Commentary Magazine


Topic: Iranian nuclear weapons program

Smart Power and Iran’s 3D Strategy

On July 18, Hillary Clinton published an op-ed in New Statesman entitled “The Art of Smart Power,” listing among its “successes” the maintenance of “broad-based pressure on Iran and North Korea.” Her judgment seems a bit premature, as (a) sanctions have not stopped Iran’s march toward nuclear weapons, and (b) North Korea obtained (and retains) such weapons notwithstanding similar smart power pressure. Pressure that has not achieved its goal is not generally considered a success, much less the occasion for a self-congratulatory essay.

A better example of “success” might be the Iranian strategy described in Irwin Cotler’s report in the Jerusalem Post yesterday. Colter noted that Hamidreza Taraghi, an adviser to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, recently described five Iranian successes:

First, Western countries did not want Iran to have a nuclear power plant, but its Bushehr reactor was now connected to the national grid.

Second, the West had opposed Iran having heavy water facilities, but the country now has one in Arak.

Third, the West had said no to any enrichment, “But here we are, enriching as much as we need for our nuclear energy program,” Taraghi said, referring to the thousands of cascades of centrifuges spinning for years in the half-underground facility in Natanz.

Fourth, since January, and on the eve of the resumed substantive negotiations in Istanbul in April, dozens more advanced centrifuges were installed in the Fordo mountain bunker complex, near Qum, built to withstand a heavy attack.

Fifth, Taraghi also said that in the Istanbul talks, Iran had managed to convince the West of the importance of a religious edict, or fatwa, against the possession of nuclear weapons.

In a word, Taraghi and other Iranian officials concluded that their policy “forced the United States to accept Iranian enrichment,” and in effect, the related nuclear program.

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On July 18, Hillary Clinton published an op-ed in New Statesman entitled “The Art of Smart Power,” listing among its “successes” the maintenance of “broad-based pressure on Iran and North Korea.” Her judgment seems a bit premature, as (a) sanctions have not stopped Iran’s march toward nuclear weapons, and (b) North Korea obtained (and retains) such weapons notwithstanding similar smart power pressure. Pressure that has not achieved its goal is not generally considered a success, much less the occasion for a self-congratulatory essay.

A better example of “success” might be the Iranian strategy described in Irwin Cotler’s report in the Jerusalem Post yesterday. Colter noted that Hamidreza Taraghi, an adviser to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, recently described five Iranian successes:

First, Western countries did not want Iran to have a nuclear power plant, but its Bushehr reactor was now connected to the national grid.

Second, the West had opposed Iran having heavy water facilities, but the country now has one in Arak.

Third, the West had said no to any enrichment, “But here we are, enriching as much as we need for our nuclear energy program,” Taraghi said, referring to the thousands of cascades of centrifuges spinning for years in the half-underground facility in Natanz.

Fourth, since January, and on the eve of the resumed substantive negotiations in Istanbul in April, dozens more advanced centrifuges were installed in the Fordo mountain bunker complex, near Qum, built to withstand a heavy attack.

Fifth, Taraghi also said that in the Istanbul talks, Iran had managed to convince the West of the importance of a religious edict, or fatwa, against the possession of nuclear weapons.

In a word, Taraghi and other Iranian officials concluded that their policy “forced the United States to accept Iranian enrichment,” and in effect, the related nuclear program.

Cotler calls it the “Iranian 3D strategy” — denial, deception, delay — in which “not only are negotiations themselves a delaying tactic, but delaying the negotiations is itself a tactic,” combined with the continued avoidance of inspections and repeated refusals to comply with unambiguous treaty obligations.

While the American secretary of state writes paeans to her art, Iran gets closer every day to its ultimate goal, as it creates facts on (and underneath) the ground. Smart.

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Iran Decided Long Ago on Nuclear Weapons

Michael Rubin has referenced important statements, recent and past, made by senior Iranian officials on Iran’s nuclear program and its ambitions. To this important list, I would add the following. Seyed Hossein Mousavian, Iran’s former nuclear negotiator under President Mohammad Khatami, revealed in a recent Boston Globe opinion piece that Iran had reached “breakout capacity” in 2002: “It is too late,” said Mousavian “to demand that Iran suspend enrichment activities; it mastered enrichment technology and reached break-out capability in 2002 and continues to steadily improve its uranium enrichment capabilities.”

Beyond these statements, there is a mountain of hard evidence to back the view that Iran decided long ago to build nuclear weapons.

U.S. intelligence reports and most Western leaders insist that Iran’s leaders have not yet made a decision to pursue nuclear weapons.

Not so – according to documents that the opposition group, Mojaheddin-e Khalq (MeK), recently leaked to the Western Press and first revealed in the German daily, Die Welt.

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Michael Rubin has referenced important statements, recent and past, made by senior Iranian officials on Iran’s nuclear program and its ambitions. To this important list, I would add the following. Seyed Hossein Mousavian, Iran’s former nuclear negotiator under President Mohammad Khatami, revealed in a recent Boston Globe opinion piece that Iran had reached “breakout capacity” in 2002: “It is too late,” said Mousavian “to demand that Iran suspend enrichment activities; it mastered enrichment technology and reached break-out capability in 2002 and continues to steadily improve its uranium enrichment capabilities.”

Beyond these statements, there is a mountain of hard evidence to back the view that Iran decided long ago to build nuclear weapons.

U.S. intelligence reports and most Western leaders insist that Iran’s leaders have not yet made a decision to pursue nuclear weapons.

Not so – according to documents that the opposition group, Mojaheddin-e Khalq (MeK), recently leaked to the Western Press and first revealed in the German daily, Die Welt.

According to the MeK, Iran’s clerical leadership continues to relentlessly seek a nuclear arsenal – their only imponderable being “when,” not “if.”

The leaked material challenges the widely held belief that Iran suspended all weaponization activities in 2003. It offers evidence that Iran’s military program has since then only been restructured. It is now more elusive, functioning undercover in university labs and industrial facilities, but it is larger and more comprehensive than ever.

Skeptics will doubt the authenticity of these findings. Yet, the MeK has a history of exposing other Iranian critical nuclear facilities – it exposed the then-secret Natanz enrichment facility in 2002 – and its revelations were confirmed by independent sources.

A senior official from a Western intelligence organization, speaking anonymously, judged the information as “reliable.” A Vienna-based Western diplomat tracking Iran’s nuclear program confirmed this assessment: the information “coincides with what the International Atomic Energy Agency said in its report about Iran’s clandestine weaponization program.”

The diplomat was alluding to an IAEA annex attached to the November 2011 quarterly report on Iran’s nuclear program, which delineated a similar structure to Iran’s military program – with one significant difference. The MeK findings are a “magnifying glass,” adding names, addresses and dates, detailing organizational links, and explaining at length the nature and significance of each department’s area of activity and responsibility.

Most importantly, the documents linked a subdivision of the military program as the center in charge of the Fordow site near Qom, whose “size and configuration” as U.S. President Obama said in 2009, “is inconsistent with a peaceful program.”

As if the MeK assertions were not enough, leaked imagery of a high explosive compression chamber needed to test nuclear-suitable explosive materials offered further proof of the nature of the Iranian program – one needs not test such explosive or invest in such sophisticated infrastructure if one’s goal is peaceful nuclear energy.

U.S. intelligence officials insist that Iran suspended its weaponization activities in the fall of 2003. Whatever activities may have continued after that time – Western intelligence believes – were limited and fragmented.

But according to the MeK, the director of the Center for Industrial Production and Research, Ali Mehdipour Omrani, conducted “an explosive test on Tungsten to increase its density” at the Parchin site as late as 2006. Manipulating tungsten can be critical to the design of a nuclear warhead. Incidentally, Omrani’s center’s area of expertise is “mechanical engineering and morphing of material, including shaping metal elements, for the manufacture of nuclear warheads.”

And based on the image published by the Associated Press, such explosive experiments may well be ongoing.

Claims of anti-nuclear religious fatwas to the contrary notwithstanding, Iran’s civil nuclear program is but a game of smoke and mirrors. Its real goal always was and continues to be the production of nuclear weapons.

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