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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 14th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

The Mullahs’ Dead End?
By Jamie Glazov, FrontPageMagazine.com | Monday, July 14, 2008

m5_071408npreview.jpg
An anti-aircraft gun, pictured in front of the Bushehr nuclear power plant in Iran. Israel and the United States differ on how to act on their fears about Iran’s nuclear interests, according to Mother Jones.
(Photo: Behrouz Mehri / AFP)

Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Hassan Daioleslam, an Iranian human rights activist and political scholar. Daioleslam was born in Tehran in 1957. After finishing his primary and high school in Tehran, he entered the Polytechnic University of Tehran in 1974. In the years after the 1979 Iranian Islamist Revolution in Iran, he became a student movement leader standing up against Khomeini’s repression and mass executions. He eventually left the country and settled in France. During the 1980s and early 1990s, Daioleslam was active with Iranian secular movements, human rights activities and the defense of Iranian political prisoners.

In 2001, Daioleslam moved to the United States and concentrated on political research. Since 2005, he has been collaborating with two independent Iranian journalists inside Iran focusing on the Iranian Regime’s lobby in the U.S. His reports have been largely published by major Farsi websites and several US journals. Daioleslam has frequently appeared as an expert guest on the Voice of America-TV as well as on other outlets of Persian media.

FP: Hassan Daioleslam welcome back to Frontpage Interview.
Daioleslam: I am delighted to be back.

FP: In our last interview we discussed the new calls for negotiating with Iran. You talked about the fact that negotiating with the Iranian government is really not new and that it has been going on for the last three decades to no avail. So if we should not negotiate with the Mullahs and if as you have argued before, military action against Iran is a disastrous option, what course of action is left? What could the US do to curtail the Iranian nuclear ambitions and stop its drive to dominating the Middle East?
Daioleslam: Before suggesting a realistic and viable approach, we must first understand the situation in Iran. There are a range of suggested solutions there. Unfortunately, many of them are based on a very poor or wrong understanding of the state of the Iranian government. Probably the main reason for that is the sophisticated misinformation campaign of the Iranian lobby in the US. A clear example of such misinformation campaign is the war mongering boastings of Trita Parsi, the president of the Iranian lobby NIAC that suggests Iran is so powerful now that the US has to share the Middle East with them – as if Middle East is someone’s to give and someone’s to get. An accurate understanding of the internal state of affairs of the Iranian regime places numerous winning cards in the hands of the international community to stop the Mullahs’ drive to expansionism and nuclear weapons.

FP: So what is the situation in Iran? Ahmadinejad has a good grip on the country, yes?
Daioleslam: The Iranian regime is experiencing its most difficult situation of the past thirty years. As some Iranian analysts are arguing, the regime is at a turning point that will eventually decide the fate of the Clerical rule. The governmental figures use words such as: “economic disintegration,” “political impasse,” “leadership crisis,” “unprecedented social unrests,” and “total corruption” to describe the conditions in the country.

FP: Could these words be just excessive rhetoric rather than the reality of the situation?
Daioleslam: Good question. Let me quote some of the Iranian politicians. Recently, there was a very interesting dialogue between two famous politician and analysts in Iran. Saeed Hadjarian was interviewed by Abbas Abdi. They are considered as the pillars of “reformist” faction. Let’s read an excerpt of the dialogue:

A. Abdi: It has been a while that the people I encounter ask me about the future, they want to know what will happen. Apparently, for many, the future of the country is uncertain. Do the people ask you the same question?

Hadjarian: Yes. They have no clue about their tomorrow and feel insecure. The government can’t control anything. There is actually anarchism in the country. The government is being disintegrated. It is like the end of the time. We have descended in the hell.

Another Iranian commentator, Ahmad Zeidabadi, compared the regime’s difficulties to a “seven head dragon”.

Ibrahim Yazdi, the former foreign minister and one of the most experienced Iranian politicians, went even further and recently talked about the regime’s total impasse:

“I believe that the regime as a whole is going to a total impasse. There is something wrong that whatever they do, the situation gets worst. The Economic situation is worsening and Ahmadinejad is bringing the economic disintegration.

The situation is so bad that the regime should quickly opt for a historical and fundamental turn.”

FP: How does this situation affect the outcome of the Iranian nuclear issue?
Daioleslam: There are two distinct views about the Iranian choices and the path it will eventually take. There are those who believe that the regime is in such a weak position that it will finally surrender to the international pressure. Ibrahim Yazdi for example said:

“At the end of the war with Iraq, Iran was in such a bad position that finally accepted the UN resolution. We are in the same position now because the catastrophic political and economic situation will force the regime to surrender to internal exigencies in much worst conditions. Briefly, if we take into account the two experiences of war with Iraq and the US embassy hostage taking, we should be concerned that the regime would eventually surrender to the UN resolutions in such bad terms that the national interests would be jeopardized.”

There is also another view which I personally believe will dominate. This point of view is that the regime cannot or should not retreat. Any retreat is like a breach in a dam and will only stop with the regime’s total surrender. This is the dominant belief among the Iranian leadership. As Rafsanjani has recently declared: “if we retreat on this issue, we will allow our enemy to interfere with all the issues of our country.”

FP: Ok, so some critics argue that, because of this situation, there may be some flexibility from the Iranians on the nuclear impasse. The deal that the West is offering Tehran is very sweet and might be hard for them to turn down.
Daioleslam: Let me explain this further. In order to understand the Iranian regime’s dilemma, we should go back to 2002-2003 when the regime passed a fundamental turning point. The result was the emergence of the Revolutionary Guards as the dominant force in Iran, symbolized later by Ahmadinejad’s ascendance to power. That turning point is the root cause of the actual gloomy conditions in Iran and the mullahs’ incapacity to accommodate the demands of the international pressure.

FP: Elaborate on this please.
Daioleslam: Ok, I will try. Let’s start with a question. Why in 2005, did the Iranian leadership replace Mohammad Khatami, a smiling and internationally greeted president with a radical and repelling personality as Ahmadinejad? Note that in Iran, despite the masquerade of elections, presidents are selected rather than elected. It is naïve to believe that Ahmadinejad’s triumph was the result of a popular democratic process. The 2005 elections were particularly rigged. For the first time in the three decade history of the Clerical rule, all the candidates (except the lucky winner) publicly talked about massive intervention of the Guards and organized cheating.

So, the question is why the Iranian regime underwent such a radical transformation. Why was there a need to unify the power under the Guards’ control?

FP: Are you suggesting that Ahmadinejad was Tehran’s answer to a challenge?
Daioleslam: Exactly. In 2002- 2003, the Iranian clandestine nuclear program was uncovered and the regime was under immense pressure. At the same time, Iraq was invaded by the coalition forces and Tehran was faced with US massive presence. These two new elements were on top of the most important threat that regime was facing: the internal unrests and a growing social and political dissent movement.

To face these three challenges, regime had two choices: First choice was to come clean in nuclear dossier, get along with new regional geopolitics and finally liberalize the political atmosphere inside the country. We know that Tehran did not follow this path. The Ayatollahs opted for the second choice:

– Confronting the new regional order and using it as a stepping stone for their expansionism,

– Buying time to advance the nuclear program, and

– Crushing the social and political movements.

All three of these elements required means of implementing them: Mullahs’ armed forces- The Pasdaran Army (Revolutionary Gaurds); Hence Ahmedinejad’s presidency. The current catastrophic economic, political and social conditions, international isolation and placing the whole region at the verge of a dangerous war, are all consequences of this strategic choice by Tehran.

FP: Are these conditions irreversible, or can the regime get out of this?
Daioleslam: Let’s for the sake of argument imagine that tomorrow, the West gets tenfold more generous and even offers the whole Middle East on a tray to the Iranian regime. And then in return, requests that Iran abandon its nuclear program. Since the nuclear program has been largely under the Guards’ control and because of the missile program directly related to the nuclear program, the first step in verification should have to be total access to the suspected Iranian military bases and weapon facilities controlled by the Guards. Tehran will undoubtedly refuse. In Iran the Revolutionary Guards are the dominant power players. They have operations in many Middle Eastern countries. They have strategic military build ups in Iraq, Lebonan and several other countries. They have direct and active partnerships with radical groups in the region. They have direct involvement with Iraqi government. Can they possibly open their doors to the Western observers and inspectors?

Furthermore, for the past five years, Iran with the help of their lobby machinery in the US, has played the role of victim, targeted and harassed by the Israel-US hawks. How can they afford to lose this card and become guilty of pursuing a secret and advanced nuclear weapon program?

If the scope of Iranian weapon program becomes visible, the Western public opinion will push for a Libya or North Korean scenario: to bring and end to their whole nuclear program. Iran will not genuinely agree to any meaningful inspection of their facilities.

FP: One could argue that the incentives are so high that the Iranian regime would accept all these consequences.
Daioleslam: In order to predict what kind of incentive would bring the Iranian to a negotiating table, we should first understand how much Iran has spent on their nuclear project. I mean political cost, economic cost and diplomatic cost. The nuclear program has been the single most important project in Iran for almost three decades. It has bled the oil rich country to poverty. What can the West pay Tehran for stopping a program that is so heavily invested in? For Ayatollahs, this project is a weapon of power projection in Islamic world and not a weapon of deterrence.

FP: What about the argument that Iran should be given security guarantees in return for stopping the nuclear program?
Daioleslam: Iran’s main threat comes from the Iranian people. What kind of international guarantee could reconcile the Iranians with their rulers? Iran’s surrender to the international exigencies will weaken the regime against the Iranian people. A clerical rule, confined to its borders and under strict international inspection is a naked king before its subjects. More than anyone else, mullahs know that.

Remember the end of war with Iraq. Immediately after Iran was forced to accept the cease fire, a huge demand for social and political freedom grew in the country. Khomeini responded by massacre of political prisoners and then, to fill the vacuum of the war, he issued the infamous fatwa against Salman Rushdie. The repeat of this scenario would be almost impossible for the regime.

FP: Based on your argument, the Iranian regime on one hand is incapable of retreating from its nuclear aspirations and accommodating the international community. On the other hand Tehran is suffering from a catastrophic economic, social and political situation. What is the impact of this dilemma on the Iranian leadership?
Daioleslam: Confusion. Weakness. Chaos. The lack of authority in the government is so obvious that even if the West comes to Tehran for surrender, we would not know whom we should surrender to! Just a few days after the 5+1 proposal, there was a fight between different factions each claiming to have the final authority to respond to the proposal.

FP: Is this state of disorientation well perceived in the Western capitals?
Daioleslam: I believe that the decision makers are aware of the economic, social, political and the leadership crisis in Iran. Of course it does not prevent the Iranian lobby to stick to its traditional campaign of projecting a powerful and unified Iranian leadership. To give an example, let’s go to the predictable CFR Iran expert, Ray Takeyh, a champion of distorting the Iranian reality. He recently wrote in the Washington Post:

“Although Iran’s theocratic regime is perennially divided against itself, it has sustained a remarkable consensus on the nuclear issue. In today’s political climate, neither Western sanctions nor offers of incentives will fracture state unity.”

Of course, a newspaper reader in Iran sees that instead of this imaginary “unity”, there is a disintegrated leadership.

FP: Is the crisis in leadership an additional hurdle for a hypothetical deal with Iran?
Daioleslam: Absolutely. Many in Iran compare the current situation in Iran to the last year of Iran’s war with Iraq in 1998. At that time, Iran was forced to accept the UN resolution “drank the cup of poison” as Ayatollah Khomeini described it. Now, Iran has to drink a more potent poison while the regime lacks Khomeini’s authority to minimize the political and social consequences. The patient is weaker, the poison more fatal and no one in the Iranian leadership capable of drinking it.

FP: Mr. Daioleslam, thank you for joining us.
Daioleslam: Thank you for the opportunity to share my views with your readers.

Jamie Glazov is Frontpage Magazine’s managing editor. He holds a Ph.D. in History with a specialty in U.S. and Canadian foreign policy.

———————–

News

Iran Red Lines. What are the US and Israel’s Views on Iran?

Thursday 10 July 2008, by: Laura Rozen, Mother Jones.

An anti-aircraft gun, pictured in front of the Bushehr nuclear power plant in Iran. Israel and the United States differ on how to act on their fears about Iran’s nuclear interests, according to Mother Jones.

Mother Jones has learned that a parade of high-level Israeli officials are on their way to the White House over the next two weeks to discuss Iran policy. Here’s where the two countries differ on what to do next.”

While the Israeli government considers the Bush administration highly sympathetic and sensitive to its security concerns, there are growing signs that Washington and Jerusalem may be diverging in their analysis of the urgency of the threat posed by Iran’s nuclear program and its defensive military preparations for countering a possible strike, and their subsequent prospective timelines for considering possible military action against Iran. While Israeli national security experts say that Israel would not act without coordinating with the US, and there are other significant factors weighing against prospective Israeli military action on Iran before the Bush term ends, there are also emerging differences between the US and Israel on the accepted intelligence over when Iran would be considered to have a nuclear breakthrough, as well as what would constitute a “redline” that would prompt military action, Washington analysts say. In addition, the US, unlike Israel, feels more deeply constrained by the considerable investment it has made in blood and treasure in stabilizing Iraq, which could be risked by the tumult that could follow military action on Iran.
“My sense is the Pentagon would be worried or opposed to an Israeli attack,” says David Wurmser, former Middle East adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney, who left the White House job late last summer. “They are afraid it would inflame the situation in Iraq, which could undermine the US position there.
“Ultimately, my gut tells me that most of the administration on most levels would push back very hard,” on Israeli pressure on Washington to authorize it to strike Iran, Wurmser added. “What those in the administration who don’t want Israel to act probably won’t want is for it to be taken to the highest level. They would always be afraid that [the president] might not be so tough on the Israelis. If the Israeli [government] really intends to do something, they would go to the highest level without a lot of people knowing.”
Last week, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen visited Israel, during which Mullen is reported to have told Israeli leaders that, speaking for the highest levels of the Bush administration, they did not have a green light from Washington for military action on Iran. Now, Mother Jones has learned, a parade of senior Israeli government officials is making its way to Washington over the coming two weeks, to discuss the Iran issue with top Bush administration officials. Among those scheduled to arrive, Mother Jones has confirmed with Israeli sources in Washington and Israel: Israeli defense minister Ehud Barak, who departs Israel Monday for meetings in Washington with President Bush, Vice President Cheney, and Pentagon officials; and the Israeli Defense Forces chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi, who comes the following week on his first visit to Washington in that position. A former Pentagon intelligence official who spoke with Mother Jones also alleges that Meir Dagan, the chief of the Israeli intelligence service, the Mossad, held secret meetings with officials in the White House on Wednesday. Neither the Israeli embassy nor National Security Council would comment on whether Dagan had been at the White House.
US sources who did not wish to be identified describe a disagreement between the US and Israeli intelligence communities over the timetable of Iran’s alleged weaponization and research and development efforts. Nuclear analysts at Livermore nuclear facility crunched the numbers and looked at the information on Iran’s centrifuges and concluded that they are sticking to the public estimates in the 2007 US National Intelligence Estimate on Iran’s nuclear program, which forecast Iran could have enough enriched material for nuclear weapons capability in the mid next decade. The Israelis allegedly presented the US with Iranian weaponization evidence that they consider very credible, which the US intelligence community allegedly did not consider credible. Analysts also say Israel and the US are drawing different definitions and redlines about what they consider would be Iran’s nuclear “breakout” capability.
“The last report from the [International Atomic Energy Agency] IAEA suggested that the Iranians are making considerable advances, and could reach a stage of having a mass of material for breakout capability before terribly long,” says Patrick Clawson, an Iran policy expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. How long? “It’s hard to say. Iran already has fuel rods shipped by the Russians. If they decided to just take that material and run it through centrifuges, that activity would be very obvious.
“What most people concentrate on is when Iran would have 600 to 700 kilos of its own low enriched uranium, which is enough to make enough highly enriched uranium for a bomb,” Clawson added. How long is that projected to take? Clawson: “If everything works perfectly, two months. If everything doesn’t work perfectly, a bit longer. The answer would be the space of a few months.
“It certainly appears from the last [IAEA] report that Iran is on track to have enough kilos [of low enriched uranium to enrich to weapons grade] within a year-well within,” Clawson added.
Next page: “Adding to Israeli concern…”
Adding to Israeli concern, Clawson and Wurmser said, is uncertainty over whether the next US administration will be willing and able to get organized on Iran policy quickly enough to meet Israeli concerns about Iran’s nuclear progress as the calendar advances.
“Even beyond the question of whether McCain or Obama wins, the Israelis are afraid that no new administration is really going to be able to get its act together quickly to be able to mobilize a plan and do something,” Wurmser said.
Wurmser put the odds of Israel striking Iran before Bush leaves office at “slightly, slightly above 50-50.”
Wurmser said that different pressures weigh for and against Israeli military action either before or after the US election in November, but before Bush leaves office. “Israelis may think politically they don’t want to get in a situation to do something that causes a reaction against US forces in Iraq, which causes the Republicans to lose the election.” But acting after the elections would deeply complicate Israeli relations with the incoming administration.
Wurmser posits a third possibility. “The Israelis may have new information,” and that may explain the up-tempo in the high-level US Israeli discussions on Iran. “But a second thing that might explain it is, this is not real. This is pressure to get Bush to act before he leaves.”
“A lot turns on details about the assessment not just of Iran’s nuclear progress, but also on parts of the Iran program that may not be publicly disclosed and on the projected status of Iran’s air defenses or other countermeasures,” says one former Bush administration official who asked to speak on background. “I think this also may be a more demanding option operationally than may be apparent from the public debate.
“I’ve been skeptical of the war talk until recently because I was informed enough to know better,” the former official added. “Now I’m not gloomier, just less informed.”
Robert Gallucci, a former longtime State Department nonproliferation expert who now serves as dean of Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, said a recent consultation with US government scientists persuaded him that Iran is not likely to have significant nuclear breakout capability for about five years.
“The test is when Iran could plausibly accumulate significant quantities of highly enriched uranium or plutonium so you have to worry about not only nuclear weapons development, but also the possible threat of transfer to a terrorist organization,” Gallucci said Friday.
“I came away [from recent consultations with government scientists] believing that is actually some distance away in time – beyond five years,” Gallucci said.
Gallucci said he was talking about when Iran could conceivably produce five or ten or more nuclear weapons. (Iran denies it is seeking a nuclear weapons capability at all, and the 2007 US NIE concluded that Iran had halted its weaponization program in 2003.) Are Israel’s threat assessments based on the projection of when Iran could produce one nuclear weapon? “I tend to want to answer that and say there are two ways to come up with a difference [between US and Israeli assessments]. Technically, Israel and the US could have a different assessment of the obstacles that the Iranians might run into and how quickly they could overcome them.”
“There could also be a tolerance [difference],” Gallucci said. “We’re prepared to say, ‘It’s unlikely they could do this in this amount of time.’ The Israelis could be saying, ‘Thank you very much, we’re a little closer to the problem than you are.’ American national security types are not certain of how quickly Iran could do it, but are just as uncertain about whether Iran would do it or not.”
——–
Laura Rozen is national security correspondent for Mother Jones. She can be reached at  lrozen at motherjones.com. style=”text-align: center”>

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