Iran in Iraqs Shadow:
Dealing with Tehrans
Nuclear Weapons Bid
RICHARD L. RUSSELL
© 2004 Richard L. Russell
From Parameters, Autumn 2004, pp. 31-45.
As the old military adage has it, no good deed ever goes unpunished. And so it would seem with American security interests in the Persian Gulf. Soon after the United States has removed a major threat to American and regional interests with the defeat of Saddam Husseins regime, Washington has to come to terms with the looming challenge of Irans quest for nuclear weapons. The good news is that assertive multilateral diplomacy still has some running room for negotiating a stall or derailment of Irans nuclear weapons program. The bad news is that the prospects are dim for achieving this end without the resort to force over the coming years.
The Iraq war is the backdrop for the evolving policy debate on Iran. The Iraq situation pits competing views of American national security strategy after 11 September 2001 against one another. On one side, critics of the Iraq war are posturing that if weapons of mass destruction (WMD) failed to be a sufficient justification for waging war against Iraq, then concerns about WMD have even less merit for forcibly challenging the Iranian regime over its nuclear weapons aspirations. On the other side, the threat posed by WMDwith the associated risk that terrorists might get their hands on WMDis emerging as a worldview to replace the grand unifying scheme of containment which governed American and Western policy during the Cold War. Those in this camp view the military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq as models for other policy challenges that involve WMD and potential support for terrorist groups coming from the likes of Iran and North Korea.
There are pitfalls, though, of viewing the Iran policy debate entirely through the Iraq policy prism. Just as a prism bends rays of light, Iraq and Iran, while they share many features, are distinct problems that require the modulation of policy tools. This article seeks to illuminate the commonalities and variations between past Iraq and todays Iran as well as the strengths and weaknesses of American policy options for dealing with the growing security challenge posed by Tehrans quest for nuclear weapons.
Irans Decrepit Armed Forces and Squeezed Geopolitical Space
Iran shares with Iraq geopolitical aspirations in the Persian Gulf in which weapons of mass destruction play a critical role. Iraqs past drive for WMD was fueled by Saddams lust for power and his will to politically and militarily dominate the Gulf. Although Iraqs behavior over the past decade captured the most international attention, Iran too has hegemonic ambitions in the Gulf. Khomenis revolutionary goal was to remake the region in Irans own self-image, governed by clerics and Islamic law. Iraqs 1990-91 war pushed into the far background the premier security concern of the United States and the Arab Gulf states in the 1980sthat Iran would emerge as the winner of the war with Iraq to become the dominant power capable of directly threatening Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.
Irans geographic girth lends itself to a country with large standing armed forces, but Irans military today is weaker than it was in the wake of the revolutionary euphoria of 1979.1 The Iranians militarily lived off the Shahs US-provided arms and equipment to survive the Iran-Iraq War, but the war nearly exhausted their inventories and put enormous wear and tear on equipment holdings. They have managed to make due, in part, by cannibalizing American equipment to keep fewer armaments running, but these stopgap efforts are increasingly more difficult to muster to prolong the longevity of the military inventory. The Iranians also are using illicit means to bypass US restrictions on the export of military equipment to Iran.2 Iran has been hard-pressed to find direct external weapon suppliers to replace the United States. Michael Eisenstadt observes that in recent years Russia has been Irans main source of conventional arms, but Moscow has agreed not to conclude any new arms deals and to halt all conventional weapons transfers since September 1999.3 The Iranians have made efforts to fill the void with indigenously pro-
duced weapons, but Tehran lacks the ability to produce high-performance conventional weapons platforms.
Tehran must have shuddered when witnessing the American military slashing through Saddams forces in the 2003 war. Iran already had a sense of its conventional military inferiority compared to American forces. Years ago Tehran received a direct taste of that from the American re-flagging operations in the Persian Gulf during the Iran-Iraq War, when the US Navy readily destroyed much of Irans conventional naval capabilities, leaving Iran to harass shipping with irregular hit-and-run gunboat attacks. In the spring 2003 war, American and British forces accomplished in about a month what Iranian forces had failed to do in eight years of war with Iraq between 1980 and 1988. Tehran cannot fail to appreciate that Iranian conventional forces would have little chance of resisting a US military assault.
In Irans geopolitical landscape and strategic calculus, the United States looms large and its demonization remains a central feature of the cleric regimes worldview. As Anoushiravan Ehteshami observes, Iran holds an almost paranoid and conspiratorial view of the United States role and actions in the Middle East and sees almost every US initiative as a direct or indirect assault on Irans regional interests.4 Just as George Kennan in his Cold War analysis of the Soviet Union judged that the regime in Moscow needed to politically manufacture an enemy in the United States to justify its ruthless reign at home, so do the clerics in Tehran need a political opponent in the United States on which to heap the blame and deflect public attention from their own inability to deliver political freedom, basic living standards, and an adequate economic livelihood to its people. As part and parcel of its efforts to deflect domestic criticism toward outside targets, the regime portrayed numerous student demonstrations in Iran in June and July 2003during which Tehran felt compelled to arrest about 4,000 demonstratorsas being the result of American instigation in Iranian affairs.
American military endeavors in the greater Middle East region necessitated by 9/11 have fueled Irans insecurity and geopolitical sense of encirclement. As Ray Takeyh notes, The paradox of the post-September 11 Middle East is that although Irans security has improved through the removal of Saddam and the Taliban in Afghanistan, its feelings of insecurity have intensified.5 The United States used its military presence in the Persian Gulf to support operations both in Afghanistan and Iraq, even if host-country partners were reticent about publicly discussing their support, which cut against the grain of Arab public opinion. In its campaign against al Qaeda, much to Irans chagrin, the United States also has had hubs of military activity or transit rights in several countries in Central Asia, including Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Tajikistan.6
Glimpses of Irans Nuclear Weapons Bid
Iran sees WMD and ballistic missiles as means to fill the void in military and deterrent capabilities. Tehran suffered under barrages of Iraqi ballistic missiles during the Iran-Iraq War and wants to have the option of using ballistic missiles that are faster and more reliable than Irans air force for penetrating enemy airspaces to deliver both conventional and WMD warheads. In July 2003 Iran successfully tested the Shahab-3 missile, which achieved a range of about 1,000 km. Iran is suspected of having an unspecified number of operational Shahab missiles, which are based on North Koreas No Dong-1 missile that is reportedly capable of carrying an 800 kg warhead. Iran also is working on a 2,000-km Shahab-4 based on Russian technology, as well as a 5,000-km Shahab-5 missile.7 These missiles probably are too inaccurate to be of much military utility if armed with conventional warheads, but they would be sufficiently accurate to deliver WMD, particularly nuclear warheads.8 According to a foreign intelligence official and a former Iranian intelligence officer, the North Koreans are working on the Shahab-4 and providing assistance on designs for a nuclear warhead.9
The destructive power of chemical and biological weapons pales in comparison to that of nuclear weapons, which, unfortunately, often are considered the coin of the realm for major-power status in international relations.10 The Iranian clerics almost certainly want nuclear weapons to compensate for conventional military shortcomings to deter potential adversaries and enhance the security of their regime: The powerful Revolutionary Guards and military strategists are convinced that only a nuclear Iran can assume its place as a major regional power and adequately deter a possible attack from the United States or Israel, said [a] policy adviser to a senior conservative cleric, who spoke on condition of anonymity.11
The Iranians have learned that the road to nuclear weapons is best paved with ambiguity. The Israelis, Pakistanis, Indians, and apparently the North Koreans successfully acquired nuclear weapons by cloaking their research, development, procurement, and deployment efforts with cover stories that their efforts were all geared to civilian nuclear energy programs, not to be harnessed for military applications. Tehran could not have failed to notice that once these states acquired nuclear weapons mated with aircraft and missile delivery systems, they escapedso far, at leastmilitary preemptive and preventive action by rival states. In marked contrast, the Iraqis suffered as the result of Israeli and American preventive military actions, in part because Baghdad was not fast enough in acquiring nuclear weapons. The Israeli strike on an Iraqi nuclear research plant in 1981 and the American wars against Iraq in 1991 and 2003 might have been deterred had Iraq managed to acquire nuclear weapons.
The Iranians therefore consistently and loudly proclaim that their pursuit of nuclear power is strictly for peaceful civilian purposes. President Muhammad Khatami, for example, said in February 2003, I assure all peace-loving individuals in the world that Irans efforts in the field of nuclear technology are focused on civilian application and nothing else.12 The Iranians argue that they need electric power produced by nuclear plants to meet domestic energy needs and to free up oil for export and foreign currency. The Iranian claims have a hollow ring, however. Irans oil industry could be modernized and made more cost-efficient and productive with the expenditure of far fewer economic resources than those needed for nuclear power, to better deliver energy to the Iranian population at lower costs while increasing production for the international market.
The Iranians are working closely with the Russians, who have an $800 million contract with the Iranians to build the 1,000-megawatt light-water reactor at Bushehr.13 Although spent nuclear fuel at Bushehr could be diverted to use in nuclear weapons, Moscow has traditionally put more weight on near-term economic interests than on longer-term strategic interests in dealing with Iran. The Russians have adapted a Keynesian approach to Iran: damn the long-run strategic threat of an Iran armed with ballistic missiles tipped with nuclear warheads hostile to Russian political interests, because in the long run well all be dead anyway.
The Iranians also are interested in building a heavy-water reactor, which the international community considers as more of a nuclear proliferation risk than light-water reactors such as the one at Bushehr. Tehran has announced plans to build a 40-megawatt heavy-water research reactor, and it already has a heavy-water plant at Arak that could provide heavy water to the planned research reactor. Heavy water allows a heavy-water reactor to operate with natural uranium as its fuel and to produce plutonium.14 Spent fuel from the planned heavy-water reactor would be ideal for extracting bomb-grade plutonium. North Korea, for example, claims to have made its weapons from the plutonium-rich spent fuel of its 5-megawatt reactor.15 Gary Milhollin, writing in a New York Times article, puts the planned Iranian reactor in perspective by noting that it is too small for electricity and larger than needed for research, and is the type providing fuel for nuclear weapons programs in India, Israel, and Pakistan.16
Iran also is developing domestic uranium production capabilities, ostensibly to fuel its civilian-use nuclear power plants. In February 2003, Khatami announced that Iran had begun mining uranium near Yazd.17 The Russians, however, claim that the Bushehr contract includes provisions for Russia to supply fresh fuel for the life of the reactor and to take spent fuel back to Russia, thus denying Iran any potential access to the plutonium contained in the spent fuel.18 The Iranians claim that the production facility is needed for self-sufficiency to
enrich uranium for nuclear power plants, but again, as with most Iranian claims regarding their ostensible civilian uses for nuclear power, it would be cheaper for them to purchase uranium for civilian power needs on the international market than to indigenously develop uranium production capabilities.
Perhaps most alarming are the recent international exposures of Irans emerging uranium enrichment capabilities. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in February 2002 discovered that Iran is building a sophisticated uranium-enrichment plant at Natanz, about 200 miles south of Tehran. The IAEA found that 160 centrifuges were installed at a pilot plant at Natanz and 5,000 more centrifuges are to be completed at a neighboring production facility by 2005. After completion of the plant, Iran will be capable of producing enough enriched uranium for several nuclear bombs per year.19 In a June 2003 visit to Iran, moreover, the IAEA discovered traces of highly enriched, weapons-grade uranium on centrifuges at the Natanz plant and the Kalaye Electric Company, raising the international concern that Irans centrifuges are intended to support a nuclear weapons program.20
Iranian uranium enrichment capabilities appear to also have benefited from Pakistani assistance. The centrifuges inspected at Natanz by IAEA officials in February 2002 were reportedly based on a Pakistani design. The now-infamous Pakistani official widely regarded as the father of Pakistans nuclear weapons program, A. Q. Khan, reportedly traveled frequently to Tehran to share his expertise about centrifuges and nuclear weapons design. A former Iranian diplomat turned defector claims that the Iranians gave Khan a villa near the Caspian Sea as a token of thanks for his support of Irans endeavors.21
Some scholars and observers of Iranian politics dismiss the foregoing as evidence that Iran has embarked on a full-fledged nuclear weapons program. It is curious that they should have confidence in making such an assessment, given that the secretive regime in Tehran is not likely to publicly broadcast a decision to acquire nuclear weapons. Such a decision would be tightly held in a small circle of regime insiders. After all, many observers were surprised by the breadth, depth, and sophistication of the Iranian uranium enrichment discovered by the IAEA inspectors because the regimes decision to pursue these activities was not publicly announced. The Iranians would be foolhardy to undermine their civilian nuclear power cover story and announce their quest for nuclear weapons, only to increase their vulnerability to American and Israeli preventive military action.
Diplomatic Options for Stalling Iranian Nuclear Weapons
American diplomacy is encouraging energetic and assertive IAEA inspections of Iran under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) regime. The specter of the US use of force against another pillar of the axis of evil,
coupled with Europes belated doubts about the efficacy of engagement to curtail Irans nuclear weapons program, has worked to coax Iran to accept no-notice IAEA inspections. The Europeansthe French and Germans, in particularwho had long resisted US efforts to isolate Iran and favored diplomatic and economic engagement of Tehran, were apparently taken aback by the scope of Irans work on uranium enrichment and disregard for the NPT. The French, Germans, and British are rightly trying to exchange trade discussions for Irans cooperation on no-notice inspections and ending its pursuit of the nuclear fuel cycle, which would give Iran the capability to pursue nuclear weapons in short order.22 The European Union Foreign Minister declared publicly in June 2003 that if diplomatic efforts to deal with Irans WMD should fail, coercive measures could be envisioned.23 Obviously such bravado is in marked contrast to European opposition to the American use of force against Saddams regime, and should push come to shove in dealing with Irans nuclear weapons program, the Europeans may well revert to their aversion to the exercise of American military power. It is easy for the Europeans to argue theoretically that force may have to be used when that contingency appears well over the horizon, but it would be politically more unpalatable for European capitals when the concrete decision time for the resort to force beckons.
Tehran for its part probably calculates that its acceptance of the no-notice inspections will buy Iran more time to work on its clandestine nuclear weapons program by politically diffusing international support for an assertive American stance. At the same time, Tehran probably is betting that it can work on nuclear weapons undetected by IAEA inspectors. Iran has had plenty of opportunity to learn lessons on beating the IAEA inspection regime from watching Iraq and North Korea, which both cheated successfully against IAEA inspectors. Both Iraq and North Korea worked feverishly on nuclear weapons programs while officially considered in good standing in the eyes of the IAEA inspectors and their governing NPT. Only US intelligence was able to catch North Korea covertly working on a uranium enrichment program, which led to a chain of events that resulted in Pyongyang formally withdrawing from the NPT. The massive scope of Iraqs nuclear weapons program was revealed only after Iraqs 1991 battlefield defeat and intrusive UN weapons inspections. UN inspectors found the Iraqis to be expert in denial and deception efforts that allowed them to vigorously pursue a nuclear weapons program despite years of IAEA inspections. If IAEA inspectors were on their way to a sensitive Iranian site, Tehrans security services could manufacture all kinds of obstacles to slow the IAEA team or misdirect them, just as the Iraqis did with IAEA and UN weapons inspections.
To hedge against these potential Iranian calculations, IAEA inspectors would have to demand an unparalleled level of sustained and rapid access
to Iranian facilities and personnel, with full Iranian cooperation. No-notice and intrusive IAEA inspections should be regularly and routinely mounted without international apology. IAEA inspectors should have routine, widespread, and unencumbered debriefing access to any and all Iranian scientists and technicians, who could be debriefed outside of Iran and without Iranian minders present. Such measures were only faintheartedly implemented by the United Nations under Hans Blix in the run-up to the 2003 war against Iraq.
Washington could further use international sanctions to cut Irans trading access to the global market, particularly for oil exports, to increase pressure on Tehran to accept assertive IAEA inspections and a stoppage in Irans nuclear fuel cycle efforts, but that course could suffer from numerous pitfalls. Sanctions would have to be sustained for a prolonged period of time before they began to hurt Irans economy, and after that time, much like the sanctions implemented against Saddams regime, they would hurt the livelihood of the general populace more than regime elites. As a consequence the United States might undercut its objective of looking to the Iranian population to usher in a political change in Tehranunder the stress of such international sanctions, the population could rally around the regime rather than taking up political actions against it.
A better alternative might be for Washington to offer to sweeten the diplomatic tea with a variety of options to encourage Iran to accept an unprecedented level of intrusive IAEA inspections and to stop its nuclear fuel cycle efforts. For example, Washington could offer the resumption of diplomatic ties with Tehran severed after the 1979 revolution; the release of frozen Iranian assets in the United States; and the easing of trade sanctions that would facilitate Iranian access to the international marketplace, technology, and business, thus helping to modernize Irans oil industry. As Takeyh observes, The economic dimension is particularly important as, in the past decade, Tehran has grudgingly come to realize that Irans tense relations with the United States preclude its effective integration into the global economy and access to needed technology.24 These positive incentives, however, might still not be sufficient to reverse Irans hostile policy toward the United States given the factions competing for power in Tehran. As Geoffrey Kemp points out, Opponents can be counted upon to do all they can to prevent such a thing from happening, including strategic leaks designed to undermine any diplomacy in prospect.25
The uncertainty over the Iranian internal power structure would make it difficult for American policymakers to establish rules of the road in any diplomatic dialogue designed to gain a degree of confidence that Tehran could exercise responsible and stringent controls over future nuclear weapon stocks. Notwithstanding past Iranian public support for the Iranian President, the wind in Khatamis reform-minded sails is dying. And the Iranian elections in February 2004 in which conservatives barred moderates from being placed
on ballots have stranded the reformers at sea without fresh water. While many in the West hope that the counterrevolutionary winds will grow stronger with public demonstrations and cast aside the conservative clerics, such a desirable course of events may await the longer run. In the short to medium terms, there are greater prospects for hard-line clerics ousting the more pragmatic clerics in the regime power struggle.
Military Options for Disrupting
Irans Nuclear Weapons Program
American diplomatic support for robust IAEA inspections is reducing widespread European and Middle Eastern criticism that the United States acts unilaterally or hegemonically in the international arena. Such criticism reached shrill heights during the lead-up to the war against Saddams Iraq. The United States needs to work to heal those wounds to garner political support from Europe and the greater Middle East region to complement diplomacy with military force in a concerted policy to derail Irans train ride toward nuclear weapons.
Military options could be employed to physically disrupt, delay, and destroy key components of Irans nuclear weapons program. Such military options would be geared toward causing the Tehran regime pain and inflicting costs for Tehrans pursuit of nuclear weapons. They could be aimed at changing Tehrans strategic calculus, so that Iran views nuclear weapons not as something that enhances the security of the regime, but as a liability that increases prospects for conflict with the United States and threatens the clerical regimes hold on power.
Obviously military options would entail less risk if exercised before Iran acquires nuclear weapons. American policymakers would have to be concerned that if military options are employed after Iran acquires nuclear weapons, the Iranians could retaliate for US conventional military strikes by targeting American forces in the region with nuclear weapons or by using clandestine means to attack American civilians, perhaps via the Iranian intelligence services or collaborating transnational actors, especially Hezbollah. While such risks may not ultimately preclude the decision to use force, Iranian possession of nuclear weapons would make the decision a heavy burden.
American military superiority over Iran gives Washington a wide spectrum of military options for coercing Tehran. These options range from limited strikes against Irans political, military, internal security, and WMD-related infrastructure. For example, the United States could target Irans nuclear power infrastructureto include the Bushehr nuclear power plant as well as any future nuclear power plants, heavy-water facilities, future plutonium reprocessing plants, and uranium production and enrichment plantswith
cruise missiles or combat aircraft strikes. An American air campaign mounted from regional support hubs in the small Gulf Arab states could make short work of Irans air force and air defense forces to gain air superiority for attacks against Irans nuclear infrastructure. Such strikes could serve the practical purposes of disrupting Irans means for developing nuclear weapons as well as constituting a symbolic, political demonstration of American resolve to use whatever means are available to block Irans nuclear weapons aspirations.
The United States would be operating with a less-than-perfect intelligence picture of Irans nuclear weapons infrastructure, however. The Iranians cannot have escaped learning the importance of diversifying and building redundancies into their nuclear weapons program components in light of Israels preemptive strike on Iraqs nuclear power facility. They managed to hide Iranian uranium reprocessing developments from the outside world for some time and have undoubtedly tightened security to stem further exposures of their nuclear weapons program. In the aftermath of any American air strikes against their nuclear infrastructure, Iran undoubtedly also would redouble its efforts to conceal and build redundancies into its nuclear weapons infrastructure to make follow-on American attacks more difficult.
American aircraft and cruise missiles also could target Irans key political, security, and military infrastructures to harm the power of the regime in Tehran. Strikes could target government buildings and even the homes of clerics; facilities and compounds used by internal security and policy forces; assets of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and Basij forces; major army units and garrisons; and WMD delivery vehicles, such as aircraft and ballistic missiles, as well as their production facilities. Targeting internal security organs would be particularly useful because that might allow the disgruntled populace more freedom to demonstrate against the regime and substantially increase the pressure on clerics to forgo their nuclear weapons aspirations.
The threat of a US invasion of Iran should not be taken off the table, because it could be used to bolster the strength of coercive diplomacy to compel the Iranians to desist on nuclear weapons and to accept robust and intrusive international inspections to help ensure their compliance with the NPT. The most imprudent step a statesman can make is to let his adversary know what he is not prepared to do; that profoundly undermines his political leverage to achieve interests without resort to force. President Clinton made this critical mistake in the 1999 Kosovo war, in which he declared that US ground forces would not be used against Serbia.
Nevertheless, the US military presence in the greater Middle East that brackets Iran would be insufficient to stage the type of massive ground campaign that would be required to occupy Irans major cities. Iraq is a comparatively easy occupational task in comparison to Iran; it is smaller and has
fewer citizens. Iraq is twice the size of Idaho and populated with about 25 million people, while Iran is nearly four times the size of Iraq with approximately 67 million people.26 The American and British forces in neighboring Iraq are likely to be fully preoccupied with Iraqs internal security for the coming years, and without significant augmentation they would be unavailable for a cross-border invasion of Iran. US forces in Pakistan and Afghanistan are much smaller and more suited for special operations that would augment, rather than spearhead, the massive ground force campaign that would be necessitated by Irans sheer geographic size.
American decisionmakers have to weigh political ends against military means as a basis for formulating strategy. The United States now has a significant portion of its total ground forces committed to Iraq and would be hard-pressed to mount a comparable or larger operation simultaneously against Iran. The United States also needs to keep its forces ready to meet contingencies elsewhere in the world, particularly in Asia where potential clashes could emerge on the Korean Peninsula or over Taiwan. The weighing of these concerns, however, would best be done in the minds of policymakers and not shared aloud in the public domain for the ears of Irans clerics.
The domestic Iranian political fallout from American military operations could cut two ways. On one hand, US operations could undermine the regime politically as many Iranians would see them as more evidence that the nature of the regime works to prolong Irans isolation from the world community and its economic stagnation and political retardation. On the other hand, the clerics would seize on the strikes as evidence of a hegemonic American campaign to conquer the Middle East and its oil, and use that perception as justification for repressive domestic security measures to hold onto power. In the final analysis, the United States could have to just wait and see which of these competing forces would prove to be stronger as it vigilantly monitored Irans efforts to reconstitute its infrastructure and made follow-on strikes over a period of years to perpetually kick the can down the road and delay Tehrans acquisition of nuclear weapons.
As has been the case in the war against Iraq, the United States would have to ride out the international political fallout from any military actions
against Iran. At first glance, Russia, China, North Korea, and Pakistan probably would politically protest American unilateralism out of concern over economic losses as a result of attacks on Iranian facilities that those countries are supporting. But then again, from a more cynical view, those states might work to economically exploit the situation and seek additional contracts to rebuild all that the Americans had destroyed. Military operations too would come with a tide of regional outcries against the United States. Many would accuse the United States of the all-too-familiar refrain that Washington holds a double-standard in the region by ignoring Israeli nuclear weapons while taking military actions against Muslim states such as Iraq and Iran, which were seeking to arm themselves to balance Israeli and American nuclear power. As hard as it is for American observers to appreciate, many in the regionofficers, diplomats, officials, as well as the general publicharbor the view that a nuclear-armed Iran could be useful to counterbalance Israeli as well as American nuclear power.
Running Risks with Iranian Nuclear Weapons
And what if these diplomatic and military options were unsuccessful? What could Iran do with nuclear weapons? Would Iranian nuclear weapons pose a profound security challenge for the United States? Or would an Iranian nuclear weapons inventory be manageable for Washington? Could the United States accept Iranian nuclear weapons capabilities, much as Washington has accepted those possessed by Israel, Pakistan, India, and perhaps North Korea?
A grave concern is that Iran could transfer nuclear weapons to non-state actors, because for the past 20 years Tehran has consistently used non-state actors as instruments of statecraft to advance Iranian political interests and objectives. Indeed, the prospects for the transfer of nuclear weapons to non-state actors is greater in the case of Iran than it was for Saddams regime, because Tehran has been much more active than Baghdad had been in the sponsorship of terrorist operations, particularly those orchestrated by Hezbollah, against the United States.27 Jeffrey Goldberg reports in The New Yorker, Hezbollah has an annual budget of more than a hundred million dollars, which is supplied by the Iranian government directly and by a complex system of finance cells scattered around the world.28
Some observers argue that the revolutionary steam has run out of Irans regime and that Iranian sponsorship of terrorist operations against US interests has diminished. Irans complicity and support for the 1996 bombing of Khobar Towers, the American military housing complex in Saudi Arabia, which killed 19 American servicemen, belies arguments that Irans government has tempered its opposition to the United States, however. Former FBI Director Louis Freeh has publicly and directly linked Iran to the Khobar
Towers attack: Over the course of our investigation the evidence became clear that while the attack was staged by Saudi Hezbollah members, the entire operation was planned, funded and coordinated by Irans security services, the IRGC and MOIS [Ministry of Intelligence and Security], acting on orders from the highest levels of the regime in Tehran.29 More recently, Iran has shown an interest in maintaining links to al Qaeda by harboring its operatives, some of whom had fled neighboring Afghanistan and Pakistan in the midst of the October 2001 American military campaign in Afghanistan.30
Some observers are inclined to give the Iranian regime the benefit of the doubt regarding allegations of complicity in the Khobar Towers bombing by arguing that rogue elements or conservative hardliners in the regime, not President Khatami and like-minded supporters in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and parliament, supported the operations. Conclusive evidence to bolster this argument is elusive, but even if it were found to be the case, such a fact would be of little solace to American policymakers and the public coming to terms with the potential dangers posed by Iranian possession of nuclear weapons. Policymakers would have to be concerned that hardliners in the future could control or direct transfers of nuclear weapons even if it were not the consensus policy of the regime. If an American city were to suffer from the detonation of a Hezbollah-planted Iranian nuclear weapon, it would be largely irrelevant whether or not it came about via rogue or mainstream elements of the Tehran government.
Tehran might calculate that a nuclear deterrent would give it more leeway for supporting militants in the Middle East, including Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, and Hamas. The Iranians, even without nuclear weapons, are moving in this policy direction. As Daniel Byman observes in an article in Foreign Affairs, Since the outbreak of the al Aqsa intifada in October 2000, Hezbollah has provided guerrilla training, bomb-building expertise, propaganda, and tactical tips to Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and other anti-Israeli groups.31
Tehran might judge that even if its hand were revealed in supporting terrorist operations via these groups against American interests and partners among the Gulf Arab states, Iranian nuclear weapons would deter military reprisals against Iran. American and Israeli contemplation of retaliatory strikes against Iran would be substantially riskier if Iran had the means to retaliate with nuclear weapons. The Iranian clerics are not well schooled in the ins and outs of the elaborate Western strategic literature formulated during the Cold War. The clerics probably would be more influenced by their Islamic ideological worldviews than by a rational calculation of national interests. As George Perkovich argues, Political leaders like Khamenei and Rafsanjani see nuclear weapons as an almost magical source of national power and autonomy. These men are political clerics, not international strategists or technologists.
They intuit that the bomb will keep all outside powers, including Israel and the US, from thinking they can dictate to Iran or invade it.32 In short, a nuclear-armed Tehran might fear the prospect of American and Israeli nuclear retaliation less than Western strategists would hope.
The Iranians could elect to rely more heavily on integrating nuclear weapons into their war-fighting strategies. They undoubtedly have ingrained into their political and military thinking the premise to never again be caught in a prolonged war of attrition as was the case in the Iran-Iraq War that Tehran ultimately lost. The Iranians might come to view nuclear weapons as useful, or even essential, battlefield instruments for destroying the armed forces of an adversary, particularly those of Iraq. As Gary Sick points out, Irans past use of unconventional hit-and-run speedboat attacks in the Persian Gulf during its war with Iran demonstrate Tehrans willingness to use unconventional, even terrorist, methods to pursue a political and military strategy, even if that meant confronting the United States.33 Along these lines, Tehran might be tempted to harness the threat of nuclear weapons for leverage in the political-military struggle against the United States for power and influence in the Persian Gulf.
Iranian nuclear weapons would give Tehran greater political and military prestige that could translate into leverage over the Arab Gulf states. As Kenneth Pollack warns, Tehran appears to want nuclear weapons principally to deter an American attack. Once it gets them, however, its strategic calculus might change and it might be emboldened to pursue a more aggressive foreign policy.34 The Arab Gulf states would be more vulnerable to Iranian political pressure to reduce security cooperation with the United States, particularly in the event of a regional contingency. Finally, an Iranian nuclear bomb also would increase the already high incentives for Arab states to procure nuclear weapons.
The author is indebted to his Near East-South Asia Center colleagues Ray Takeyh, for his tutelage on Iranian politics, and Danielle Debroux, for her able research assistance. A thanks is also due to Henry Sokolski for comments on an earlier draft as well as for his Nonproliferation Policy Education Centers project on Iran that instigated the authors interest in the topic.
1. Tehrans regular armed forces consist of about 325,000 in the army, 18,000 in the navy, and 52,000 in the air force. It has a parallel force structure in the Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) with about 125,000 soldiers, including about 100,000 ground troops, 20,000 naval, 5,000 marines, and an unknown number in an air force. Tehran also has a paramilitary force, the Popular Mobilization Army or Basij, with about 40,000 active troops. See International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), The Military Balance, 2002-2003 (London: Oxford Univ. Press, 2002), p. 104.
2. In July 2003, the United States issued search warrants and grand jury subpoenas to 18 US companies in a massive raid against illegal export of American-built military components to a London front company for Iran. The front company was procuring components for the Hawk air defense system, F-14, F-4, F-5 combat aircraft, C-130 transport aircraft, and radar as well as other equipment. California police in July 2003 arrested two men trying to export military technologyincluding components for the F-4, F-5, and F-14 aircraft, and Hawk surface-to-air missilesto China. These items are not in the Chinese military inventory, however, but are in the Iranian militarys inventory, strongly suggesting that China is acting as a middle man for Irans clandestine re-
pair parts pipeline. See Christine Hanley, Two Men Tried to Illegally Export Military Parts to China, U.S. Says, Los Angeles Times, 25 July 2003, p. B5.
3. Michael Eisenstadt, Living with a Nuclear Iran? Survival, 41 (Autumn 1999), 140.
4. Anoushiravan Ehteshami, Tehrans Tocsin, in Contemporary Nuclear Debates: Missile Defense, Arms Control, and Arms Races in the Twenty-First Century, ed. Alexander T. J. Lennon (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2002), p. 152.
5. Ray Takeyh, Irans Nuclear Calculations, World Policy Journal, 20 (Summer 2003), 23.
6. See A Survey of Central Asia: At the Crossroads, The Economist, 26 July 2003, p. 3.
7. Alon Ben-David, Iran Successfully Tests Shahab 3, Janes Defence Weekly, 9 July 2003, http://jdw.janes.com/.
8. See Irans Ballistic Missiles: Upgrades Underway, Strategic Comments, 9 (London: IISS, 2003).
9. Douglas Frantz, Iran Closes in on Ability to Build a Nuclear Bomb, Los Angeles Times, 4 August 2003, p. A6.
10. The Iranians developed a chemical warfare program in the 1980s to match Iraqs chemical weapons capabilities demonstrated during the Iran-Iraq War and are suspected of harboring a biological warfare program. This is despite Tehrans signature on the chemical and biological weapons conventions that prohibit such programs. See Joseph Cirincione with John B. Wolfsthal and Miriam Rajkumar, Deadly Arsenals (Washington: The Brookings Institution, for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2002), pp. 255-56.
11. Azadeh Moaveni and Douglas Frantz, Are Irans Nuclear Promises Real? Los Angeles Times, 21 November 2003.
12. Quoted in Nazila Fathi, Iran Says It Has Developed Ability to Fuel Nuclear Plants But Wont Seek Weapons, The New York Times, 10 February 2003, p. A12.
13. David Holley, Iran Sets Its Sights on More Reactors, Los Angeles Times, 3 July 2003, p. A3.
14. Douglas Frantz, Iran Closes in on Ability to Build a Nuclear Bomb, Los Angeles Times, 4 August 2003, p. A7. Heavy water (D2O) is water containing significantly more than the natural proportion . . . of heavy hydrogen (deuterium, D) atoms to ordinary hydrogen atoms. US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/basic-ref/glossary/heavy-water-d2.html.
15. Fissionable: Irans Nuclear Program, The Economist, 14 June 2003, p. 24.
16. Gary Milhollin, The Mullahs and the Bomb, The New York Times, 23 October 2003.
17. Fathi, p. A12.
18. Robert J. Einhorn and Gary Samore, Ending Russian Assistance to Irans Nuclear Bomb, Survival, 44 (Summer 2002), 53.
19. Joby Warrick and Glenn Kessler, Irans Nuclear Program Speeds Ahead, The Washington Post, 10 March 2003, p. A1.
20. Douglas Frantz, Iran Discloses Nuclear Activities, Los Angeles Times, 24 October 2003; and Douglas Frantz, Iran Closes in on Ability to Build a Nuclear Bomb, Los Angeles Times, 4 August 2003, p. A1.
21. Frantz, Iran Closes in on Ability to Build a Nuclear Bomb, p. A7.
22. The author is indebted to Henry Sokolski for these important points.
23. Weapons of Mass Destruction: Europe Spies a Threat, The Economist, 21 June 2003, p. 27.
24. Takeyh, p. 25.
25. Geoffrey Kemp, How to Stop the Iranian Bomb, The National Interest, 72 (Summer 2003), 54.
26. Central Intelligence Agency, World Factbook, http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/iz.html and http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/ir.html.
27. Hezbollah was responsible for the bombing of the US Marine Corps barracks in Beirut in October 1983 that killed 241 marines, the April 1983 bombing of the US Embassy in Beirut that killed 63 people, killed the CIA Beirut station chief in 1985, and killed a US Navy diver on hijacked TWA Flight 847 that landed in Beirut in 1985. For an argument against using Iraqi ties to terrorist groups as a strategic rationale for waging war against Saddam, see Richard L. Russell, War and the Iraq Dilemma: Facing Harsh Realities, Parameters, 32 (Autumn 2002), 47-48.
28. Jeffrey Goldberg, In the Party of God: Are Terrorists in Lebanon Preparing for a Larger War? The New Yorker, 14 October 2002, p. 183.
29. Louis J. Freeh, American Justice for Our Khobar Heroes, The Wall Street Journal, 20 May 2003, p. A18.
30. Peter Finn and Susan Schmidt, Al Qaeda Plans a Front in Iraq, The Washington Post, 7 September 2003, p. A26.
31. Daniel Byman, Should Hezbollah be Next? Foreign Affairs, 82 (November/December 2003), 59.
32. George Perkovich, Dealing with Irans Nuclear Challenge, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 28 April 2003, p. 4.
33. Gary Sick, Iran: Confronting Terrorism, Washington Quarterly, 26 (Autumn 2003), 87.
34. Kenneth M. Pollack, Securing the Gulf, Foreign Affairs, 82 (July/August 2003), 7.
Richard L. Russell is Professor of National Security Affairs at the National Defense Universitys Near East-South Asia Center for Strategic Studies. He also holds appointments at Georgetown University as Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Security Studies Program and Research Associate in the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy.
Reviewed 16 August 2004. Please send comments or corrections to Parameters@carlisle.army.mil
Pacific Rim Bureau (CNSNews.com) - Sen. John Kerry's proposal to offer Iran a "great bargain" to retain its nuclear plants but give up nuclear fuels (which could give it weapons capability) has been questioned by critics who point to a similar Clinton administration initiative that failed to end North Korea's bid to build atomic bombs.
The plan was outlined by Democrat vice-presidential candidate John Edwards in a Washington Post interview earlier this week.
The paper quoted Edwards as saying that if Tehran rejected the proposal, it would effectively be admitting that it is pursuing a goal of nuclear weapons. A Kerry administration would then, in concert with European allies, subject Iran to "heavy sanctions."
Iran is becoming an issue in the presidential campaign at a time when the U.N.'s atomic watchdog is preparing to consider whether it should refer the Islamic republic's nuclear program to the United Nations Security Council.
The 35-member governing board of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will hold a crucial meeting on Iran in Vienna beginning Sept. 13.
Iran denies U.S. charges that it is pursuing nuclear weapons, insisting that its nuclear program -- being built with Russian help -- is a peaceful one designed solely to generate electricity.
A new IAEA report to governing board members says no definitive evidence has been uncovered pointing to a bomb program, but notes that Iran is preparing to refine about 37 tons of "yellowcake" uranium into a form that could, in turn, be processed further and used to make nuclear weapons.
In response, John Bolton, the administration's chief arms control official, said in a statement Wednesday that Iran's actions showed how urgent it was that the Security Council considers the matter.
Bolton believes the time to report Iran's nuclear program to the Security Council is long overdue.
"To fail to do so would risk sending a signal to would-be proliferators that there are not serious consequences for pursuing secret nuclear weapons programs," he said in a recent speech at the Hudson Institute.
The Security Council could in theory vote on sanctions, although widely-predicted opposition by Russia, for one, makes that highly unlikely.
In his Washington Post interview, Edwards criticized President Bush's policies, arguing that Iran was closer to nuclear weapons capability now than it had been when he took office.
He said the administration had abdicated responsibility for the Iranian threat to the Europeans -- a reference to efforts by Britain, France and Germany to get Iran to end its nuclear-enrichment program. Tehran reached an agreement with the EU trio last October, but has since renounced it, saying it reserves the right to enrich uranium.
The "great bargain" proposal outlined by Edwards appears to mirror the Clinton administration's Agreed Framework, a 1994 initiative which sought to end North Korea's nuclear weapons ambitions.
Under that agreement, North Korea agreed to freeze its nuclear program in return for U.S. fuel aid and the provision by the U.S. and its Northeast Asian allies of alternative, civilian reactors for power supply purposes.
But in Oct. 2002, it emerged that Pyongyang had reneged on the deal by carrying out a covert uranium-enrichment program. When confronted with evidence, the North Koreans admitted to the violation, according to the State Department.
The Agreed Framework quickly unraveled: The U.S. and allies suspended fuel aid shipments and work on the civilian reactors; North Korea kicked out U.N. inspectors from nuclear facilities frozen under the 1994 deal and restarted a mothballed reactor.
Pyongyang then withdrew from the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), and later claimed to have reprocessed a stockpile of spent fuel rods - a step experts warned could provide sufficient material to build half a dozen nuclear bombs.
Three rounds of six-party talks have so far failed to resolve the North Korean crisis.
In the view of American Enterprise Institute resident fellow Tom Donnelly "the Kerry team has apparently learned nothing from the disastrous [Agreed Framework] deal."
"In that earlier 'bargain,' North Korea promised to halt work on nuclear weapons in return for American assistance with 'peaceful' nuclear programs," Donnelly wrote in an item posted on the AEI website.
"We now know that the North Korean government lied all along and used the agreement to proceed with its nuclear weapons programs."
Donnelly said the proposal was in line with the Democrat candidate's "generally soft approach to dangerous regimes like the one in Tehran," and recalled Kerry's assertion earlier this year that he sought a "non-confrontational" approach toward Iran.
Center for Security Policy president Frank J. Gaffney also noted that a deal like the one being touted by Kerry and Edwards had "failed abysmally" to end North Korea's nuclear weapons program.
"Based on what is known about Iran's program and intentions - let alone its history of animus towards us - only the recklessly naive could still believe that such a deal is necessary to divine the mullahs' true purposes," Gaffney said in a decision brief.
"While it may be inconvenient to say so, Iran is clearly putting into place a complete nuclear fuel cycle so as to obtain both weapons and power from its reactor and enrichment facilities."
EU: Patten Says Iran Entails One Of His 'Biggest Regrets'
Brussels, 2 September 2004 (RFE/RL) -- Patten used one of his last major public appearances to sharply criticize Iran for worsening relations with the West.
Speaking in Brussels yesterday, Patten said Iran's lack of progress on a number of issues was one of the "biggest regrets" of his five years as commissioner.
Patten said the EU has long recognized Iran's great potential.
"Iran is a hugely important country regionally, and I think globally," he said. "[It is] the greatest pre-Islamic civilization in the region, a country with an exciting culture, a country terribly young -- 600,000 or 700,000 youngsters coming onto the job market every year. [It is] a country where, in my view, demography is unshakably on the same side as democracy."
But, he said, although the EU has tried very hard to bring Iran "out of the cold" and give it a larger -- and more "responsible" -- international role, Tehran has chosen to spurn the offer.
Patten said the EU has established what he called an "umbilical relationship" between trade concessions on the EU side, and social and political reforms -- and guarantees that nuclear power will be limited to civil purposes -- on the Iranian side.
Iran, he noted, has failed to honor its end of the bargain: "I'm sorry that that policy has gone backwards. As [a member of the European Parliament pointed out earlier], we've seen reverses, deeply concerning reverses in the human rights area. There have been one or two things that have gotten better -- for instance, the acceptance from time to time of visits by UN rapporteurs. But by and large, I'm pretty depressed by the lack of progress. And, of course, it doesn't make it easier that now, when we try to discuss human rights issues with Iranian officials, we have issues like Abu Ghurayb [prison abuse] shoved in our faces."
Patten went on to observe that pictures of U.S. troops abusing Iraqi prisoners had done considerable damage to the EU ideal of global human liberties.
Patten then asked rhetorically: "What should we [the West] do?"
Iran's deteriorating human rights record and other tensions with international law notwithstanding, Patten argued for continued engagement. Again, he made a barbed reference to the present U.S. administration.
"Do we simply walk away? Do we -- as one or two American spokesmen have suggested recently -- seek to isolate Iran and hope that sooner or later the Iranians will come to their senses? Well, that may give some people a warm glow, particularly during an election campaign," Patten said. "But I'm not sure that it can masquerade as a long-term policy."
Patten's indicated the EU is still offering Iran the same bargain as two years ago, when the twin-track dialogue on trade and political issues started: "I think that we do have to say to the Iranians that if they can satisfy the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] on nuclear issues, we are prepared to try to involve them to a greater extent internationally."
Patten said he hopes the United States can be brought to agree with the EU view, too.
Patten summarized his thoughts on Iran, saying that in the end, he believes that progress in the right direction is "inevitable."
Thu Sep 2, 9:56 AM ET
VIENNA (AFP) - The United States faces an uphill battle in getting the UN nuclear watchdog to push for sanctions against Iran since diplomats at the IAEA believe there is not enough proof the Islamic nation poses an nuclear threat.
A confidential report Wednesday by the UN watchdog International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) failed to provide the United States with the convincing evidence it needs, although Iran is readying to start a crucial part of the nuclear fuel cycle that could eventually be used in the production of atomic bombs, diplomats and analysts said.
"There doesn't seem to be a hook that could drag Iran before the Security Council," non-proliferation expert Joseph Cirincione said Wednesday about the IAEA report, a copy of which was obtained by AFP.
A diplomat to the Vienna-based IAEA, which is to review the Iranian nuclear program on September 13, went further saying: "I don't see how the United States can claim to take the issue to the Security Council (for possible sanctions against Iran)" since the report is "prudently positive for Iran," as it says Iran has answered key questions concerning enrichment by lasers and uranium conversion.
The United States has tried in six meetings of the IAEA board of governor since March 2003 to get the Iran dossier taken to the Security Council but faces oppositions from European states, mainly Britain, France and Germany, which favor a policy of constructive engagement to get Tehran to cooperate with the IAEA.
He declined to comment specifically on the new IAEA report, but said the United States was convinced Iran was using its civilian atomic energy program to hide the development of nuclear weapons and that the matter should be sent to the United Nations (news - web sites).
"That will be our position going into the discussions on September 13 when the board meets," Powell told reporters on his plane, en route back from a brief visit to Panama.
"Whether there is a consensus to do that now remains to be seen, but we think we've seen enough, the world should have seen enough over the last year to come to the conclusion that it's time for it to be referred to the Security Council," he said.
Powell said US diplomats would begin lobbying IAEA members to support that position on Thursday, but allowed that some would likely argue in favor of putting off a UN referral until the board's next meeting in November.
The US administration's top arms control official, undersecretary of state John Bolton, said Washington viewed "with great concern the IAEA report" that Iran will resume large-scale production of uranium hexafluoride, the feed material for enriching uranium.
And a state department official who asked not to be named told AFP there were grounds for taking Iran to the Security Council since the Iranians were showing "a clear and compelling pattern of intent to get enrichment capabilities so that they can make fissile material for weapons."
He said the IAEA had in previous reports already shown "compelling proof of 18 years of Iranian violations" of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
A senior diplomat close to the IAEA said Iran's upcoming production of uranium hexafluoride would produce a "significant amount" of the gas, an amount that would apparently be enough to use centrifuges to make enriched uranium that could produce at least one if not several atom bombs.
Iran had pledged to Britain, France and Germany last October to suspend uranium enrichment, despite enrichment being allowed under the NPT, in order to show the world community that its atomic intentions were strictly peaceful.
But in June, Iran said it would resume assembling and testing centrifuges since the so-called Euro-3 had failed to come through on a promise to get the IAEA to stop investigating Iran's nuclear programme.
Does Iran already have nuclear weapons? Is it on the verge of acquiring them? Will the U.S. have to initiate regime change unilaterally? To discuss these and other questions with us today, Frontpage Symposium has assembled a distinguished panel: Jed Babbin, the former deputy undersecretary of defense in the administration of President George H. W. Bush. A contributing editor of The American Spectator Magazine and a contributor to National Review Online, he is the author of the new book Inside the Asylum: Why the United Nations and Old Europe Are Worse Than You Think; John Loftus, a former Justice Department prosecutor with code word clearances whose 1982 expose of Nazis working for western intelligence won the Emmy Award for Mike Wallace. He is the author of several books on the Middle East and the director of INTELCON.US, the upcoming National Intelligence Conference and Exposition. At 10:30 every weeknight, the Loftus Report is a featured segment of ABC national radio, and Fox Television's "Inside Scoop with John Loftus" airs at 11 am Sundays. His website is John-Loftus.com; and Reza Bayegan, a commentator on Iranian politics who was born in Iran and currently works for the British Council in Paris. His weekly columns appear on many publications including Iran va Jahan website. He is a regular guest on exile Iranian radio shows. FP: Jed Babbin, John Loftus and Reza Bayegan, welcome to Frontpage Symposium. Mr. Bayegan let me begin with you. What exactly is the threat we face? Does Iran already have WMDs? Or is it on the verge of having them? What is the threat here? Bayegan: The Islamic Republic already has stockpiles of chemical weapons and has told the EU three (Britain, Germany and France) 'that it could possess nuclear weapons within three years. The real time limit the mullahs need to obtain a nuclear bomb however is less than 11 months. The danger we face from the regime in Tehran acquiring the nuclear bomb cannot be exaggerated. Our democratic values and the very survival of Western civilization are at stake. In particular such an eventuality would be the worst nightmare scenario for the state of Israel and an unprecedented blow to peace and liberty throughout the world. Since September 11, we have seen how terrorists are able to strike anywhere they choose and hijack Western democratic processes by intimidating the public as they did during the recent Spanish election. With a nuclear bomb at their disposal they can do this without risking their own lives and by pushing -- or just threatening to push -- a button. In other words, the dictators in Tehran gaining weapons of mass destruction would impose the same or worse state of terror on the rest of the world as they have imposed on the Iranian people for the last quarter of a century. Babbin: I agree that Iran is, by far, the most dangerous terrorist nation. Their nuclear ambitions and their unarguable involvement in global terrorism make them our number one problem. The threat from Iran is threefold:  they are supporters of the conventional terrorists such as Hizballah, al-Queda and many others that have American blood on their hands.  they are funding, supplying and operating the al-Sadr insurgents in Iraq. The Iranian regime has decided to make a stand against democracy in Iraq, and we must find a way to end their interference or Iraq will never be free or stable.  their nuclear ambitions are close to being achieved. If they are, the whole Middle East and even parts of Europe will be threatened, as will American interests everywhere. We should be pursuing regime change in Iran now, through covert operations, support for Iranian opposition groups (such as the Mujahideen e Khalq, which we wrongly labeled a terrorist group at Tehran's request) and by preparing what may be an inevitable military strike against their nuclear program. FP: Mr. Loftus, what do you make of the two gentlemens comments? Loftus: If anything, they understate the threat. Let us put Iran's nuclear development in context. During the 1990's the Peoples Liberation Army of China made a strategic decision to trade the components of the Islamic Bomb in return for greater access to Arab oil, necessary for China's growth. The PLA used its proxy state, North Korea, to carry out the nuclear proliferation deal. Iranian nuclear engineers were frequently observed flying to North Korea and Pakistan. The Pakistani government has refused to cooperate with the IAEA's investigation of Iran. Access to uranium stain samples has been denied. This denial is critical for the IAEA to prove that Iran has its own nuclear track, which cannot be explained by the nuclear stains found on the Pakistani centrifuges. Without the Pakistani evidence, the IAEA is denied the smoking gun to prove that Iran is still lying about its nuclear program. Mr. Loftus do you agree? And so what do? Do we wait for the U.N. to take action or is the U.S. gonna have to do something drastic unilaterally? Loftus: I think the whole mess is about to erupt this fall. My bet: after the U.S. elections are over. FP: You want to expand a bit? Loftus: Not yet. October surprises come in October. FP: Ok then. Well well talk in November about this with you then. Mr. Bayegan, your view on the U.S. supporting Iran's opposition? Bayegan: I agree with Mr. Babbin that Iranian opposition groups should be supported. I would like however to put in a caveat here about groups such as Mujahedin e Khalgh. This group is abhorred by the majority of Iranians for its opportunistic stance during the Iran-Iraq war and its ideological hodgepodge of Islamic Marxism. The track record of the group as far as ethical and moral integrity is concerned is also quite bleak. It has been in cahoots with Saddam Hussein, the PLO and many other brutal terrorist organizations around the globe. If there is a group with a more shattered popular base than the mullahs it is the Mujahedin e Khalgh. Having said that, one cannot deny that they have high organizational and disciplinary skills which could be useful for overthrowing the mullahs. If support is to be provided to this group and similar organizations it should be made conditional on their acceptance of democratic principles and civilized political norms. Iranians have no affinity for Marxism or Islamic obscurantism dished out by the mullahs for the past twenty-five years, but can feel at home in their ancient traditions of respect for human rights and tolerance. Reza Pahlavi, the son of the late Shah of Iran who lives in exile in the U.S., is the only Iranian political figure whose voice rings true for Iranians. His political agenda of separation of Mosque and state (see his book Winds of Change) and his crusade for holding a national referendum to let Iranians freely decide about their national future (a Republic, Monarchy, etc.) is the most solid ground for bringing about political transformation in Iran. His campaign, which is the only force that can unite all Iranians, should be supported with our wholehearted effort and the maximum commitment the democratic world can muster. FP: Mr. Babbin, what do you make of Mr. Bayegan's emphasis on democratic principles as an ingredient for U.S. support of Iranian opposition groups? Babbin: Mr. Bayegan takes this as a sort of academic exercise. I don't want us to condition our support of Iranian opposition groups on some ephemeral affirmation of democratic principals and "civilized political norms" -- whatever that means. We can, and should, choose to support those groups that are proving that they are neither Islamic jihadists nor terrorists of any other stripe, and those which demonstrate their commitment to democracy by agreeing -- now, not later -- to some sort of provisional government for Iran when the mullahs are removed. To do this, we need what we failed to establish in Iraq: a government in exile, governed by an agreed-on draft constitution that contains provision for basic rights and provides for free elections within a year of the mullahs' fall. We should be proclaiming -- long, hard and continuously -- that regime change in Tehran is our policy, and using every other means we can to increase the pressure on the mullahs, short of military action at this time. Military action may be needed as early as next year if the situation doesn't change dramatically. I think the MEK is imperfect; maybe it has fewer adherents than other groups. But for us -- or for anyone such as Mr. Bayegan -- to say that no one other than their pal (in his case, the late shah's son) has allegiance of the Iranian people is simply silly. No one -- not the MEK, not Reza Pahlavi, no one - has allegiance among the people of Iran. They have been enslaved for 25 years by the mullahs. I hate to say it, but proclaiming Reza Pahlavi the only accepted voice that "rings true for Iranians" is the same sort of claim we heard from the INC three years ago about Ahmed Chalabi. It wasn't true about Chalabi then, and I don't expect it's true now of Mr. Pahlavi. The Iranian people will decide for themselves in due course. Anyone who claims his guy is the ONLY guy to trust now diminishes his own credibility enormously. Having said that, I see no reason to not support Mr. Pahlavi or to not rearm and reactivate the MEK. There likely are other groups that can also be activated, supplied and encouraged. The issue, I say emphatically, is not to pick the next government of Iran now. The issue is to ensure that we place enough pressure on the current kakistocracy in Iran to prevent them from obtaining -- by development or purchase -- nuclear weapons. Whether we do it perfectly or not isn't the issue. Results count here, and although there are lines we can't and shouldn't cross, I'm not too picky on how we reach that goal. I think Mr. Loftus has it right, or at least mostly. The Iranian nuclear issue will be on the front burner by early next year. In the UN we hope -- faint hope that it is -- that the IAEA will do what it is promising now, and report the Iranian nuclear program to the Security Council as a violation of international law and treaty. But to expect the Security Council to do anything serious about Iran is to hope too much. Iran is backed at least by Russia and France (both veto-holding permanent members) and other Security Council members such as Algeria, which like Iran is a supporter of terrorists. We lack the votes to get the Security Council to do anything that will prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power. Having said that, we must plan for the next steps to be taken, because they will need to be accomplished before the end of 2005. By then, if not sooner, Iran will have possession of, and/or the ability to manufacture, nuclear weapons. (I should note that more than one source has told me that Iran already has three nuclear weapons it has bought on the black market). We will not have to act unilaterally. Other nations -- especially including Israel -- see Iran as an existential threat. Iraq, though not yet able to defend itself against the Iranian-funded insurgency of Moqtada al-Sadr, has an equal stake in preventing a nuclear Iran. So do all those nations -- from Turkey to Britain - who will soon be in range of Iranian missiles. The UN will fail with respect to Iran just as it has failed in every other challenge in the war on terrorists and the nations that support them. We won't act alone. But we will have to act militarily, and soon. Loftus:
With or without WMDs, the danger the clerical regime poses is far greater than the other members of the 'axis of evil' i.e. Iraq during Saddam Hussein and North Korea. This danger is rooted in a ruthless anti-Western ideology that manipulates the religious belief of the masses and justifies any means for reaching its deadly objectives. If the mullahs get their hands on a nuclear bomb we might as well assume that Hamas and other terrorist organizations have access to it also.
On August 15 2004, the military chief of the Islamic Republic declared that the entire Zionist territory 'is within the range of Iran's new advanced ballistic missiles'. The mullahs are counting the days until they can arm these missiles with nuclear or biological warheads. Experts believe that although due to their inherent inaccuracy the Iranian Shahb-3 and the planned for Shahab-4 missiles make no military sense if armed with conventional warheads, they can become immensely effective as terror weapons against civilian targets.
FP: Mr. Babbin, what Mr. Bayegan is describing here is terrifying. Do you agree that the danger the clerical regime poses is far greater than the other members of the Axis of Evil?What is your view of this threat? Are we going to have to pursue regime change asap?
For short term diplomatic reasons, the US is going along with the fiction that the A.Q. Khan network in Pakistan was merely a private criminal enterprise. Supposedly, this "private" network arranged to provide North Korean missiles to the Pakistan army in exchange for advanced nuclear centrifuges. Several of these P-2 centrifuges were discovered in Iran by the IAEA inspectors.
At some point, the Bush administration will have to stop sitting on its intelligence evidence if it wants to make its case to the UN that the Iran-North Korean-Chinese partnership is the single greatest threat to world peace.
FP: Thanks Mr. Loftus. This is very terrifying because what exactly can we really do about this? Make a case to the U.N.? This is a joke. Whats the U.N. gonna do? Its pretty evident by now, isnt it, that the U.N. is a body that works against the interests of the U.S., democracy and freedom? The U.N. should have acted on this long ago.
I would like to give the highest emphasis here to the fact that we cannot achieve a sustainable democratic transformation in Iran without the trust and blessing of the Iranian public. We have to use all possible means to isolate the regime and at the same time never for a minute lose sight of the legitimate aspirations of the Iranian people for peace, national dignity and democracy. This can be done by encouraging Iranian political groups to come together under the umbrella of calling for a free and democratic national referendum.
Regarding Jamie's remark about the UN, I would like to say that the United Nations, IAEA and for that matter efforts of the three European powers to coax Iran to convert to a trustworthy regime and keep its nuclear program peaceful will not work because the mullahs policy of acquiring nuclear bomb is part of an overall strategy to defeat Western democratic values and annihilate the state of Israel. It is a betrayal of peace and human liberty to make concessions to a government which will use any possible means to secure its deadly objectives. The weakening and disintegration of the clerical regime can be achieved by concerted international effort and application of the highest possible pressure in all fields.
Short term: IAEA wants (secretly) to refer Iran to the UN for sanctions but lacks the smoking gun. Libya, Pakistan, North Korea or China could easily incriminate Iran, but that would mean outing the entire Arab nuclear game, There are lots of guilty parties: Saudi funding, Egyptian support, Syrian centrifuges, Iraqi nuclear scientists working in Libya, etc. There are a lot of threads to pull apart the tapestry of the Iranian nuclear cover-up.
BUT even if the smoking gun emerges, the big obstacle is the price of oil. Europe imports 90% of its oil from the Arabian peninsula. Arab sanctions are the ones with real teeth. A US naval blockade could easily shut Iran's economy in weeks or months, but in the interim oil prices would skyrocket to $100 per barrel. The US can sit out the price hike with our petroleum reserves, Europe cannot.
Bottom line: if we are to go against Iran, we go alone as usual. My intel friends tell me that the new oddly shaped warhead on the Shahab 3d missile is an exact duplicate of the North Korean nuclear warhead. I think Iran already has one to four nuclear weapons, and is prepared to obliterate Israel in response to any blockade or pre-emptive strike. I see little consensus for a short term strategy to blockade Iran, let alone to launch a primitive attack.
The middle term goal: to stop Iranian support for terrorism. Here there is some hope. The Iraqis have caught Iran by the short hairs in funding Sadr's rebellion. The Iranian Consul General in Karbala has been kidnapped by "unknown forces" and has been talking like a waterfall. The Iranian spies disguised ad journalists and chamber of commerce types have been rounded up. The confessions have been videotaped, the secret codes broken. The new Iraqi government has grounds to say that Iran has declared war, and to call on the Arab states to issue their own sanctions. This has a glimmer of hope. Iran's weak points are its European dependent trade economy, and its fear of geopolitical isolation. They can be hit in the pocketbook. If the Arabs insist, Europe will follow.
Long term: Wait them out. It took 70 years, but the Soviet Union crumbled without a nuclear war. It wont take anywhere near that long for Iran. Iran has a fragile economy, with massive unemployment among the young urban populations. The Mullahs will be swallowed by their own demographics within a decade. Instead of funding the MEK or SAVAK or yet another Shah, let the American Persian community increase their highly effective TV and radio broadcasts to Iran. 75% of the Iranian population is under 25, and they hate the Mullahs with a passion.
These three strategies are not inconsistent. If the Arab states want to avoid exposure for their criminal conspiracy to develop the Islamic Bomb, then the price is Iran. If the Arabs isolate the Persians in punishment for their attack on Iraq, then the Europeans may execute a volte face rather than risk an Arab boycott. Some oil is better than none. Let the deal making begin. We have 36 months before Iran can manufacture an indigenous nuclear stockpile. After that point, they could defeat America.
Does Iran already have nuclear weapons? Is it on the verge of acquiring them? Will the U.S. have to initiate regime change unilaterally?
To discuss these and other questions with us today, Frontpage Symposium has assembled a distinguished panel:
Jed Babbin, the former deputy undersecretary of defense in the administration of President George H. W. Bush. A contributing editor of The American Spectator Magazine and a contributor to National Review Online, he is the author of the new book Inside the Asylum: Why the United Nations and Old Europe Are Worse Than You Think;
John Loftus, a former Justice Department prosecutor with code word clearances whose 1982 expose of Nazis working for western intelligence won the Emmy Award for Mike Wallace. He is the author of several books on the Middle East and the director of INTELCON.US, the upcoming National Intelligence Conference and Exposition. At 10:30 every weeknight, the Loftus Report is a featured segment of ABC national radio, and Fox Television's "Inside Scoop with John Loftus" airs at 11 am Sundays. His website is John-Loftus.com;
Reza Bayegan, a commentator on Iranian politics who was born in Iran and currently works for the British Council in Paris. His weekly columns appear on many publications including Iran va Jahan website. He is a regular guest on exile Iranian radio shows.
FP: Jed Babbin, John Loftus and Reza Bayegan, welcome to Frontpage Symposium.
Mr. Bayegan let me begin with you. What exactly is the threat we face? Does Iran already have WMDs? Or is it on the verge of having them? What is the threat here?
Bayegan: The Islamic Republic already has stockpiles of chemical weapons and has told the EU three (Britain, Germany and France) 'that it could possess nuclear weapons within three years. The real time limit the mullahs need to obtain a nuclear bomb however is less than 11 months.
The danger we face from the regime in Tehran acquiring the nuclear bomb cannot be exaggerated. Our democratic values and the very survival of Western civilization are at stake. In particular such an eventuality would be the worst nightmare scenario for the state of Israel and an unprecedented blow to peace and liberty throughout the world.
Since September 11, we have seen how terrorists are able to strike anywhere they choose and hijack Western democratic processes by intimidating the public as they did during the recent Spanish election. With a nuclear bomb at their disposal they can do this without risking their own lives and by pushing -- or just threatening to push -- a button.
In other words, the dictators in Tehran gaining weapons of mass destruction would impose the same or worse state of terror on the rest of the world as they have imposed on the Iranian people for the last quarter of a century.
Babbin: I agree that Iran is, by far, the most dangerous terrorist nation. Their nuclear ambitions and their unarguable involvement in global terrorism make them our number one problem. The threat from Iran is threefold:
 they are supporters of the conventional terrorists such as Hizballah, al-Queda and many others that have American blood on their hands.
 they are funding, supplying and operating the al-Sadr insurgents in Iraq. The Iranian regime has decided to make a stand against democracy in Iraq, and we must find a way to end their interference or Iraq will never be free or stable.
 their nuclear ambitions are close to being achieved. If they are, the whole Middle East and even parts of Europe will be threatened, as will American interests everywhere.
We should be pursuing regime change in Iran now, through covert operations, support for Iranian opposition groups (such as the Mujahideen e Khalq, which we wrongly labeled a terrorist group at Tehran's request) and by preparing what may be an inevitable military strike against their nuclear program.
FP: Mr. Loftus, what do you make of the two gentlemens comments?
Loftus: If anything, they understate the threat. Let us put Iran's nuclear development in context. During the 1990's the Peoples Liberation Army of China made a strategic decision to trade the components of the Islamic Bomb in return for greater access to Arab oil, necessary for China's growth.
The PLA used its proxy state, North Korea, to carry out the nuclear proliferation deal. Iranian nuclear engineers were frequently observed flying to North Korea and Pakistan.
The Pakistani government has refused to cooperate with the IAEA's investigation of Iran. Access to uranium stain samples has been denied. This denial is critical for the IAEA to prove that Iran has its own nuclear track, which cannot be explained by the nuclear stains found on the Pakistani centrifuges. Without the Pakistani evidence, the IAEA is denied the smoking gun to prove that Iran is still lying about its nuclear program.
Mr. Loftus do you agree? And so what do? Do we wait for the U.N. to take action or is the U.S. gonna have to do something drastic unilaterally?
Loftus: I think the whole mess is about to erupt this fall. My bet: after the U.S. elections are over.
FP: You want to expand a bit?
Loftus: Not yet. October surprises come in October.
FP: Ok then. Well well talk in November about this with you then. Mr. Bayegan, your view on the U.S. supporting Iran's opposition?
Bayegan: I agree with Mr. Babbin that Iranian opposition groups should be supported. I would like however to put in a caveat here about groups such as Mujahedin e Khalgh. This group is abhorred by the majority of Iranians for its opportunistic stance during the Iran-Iraq war and its ideological hodgepodge of Islamic Marxism. The track record of the group as far as ethical and moral integrity is concerned is also quite bleak. It has been in cahoots with Saddam Hussein, the PLO and many other brutal terrorist organizations around the globe.
If there is a group with a more shattered popular base than the mullahs it is the Mujahedin e Khalgh. Having said that, one cannot deny that they have high organizational and disciplinary skills which could be useful for overthrowing the mullahs. If support is to be provided to this group and similar organizations it should be made conditional on their acceptance of democratic principles and civilized political norms.
Iranians have no affinity for Marxism or Islamic obscurantism dished out by the mullahs for the past twenty-five years, but can feel at home in their ancient traditions of respect for human rights and tolerance. Reza Pahlavi, the son of the late Shah of Iran who lives in exile in the U.S., is the only Iranian political figure whose voice rings true for Iranians. His political agenda of separation of Mosque and state (see his book Winds of Change) and his crusade for holding a national referendum to let Iranians freely decide about their national future (a Republic, Monarchy, etc.) is the most solid ground for bringing about political transformation in Iran. His campaign, which is the only force that can unite all Iranians, should be supported with our wholehearted effort and the maximum commitment the democratic world can muster.
FP: Mr. Babbin, what do you make of Mr. Bayegan's emphasis on democratic principles as an ingredient for U.S. support of Iranian opposition groups?
Babbin: Mr. Bayegan takes this as a sort of academic exercise. I don't want us to condition our support of Iranian opposition groups on some ephemeral affirmation of democratic principals and "civilized political norms" -- whatever that means. We can, and should, choose to support those groups that are proving that they are neither Islamic jihadists nor terrorists of any other stripe, and those which demonstrate their commitment to democracy by agreeing -- now, not later -- to some sort of provisional government for Iran when the mullahs are removed.
To do this, we need what we failed to establish in Iraq: a government in exile, governed by an agreed-on draft constitution that contains provision for basic rights and provides for free elections within a year of the mullahs' fall. We should be proclaiming -- long, hard and continuously -- that regime change in Tehran is our policy, and using every other means we can to increase the pressure on the mullahs, short of military action at this time. Military action may be needed as early as next year if the situation doesn't change dramatically.
I think the MEK is imperfect; maybe it has fewer adherents than other groups. But for us -- or for anyone such as Mr. Bayegan -- to say that no one other than their pal (in his case, the late shah's son) has allegiance of the Iranian people is simply silly. No one -- not the MEK, not Reza Pahlavi, no one - has allegiance among the people of Iran. They have been enslaved for 25 years by the mullahs. I hate to say it, but proclaiming Reza Pahlavi the only accepted voice that "rings true for Iranians" is the same sort of claim we heard from the INC three years ago about Ahmed Chalabi. It wasn't true about Chalabi then, and I don't expect it's true now of Mr. Pahlavi. The Iranian people will decide for themselves in due course. Anyone who claims his guy is the ONLY guy to trust now diminishes his own credibility enormously.
Having said that, I see no reason to not support Mr. Pahlavi or to not rearm and reactivate the MEK. There likely are other groups that can also be activated, supplied and encouraged. The issue, I say emphatically, is not to pick the next government of Iran now. The issue is to ensure that we place enough pressure on the current kakistocracy in Iran to prevent them from obtaining -- by development or purchase -- nuclear weapons. Whether we do it perfectly or not isn't the issue. Results count here, and although there are lines we can't and shouldn't cross, I'm not too picky on how we reach that goal.
I think Mr. Loftus has it right, or at least mostly. The Iranian nuclear issue will be on the front burner by early next year. In the UN we hope -- faint hope that it is -- that the IAEA will do what it is promising now, and report the Iranian nuclear program to the Security Council as a violation of international law and treaty. But to expect the Security Council to do anything serious about Iran is to hope too much. Iran is backed at least by Russia and France (both veto-holding permanent members) and other Security Council members such as Algeria, which like Iran is a supporter of terrorists. We lack the votes to get the Security Council to do anything that will prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power.
Having said that, we must plan for the next steps to be taken, because they will need to be accomplished before the end of 2005. By then, if not sooner, Iran will have possession of, and/or the ability to manufacture, nuclear weapons. (I should note that more than one source has told me that Iran already has three nuclear weapons it has bought on the black market). We will not have to act unilaterally. Other nations -- especially including Israel -- see Iran as an existential threat. Iraq, though not yet able to defend itself against the Iranian-funded insurgency of Moqtada al-Sadr, has an equal stake in preventing a nuclear Iran. So do all those nations -- from Turkey to Britain - who will soon be in range of Iranian missiles. The UN will fail with respect to Iran just as it has failed in every other challenge in the war on terrorists and the nations that support them. We won't act alone. But we will have to act militarily, and soon. Loftus:The short term goal is to prevent Iran from having nuclear weapons, the medium term goal is to stop its funding of terrorism, the long term goal is regime change. Lets take them in order:
Bayegan: What Mr.Babbin calls an academic exercise, I call doing one's homework before a headlong plunge into another quagmire in the Middle East. I am surprised at that "whatever that means" cynical tone Mr. Babbin uses to refer to "democratic principles" and "civilized political norms". For thousands of Iranians who have been subject to torture, humiliation and murder by religious tyrants for the past quarter of a century, those values are of infinite and invaluable importance.
Mr. Babbin speaks in the same breath of support for Mr. Pahlavi and re-arming/reactivating MKO. The problem with that argument is that unlike MKO, Reza Pahlavi is advocating a non-violent resistance to the Mullahs and calls for the toppling of the clerical regime through civil disobedience, economic sanctions and political isolation. Mr. Pahlavi has never once promoted a military attack on Iranian soil. Accordingly, any comparison made between him and the leaders of Iraqi National Congress is jejune or outright calumnious. Those Iranians who are supporting his campaign are doing so for his peaceful and democratic approach, and not because they are his pal as Mr. Babbin is suggesting about myself.
I reiterate here that the non-violent political solution and the call for a national referendum are the ONLY acceptable means of a regime change for the majority of Iranians. That is why Americans like Mr. Babbin do well to cultivate the capacity of listening to the Iranian people and spending time to study their true sentiments and aspirations.
For instance, does Mr. Babbin have any idea that his argument that "we have to act militarily and soon" cannot be received with anything except utter repugnance by Iranians and credible leaders of the Iranian opposition? No Iranian opposition leader worth his salt is suggesting (As Ahmed Chalabi did) that the invading armies will be greeted with flowers in the streets of Tehran. An Iraqi style invasion of Iran is what the mullahs need to rally Iranians behind them and further delay the collapse of their hated theocracy.
I agree with Mr. Loftus that Iranians do not need any funding to liberate their country. He also points out an important factor against the survival of the clerical regime when he remarks that "75 percent of the Iranian population is under 25, and they hate the Mullahs with a passion".
This passion is a noble human resistance to oppression and tyranny. It is a laudable, moral fervor that deserves the support and solidarity of every member of international community.
What is toted by the Kerry camp as the 'grand bargain' to dissuade the Islamic Republic from moving towards its WMD objectives is a prime example of a betrayal of the hope and aspirations of Iranian people.
As a matter of fact, the regime in Tehran which felt extremely vulnerable after the ouster of Saddam Hussein has been using the nuclear card to win concessions from the West and continue its reign of terror with impunity. John Edwards' recent overture to Iran that amounts to showering the mullahs with presents and offering them a list of incentives shows that the Democrats have not learned anything from their past mistakes. The war on terror cannot be won as long as the clerical regime continues to rule Iran. The Democrats paid the price of their vacillating policies towards the Mullahs during the presidency of Jimmy Carter. A future President John Kerry cannot expect to fare any better.
Babbin: Before Mr. Bayegan can accuse me of calumniating, he must first prove his assertion that Reza Pahlavi is the anointed future leader of a moderate Iran. That he has not even attempted to do. I repeat: he sounds almost exactly the same as those who asserted that Iraqis would flock around Chalabi as their accepted leader. Having not been in Iran in twenty-five years, Mr. Pahlavi has to prove to have a large and democratically-oriented following before his advocates are taken seriously. That he patently cannot. I have met Mr. Pahlavi, and find him a highly intelligent and engaging man. I have read one of his books, and believe that he is inclined to a new, free and democratic Iran. But that is not enough. Mr. Bayegan's assertions may prove true. I hope they do. But his assertions are merely that: unsupported and not yet susceptible of being taken seriously.
Mr. Bayegan also accuses me of cynicism. He confuses cynicism with realism. I think that those -- such as he -- who ask us to choose between Iranian opposition groups merely on their say so -- have a lot to learn about America. We are learning as we go in this war, and we have learned in Iraq to not believe unsubstantiated claims of broad support by those who aren't in-country. Am I suggesting a "headlong plunge" into the Middle East? My dear chap, the Middle East has taken a headlong plunge into America. We are responding, and not in kind.
We must remove the regime of the mullahs in Tehran. We can and should do so. We have no quarrel with the people of Iran but -- and this is the biggest "but" in the world today -- we must remove that regime soon, on our time table, with or without the acceptance by the Iranian people of the time or means we choose. If they disagree, they should take their grievances out on the repressive regime that holds them in thrall and seeks to do the same with the rest of the world. Mr. Bayegan and others don't have standing to argue with us about how we do what we must do. Our ONLY obligation is to remove the threat of the central terrorist regime in the world in as humane a way as we can.
We wish no harm to the Iranian people, and hope that they will understand that we cannot await their blessing before we act. Mr. Bayegan seems to be saying that we are under some obligation to ourselves, our posterity, or to the Iranians to wait until they say we are doing what they might accept. That reasoning is perfectly circular. If the Iranians had a legitimate voice through which their government spoke, they would already be democratic and not a terrorist threat. But they do not. There is no voice of the moderate Iran that can speak for anyone inside the nation. Both Mr. Loftus and Mr. Bayegan apparently wish to wait for some diplomatic or Iranian-generated action to change what the facts on the ground are now. I believe the time to wait is rapidly running out.
Just Wednesday, the mullahs announced that they are beginning to enrich tons of uranium in defiance of the IAEA and the UN. Mr. Loftus is dreaming if he thinks IAEA "secretly" wants to do something. Even if it were, IAEA's secret dreams can't and won't disarm Iran. We must do it, and very soon. With our allies if some choose to join, alone if we must. And I reiterate, we need not and should not invade Iran. Destruction of the nuclear program is sufficient for now, and can be done from the air. By so doing, we may provide the impetus for a revolution that the Iranian people can mount themselves. If it does, we should support it with money, arms and communication assets. Then, and only then, can a new leader of a free Iran emerge.
FP: Jed Babbin, John Loftus and Reza Bayegan, our time is up. Thank you for joining us. We'll see you again soon.
BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Britain, France and Germany will meet today to review their faltering initiative to persuade Iran to curtail its nuclear program, amid mounting pressure from the United States for punitive action.
EU diplomats said the foreign ministers of the Big Three European powers would meet in the Netherlands to discuss the way forward with Tehran in the light of a U.N. nuclear agency report that highlights lingering suspicions about Iran's efforts, and a fresh broadside from Washington.
EU External Relations Commissioner Chris Patten acknowledged in the European Parliament this week that EU attempts to build ties with Iran based on engagement had "gone backwards."
U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell telephoned the Big Three foreign ministers -- Jack Straw, Michel Barnier and Joschka Fischer -- on Thursday to seek consensus on referring Iran to the U.N. Security Council for possible action.
"It's time to pass this on to the Security Council," a senior U.S. official said of Powell's argument to the Europeans. "The Iranians aren't responding on their commitments to you or to the IAEA requirements. It's time to move it forward."
Diplomats said Powell sent the three a stern message this week saying the EU initiative had failed and it was time to stop offering Tehran "carrots" and move toward threatening sanctions unless Iran halted uranium enrichment efforts.
Iran insists its nuclear program is purely for peaceful purposes, but Washington says it is aimed at producing a bomb.
The diplomats said most EU countries, including the Big Three, believed there was not enough evidence to take Iran to the Security Council now and did not want to get locked into any automatic trigger for U.N. action.
The Big Three ministers will report on their contacts with Tehran to an informal meeting of the 25 EU foreign ministers in Valkenburg, the Netherlands, later on Friday.
The International Atomic Energy Agency, in its latest report leaked on Wednesday, said Tehran was planning to process 37 metric tons of "yellowcake" uranium oxide, which one nuclear expert said could in theory yield enough material for five atom bombs.
EU officials say they are disenchanted with Iran's failure to cooperate more with the EU in any of the four fields in which it sought progress in exchange for a trade and aid agreement -- the nuclear program, human rights, terrorism and Tehran's support for groups hostile to Middle East peace efforts.
"There's increasing worry and disappointment on the European side about Iran, a sense that things are not going in the right direction," a senior EU diplomat said.
"But there's no sense that we are on our last five minutes of patience."
The diplomat noted that U.S. Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry was considering offering a "grand bargain" with Iran, raising the prospect of cooperative relations if it renounced a nuclear weapons effort.
That was more palatable to many Europeans than the approach of President George W. Bush, who once branded Iran part of an "axis of evil" and seemed reluctant to offer Tehran any reward for changed behaviour.
"I don't believe the Europeans will agree to get locked into any automatic trigger for U.N. action before the American election," the diplomat added.
Straw says EU upset with Iran on nukes
Fri 3 September, 2004 11:07
"We have all been perplexed and saddened that the Iranian government has not completed all the tasks it said it would," Straw said on arrival for an EU meeting in the Netherlands.
He said he would meet his counterparts from France and Germany on Friday to review their faltering diplomatic initiative to coax Iran into stopping uranium enrichment and complying fully with its treaty obligations.
"The responsibility for engagement rests on both sides," Straw told reporters, responding to criticism from the United States that the EU's Big Three have nothing to show from their attempt to engage with Tehran.
He said the latest report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the U.N. nuclear watchdog, contained "clear reservations" about the nature of Iran's programme and past concealment efforts.
Dutch Foreign Minister Bernard Bot, whose country holds the EU's rotating presidency, told reporters it was no secret that the EU was deeply concerned about Tehran's nuclear programme.
The issue had cast a shadow over EU efforts to build closer relations with Iran through a trade and aid agreement, on which negotiations are stalled.
U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell urged the Europeans this week to stop offering "carrots" to Iran and join Washington in taking Tehran to the U.N. Security Council for possible sanctions over its alleged non-compliance with the IAEA.
Bot said the question EU ministers would have to consider was whether Iran had breached its obligations under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
However, EU diplomats in Brussels said most member states felt there was not enough evidence now to take Iran to the Security Council and did not wish to be locked into any automatic trigger for sanctions.
September 4, 2004
Middle East Analyst on the Important News About Iraq That Has Gone Unreported
In an article in the English language daily Arab News, Middle East analyst Amir Taheri discusses the democratic developments in Iraq. The following are excerpts from the article:(1)
'The Media has Been Obsessed with Al-Sadr'
"This is not to blame television. After all, the seizure of a holy shrine by a militia makes dramatic footage.
"There is also the fact that nostalgics of pan-Arabism and pan-Islamists of all ilk, badly in need of a new cult figure, believe that they have found it in the person of the 30-year old Sadr.
"Anyway, let us not begrudge Sadr's 15 minutes of fame. The firework that he has provoked in Najaf is unlikely to be remembered either as the rebirth of pan-Arabism or as the revival of the Islamic caliphate in Baghdad.
"All this does not mean that Sadr's little show should not be covered. It should. After all, journalism, the realm of the ephemeral, seeks its daily fare in transient events.
"Students of journalism, however, know the difference between the events that furnish most of the daily headlines and the undercurrents that shape the broader context of a society's political life. Now, what are the undercurrents that, with eyes fixed on the current events, are largely ignored?"
Defying Great Odds, Iraq has Succeeded in Carrying out its Political Reform on Schedule
"Earlier this month, the political reconstruction program reached a new high point with the convening of the National Congress.
"Bringing together some 1,300 men and women representing all ethnic, religious, linguistic, and political groups, the congress was the first genuinely pluralistic assembly of Iraqis at that level.
"The congress performed its duty by creating a 100-member Parliament with wide powers of oversight and control over the interim government. A close examination of the composition of this new interim Parliament shows that it is the most representative political body ever to take charge of Iraq's destiny.
"The formation of the interim Parliament, which will be at the heart of the nation's politics during the next 15 months or so, is a major step toward creating the institutions of democracy.
"The Parliament's tasks include the holding of elections for a constituent assembly, the supervision of a referendum on that constitution, and general elections to pick a new government; all that before the end of next year.
"The events mentioned above, and largely ignored by the media, indicate a remarkably rapid progress toward democratization in Iraq. And, yet, at every step we had countless doomsayers who predicted that this or that step would not be taken because of 'security problems.'"
There Can Be No Freedom Without Security
"Were the Juburi tribes secure under Saddam when he sent his special units to massacre them as an act of political revenge? How much security did the Shammar tribes enjoy when Saddam seized two-thirds of their land to distribute among his henchmen? And was it to give them security that Saddam transferred thousands of families from Mosul and Kirkuk in the north to central and southern Iraq? And these were all Sunni Muslims who were supposed to provide the principal base of his regime. As for the Shi'ites and the Kurds, the security they enjoyed under Saddam Hussein is symbolized by the mass graves that dot the Iraqi countryside, and the corpses strewn in the streets of Halabja after a chemical attack. And was it because they did not like security that almost four million Iraqis fled into exile during the Baathist rule?"
'Those Who Seize Hostages, Cut Throats, and Kill Women and Children in Streets are Products of the Culture of Violence'
"Thus what Iraq is experiencing now is a much bigger struggle, a cultural war, whose outcome will determine not only the future of that suffering nation but also the political prospects of almost all Arab countries."
The Two Sides of the Cultural War In Iraq
"On the other side of this cultural war one finds all those Iraqis who have understood that the politics of mass murder and terror is not the best that their nation could hope for.
"To be sure, the two camps are not entirely black or white. On the side symbolized by Sadr, although he heads a small but noisy faction, one finds some sincere but misguided Iraqis.
"The democratic camp in Iraq does not consist of choirboys either. Here one finds quite a few opportunists, job seekers, wheeler-dealers, and outright crooks. Nor is the democratic process, as it has developed so far, beyond criticism."
The Democratic Camp is Best for the Region
"The real story line in Iraq is stark, if not simple: A newly liberated nation is divided between those who wish to revive the despotic past, in one form or another, and those who have vague, at times conflicting, visions of a democratic future.
"Behind the two Iraqi camps one also finds rival external forces. Some anti-democratic forces are determined to do all they can to prevent the establishment of a mould-breaking new regime in Baghdad. The democratic countries, on the other hand, are deeply divided on Iraq's future.
"Some have not yet recovered from the effects of the bitter debates of last year. Others may be balking at the prospect of commitment to a difficult project for years to come.
"The big news, however, is that Iraq, for the first time since its existence as a country, has a choice. It is this big picture that is seldom noticed because of the media's fixation with events of passing importance."
A smartly dressed singer is winning fans and annoying conservatives in Iran with music far from its roots in US ghettoes.
Shahkar Binesh-Pajouh, Iran's bow-tie wearing dapper rapper would look somewhat out of the place in the run-down Bronx district of New York.
Targeting unemployment, poverty and Westernised Iranian girls in his new album, Binesh-Pajouh is a lecturer with a doctorate in urban planning whose poetry translations will hit the shelves soon.
"I chose rap because I can say many things with it, not because I live like a rapper," said Binesh-Pajouh in his affluent north Tehran apartment.
He said it took four years for the Culture Ministry to approve a rap album and it did so only after he deleted six songs from his original 10.
"Iran's officials were reluctant to give permission to rap music because of its critical language," he said.
Officials imposed a two-year ban on his live acts in 1999 after hard-line vigilantes broke up one of his concerts at a Tehran music festival.
Following Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution all but classical or religious music was banned. But restrictions eased after the landslide victory of reformist President Muhammad Khatami in the 1997 elections.
Restrictions have eased under
The lyrics in Binesh-Pajouh's Eskenas album focus on the malaise of poverty. Iran says 17% of the population live in poverty; analysts put the figure nearer 40%.
"No one is born a thief, but you cannot find a loaf of bread at night," the 32-year old sings. "Have you ever seen your child biting a watermelon skin from hunger in a slum?"
Eskenas is Persian for a banknote and on the album cover Binesh-Pajouh poses like a Chicago gangster, puffing on a fat cigar above a torn one dollar bill.
Among the many maxims drummed into Iranian schoolchildren is: "Anyone who is knowledgeable has power, with knowledge the heart of an old person is young."
In Binesh-Pajouh's scathing lyrics this becomes: "Anyone who is wealthy has power, with wealth the heart of an old person is young."
Binesh-Pajouh also pokes at fun at girls who he thinks wear too much make-up. "Lip liner and lipstick are more vital than daily bread," he raps.
Iranian girls, he says, would be better off if they followed Persian traditions instead of being infatuated with Western fashions.
The rapper has criticised Iranian
Binesh-Pajouh has published two books and his translation of love poetry by Chilean Nobel laureate Pablo Neruda is pending publication.
The rapper said music should serve as a medium to challenge opinions in Iran, a country where more than 70% of its 66 million people is under 30.
"I intend to criticise socio-political problems more seriously in the future," he said.
The latest Western hits and banned California-based Persian singers are widely available in Iran. Binesh-Pajouh believes bans have only set up pre-revolutionary singers as idols for the young.
In Iran, live concerts are still tepid affairs as concert-goers are banned from dancing. Music critics are also worried.
"We are concerned about the future of music as conservatives become more powerful," said one who did not want to be named.
Friday 03 September 2004, 17:06 Makka Time, 14:06 GMT
AI Index: POL 30/033/2004 (Public)
News Service No: 218
3 September 2004
Embargo Date: 3 September 200401:00GMT
Amnesty International and medical experts from seven countries have sent an open letter to the heads of government in China, Pakistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Philippines, Iran, Sudan and the USA urging them to stop using the death penalty against children.
The letter has been signed by 17 medical experts with outstanding credentials in the field of child and adolescent psychology, psychiatry and social development.
"Although adolescents generally know the difference between right and wrong, they can suffer from diminished capacities to reason logically, to control their impulses, to think through the future consequences of their actions, and to resist the negative influences and persuasion of others," says the letter. "They should face punishment for criminal actions, but the sanctions which can be imposed on mentally competent adolescent offenders should not be the same as those faced by adults found guilty of the same offences."
Endorsing the call of the experts to abolish juvenile executions, Irene Khan, Secretary General of Amnesty International, said, "Child offenders should not be punished as if they were adults. Governments must amend their laws and practices to confirm with international human rights standards and end the death penalty for offenders under the age of 18."
International standards prohibit the execution of child offenders -- people who were under 18 years old at the time of the crime. These standards include the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the American Convention on Human Rights and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child. This prohibition is now so widely accepted as to constitute a principle of customary international law. The relevant standards are respected by the overwhelming majority of the 80 countries which still retain and use the death penalty.
For more information on Amnesty International's campaign "Stop Child Executions!", see: http://web.amnesty.org/pages/deathpenalty-children-eng
For more information please call Amnesty International's press office in London, UK, on +44 20 7413 5566
Amnesty International, 1 Easton St., London WC1X 0DW. web: http://www.amnesty.org
For latest human rights news view http://news.amnesty.org
|ARGENTINA 3/9/2004 9:25|
|1994 AMIA BOMBING: COURT CLEARS SUSPECTS AND ORDERS NEW INQUIRY|
The Argentine judiciary has cleared four former police officers and a second-hand car dealer some of whom had been held for several years - of charges of collusion in the 1994 bomb attack against the headquarters of AMIA, one of the principal Jewish associations in the country, in Buenos Aires, in which 85 people died. The five men stood charged of assisting the real perpetrators of the bombing, which the prosecution claims was masterminded by top Iranian embassy officials in the Argentine capital.
Does anyone know what happpened to the Student Movement Coordinating Committee for Democracy in Iran website?
The site has been down all day...