is alight with reports of explosions in various parts of Iran. All seemingly can be traced to one source: the Iranian opposition group Mujaheddin-e-Khalq.”

That the group stokes the regime’s fears by mobilizing broad political support in the expatriate community and holding massive rallies around the world does little to quiet the regime’s anxieties. A 2005 study found that the MEK was given 350 percent more attention by Iranian state-run media than all other opposition organizations challenging the regime.

The disproportionate number of protesters who were arrested or sentenced to death during the 2009 uprising because of their association with the MEK is also indicative of the regime’s intent to block the group’s political influence on the Iranian street.

The MEK is the largest dissident organization in the Paris-based de facto parliament in exile, the National Council of Resistance of Iran. It has long failed to meet the statutory criteria necessary for terror tagging under U.S. law. That it remained on the list can be attributed to persistent lobbying by the Iranian regime and miscalculation by successive U.S. presidents that concessions would appease Tehran’s theocrats and eliminate state-sponsored proxy violence.

If Clinton had failed to delist, the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington would in any event have removed the organization from the list on October 1. By taking the initiative rather than hiding behind the judiciary, Washington signals to Tehran that regime change from within is on the table. Iran has threatened to curtail its negotiations with the West when it takes actions that favor the MEK; Clinton’s removal of the group’s designation thus acknowledges that engagement with Iran is no longer a top priority, although sporadic and unproductive nuclear talks might continue.

Removal of the terror designation in the midst of a hotly contested presidential election confirms that U.S. counterterrorism policy remains unpoliticized. Strong bipartisan support for the MEK on Capitol Hill, where Israel also commands strong backing, is further indication that the shift was not partisan.

American and Israeli officials should follow the delisting of the Iranian resistance with efforts to empower the opposition and support calls for democratic change. Free of the terror label, supporters can now put their money where their mouth is and embrace the opposition in its campaign for democracy.

In light of last week’s announcement by Secretary Clinton, here’s what can be done to help reset policy toward Tehran.

First, the worldwide pro-Israel community can help push back against the Iranian regime’s disinformation campaign against removal of the MEK from the State Department’s terror roster. The Iranian lobby in Washington is as well funded as it is deceptive and the opposition is enemy number one. Consider the unsubstantiated allegation made by Mohammad Javad Larijani, a senior aide to Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei. On February 9, 2012, Larijani alleged to NBC-TV News that the Mossad and the MEK were jointly responsible for the targeted killing of Iranian scientists. Though never backed up with evidence, this sensational accusation was frequently repeated to justify the group’s terror designation in the lead-up to the delisting.

Second, because the heat will be turned up by the pro-Iranian Iraqi government on the 3,000 MEK dissidents housed at Camp Liberty in Iraq, the pro-Israel community should speak publicly about the safety of the residents and press humanitarian concerns.

Third, in the wake of Secretary Clinton’s decision, Jerusalem and Washington should reset their Iran policy by embracing regime change in Iran as a priority. Support for the Iranian opposition would give further credence to threats to take military action and complement sanctions meant to coerce Tehran. Unless the survival of the regime is on the table, Iran will continue to pursue its efforts to obtain nuclear weapons as well as threaten Israel and the United States. The removal of MEK’s terror classification rings an alarm bell among the theocrats in Tehran that their illegitimate reign is coming to an end.

__________________

Prof. Raymond Tanter served on the senior staff of the National Security Council in the Reagan White House, and is president of the Iran Policy Committee. Prof. Ivan Sascha Sheehan is director of the negotiation and conflict management graduate program in the School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Baltimore.

Iran Policy Committee: Removal of the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MEK) from U.S. Foreign Terrorist Organizations List

Press Release
For Immediate Release
25 September 2012

CLICK HERE FOR ORIGINAL PRESS RELEASE ISSUED VIA PR NEWSWIRE.

Washington DC—On 21 September 2012, U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, informed the Congress of her intent to remove an Iranian dissident group, the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MEK), from the Foreign Terrorist Organizations list. Upon publication in the Federal Register in about 7 days from her announcement, the delisting becomes official and all the consequences of sanctions embodied in the designation will also be lifted by different U.S. Government agencies.

Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Environment in the Reagan and Bush administrations and member of the Advisory Board of the Iran Policy Committee, William A. Nitze stated,

“I concur with Secretary Clinton’s announcement to delist the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MEK) as a long-overdue recognition that as the largest dissident organization in the Iranian parliament in exile—the National Council of Resistance of Iran—the MEK did not meet the statutory criteria necessary for terror tagging under U.S. law.

“The MEK only carried the terrorist label due to persistent lobbying by the Iranian regime and miscalculation by successive American presidents that concessions would appease Tehran’s clerical rulers and diminish state-sponsored proxy violence.”

Lt. Gen. Tom McInerney, (Ret), former Assistant Vice Chief of Staff, U.S. Air Force stated,

“Now that the terrorist tag has been removed from the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MEK) by Secretary Clinton, collection of dissident information as lead intelligence can accelerate and complement that of western intelligence services to bolster sanctions against Iran. Origins of international sanctions against Tehran came from blockbuster intelligence revelations of the MEK and the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), the parliament in exile of the Iranian resistance.”

Maj. Gen. Paul Vallely, (Ret), former Deputy Commanding General, U.S. Army, Pacific joined General McInerney in welcoming the announcement by Secretary Clinton and stated,

“As the guns of war with Iran are becoming louder for a post-American 2012 presidential elections conflict scenario, research of the Iran Policy Committee (IPC) suggests how important it is for the Washington to refrain from hamstringing the MEK with a terrorist designation. By delisting the organization, it can increase its role in facilitating political change in Iran.

“Delisting the MEK should jumpstart intelligence revelations at a critical time when such information can be useful in demonstrating Tehran’s propensity to cheat on its obligations to the United Nations and potential targeting of Iranian nuclear sites, if military force has to be used as an option of last resort.”

Captain Charles “Chuck” Nash, U.S. Navy (Ret) welcomed the Clinton announcement to remove the terrorist label on the MEK. Nash stated,

“Like other former military officers, I am very concerned about the exposure of unarmed civilian members of the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MEK) who suffer at the mercy of their jailers in Baghdad. Because of the pushback by Tehran against the removal of the MEK terrorist designation, its members in Iraq will be subject to recrimination. The Iranian press abounds with statements against delisting, perhaps prelude for Tehran to order Baghdad to launch a third assault on the MEK members like those in 2009 and 2011.”

Founder and President of Global Initiative for Democracy (GID) and former Freedom House Executive Director, Bruce McColm, said,

“With the delisting of MEK, which was the most distinct yardstick for the policy of appeasing Iran, the focus must now shift to assisting the Iranian people as they endeavor to bring down their oppressive rulers. The MEK can certainly play the role of the catalyst in utilizing its enormous political and organizational wherewithal to this end.”

Professor Raymond Tanter, President of the IPC and former member of the National Security Council staff in the Reagan-Bush administration said,

“It is encouraging that commitments made by the United State were reiterated on 29 August 2012, when Victoria Nuland, State Department Spokesperson, said the Department urges the Government of Iraq to continue steps to address humanitarian concerns raised at Camp Liberty by its residents [now some 3,000 members of the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq).”

Specifically, Nuland said,

“The United States…reiterates its commitment to work towards resolution of humanitarian issues at … [Liberty], including sustainable means for the continued supply of water and electricity. The United States also reiterates its commitment to support the safety and security of the residents throughout the process of their relocation outside of Iraq.”

“The United States will have to monitor implementation of such commitments,” stated Tanter.

Dr. Daniel Pipes, President of the Middle East Forum, has published over a dozen articles and given several interviews in multiple languages about the MEK, including on Iranian expatriate communities whose annual rallies in Paris are events attended by tens of thousands of supporters of the MEK. Concerning the announcement by Secretary Clinton to remove the MEK designation, Dr. Pipes stated, “A special vote of thanks to all those analysts, led by the indefatigable Raymond Tanter, who established that the MeK is not terrorist and that relations with it serve the national interests of the United States.”

Delaying or Preventing a Nuclear-Armed Iran

Professor Raymond Tanter

Paper Presented to the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT)
Twelfth World Summit on Counter-Terrorism, Herzliya, Israel 10-13 September 2012

Paper Delivered to DACOR (formerly Diplomats and Consular Officers Retired)

An Organization of Foreign Affairs Professionals

Bacon House Foundation Annual Conference, 28 September 2012, Washington DC

Scenarios for the World Order in the 21st Century

Panel on Authoritarianism & the End of the First Nuclear Era:

The Cases of Pakistan, Iran, & North Korea

CLICK HERE FOR ARTICLE ON THE INTERNATIONAL INSTITUTE FOR COUNTER-TERRORISM WEBSITE

Introduction

In discussing how to delay or prevent a nuclear-armed Iran, consider the political system of the Iranian regime and its proliferation activities. The main argument is that because of the central role of ideology in the authoritarian nature of the Islamic Republic of Iran, traditional means of influence based on national interests have little prospect of success. Hence, there needs to be increased attention paid to bringing about regime change from within to avoid a choice between bombing Iran or living with a nuclear-armed Iran.

Given the revolutionary religious ideology of an authoritarian Iran, it is instructive to compare it with other states that have little or no freedom but have achieved nuclear weapons status, such as Pakistan and North Korea. Neither Islamabad nor Pyongyang is religion the ideology of the state. Although the official name of Pakistan is the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and religion plays an increasing role in its culture and domestic politics, religion is not as dominant in Islamabad as in Tehran. As a result, it is more likely that Pakistan and North Korea would be subject to bargaining about national interest than Iran.

Freedom in the World 2012, published by Freedom House, applies one of three broad designations to states and territories: Free; Partly Free; and Not Free, based largely on respect for political rights and civil liberties. Pakistan is in the group of Partly Free, trending toward less freedom because of blasphemy laws and an increase in official attempts to censor internet-based content. Iran is in the Not Free category, trending toward even less freedom, due to imposition of stark restrictions on nongovernmental organizations and prosecution of an increasing number of civic leaders.

Of the 48 countries designated as Not Free, nine have the lowest possible rating for both political rights and civil liberties. North Korea is a one- party regime that received the dubious distinction of being in the Worst of the Worst category. Despite being in the Not Free category, Pyongyang is more capable of striking a deal based on national interest negotiations than is Tehran.

At issue is the connection among freedom, proliferation, and deterrence, other factors being equal, which they are not. Assume an early version of democratic peace theory holds; then the fewer the political rights and civil liberties within a country, the more likely the regime will be aggressive in its international relations and hence the more dangerous it would be with nuclear weapons.

But in the context of stable deterrence, e.g., during the Cold War, the nature of the political system is less relevant because of national interest calculations. If ideology trumps interest, as in the case of the Islamic Republic of Iran, however, the nature of the political system is even more important in the hands of Iranian Islamists with nuclear weapons. And if the political system is unstable, as is the case of Pakistan, nuclear arms might fall into the hands of Islamists less likely to be deterred by a nuclear-armed India.

So, Pakistan and Iran may be more dangerous than North Korea—Islamabad because of the prospects for regime change from within that allows Islamists to seize the weapons and Tehran because its ideology is more important than interests, it is less deterrable, and potential for internal regime change are slim because dissidents are so divided and not empowered by outside forces.

What Makes Teheran Tick

Raymond Tanter and
Thomas McInerney,
What Makes Tehran Tick, Iran Policy Committee, Washington DC, 2006

Figure 1 demonstrates that Iran perceives threats to pan-Islamism and the Islamic Revolution with greater intensity than threats to its national interests. These include regional hegemony in the Persian Gulf, establishment of a sphere of influence around Iran, and prevention of a renewed threat from Iraq. While ideological imperatives and national interest considerations may be pursued at the same time, assume for the moment they can be separated enough to determine their relative impact on Iranian decisionmaking. In this respect, a primary conclusion of the Iran Policy Committee (IPC) book from which Figures 1-3 derive, What Makes Tehran Tick, is that Tehran is more motivated by its Islamist ideology than by its national interests.

As one analyst states:

Iran’s leadership clings to policies derived largely from [Ayatollah] Khomeini’s ideological vision even when such policies are detrimental to the country’s other stated national interests and even when a sizable portion of the ruling elite rejects them.

In other words, Iran’s revolutionary elite reinforces the regime’s ideological nature by adopting confrontation as a modus operandi. In this respect, “The Islamic Republic is different from its revolutionary counterparts in that the ideology of its state is its religion.” To maintain the ideological character of the Islamic Republic, Khomeini ordered the execution of political prisoners during 1988, as a litmus test of fealty to revolutionary ideals.

For the first decade of clerical rule, Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri was anointed as the successor of Khomeini, founder and leader of the regime. In March 1989, however, Khomeini dismissed Montazeri because of his protest against the massacre of members of the Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK) and the other opponents of the clerical rule. About 30,000 political prisoners were executed in a very short period.

In view of this discussion of the domestic situation in Iran, consider how its ideology relates to Israel and the America. The regime seeks the destruction of countries, as well as the Sunni “apostate” countries in the Middle East. Consequently, there is very little about which to negotiate with Iran, and a regional realignment that isolates Tehran has a much greater chance of success on its nuclear file than an engagement strategy that seeks to negotiate national interest trade-offs. Now consider how Iran’s authoritarian and ideological nature relates to its hostility toward Israel and the United States as well as its perception of threat from them.

Fig. 2 and 3

Islamist Ideology Trumps Interests

The Islamic Republic of Iran is a prime-time example of an authoritarian state run by ideologically-determined clerics. The Iranian regime’s desire to destroy Israel arises mainly from incompatibility of values more than perceived economic or military threats. In this regard, consider the Figures 2 and 3 above.

During 2006, an Iran Policy Committee research team of Farsi and English speakers collected over 2,400 statements for the period 1979-2005. These statements came from the Foreign Broadcast Information Service (available in microfiche and via World News Connection) and BBC Worldwide Monitoring (via Lexis-Nexis). Search parameters were “Iran and United States” and “Iran and Israel.” The team searched for three two-week periods each year surrounding specific dates: Embassy Takeover Day (4 November), Jerusalem Day (the last Friday of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan), and May Day (1 May). The team sorted the collected statements according to perception of threat and expression of hostility.

Figure 2 shows that out of a universe of Iranian expression of hostility statements, 36% (515) were directed at Israel and 64% (919) were directed at the United States. By contrast, Iran seems to perceive very little threat from Israel. The number of perception of threat statements referring to the United States remained relatively constant (938), but only 137 statements (13% of total) assessed a threat from Israel (Figure 3).

Figure 3 indicates that Iran perceives little direct threat from Israel, but Tehran nonetheless is extremely hostile toward Israel. Indeed, the number of Iranian statements reflecting perceived threat from Israel was so low that there were not enough to conduct a reliable statistical analysis of their intensity over time. The near absence from the Iranian leadership of perception of threat statements about Israel strengthens the argument that Iran’s expressed hostility toward Israel reflects ideological rhetoric rather than any genuine sense of threat emanating from Israel.

The regime’s hostility toward Israel derives its momentum from Iran’s existential engagement in an ideological two-front war: the war for leadership of the international Islamic revival and the war against the West. The fact that Tehran perceives no direct threat from Israel, however, does not mean its hostility should be discounted.

Because the unelected clerical rulers of Iran lack popular legitimacy, they claim the legitimacy of God, terming their principal opposition that rejects the ruling order, “Mohareb,” or “Enemies of God.” Velayat-e faqih, or rule by the jurisprudent, is the Islamic Republic’s ruling principle. The Faqih is an Islamic legal expert who also exerts worldly power. The Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, considers himself as the Faqih.

In addition to the Supreme Leader, unelected regime institutions include the Guardian Council, which is the most influential body; it consists of six theologians appointed by the Supreme Leader and six jurists nominated by the judiciary and approved by parliament. It has the authority to vet and ban candidates from standing for elections to parliament, presidency, and Assembly of Experts. The latter appoints the Supreme Leader, monitors his performance, and in principle, could remove him if deemed incapable of carrying out his duties.

At the summit for the 120-member Non-Aligned Movement convened in Iran on 30 August 2012, the Supreme Leader invoked the authority of the cloth to say that Tehran considers nuclear, chemical, and similar weapons “a great and unforgivable sin.” This declaration is in contrasts to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report (also of 30 August 2012): It stated that the IAEA is unable to provide credible assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran; therefore the Agency is not able to conclude that all nuclear material in Iran is for peaceful purposes.

Based in part on the IAEA report, the Permanent Five Members of the UN Security Council plus Germany (P5+1) proposed to the IAEA Board of Governors a 13 September 2012 Resolution on Iran; The Board passed the Resolution, which stated that Iran “continues to defy” requirements and obligations of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) and the IAEA.

A Triangle of Influence on Iran

In view of the authoritarian nature of the Iranian regime and uncertainties about whether it is engaged in prohibited nuclear activities, one of the most pressing issues of the day is how to delay or even prevent a nuclear-armed Iran. Figure 4 contains three legs of a triangle of options to influence Iran—threats, sanctions, and negotiations. Covert action and clandestine activities conducted by intelligence services undergird the triangle.

Threat of Military action is at the apex, an option of last resort when the other legs fail; although that threat remains on the table, military action per se is not one of the current legs of the triangle because it has yet to occur.

Also at the apex is regime change from within, which is only partly under the influence of external players. In the context of American military force used to change regimes in Iraq and Afghanistan, there is little support for an externally-driven regime change strategy to delay or prevent a nuclear-armed Iran. With Tehran’s suppression of street protests after the 2009 Iranian elections, there is scant expectation that regime change from within is viable.  Also, critics counter that the regime change clock ticks slower than Iran’s nuclear progress or Israel’s closing window of opportunity for a successful attack on Tehran’s uranium enrichment, detonator research, and missile sites. But unless internal regime change is on the table, its clock cannot begin to tick.

A first step toward regime change from within was to remove the U.S. terrorist tag from the main opposition organizations that reject clerical rule in Iran, the National Council of Resistance of Iran and its largest unit, the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MEK), which the Department of State did during September 2012.

A second step would be to persuade dissident organizations to work together for political change in Iran, despite their prior and current enmity toward each other. It is in the infamous tradition of revolutionary moments for there to be hostility among resistance groups that jockey for power as they envision regime change.

A third step is to continue applying each tool of the triangle under the assumption that together they constitute collective action short of war, yet do not preclude use of force or pursuit of a regime change at the end of the day. Such combined efforts by the international community might eventually destabilize the regime and pave the way for democratic change in Iran.

At the base of the triangle are covert action and clandestine activities conducted by intelligence services. They also collect and share invaluable intelligence on Iran’s nuclear progress, degree to which sanctions are working, and whether diplomacy is likely to persuade Iran to comply with international demands to cease enriching uranium, place a cap on level of enrichment, and remove all enriched uranium from Iranian territory; abstain from weaponization, and refrain from marrying highly enriched uranium with a trigger mechanism and missile delivery system.

Despite use of these tools of influence by the major powers, Tehran continues on a seemingly unstoppable path to become a nuclear-armed state. Although there is little publicly available evidence to indicate the Iranian regime has made a strategic decision to produce an actual nuclear weapon, it has taken preliminary steps to do so.

Fig. 4 - The Triangle of Influence on Iran

Intelligence underlies the triangle of influence on Iran. Without public acknowledgement, nation states like Israel and the United States benefit from nonstate, independent sources of information based on other methods of human collection, e.g., “lead intelligence,” to compare with that derived via other means. Without facilitating such collection, Jerusalem and Washington have gained insights on Iranian nuclear facilities from the NCRI and its largest unit, the MEK, which operates clandestinely within Iran to collect sensitive intelligence.

Talks

The last round of senior-level negotiations between Iran and the major powers failed in Moscow on 19 June; lower-level talks on 26 June between a senior EU envoy and Iran’s deputy nuclear negotiator to restart higher negotiations also failed.

In a meeting in Istanbul on 18 September, Saeed Jalili, Iran’s lead negotiator in talks with the major powers, called negotiations with European Union foreign policy head, Catherine Ashton, “constructive and helpful,” although the meeting did not produce any breakthroughs or even an announcement of follow-on discussions.

Despite threats of military force and additional sanctions as drivers, negotiators have deadlocked over issues like opening up Iran’s Parchin underground munitions testing facility. The Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) reports private satellite imagery from 25 July 2012 of what appears to be sanitization and earth displacement activity at Parchin.

It appears as if Tehran is hiding evidence from International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors. IAEA and ISIS reports of November 2011 and August 2012, respectively, raised the issue of whether the Parchin site has been used for testing high explosives for nuclear arms. If it were true, then the regime would be cheating like it did for almost two decades until the NCRI exposed its double-dealing in a series of revelations beginning in 2002.

Sanctions

Although sanctions alone are not likely to reverse Tehran’s quest for nuclear capability or the bomb, they have been useful in creating an alignment against the Islamic Republic. Sanctions make sense, moreover, if they remove the economic base for manufacturing a nuclear weapon or are followed by military action when sanctions no longer seem to be removing that base before Iran acquires nuclear capability or weapon.

Consider the state of play for U.S. sanctions against Iran. During the first week of August, the U.S. House voted 421-6 in favor of the Iran Sanctions, Accountability and Human Rights Act of 2012 to deprive Iran of revenue from energy production and shipping, its largest export sectors. The Senate passed the bill on a voice vote, and the measure went to President Obama for signature. The legislation punishes financial institutions, insurance companies, and shippers that help Iran sell its oil and closes loopholes that permitted Tehran to evade present sanctions. Despite such sanctions, there is evidence in recent international money-transfer investigations that Chinese banks may have flouted United States sanctions against Iran.

The president had already issued an Executive Order on 30 July that expands upon sanctions in the National Defense Authorization Act to make sanctionable knowingly conducting or facilitating significant transactions with a private or public foreign financial institution or other entity for the purchase or acquisition of Iranian oil.

Covert Actions

Sanctions combined with covert actions and clandestine activities also pressure Iran. In 2009, The New York Times reported that President Obama gave the order to speed up a wave of cyberattacks against Iran one whose existence had been exposed just three years before. But, “Tehran sensed his vulnerability, resumed enriching uranium at an underground site at Natanz, one whose existence had been exposed just three years before.”

16 sep 2002 Natanz

But The Washington Post correctly 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.”

Additional aspects of covert action are attacks on Iranian nuclear scientists. Although Tehran incredibly blames Jerusalem as working with the largest unit within the NCRI, the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MEK), a book by two journalists, Yossi Melman and Dan Raviv, Spies Against Armageddon, more plausibly suggests the assassinations are “blue and white,” conducted by Israeli agents from start to finish. Jerusalem, however, neither confirms nor denies whether it collaborates with the MEK but benefits from the regime’s uncertainty regarding such a potential alignment. There are even unsubstantiated rumors that Jerusalem supplied intelligence to the MEK to make its 2002 revelations, among others.

Other illustrations of covert action are assaults against Iranian installations short of war. Iran’s senior atomic energy official revealed on 17 September 2012 that a month earlier there were separate explosions, which he ascribed to sabotage. They targeted power supplies leading to Iran’s two main uranium enrichment facilities, including an underground site that is the most invulnerable to bombing.

Clandestine Activities and Intelligence

Clandestine activities (passive information collection conducted in secret), aided by the Iranian opposition, would create a toxic mix to make the Iranian regime concerned that its nuclear program has been so penetrated by foreign intelligence services and dissidents that it would not be able to conduct a secret breakout without getting caught.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned on 16 September 2012 that Iran would have enough enriched uranium in six to seven months. He said that by mid-2013, Tehran would be 90 percent of the way toward enough enriched uranium for a bomb. It is unclear, however, whether the Netanyahu statement derives from a formal intelligence estimate by Israel’s professionals.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak had already introduced the much-debated notion of Tehran’s “immunity threshold,” a concept that begs for enhanced intelligence collection. Created by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Intelligence Corps, the Iranian zone of invulnerability refers to the regime’s hardening and hiding critical parts of its nuclear program in sites basically secure from external military attack.

Barak stated on CNN during April, “There is no difference in the assessment of intelligence” between Jerusalem and Washington; despite or perhaps because of such apparent consensus, there is a need for an independent source of information based on other methods of human collection, e.g., “lead intelligence” from the Iranian resistance.

But until September 2012, the NCRI and MEK were designated on the U.S. terrorist list, which the U.S. Federal judiciary increasingly saw as illegal; similarly, former Attorney General Michael Mukasey of the George W. Bush administration wrote in the Foreword to Terror Tagging of an Iranian Dissident Organization how the designation was both unwarranted and unwise. And even President Bush credited the NCRI with revelations that led to inspections of and sanctions against Iran.

The ill-advised designation diverted MEK resources from undermining the regime internally and collecting intelligence to struggling with consequences of designation. Although constrained, the resistance has still made blockbuster revelations that helped make the case for against Iran, according to an assessment by a scholar at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies wrote, “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…” And such inspections led to negotiations between Iran and the major powers.

Iranian Nuclear Installations

Iranian Nuclear Installations

As discussed above, during August 2002, NCRI intelligence exposed a secret nuclear facility near the City of 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.

NCRI intelligence was the source of 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.”

Arak Installation

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.”

Lavizan-Shian 1

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.

Lavizan-Shiam 2

ISIS obtained imagery of the site located in Tehran from August 2003; it showed large buildings inside a secure perimeter. In imagery taken on March 2004, the buildings have been removed. Further clearing can be seen in imagery from May 2004. The site’s dismantlement raises serious concerns because it is the type of measure Iran might take if it were trying to defeat environmental sampling capabilities of the IAEA.

In December 2005, intelligence of National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) revealed a nuclear site near the city of Qum: Tunneling activity in the mountains was initiated in 2000 to construct an underground nuclear facility; the Western allies publicly acknowledged the Qum site in September 2009.

Qum 2

Left image:DigitalGlobe image of the Qum site in June 2007. Construction materials may be seen adjacent to tunnel entrances and at construction staging areas. Right image: Image from DigitalGlobe of the Qum site in January 2009. There is much more construction and excavation activity two years later.

NCRI intelligence revealed, during September 2009, two additional sites in and near Tehran, where the Iranian regime may be working on detonators for nuclear warheads, one of the points in dispute between the IAEA and Tehran and in the nuclear negotiations.

Prompted by such publicity, the Iranian regime admitted in September of that year existence of a uranium enrichment facility about 20 miles north of Qum. And by January 2012, Iran stated it had begun enrichment at the heavily fortified site—the Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant.

One aspect of validation concerns how there has been subsequent follow-on of revelations in which the NCRI also played a role. With respect to the Fordow facility, built beneath a mountain outside Qum, the IAEA report of August 2012 focuses on Fordow and Parchin, two facilities publicly identified in NCRI intelligence revelations before they became part of the mainstream public narratives about Iran. Again working independently of the NCRI, an ISIS report of September 2004 suggested Parchin was a suspect nuclear site, which complements revelations of the NCRI a year later.

Fordow

Left image:Satellite image of Iran’s Fordow enrichment facility near the city of Qum, 27 September 2009. Right image: Image from DigitalGlobe of the same site. There is much more construction and excavation activity, 15 August 2012

Regarding the validity of 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, nonstate intelligence from resistance sources is at least of value as a “lead” to compare with State-derived information using other sources and methods.

From Authoritarianism toward a Free Iran

First, it was and is in the interest of both Jerusalem and Washington that the State Department removed the NCRI and the MEK from the Department’s terrorist list in September 2012, as a first step to embrace and thus empower the Iranian resistance that rejects clerical rule in Tehran and augment collection of intelligence about Iran. Now that the terror tag has been removed, collection of dissident information as lead intelligence can accelerate and complement that of western services to bolster talks and sanctions regarding Iran. Removal of the terrorist label enhances collection of intelligence because resources used by the resistance to get off the terrorist list will be available again for intelligence collection and dissemination.

Second, facilitating resettlement of Iranian members of the MEK who remain in Iraq would help energize the organization’s intelligence capacity against Iran, and the worldwide pro-Israel community has a chance to become active in such a cause via its contacts in western parliaments.

Third, because sanctions and talks are failing to change the trajectory of the Iranian regime to become a nuclear-weapons capable state, now is the time to enhance the quality of intelligence about Iran by empowering efforts of dissident organizations that reject clerical rule and have a demonstrated capacity for collecting and distributing intelligence about Iranian nuclear progress—the National Council of Resistance and Iran and its largest unit, the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq.

Finally as freedom replaces authoritarianism in Iran, whether it has nuclear weapons or not would be of less consequence than it is now. And as an ideologically-driven Iranian regime transitions to a more secular democracy, the nuclear issue would be less of a threat to global and regional international security.

————

Professor Raymond Tanter is former member of the senior staff at the U.S. National Security Council, 1981-82; former representative of the U.S. Secretary of Defense to arms control talks in Europe, 1983-84; President of the Washington-based Iran Policy Committee since 2005; and Professor Emeritus at The University of Michigan since 1999.

Members of the U.S. Congress Recommend State Department Press Baghdad for Humanitarian Conditions for Iranians at Ashraf and Liberty, Iraq, says Iran Policy Committee

CLICK HERE FOR ORIGINAL PRESS RELEASE

WASHINGTON, Aug. 7, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — In the course of research on Iranian dissidents, the Iran Policy Committee (IPC) reviewed letters sent by a Senator and Members of the House of Representatives to the Secretary of State on the status of Iranian dissidents in Iraq. IPC also participated in a briefing by Members of the House. IPC research is consistent with views expressed in these letters and at the briefing.

In a June 12, 2012 letter, Senator Carl Levin (D-MI), Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, wrote Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to express his dismay over the lack of action by the Department of State to reach a decision on the status of a revocation petition filed by the main Iranian opposition group that rejects clerical rule, the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq. Senator Levin wrote: “I have requested repeatedly that the Department of State proceed expeditiously to make a determination regarding the designation of the Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK) as a foreign terrorist organization…” The Senator is the latest among U.S. lawmakers to criticize the delay by the Department on the status of the MEK. The Senator also questioned the process that the State Department pursues to determine the status of the petition by the MEK.

Entrance Gate of Camp Ashraf, Iraq, which provided residents a serene, livable environment

Iraqi forces point guns at Camp Ashraf, where exiled Iranians are now are under siege

A letter of August 2, 2012 from Members of the House spearheaded by Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and Representative Brad Sherman (D-CA), ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Trade stated, “We respectfully request that the Department of State seek the Iraqi government’s agreement to and implementation of a number of humanitarian measures. Until these measures are implemented, further voluntary relocation of Camp Ashraf residents would only exacerbate the current dreadful living conditions in Camp Liberty.” A bipartisan group of 79 Members of Congress signed the letter.

During a briefing by Members of the House on Capitol Hill in Washington on August 1, 2012, Representative Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX), a senior member of Committee on Homeland Security blamed Baghdad for “lack of clean water” at Camp Liberty. Also at the briefing, Representative Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, called for removal of the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MEK), a group to which the Iranian dissidents belong, from the U.S. terrorist list to facilitate their speedy resettlement outside of Iraq, without relocation from Ashraf to Liberty.

Through independent research, the IPC determines that residents of Liberty are only seeking minimum humanitarian improvements in their quality of life. These include ensuring satisfactory access to clean water via measures to connect Liberty to the Baghdad water network and transfer of water purification equipment from Ashraf to Liberty or acquisition elsewhere of such items; improved electrical equipment to operate air conditioners, potentially through transfer of large generators from Ashraf to Liberty; authority to construct adequate ramps and related safety infrastructure for residents of Liberty, including those who are suffering from disabilities; and transfer of forklifts from Ashraf to Liberty to facilitate handling of heavy items.

Armed Iraqi police at a checkpoint inside Camp Liberty, which has a prison-like status

Three former U.S. military officers of the IPC issued a statement on implications of diplomatic maneuvering about the status of the Iranian dissidents in Iraq. 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) said, “We are concerned that statements implying Iranian dissidents in Iraq are responsible for any delay in relocating play into the hands of those in the Government of Iraq intent on forcible relocation; on the contrary, our research finds that Baghdad is responsible for such delays because of failure to provide minimum humanitarian assistance to the dissidents. In this respect, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), Ambassador Martin Kobler, told the Security Council on July 19, 2012 that, “Time is running out to find a sustainable situation,…[and he urged] the Camp Ashraf residents to cooperate with the Iraqi authorities and to relocate.”

Founder and President, Global Initiative for Democracy and former Freedom House Executive Director, Bruce McColm commented on a statement of August 1, 2012 by Patrick Ventrell, Department of State Acting Deputy Spokesperson. Ventrell called on “…the Ashraf leadership to immediately resume cooperation with the relocation of residents to Camp…[Liberty].The continued intransigence of the residents’ leadership in placing preconditions and making demands prior to any agreement to relocate…[additional] Ashraf residents is unacceptable…” McColm said “Ventrell’s statement blames the victim rather than the cause of the delay—Baghdad.”

Professor Raymond Tanter, President of the IPC and former member of the National Security Council staff in the Reagan administration, inferred Baghdad’s hidden agenda for denying minimum humanitarian life support: “1) Provide a rationale for forcible relocation within Iraq of remaining Ashraf residents by the Iraqi military; 2) Wear down resolve of Liberty residents so they ‘voluntarily’ repatriate to Iran rather than resettle to friendly third countries where they can continue as a political force that threatens survival of the clerical regime in Tehran; and 3) Evacuate Ashraf but keep former residents at Liberty to give space and time for the Iraqi military to place weapons in Ashraf to reinforce the false claim the MEK maintains an intent to commit terrorism and justify its continuation on the U.S. terrorist list. Such a hidden agenda based on fabricated premises is an illegitimate basis for denying minimum humanitarian life support to individuals listed as asylum seekers by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refuges.”

Regime Change from within Iran to Counter Tehran’s “Talking about Talks”

Yukiya Amano

Yukiya Amano, Director General, International Atomic Energy Agency
Photo: http://www.iaea.org

Head of the UN nuclear watchdog agency, Yukiya Amano, made premature remarks about “progress” in getting Tehran to discuss inspections of what may be a nuclear weapons trigger.  Eager for “good news,” the Western media  became overly optimistic about the 23-24 May 2012 Baghdad Talks between the Iranian regime and the major powers.Underlying this hopefulness is that diplomacy is buying time and hence delaying any plans for Israel to launch attacks against Iranian nuclear sites. Iran rejects a new package of proposals put forward by the powers, seeks to get into a “proposal-counter proposal” process, and reverts to its pattern of  “talking about talks.” Iran demands sanctions relief and a wider agenda, while the major powers insist on discussing Iran’s nuclear file without such relief at this stage. Not surprisingly, the two sides agreed to hold a fourth round of talks in Moscow on 18-19 June 2012.

In the context of endless negotiations, the military option arises again as the default alternative. But what about a third option—regime change from within Iran—in addition to placing added emphasis on the military alternative as the May Baghdad round of diplomacy failed like prior rounds in Geneva during December 2010 and Istanbul in April 2012?

Critics answer that before regime change can occur, Iran’s “zone of immunity” from attack will increase as it uses time to make nuclear sites relatively invulnerable to attack. But the Islamic Republic is already using “diplomatic time” to become more immune to airstrikes, while the regime change clock is barely ticking.

To accelerate regime change from within requires Jerusalem and Washington to have friends in Tehran, which is the topic of an article Raymond Tanter wrote as an op-ed for the 22 May 2012 Jerusalem Post,  a slightly revised version of which appears below.

Jerusalem, Tehran, and Washington

22 May 2012

CLICK HERE FOR ORIGINAL ARTICLE IN THE JERUSALEM POST

Ahmadinejad at nuclear ceremony in Tehran

Ahmadinejad at nuclear ceremony in Tehran. Photo: Reuters

As Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu pulls main political groups into a wall-to-wall coalition, he is in position to choose either military attacks on Iranian nuclear sites or to wait for international sanctions and covert action to compel Tehran to cease progress on a nuclear weapons capability. At issue, however, is whether these are the only alternatives available.

A third option involves regime change from within Iran, of the kind to make less likely pursuit of nuclear weapons capability. Such an approach requires Jerusalem and Washington to have friends in Tehran.

While the enemy of my enemy might still be my enemy, assume for the moment the conventional wisdom is correct: An enemy of the Iranian regime is a good candidate to be a friend of Israel.

In fact, the main Iranian dissident group that rejects clerical rule in Tehran, the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MeK), reaches out to Washington and does not oppose Israel.

By contrast, the Iranian Green Movement faction, headed by Mir Hossein Mousavi, accepts clerical rule and has a history of anti- Israel activities, such as calling for it to be annihilated.

As the U.S. State Department decides whether to remove the MeK from its terrorist list, the drive to be delisted would benefit from a push from the pro-Israel community. Because delisting would send an implicit but unmistakable signal to Tehran that regime change from within is on the table, one would think the pro-Israel community would be active in the fight for removal of the MeK from the list. But there is no sign of the community’s influence in the delisting process. The community, however, is very active in the sanctions process.

As sanctions pressure Iran to make concessions at the May 23-24 Baghdad Talks on Iran’s nuclear file, it is useful to note that Mousavi of the Iranian Green Movement said consequences of giving up Iran’s nuclear program would be “irreparable.”

In contrast, the MeK opposes Iranian production of nuclear weapons; and to back up its words, the MeK reveals Tehran’s covert activities to procure uranium enrichment and weaponization equipment. In issuing blockbuster intelligence on Iranian progress toward nuclear weapons capability, the MeK laid the framework for international sanctions imposed on Iran.

There is an assumption among pundits of an alliance of convenience between Israel and the MeK, but it rests on thin evidence of unnamed officials and an Iranian intelligence agent, Massoud Khodabandeh.

Allegations of a covert alignment works in favor of those who would keep the MeK on the U.S. terrorist list, weakening its ability to help build a coalition to remove the clerical regime from power in Tehran. While uncertainty about such an alignment may reinforce Israel’s deterrent posture vis a vis Iran, it may be only a Pyrrhic achievement in view of costs incurred in inadvertently maintaining the MeK on the U.S. terrorist list.

In a research trip to Iraq during 2008, I reported on interviews and documents that corroborated a tight relationship between the MeK and the US military in Iraq, but not with American diplomats. In addition, I reported how Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) spreads false narratives about the MeK, some of which US diplomats echo.

In October 2011, MeK-supplied information reinforced U.S. intelligence to expose Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps-Quds Force for plotting to assassinate the Saudi Ambassador to the United States and blow up the Saudi Embassy in Washington.

That disclosure reinforced additional sanctions the U.S. Treasury placed on the IRGC-QF three days earlier.

And what is Tehran’s response when confronted with evidence of its complicity in the assassination plot? The Ministry of Intelligence and Security blamed Israel and the United States, while also claiming MeK involvement.

To its credit, the State Department promptly denied MeK responsibility, accused Tehran of “fabricating news stories,” and of spreading “disinformation” to exploit skepticism about the plot.

While it might make some strategic sense for Israel to remain silent about any involvement with the MeK and sit on the sidelines in the group’s effort to be removed from the U.S. terrorist list, there is no excuse for the pro-Israel community to refrain from seeking removal of the MeK from the list and helping to allay suffering of its supporters in Iraq, who languish under prison-like conditions, hoping to be resettled in friendly countries rather than forcibly repatriated to Iran.

The State Department has said it was looking favorably at delisting the MeK if it continued cooperating by vacating a former base inside Iraq, called Camp Ashraf, to another location, Camp Liberty.

There are about 1,200 MeK members remaining in Ashraf and some 2,000 already in Liberty.

But the fly in the ointment is that the State Department also said it might still rule against delisting the MeK if evidence turned up of a capability and intent to commit terrorism in Ashraf after complete relocation to Liberty, a condition described by former U.S. military commanders as “absurd,” because they supervised inspection of Ashraf, it was under American military control from 2003-2009, and Iraqi military monitoring and control thereafter.

Such a condition is a virtual invitation for Iranian agents to plant weapons in Ashraf, which then could be used by the State Department as indicators of capability and intent for the MeK to commit terrorism.

It is in this final phase of decision making at the State Department where the American pro-Israel community might make a difference, but it sits quietly on the sidelines of an epic struggle: whether Israeli and U.S. policy should include not only talks, sanctions, and threats to take military action but also a “regime change from within” option for Iran.

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The writer was a frequent Visiting Professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, is Emeritus Professor at the University of Michigan, and former member of the Senior Staff of the National Security Council in the Reagan-Bush administration.