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The Honesty About Iran's Nuke Plan.

While President Mahmoud Ahmadi-Mejad keeps denying Iran is developing nuclear weapons, his defeated rival in the June 2005 presidential election recently made revelations portraying a different Iran. The disclosures by Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a businessman-cum-theocrat who served two terms as president in 1989-97, related to 1988 when he was speaker of the Islamic Majlis (parliament) while acting as commander-in-chief of Iran's armed forces on behalf of Imam Ruhallah Khomeini. These consist of two letters: one is written by Brig-Gen Mohsen Reza'ie, then commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), and addressed to Khomeini; the other is Khomeini's reply. In his letter, Reza'ie, whose forces had just suffered huge losses as a result of chemical attacks by the Iraqis, informs Khomeini that, unless he had a range of new weapons, his forces cannot achieve the goals set for them: (1) defeating Saddam, (2) installing a Shi'ite theocracy in Baghdad, (3) proceeding to "liberate" Jerusalem from Israeli occupation, and (4) wiping the Jewish state off the map.

Reza'ie asks Khomeini to provide his forces with 300 new fighter-bombers, 2,500 tanks, 300 attack helicopters and laser-guided missiles that can carry nuclear warheads. In his reply, Khomeini endorses Reza'ie's analysis and evokes the possibility of ending the war by accepting UNSC Resolution 598 which Iran had rejected as a "Zionist-Crusader" plot. After the exchange of letters, Khomeini announced he was "drinking the poison chalice" by accepting truce with Saddam's Sunni/Ba'thist dictatorship, thus ending an eight-year war in August 1988. The fact that Reza'ie's analysis carried weight with Khomeini was not only due to his status as a war-hero. What made the analysis irrefutable was the battle which a US task force, ordered into the Persian Gulf by President Ronald Reagan, had fought with the theocracy's navy over control of the flow of oil through the Strait of Hormuz. That led to a series of engagements in 1987 which ended with the sinking of half of Iran's navy, the dismantling of Iranian missile batteries on 16 islands and billions of dollars of damages to Iranian offshore oil installations. Khomeini got the message and immediately halted attacks on Kuwaiti tankers and Saudi oil installations.

Why did Rafsanjani reveal the top-secret letters? He wanted to refute claims of "cowardice" and "collusions" with the US made against him by Ahmadi-Nejad. The latter and his entourage had accused Rafsanjani of having persuaded Khomeini to stop the war against Saddam at a time when the theocracy was on the verge of conquering Iraq and then to destroy Israel.

Ahmadi-Mejad's source of emulation, Grand Ayatollah Muhammad-Taqi Mesbah-Yazdi, had claimed that sometime in 1988 the Hidden 12th Imam or the Mahdi, a child who went missing in 941 AD, was getting ready to return to Earth to rule the world. He was to lead the Islamic forces to final victory in Jerusalem. The implications of Ahmadi-Nejad's charges are that, by persuading Khomeini to end the war prematurely, Rafsanjani allowed Saddam to remain in power until 2003 while prolonging the life of the "Zionist stain of shame" in the heart of the Muslim world. Ahmadi-Nejad and his entourage claim that Rafsanjani had made a secret deal with the US - the Irangate scandal.

In an article published on Oct. 4 by Gulf News, prominent Iranian journalist Amir Taheri who is opposed to the theocracy wrote: "By making the revelations, Rafsanjani wants to do two things. First, he wants to make it clear that the decision to end the war was made by Khomeini on the advice of his military commanders and had nothing to do with any alleged secret deal between Rafsanjani and the Americans. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, Rafsanjani wishes to discredit what he sees as Ahmadinejad's strategy of deliberately provoking a conflict with the US that the Islamic Republic cannot hope to win without first acquiring a nuclear deterrent".

Taheri added: "The revelation that the Islamic Republic began seeking a nuclear deterrent as early as 1988 is nothing new to seasoned Iran-watchers. Always a fighter, Rafsanjani seems to have absorbed the shock of his defeat in last year's presidential election and is planning a comeback. But can he wait another 30 months before taking on Ahmadinejad in a second presidential election? The answer is probably no".

Taheri said Rafsanjani had more immediate objectives: "He hopes to lead an anti-Ahmadinejad coalition" in the Dec. 15 elections for the Assembly of Experts, the body which can choose or dismiss the "supreme guide". Taheri added: "All this might have been of little or no concern to the outside world had it not been for two facts. The first is that Iran has had a secret nuclear programme for almost two decades while taking the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for a ride. The second is that the Islamic republic leaders who felt no discomfort in discussing the use of nuclear warheads and other weapons of mass destruction two decades ago, do not seem to have abandoned their strategy of reshaping the Middle East after their fashion".

Hizbullah of Lebanon is a branch of the Ja'fari theocracy of Iran. If Iran is to spread in the Muslim world, it will have similar branches in the oil-rich Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia and other parts of the Arab region before moving elsewhere. Mezbah-Yazdi, who may or may not back Khamenei in the Dec. 15 elections, says the Shi'ite theocracy of Iran is the only legitimate state in the world.

The US and Iran are said to be on the brink of missing an historic opportunity to engage in comprehensive, high-level talks because of a complete lack of trust on both sides. EU's Solana, trying to find conditions to bring the two sides together, on Oct. 4 warned his mediation efforts could not go on forever. He said he had failed to persuade Iran to suspend enrichment - the key pre-condition for the US to join negotiations over the future of Iran's nuclear programme. The US is set to resume its efforts to get a UNSC resolution to impose limited sanctions against Iran for failing to heed the Aug. 31 deadline. However, the US still doubts China and Russia will back such a measure. US hardliners are voicing concerns that France is backing away because its forces in Lebanon are "hostage" to Iran. There are suspicions that French President Jacques Chirac sought a compromise with Iran in a Paris meeting with a top aide to the President Ahmadi-Nejad on Sept. 12. The FT on Oct. 5 reported a French official as "strongly" denying Chirac had sought to make a deal with Iran to guarantee safety for French forces in southern Lebanon from attack by Hizbullah in exchange for a softer approach on sanctions and the nuclear issue.

The FT said: "In spite of the move towards sanctions and the clamour from Washington neo-conservatives (neo-cons) who want to see early military action against Iran, officials and analysts say US President George W. Bush and his secretary of state Condoleezza Rice have concluded that a negotiated settlement is the only way forward. 'Regime change' is no longer considered viable, and the military option is too dangerous, say allied diplomats. Both Mr Bush's decision to give the process more time and Ms Rice's offer to meet her Iranian counterpart were indications of genuine goodwill, they said. The disaster of Iraq, mounting problems in Afghanistan and serious tensions in transatlantic relations have helped Ms Rice overcome opposition from hardliners in Washington, who were publicly rebuked by her senior aide Philip Zelikow last month in a key speech which advocated diplomacy.

Even while pursuing a sanctions resolution - which would be very mild at first if approved at all - the Bush administration is hoping a unified international front backed by some punitive measures will induce Iran's leadership to make concessions and start negotiating on the package of incentives on offer. Sanctions would buttress "pragmatic" forces in Tehran who argue that the cost of Iran's nuclear programme is too high, a senior US official told the Financial Times.

However, such an approach backfired with North Korea, and it is far from clear how Tehran will respond under duress. Those seeking engagement say this is a more opportune moment than 2000, when then US President Bill Clinton and Iran's reformist president Mohammad Khatami failed to establish a meaningful dialogue, with both sides facing serious resistance from hardliners. Now the leadership in both countries is in a position to direct events, and negotiations would have the support of both Democrats in the US and the ousted reformists in Iran.

A weakened US is more inclined to negotiate with Tehran than in May 2003 when, having just conquered Baghdad, it rebuffed an offer of talks from Iran. Still, the White House does not believe the Iranian leadership is serious about negotiations. And in Tehran there is intense suspicion about US motives and an understandable reluctance to throw away one of its strongest cards - the ongoing enrichment programme - before talks even begin.

Iran will take part in the third Gulf Dialogue to be held by Manama on Dec. 8-10. Gulf News on Oct. 2 quoted the Iranian Ambassador to Bahrain, Mohammad Farazmand, as saying: "I have received the invitation and I believe that we will take part in the meeting, like we did last year". This is organised by the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS).

Iran, at odds with most of its six GCC neighbours over the merits of its nuclear ambitions, would figure prominently at the dialogue which addresses regional security issues and attracts an increasingly higher number of participants. The inaugural sessions in 2004 brought together the six GCC states, Iran, Iraq, Yemen, the US, France, Russia, the UK, Australia, Japan and Singapore. In 2005 India, China and Germany were also involved. Iranian officials are likely to use the three-day meeting to renew their calls for a new security strategy in the Middle East and the Persian Gulf region based on "active contribution of all regional states and exit of foreign troops from the region".

Iran is seeking to use the opportunity provided by changes in Iraq to reintegrate itself into the region's safety order and is aggressively pushing for a common security system. Iran's Deputy Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mohammadi says the situation in Iraq and four wars in the Persian Gulf and the Middle East during the past three decades "clearly showed the need for a security strategy through co-operation of all regional countries in an area free from foreign forces".

President Bush has signed into law sanctions targeting countries which continue nuclear co-operation with Iran and sell the theocracy advanced weaponry. The measure was passed by the Senate on Sept. 30 after clearing the House of Representatives a day earlier. In a statement, Bush on Oct. 1 was quoted as saying: "I applaud Congress for demonstrating its bipartisan commitment to confronting the Iranian regime's repressive and destabilizing activities by passing the Iran Freedom Support Act. This legislation will codify US sanctions on Iran while providing my administration with flexibility to tailor those sanctions in appropriate circumstances and impose sanctions upon entities that aid the Iranian regime's development of nuclear weapons".

Mindful of the situation in Iraq, lawmakers warned that nothing in the legislation should be "construed as authorizing the use of force against Iran". Bush said: "My administration is working on many fronts to address the challenges posed by the Iranian regime's pursuit of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), support for terrorism, efforts to destabilize the Middle East and repression of the fundamental human rights of the citizens of Iran. We are engaged in intense diplomacy alongside our allies, and have also undertaken financial measures to counter the actions of the Iranian regime". Although it does not name any countries, the measure is seen as a clear warning to Russia and China which have resisted calls for new UNSC sanctions against Tehran in response to its refusal to halt uranium enrichment. Russia is involved in an $800m project to help Iran build a nuclear power plant in Bushehr and sells Iran modern weaponry. China has been accused of supplying the theocracy with advanced missile technology.

Senate majority leader Bill Frist, Republican of Tennessee, said: "This act also provides important new authority for the administration to block financial transactions related to Iran's weapons of mass destruction programmes and encourages the administration to use all available leverage over Russia to gain Russian support for multilateral sanctions against Iran". Senator Norm Coleman, Republican of Minnesota, said: "For the sake of our national security, the US must ensure that the sensitive nuclear technology that we share with partner countries does not fall into the hands of the Iranians". The measure signed by Bush states that it should be the policy of the US "not to bring into force an agreement for cooperation with the government of any country that is assisting the nuclear program of Iran or transferring advanced conventional weapons or missiles".
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Publication:APS Diplomat News Service
Geographic Code:7IRAN
Date:Oct 9, 2006
Words:2159
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