The Iran Threat: President Ahmadinejad and the Coming Nuclear Crisis by Alireza Jafarzadeh

Iran & Iraq Study Group Report

WMET Radio, 1160 AM
Tom Rose & Gary Bauer Show

December 1, 2006  

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Welcome back everybody, Tom Rose and Gary Bauer with you thirty five minutes after the hour through Friday. Joined now by Alireza Jafarzadeh, Fox Foreign Affairs Analyst, a Voice of America guest, a BBC guest, lectures at Georgetown University, the University of Michigan. His new book coming out, The Iran Threat: President Ahmadinejad and the Coming Nuclear Crisis.

Tom Rose and Gary Bauer: First of all welcome to the Bauer and Rose show. What goes on inside Iran now in advance of the release of this Iraq Study Group report? Is there a sense that time clearly is on the regime’s side and that once it obtains nuclear weapons, which it’s well on the way to doing, that the die will be cast and Iran will be immensely more powerful than it is today?
Alireza Jafarzadeh:
Well that’s certainly what the Ayatollahs are hoping for. And as far as at least the international scene is concerned, they feel that the situation is actually ripe and they are heading towards that direction. As far as their nuclear weapons program is concerned, they have been moving the program forward incessantly, with no delays whatsoever. In fact ever since Ahmadinejad took office they have sped up the program. The international community is not doing much to stop it. As far as Iraq is concerned, they are gaining more influence, more momentum there, and they feel that they have a big leverage called Iraq. So internationally speaking you are absolutely correct. 


Tom Rose and Gary Bauer: You know, here in the US among people that understand this threat there is nonetheless a debate, a disagreement with some saying that we’ve got to eventually take a military strike here and take out as many facilities as we can, the other side arguing that if we do that we will end up destroying the Iranian opposition and that our emphasis really ought to be on stimulating and promoting some sort of uprising in the country rather than a military solution. Do you come down on one side or the other in that debate?


Alireza Jafarzadeh: I think you’re correct that there are more than two options. It used to be that people either said let’s talk and negotiate and if it didn’t work let’s just use the military option. The third option that you mentioned is now getting a lot of momentum in Washington and other capitals around the world that there is a genuine discontent, a deep rooted discontent within Iran against the Iranian regime. In fact, Ahmadinejad’s, the new president of the Iranian regime, main weakness, his Achilles heel, is its domestic situation. Contrary to his external policies that he has big leverage when it comes to the nuclear issue, when it comes to Iraq, when it comes to Lebanon, domestically he’s extremely vulnerable and he wants to cover that: he doesn’t want anyone to deal with that and I think this is the winning card. This is what the United States and the European countries need to do to exploit this, to take advantage of this, to reach out to the Iranian opposition, to the Iranian people who are already calling for regime change and replacing the Ayatollahs with a democratic system in Iran.


Tom Rose and Gary Bauer: Isn’t that one of the reasons this guy is so hell-bent on getting a nuclear weapon: not just to counteract outside pressure but to immunize him against internal opposition?


Alireza Jafarzadeh: You are absolutely correct. In fact, the main reason that Ahmadinejad was handpicked by the Supreme Leader Khameni, as I discuss in detail in my book, was exactly for that. The Iranian regime felt that they were extremely vulnerable, they need to do something big to overcome the internal discontent otherwise they would lose power and therefore nuclear weapons, more than any other external use, has its own domestic advantage: it would give the Ayatollahs the leverage they need to be able to suppress their own population. And the same way their involvement in Iraq: the more they get involved in Iraq, the more they feel that they would guarantee their own survival.


Tom Rose and Gary Bauer: The U.S. intelligence says, rightfully or wrongfully, has been given a black eye over the whole issue of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. And I fear that because of that we’re now underestimating the threat. One of the things that’s hard to get our arms around here is just how close Iran is to obtaining these weapons. What do your sources tell you?


Alireza Jafarzadeh: Exactly, I think the danger is that because of what happened in Iraq that people would have a tendency, like a pendulum, to shift way to the other side saying that we don’t know anything about this, we don’t know if they have any program at all or not. But this is not the case; Iran is not Iraq. And I say it not because of the intelligence community, obviously they haven’t been very successful, but because the sources within the Iranian opposition, the main opposition known as the Mojahedin-e Khalq group which is the largest opposition within Iran which is a part of the larger coalition called the National Council of Resistance of Iran. They were responsible for getting intelligence about the entire nuclear weapons program of Iran. All the major nuclear sites of Iran that are now being inspected by the International Atomic Energy Agency where basically exposed by this opposition group...


Tom Rose and Gary Bauer: Well, Alireza if I can interject, I think you’re being rather modest here. Not only was that group, it was you personally who became, at least in this country, the whistleblower. It was you who revealed the nuclear facility in Natanz. It was you that revealed the facility in Arak and it was your efforts here in this country, in Washington, which then compelled the IAEA to finally look into these allegations.


And we thank you.


Alireza Jafarzadeh: Well, I appreciate that, thank you very much for that. But you’re correct it was August of 2002 that I got the information from these sources I was mentioning earlier about the existence of this nuclear site in Natanz and until then, the whole world was totally blank about this; they had no idea whatsoever. And when I exposed the site in August of 2002 it really stunned the world; they didn’t know what to think. The IAEA had no inspection teams in Iran. They were not expecting anywhere in Iran. So they immediately asked to go to the country. The regime started playing games. It took six months before the first IAEA team headed by Mohamed ElBaradei, the Director General of the IAEA, to go to Iran and go to Natanz. Interestingly, the day before their arrival, I found out from the very same sources that what Iran was trying to do: they wanted to show ElBaradei the sites in Natanz with the exception of one building where they actually had the centrifuge machines which is used for enriching uranium sitting there. So I immediately held a press conference in Washington, right across from the White House, and I had satellite images and I pinpointed to that one particular building saying this is where the centrifuge machines are and I relayed the information to Vienna, where the IAEA headquarters is, and eventually Mohamed ElBaradei went to that building and they found 164 centrifuge machines sitting there, parts for a larger number of centrifuge machines to be assembled and then the whole thing started at that time. And then the site in Arak, which is a heavy water facility that gives Iran a parallel way of getting fissile material for the bomb not by just enriching uranium but they can produce plutonium which is a parallel way of getting the bomb and these two sites have been the focal point of Iran’s nuclear weapons program ever since.


Tom Rose and Gary Bauer: Proving the old adage that no good deed goes unpunished, this incredibly important, significant intelligence information that you and others literally risked your lives to present to the American people and the world was responded in kind by our State Department closing down your offices. It’s just amazing to me: labeling you guys as terrorists.


Alireza Jafarzadeh: Many members of Congress are equally appalled, they just went so angry about this saying that this is the worst thing you can do: instead of empowering the opposition, in fact, strengthen their ability to further help expose the nuclear weapon’s program of the Iranian regime. The State Department basically caved in to the pressure coming from Tehran.


Tom Rose and Gary Bauer: You were embarrassing the Iranian government. How dare you?


Alireza Jafarzadeh: Exactly, and instead of doing that they were saying let’s sit down and deal and negotiate with Iran and obviously the number one demand of the Iranian regime is to call their main opposition not as freedom fighters but have them called as terrorists and have their abilities limited because Tehran knows very well that it is this opposition that has the ability to mobilize the population, that has the leadership, the strength to overthrow the Ayatollahs and therefore they want them limited, they want their operations shut down, they want them bombed, they want them killed and the worst thing to do is to give in to the demands of the Ayatollahs. You send the wrong signal to them that you are weak, that you need their help and then you send the wrong signal to the Iranian people who want to get the message from the Western countries, particularly from the United States, that the West is supporting them, that when they stand up against the Ayatollahs that they would have the support of the international community. They are not asking for anything much, they are not asking for money, they are not asking for arms, they are not asking for American soldiers to do the fighting for them. All they’re saying is that in our fight against the Ayatollahs that benefits the rest of the world, please, please at least be neutral.


Tom Rose and Gary Bauer: Alireza, as we go towards this nuclear crisis that you outline in your book, the Iran Threat, us perhaps trying to destabilize the Iranian regime, Iran rushing to get the nuclear program done. What kind of reach does that regime have right here in the United States through proxies, or through Hezbollah agents or whatever? We know of course they’ve got that asset to play in the Middle East, we know they’ve got some reach into Europe but do you believe there is a direct threat here in the United States from Iranian agents?


Alireza Jafarzadeh: I think there is and the Iranian regime has been playing it very smart. They have been trying to contain any of their overt activities within American soil for the time being so that people would not pay attention to them, they would not focus on them. But they certainly have their leverage the same way they have their proxy groups in Europe, in the Middle East, elsewhere they have their own proxies here and there are a number of religious centers, mosques, and Islamic centers here in this country that have close ties and connections to the Iranian regime and they could be activated any time that is necessary. And the Iranian agents are freely coming and going. They have an interest section. There’s not an embassy but there is an interest section in Washington that has far more personnel than is actually required. They are doing intelligence work against the Iranian dissidents so that when the times comes and if necessary they can do terrorism also in this country against them, they can do terrorism against Americans, they can do a whole host of things against the United States. They’re already fighting Americans in Iraq by sending the IEDs, improvised explosive devices, that are built in Iran and sent to Iraq. I have all the details of this information in my book that shows really how Iran has planned from a long time ago to destabilize Iraq and to force the United States out of that country.


Tom Rose and Gary Bauer: The book sounds like much reading, now I understand that I comes out in January but it can be preordered now online, is that right?


Alireza Jafarzadeh: Absolutely on they can preorder the book. It comes out next month and there’s a lot of interesting information, not only on the nuclear weapons program that I explain in details how the military has been involved, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards have been involved in the nuclear weapons program and how they are hiding the program underground into tunnels and how Ahmadinejad’s main mission really has been to speed up the program but also I have extensive details about their operation in Iraq and how they’ve been destabilizing the country and then the last chapter basically deals with options on how we can really contain the Iranian threat, that there is a viable option, there is hope, there is a chance to overturn the whole situation both in Iraq and in Iran that would impact the whole region.


Tom Rose and Gary Bauer: They don’t even need tunnels; we’re not going to do a damn thing. It’s so pathetic that, whatever. Anyway, Alireza, thank you so much. We hope to have you back, it’s very sobering


And a much-read book, The Iran Threat: President Ahmadinejad and the Coming Nuclear Crisis. Thanks for being on Bauer and Rose.


Alireza Jafarzadeh: Thank you very much.


The Iran Threat: President Ahmadinejad and the Coming Nuclear Crisis by Alireza Jafarzadeh
Revised, Updated Version  Available in Paperback at