Commentary Magazine


Topic: MEK

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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Working With the MEK is Bad Policy

Alana Goodman is correct to highlight the current battle between Attorney-General Eric Holder and a bipartisan array of prominent former U.S. officials who have accepted hefty honoraria from Mujahedin al-Khalq (MEK) front groups, even though the State Department lists the MEK as a terrorist group. While cultivating prominent endorsers is one front in the group’s public relations battle, the largest war – and the reason the MEK has spent millions on former American officials – is for their support in its battle to be delisted as a terrorist entity.

There is no doubt that in the past, the MEK engaged in terrorism against Americans and that it has embraced a fiercely anti-Western ideology. Proponents of delisting the MEK, however, argue that the group has not engaged in terrorism against the United States or its interests for decades. The State Department may eventually be forced by the letter of the law to delist the MEK. That does not mean the group is entitled to any American support.  The group’s culpability in recent terrorist attacks in Iran is murkier. Still, it would be a mistake to boil the MEK issue—and the question of U.S. support—down to the terrorism listing, however. Working with the MEK is simply bad policy.

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Alana Goodman is correct to highlight the current battle between Attorney-General Eric Holder and a bipartisan array of prominent former U.S. officials who have accepted hefty honoraria from Mujahedin al-Khalq (MEK) front groups, even though the State Department lists the MEK as a terrorist group. While cultivating prominent endorsers is one front in the group’s public relations battle, the largest war – and the reason the MEK has spent millions on former American officials – is for their support in its battle to be delisted as a terrorist entity.

There is no doubt that in the past, the MEK engaged in terrorism against Americans and that it has embraced a fiercely anti-Western ideology. Proponents of delisting the MEK, however, argue that the group has not engaged in terrorism against the United States or its interests for decades. The State Department may eventually be forced by the letter of the law to delist the MEK. That does not mean the group is entitled to any American support.  The group’s culpability in recent terrorist attacks in Iran is murkier. Still, it would be a mistake to boil the MEK issue—and the question of U.S. support—down to the terrorism listing, however. Working with the MEK is simply bad policy.

Military action against Iran would delay the program only by a few years. True, the same estimate was made before Israel’s strike on the Iraqi nuclear reactor and Saddam Hussein never managed to rebuild his program, but it would be foolish to assume the same would occur. After all, the Iranians will not be stupid enough to invade Kuwait.

The problem in Iran today is not simply the regime’s nuclear ambitions, but rather the regime itself. To use the military to delay Iran’s nuclear program—effectively kicking the can down the road—would be an irresponsible use of the military unless there is a policy in place to take advantage of the time won in any strike.

The problem with those who would embrace the MEK is that it would undercut the chance for regime collapse. To ally the United States with the MEK would be as shameful as President Obama’s moral inaction during the 2009 protests.

Iranians living under the regime’s yoke hate the MEK. That is not regime propaganda; it is fact, one to which any honest analyst who has ever visited Iran can testify.  Ordinary Iranians deeply resent the MEK’s terrorism, which has targeted not only regime officials, but also led to the deaths of scores of civilians. During the Iran-Iraq War—a conflict that decimated cities and led to tens of thousands of civilian deaths—the MEK sided with Saddam Hussein. No Iranian will ever forgive that treason. Iranians see the MEK in the same manner that Americans view American Taliban John Walker Lindh.

If the MEK is delisted, let the MEK celebrate. But whether listed as a terrorist group or not, it would be wrong and counterproductive to embrace the group unless, of course, the goal of those for officials on the group’s payroll is simply to aid the current regime in its efforts to rally its subjugated masses around the flag.

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