Tehran terrified of revelation of secret nuclear site
New details about Lavizan-3 and fresh calls for immediate IAEA inspections
Washington, DC, Feb. 27 - Subsequent to the Iranian Resistance's revelations about the Lavizan-3 site, which the religious fascism ruling Iran had hidden for years, panic and fear have set in among the leaders of the regime, who are extremely worried about the implications of the disclosure of the new nuclear site.
Instead of inviting International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors to visit the location, the regime sidestepped simple questions about Lavizan-3 - the nature of the site and the activities there – and unleashed a barrage of insults, fallacies, red herrings, and lies.
When all such gesturing proved ineffective, the clerical regime fell back on another tactic, thrusting its agents to the scene to claim that the door, the picture of which was displayed during Tuesday's press conference, was an image grabs from the website of a safe manufacturer company called GMP. On February 26, the regime's official news agency IRNA quoted a state-affiliated website as saying, "It was claimed that the picture shows an explosive-proof vault door related to the site. ... The picture was taken by a fire-proof door manufacturer GMP and is available on its website." The carbon copy of this story was then disseminated through a large number of other state-affiliated media outlets.
However, the multi-year investigations of the MEK and the NCRI's Security and Anti-terrorism and Defense and Strategic Research committees are comprehensive and detailed enough that the regime cannot sweep the scandal under the carpet by resorting to such lies.
The NCRI-US would like to make public the following additional points with respect to GMP, as well as the picture based on information obtained by MEK sources inside Iran:
Exile group accuses Iran of secret nuclear weapons research
By Carol Morello, The Washington Post, February 25, 2015
An Iranian exile group on Tuesday accused Iran’s government of conducting secret research with the aim of developing nuclear weapons, even as it is negotiating potential constraints on its ability to do so.
The National Council of Resistance of Iran said underground labs in suburban Tehran have been used since 2008 to enrich uranium. It said the plant, named Lavizan-3 after the neighborhood where many officers and their families live, is reached through tunnels leading from under a building ostensibly used to process passports and identity cards.
The claims could not be independently verified and U.S. officials initially declined to comment. On Wednesday, a State Department spokeswoman said officials “have no information at this time to support such a conclusion.”
“We have seen these claims and we take all such reports seriously,” said spokeswoman Jen Psaki.
Representatives of the opposition group, appearing at the National Press Club before a flag dating from pre-revolutionary Iran, detailed their claims as Secretary of State John F. Kerry testified before Congress, defending the administration’s ongoing nuclear talks with Iran.
Negotiators want to reach the broad outlines of an agreement by late March, though many highly complex technical details would still have to be hashed out before an interim agreement expires in late June.
The Iranian opposition group said Iran has lied about its nuclear program before, and no deal should be signed until Tehran agrees to inspections of the Lavizan-3 facility.
“It’s absolutely senseless to continue negotiations and decide the number of centrifuges you’re going to have if we have these serious issues lingering out there,” said Alireza Jafarzadeh, deputy director of the group’s Washington office.
Over more than a decade, the NCRI has made several assertions about Iran’s nuclear program, not all of which have proved accurate. In 2002, however, the group exposed the existence of two nuclear-related plants, one in Natanz for uranium enrichment and a heavy water reactor near Arak.
Tehran hadn’t acknowledged either previously, and the discovery has fueled a level of distrust that persists to this day.
The latest claims come at a particularly sensitive time in the talks over Iran’s nuclear program. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is due to address Congress next week, where he is expected to assert that a deal with Iran is dangerous for Israel and the world.
His audience will include members of Congress, including some Democrats, who are skeptical of Iran’s claims that its nuclear program is only for peaceful purposes, and many want to impose more sanctions on Iran.
The administration fears more sanctions will drive Iran away from the negotiating table, where it is talking with the United States and its partners — France, Britain, Germany, China and Russia — and to resume its uranium enrichment program.
The National Council of Resistance of Iran said the sources of its latest claims came from inside Iran, including from some who are in the government.
Satellite images the group culled from Google showed a large, walled complex of buildings at the foothills of the mountains outside Tehran. They also exhibited photographs purportedly taken inside the tunnel showing a steel door that they said was lined with lead to prevent radiation leaks.
Jafarzadeh said it took a full decade to gather intelligence about the facility. Most of it came from members of the controversial Mujahedin-e Khalq, which started out devoted to armed struggle against the shah and then kept fighting against the theocratic government that overthrew him. The MEK is part of the NCRI, and the State Department listed it as a terrorist organization until 2012.
Robert Einhorn, a senior fellow with the Arms Control and Non-Proliferation Initiative at the Brookings Institution, said the allegations should be investigated by the International Atomic Energy Agency, which is tasked with monitoring Iran’s facilities. The IAEA declined to comment.
“Every credible lead like this has to be pursued,” Einhorn said. “I don’t think you can dismiss the allegations out of hand. But the background is this organization has been right sometimes and has sometimes been quite wrong.”
John Kerry: U.S. looking into dissidents’ claims of new Iranian nuke cheating
Tells Congress doubts must be answered before deal can go forward
February 25, 2015
By Guy Taylor - The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 25, 2015 Secretary of State John F. Kerry said Wednesday that a final nuclear deal with Iran could be derailed if new allegations from an Iranian dissident group that Iran is running a secret uranium enrichment operation at a facility near Tehran prove true.
Mr. Kerry told lawmakers that U.S. officials knew of charges related the site prior to this week, but that “it has not been revealed yet as a nuclear facility.”
“It is a facility that we are well aware of, which is on a list of facilities we have,” the secretary of state said during a Capitol Hill budget hearing on Wednesday morning. “I’m not going to go into greater detail.”
“But these things are obviously going to have to be resolved as we go forward,” he said.
Mr. Kerry made the comments during a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing, in which lawmakers raised questions about the revelations Tuesday by the National Coalition of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), a dissident group that claimed the secret facility has never before been revealed to international officials.
At a press conference, the group said the underground facility on the outskirts of Tehran is known as “Lavizan-3” and has been used for clandestine nuclear research since 2008 — as well as for uranium enrichment with advanced IR-2m and IR-4 centrifuge machines.
The NCRI’s claim was not immediately verifiable, and the dissident group is known for having a controversial history in Washington. However, the group is seen to have deep sources inside Iran’s nuclear community and its members are credited with having made game-changing revelations about Tehran’s activities in the past.
Most notably, during the early 2000s, similar NCRI claims exposed the existence of Iran’s Natanz uranium enrichment facility and the Arak heavy-water plutonium facility — two operations that have been at the center of international scrutiny and distrust of Tehran during the years since then.
Rep. Brad Sherman, California Democrat, noted to Mr. Kerry Wednesday that “the MEK sometimes gives us accurate information.”
“They are the ones that told the world about the Iranian nuclear program,” Mr. Sherman said. “They now say that there’s a secret facility at Lavazza 3.”
Iran opposition unveils 'secret' Tehran nuclear site
Agence France Presse
Washington: An exiled Iranian opposition group Tuesday accused Tehran of running a "secret" uranium enrichment site close to Tehran, which it said violated ongoing talks with global powers on a nuclear deal.
"Despite the Iranian regime's claims that all of its enrichment activities are transparent ... it has in fact been engaged in research and development with advanced centrifuges at a secret nuclear site called Lavizan-3," said Alireza Jafarzadeh, deputy director of the National Council of Resistance of Iran(NCRI).
He said the site was hidden in a military base in the northeastern suburbs of Tehran.
He presented to reporters a series of satellite images drawn from Google Maps which he said backed "this intelligence from highly placed sources within the Iranian regime as well as those involved in the nuclear weapons projects."
The Lavizan-3 site was apparently constructed between 2004 and 2008 and has underground labs connected by a tunnel.
"Since 2008, the Iranian regime has secretly engaged in research and uranium enrichment with advanced... centrifuge machines at this site," Jafarzadeh said.
The group had shared its information with the US administration, he added.
The existence of the site was "a clear violation" of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty as well as UN resolutions and an interim November 2013 deal struck with global powers gathered in the P5+1 group, he said.
Under the interim accord, Iran agreed not to allow "any new locations for enrichment" and to provide IAEA, the UN nuclear watchdog, all information about its nuclear facilities.
"It is absolutely senseless to continue the negotiations," added Jafarzadeh.
The NCRI is a political umbrella of five Iranian opposition groups, the largest of which is the People's Mujahedeen Organization of Iran, which was once banned in Europe and the United States as a terror group.
The People's Mujahedeen has long opposed the nuclear negotiations, and with the NCRI has made several important revelations of the existence of secret nuclear sites in Iran.
The so-called P5+1 group of Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States and Germany is trying to strike an accord that would prevent Tehran from developing a nuclear bomb.
In return, the West would ease sanctions imposed on Tehran over its nuclear program, which Iran insists is purely civilian in nature.
A new March 31 deadline is looming for agreement on a political framework, after two previous dates for a comprehensive deal were missed.
"Despite the Iranian regime's claims of transparency, these nuclear activities, today's intelligence, makes clear it has been continuing to lie for more than a decade," added NCRI member Soona Samsami.
Panel on Iran Nuclear Negotiations: Prospects of Nuclear Agreement, challenges, verification & policy options
In an online question and answer session, the issue of the Iran nuclear agreement was discussed. The panel, moderated by R. Bruce McColm, President of the Institute for Democratic Strategies, included Ambassador Robert G. Joseph, Ph.D, former US Undersecretary of State for Arms Control &International Security, Professor Raymond Tanter, former White House National Security Council senior staffer and Alireza Jafarzadeh, Deputy Director of the National Council of Resistance of Iran US Representative Office.
Ambassador Joseph opened the session by saying he wanted to see a negotiated outcome and a “good agreement” at the end of the nuclear talks. However, he stated that there have been too many concessions, one being the fact that the talks are not preventing Iran from having nuclear weapon capability – a goal that has now been abandoned, meaning that Iran will one day have a large-scale enrichment capability.
Iran’s poor track record was extensively discussed with Ambassador Joseph reminding us how unreliable they have been when faced with questions about their nuclear capability. This means that there is no baseline knowledge for understanding if 12 months is a meaningful deadline - America has no idea how far Iran has advanced. The IAEA has been struggling to make progress in their investigations for years after constant stonewalling from the regime.
Ambassador Joseph also highlighted the unknowns surrounding the excess of enriched uranium that Iran possesses. Will it be sent out of the country? What will Iran do to make it secure? These are questions that we do not have answers to. It is unknown how long it could take for Iran to break out.
Access at any time, to any site and any person affiliated with the site is crucial according to Ambassador Joseph. However, he said that Iran wants to manage access, in other words, they want the right to deny access. This, in his opinion, is one of the many faults that Obama’s administration and the P5+1 have made in the nuclear talks. They have given too many concessions to Iran.
In fact, Ambassador Joseph went on to say that the Obama administration has made a series of serious errors in the negotiations. They have:
• relieved sanctions to “keep Iran on the negotiating table”
• demonstrated that they are desperate for a deal – something that Iran has exploited to the fullest
• made concession after concession (i.e. deadlines)
He concludes that the above makes it “almost embarrassing to watch” and that the U.S. is explaining away Iran’s violations.
Ambassador Joseph concluded his opening remarks with a warning that Iran will become the prominent country in the region – its presence in Middle Eastern countries is becoming more and more prominent. He warned that Iran will think it is immune to external pressure when they have nuclear capability and will therefore continue to repress their people.
Professor Raymond Tanter opened by discussing North Korea – a country that possesses extensive ballistic missile knowledge. This knowledge, Prof. Tanter believes, will eventually be passed to Iran, allowing Iran to militarize their nuclear weapons.
The disconnect between the nuclear talks on one hand and Iran’s support for terrorism, their missile delivery research, the repression of its people, etc. is of concern to Prof. Tanter. He stated that this should all be factored into the nuclear deal.
He believes that there is an increasing likelihood that America will accept any deal in order to avoid having to use force. The regime is therefore increasing their demands for concessions and America keeps granting them in return.
Prof. Tanter predicted that Iran will become more active in its support for terrorism, more active in its support for activities in Yemen and more active in its support for Shiite rebellion. He believes that Iran will be very comfortable behind its “nuclear umbrella” and will therefore be able to extend its reach far beyond its current reach.
Alireza Jafarzadeh discussed the inspections of nuclear sites. A major problem is that the joint plan has continued to allow Iran to ban inspectors from visiting nuclear sites. Another problem is Iran’s continual “cheating”. He explained that the regime have many different methods for cheating. They provoke delays, tamper with evidence, lie until they are eventually exposed, distract authorities and promise cooperation that they do not follow through with.
One major example of the above cheating and deception is the case of “Kala Electric” – a site that was exposed by NCRI in February 2003. The IAEA went to visit immediately after the site was exposed but noticed discrepancies only a month later. They took samples and noted that there had been considerable modifications to the premises. The regime said this was because the space was previously used as a storage facility, then changed to a laboratory, hence the major changes. However this was a lie – it was just an attempt to hide evidence and conceal the truth. The regime also lied about discrepancies in uranium quantities and hid evidence and centrifuges in other facilities.
Jafarzadeh said that the lesson we can pull from Kala Electric is that having access any time to any suspect site is crucial in the negotiations. Iran’s strategy of controlled access to already known nuclear sites is to not answer questions. This is why we can’t let this continue. He said that it is unacceptable that Iran can deny requests from IAEA. Obama should make sure this doesn’t continue. He claimed that there are at least a dozen suspect sites and questioned why they are not being looked at. How can future problems be resolved if they can’t even resolve the current and existing ones? The negotiations have not addressed the issue of suspect nuclear activity and Jafarzadeh said this needs to be resolved before a deal can be reached.
Can the Iran regime be Trusted?
An Analysis of Iran’s Behavior and Motivations in Nuclear Negotiations
International negotiators have been engaged in talks with the Iranian regime on its nuclear program since 2002. The current approach, led by the United States as part of the so-called P5+1, is now in its final stages. While opinions may vary as to the contents and wisdom of the deal that may be taking shape, all understand that the success of any agreement will be dependent on whether the Iranian regime can be trusted to curtail its decades-long quest for a nuclear weapon. As President Obama has said, if this agreement results in Iran becoming a nuclear power, history will judge the signatories harshly and explore whether they acted based upon the considered evidence of Iranian regime’s past and current behavior.
This report reviews Iran’s behavior since the negotiations began in an effort to inform the current dialogue on a potential agreement. Based on sources both public and from inside Iran, the report reviews two periods of intense negotiations with the regime (2003-2004) and (2013-2015) and draws the principles of Tehran’s approach to negotiations and the tactics used to reach these objectives.
Ultimately, the reader is left with one inescapable conclusion:
The Iranian regime has deliberately used the illusion of “trust building” to neutralize necessary and indispensable “transparency” measures that are the critical components of any successful nuclear agreement.
Evidence in the report to support this conclusion includes, but is not limited to, the following:
· “Trust Building”
o Verbal promises and commitments to international negotiators based on already-disclosed information.
o Reliance upon the alleged 2003 “fatwa” associated with Ayatollah Ali Khamenei against developing or pursuing nuclear weapons.
o Demand for immediate relief from international sanctions with no commitment to disclosing full history of Iran’s nuclear program.
o Refusal to meaningfully answer 11 outstanding IAEA questions related to the military aspects of Iran’s nuclear program or to allow access for international inspectors to sensitive military sites, individuals, and documents related to Iran’s nuclear program.
This report shows that the current Iranian negotiators continue to follow the playbook established by Khamenei and Iran’s senior officials since 2002. Unfortunately, after more than a decade of war in the Middle East, leaders of the P5+1 might be convinced by the “trust building” measures laid out above to avoid another Middle East confrontation and to advance their own domestic objectives. However, before they sign on to an agreement that will be judged by future historians, we recommend they review the findings in this report and ask themselves if Iran’s actions have demonstrated a true commitment to transparency about their past and current nuclear program. Only a positive answer can form the basis of an agreement that can be relied upon to protect the region and the world from one of its most critical threats.
Review of Iran’s Tactics and Principles in Nuclear Negotiations
A Window towards Tehran’s Objectives and Viewpoints
From August 2002, when the National Council of Resistance of Iran unveiled the Natanz uranium enrichment and Arak heavy water reactor sites to present, Tehran has been involved in various talks with international counterparts regarding its controversial nuclear program.
The report below, the first analysis of its kind, has been prepared from public sources, as well as sources located inside the regime, to assess the principles of the negotiations from Tehran’s perspective, and also the tactics used by Tehran to reach its objectives in the negotiations.
There is a broad consensus that Tehran, specifically in the past two years, has entered the talks under the pressures of sanctions and from a desperate and weak standpoint. The nuclear program that was one of the hallmarks of Tehran’s power in the past 25 years has now become a source of weakness and deadlock. Ali Khamenei, The regime’s leader has agreed with the talks as a result of his fear of another massive public uprising.
Throughout this period, the negotiations have been followed closely by the regime’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei himself and he has set and articulated all the main guidelines.
Tehran’s key & prominent attitude and viewpoint in the negotiations
The framework that Khamenei has specified and which the regime’s senior officials have been in consensus with him on has been that the talks must only focus on previously revealed sites, projects and aspects of the nuclear program that cannot be denied. In the meantime, the apparatus in its entirety, especially the weaponization aspect and its various branches, must remain untouched, intact, and not mentioned in the talks at all. Attention and focus in this regard should be marginalized and made secondary issues in the talks.
This is the most crucial, significant, and determining element in Tehran’s approach in the talks.
Khamenei has personally defined and articulated the framework for the nuclear talks for the negotiation team. While he has addressed various aspects of the Iranian regime’s nuclear program including scope of enrichment in Iran and the issue of sanctions a review of Khamenei’s positions and in particular the redlines laid out by him, three issues stand out and have been consistently reiterated by him in the course of the past two years:
• No access to military sites for the inspectors
• No access to Iranian nuclear scientists for the inspectors
• No stopping of research and development in the nuclear field
The above three points constitute the main pillars of the military aspect of the Iranian nuclear program. In other words, the main redlines for Khamenei have been to maintain the most crucial and fundamental aspects of the nuclear weapons program and he has reiterated this time and again.
Tehran’s systematic effort for “Trust Building” to neutralize necessary and indispensable “Transparency” measures and responses to serious lingering Questions
A principle approach and tenant in the negotiations has been Tehran’s emphasis during the past two years on “trust building” and efforts to pursue this atmosphere through various means, especially verbal guarantees and highlighting issues such as the claimed fatwa associated to Khamenei (banning nuclear weapons).
This has been deliberately pursued to set aside or marginalize “transparency” measures regarding the nature of the regime’s nuclear program, and specifying its objectives, particularly the possible military dimensions (PMD). On the other hand, the regime has continuously obstructed these efforts, by refraining to provide specific responses, not providing necessary access and attempting to minimize or indefinitely suspend such actions.
Tehran’s approach in the past two years vis-à-vis the IAEA in this regard has been very telling and is completely in line with the abovementioned attitude and policy.
During this period, despite lengthy negotiations and various talks, the IAEA has not made progress in addressing the host of unanswered questions regarding PMD and the regime’s nuclear program. Tehran has only been transparent in its refusal to provide answers to the IAEA’s serious questions and in restricting further access for the UN watchdog in the past two years. As a result, the IAEA has not been able to make serious headway regarding 11 key areas on PMD in Iran’s nuclear program.
Khamenei fatwa, one of mullahs’ main ploys for “trust building”
One of the main arguments that the clerical regime, particularly in the course of the past two years, reiterated for “trust building” instead of “transparency”, has been the purported fatwa by Khamenei, declaring that Weapons of Mass Destruction in general and nuclear weapons in particular as forbidden.
Javad Zarif, the regime’s chief nuclear negotiator has cited the purported fatwa repeatedly during the talks and outside the talks as one of the main reasons that the regime’s nuclear program does not pursue a nuclear program that is militaristic in nature.
The regime’s officials assert that this fatwa can be ratified and be binding like a law. The mullahs’ president, Hassan Rouhani prior to his trip to New York and during his speech at the UN General Assembly in 2013, once again cited the fatwa as a proof of peaceful nature of the mullahs’ nuclear program.
However, a bit of scrutiny reveals that the purpose of such a fatwa is purely for deceiving the international community and devoid of any value, since there has never been any written document against nuclear arms in Khamenei’s handwriting and carrying his stamp. It is standard practice for all fatwas to be produced in this way and distributed via the press or official websites. Furthermore, not all prohibitory fatwas are binding for the government or officials. Except for the fact that Ali Larijani, the Speaker of Majlis (parliament) stated orally on October 31, 2013: “the leader has declared use of nuclear weapons as haram (prohibited).” It is clear that “declared haram” is very different than a binding fatwa for the regime and its senior officials.
Ayatollah Jalal Ganeji in a detailed religious review reasoned that the fatwa, even if it’s issued, has little value since the credibility of a fatwa may be assessed on three grounds: its correctness, utility, and the competence of the one who issues it. The solidity of a fatwa largely hinges on the religious expertise of the one issuing it, and Ali Khamenei is not considered a jurisprudent in Iranian and Shiite religious centers.
He reasoned that first, a fatwa is only binding for the followers of the religious scholar who issues it, and any officer or commander who follows another religious scholar or considers himself to not need the fatwa, is not required to follow it. In addition, there is no punishment for failing to adhere to a fatwa.
Second, and more importantly, any fatwa issued by anyone may be declared void by “secondary decrees.” The most imperative cases of “secondary decrees” are “emergency circumstances.” Moreover, any decision about the need to use the “poison” namely a nuclear bomb is not up to the scholar who has issued the fatwa.
Ayatollah Ganjei elaborated that in the realm of these Shiite jurisprudents (including Khomeini and Khamenei), Jawaher al Kalam (a 50-volume collection written by Sheikh Mohammad Hassan Najafi in 1850) is considered to be the only credible source of Islamic jurisprudence. Jawaher al Kalam quite clearly states “In the battle with the enemy it is permitted to stage a siege, prevent anyone from entering or leaving; use catapults, guns, gunpowder; rain down deadly and poisonous snakes, scorpions and other deadly animals; destroy walls and houses; cut off trees; rain down fire and guide floods [to the enemy’s site]; and anything else that would increase the chance of overcoming the enemy.” In another section the author writes, “Poisoning of the enemy water or food is considered ‘haram’ by some… and is reluctantly accepted by some… But if this is the only way to defeat the enemy, it is permitted without qualification.” (Jawaher al Kalam- pages 66-67, version published in Beirut in 1981).
Thus accordingly, use of weapons of mass destruction in the view of the clerics ruling in Iran is permissible and his informal rejection of nuclear weapons cannot be a basis for haram classification unless it is done for a different objective (deceiving the enemy as they claim) and changed at a later stage when it is deemed necessary.
This clearly shows that the purported fatwa by Khamenei is a big lie to deceive the West and what is being touted is anything but a fatwa.
The Study and the Report:
The report, reviewing two periods of the West’s intense negotiations with the regime (2003-2004) and (2013-2015) has been able to specify 7 principles of Tehran’s approach regarding the talks and 8 tactics used to reach these objectives.
It has been over 12 years that Tehran and the international community have been negotiating the various aspects of Iran’s nuclear program. These negotiations, mainly conducted in the context of talks with the EU3 or with the P5+1 (also known as EU3+3), have been among the longest running talks in modern history. They have also gone through various ups and downs during this period.
Negotiations in search of a solution were first initiated a few months after the revelation of the clandestine uranium enrichment site at Natanz and the heavy water reactor at Arak in August 2002 by the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI).
Now, after dozens of rounds of talks starting with European counterparts (EU3) and moving on in more recent years to include the permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany (P5+1), the international community is at a critical juncture. A dozen of those rounds of talks have taken place in just the last 20 months.
However, these talks have given little consideration to what governs Tehran’s behavior, and the fact that what factors determine Tehran’s reaction and attitude in talks that have already witnessed scores of twists and turns.
The key question in the study:
The key question was whether Tehran is pursuing a specific strategy and specific tactics to move towards a solution, or if Tehran’s tactics have been decided at every juncture based on conditions and given parameters at that juncture? What experience can be drawn from dozens of rounds of talks regarding Tehran’s conduct and reaction?
These questions have not received attention thus far, and an analysis of probable answers may be especially helpful at this stage, as Western powers work to assess Tehran’s positions and actions under a tight nuclear deadline.
Study and review conducted by the US Representative Office of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, the first of its kind, has attempted to specify and probe Tehran’s objective in the talks, along with its tactics and characteristics in the talks.
The review is of significance since it can help determine and shed light on Tehran’s approach and actions in the nuclear talks.
Hassan Rouhani, key and unique individual in Iran’s nuclear program
Hassan Rouhani, the current president in Tehran has played a special and rather unique role in Tehran’s nuclear program and in the nuclear talks over the years, beginning long before his presidential tenure in 2013.
In August 1989 the regime’s Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) was established as the highest decision-making body on national security matters. Since then the nuclear issue has been wholly guided by this body. Until 2005, Rouhani was secretary of SNSC, and thus was involved in all policy discussions underlying the nuclear program as well as in the execution of all its principal projects.
On October 6, 2003, subsequent to international concern being piqued by the exposure of clandestine aspects of the nuclear program, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei ordered Rouhani to personally assume responsibility of the nuclear case. He thus became the head of the team negotiating with the West. He held this position until August 2005 when the administration of then-President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad began its work.
After Ahmadinejad became president, Rouhani remained in SNSC, this time in the capacity of Khamenei’s representative. And now, as the president of the Islamic Republic, he heads the Supreme National Security Council. With such a background, Rouhani has played a special role in the nuclear file and very few rival his knowledge of the regime’s nuclear program and have followed its objectives at the highest levels so intimately.
Setting aside the past 20 months’ negotiations and the November 2013 interim agreement, nuclear talks with Iran only bore fruit in another era, namely with the Tehran Declaration of 21 October 2003 and the Paris Declaration of 15 November 2004. In both cases, Hassan Rouhani headed the negotiations with the EU3 (France, Germany, and Britain).
In light of this background, Rouhani’s conduct, attitudes, and viewpoints reflect to a great degree, the conduct, attitudes, and viewpoints of Tehran and the system that is pursuing the nuclear project.
Sources used for the preparation of the report (public and classified)
The report, “Review of Iran’s Tactics and Principles in Nuclear Negotiations
A Window towards Tehran’s Objectives and Viewpoints”, reviews and assesses the conduct of Tehran’s negotiating team during various stages of the negotiations and evaluates the approach and reactions seen from Tehran during various rounds of talks. This review uses four different sources:
· Hassan Rouhani’s Book, National Security and Nuclear Diplomacy: It is Rouhani’s memoirs for the period of 2003- 2004 when he was in charge of the nuclear dossier. Rouhani published his observations from this time in a 1200-page book in autumn 2011. This is the first book by a senior official of the regime covering the period when Rouhani headed the nuclear negotiations.
· Rouhani’s speech before Supreme Cultural Revolution Council (SCRC) on November 3, 2003: When Rouhani was responsible for Iran’s nuclear file, he gave a detailed speech at the Supreme Cultural Revolution Council (SCRC) to brief regime officials in an address titled “Beyond Iran and IAEA challenges in the nuclear file.” The text of this speech was eventually published in the autumn 2005 edition of Rahbord magazine, the quarterly of Expediency Council’s Strategic Research Center, of which Rouhani himself was the chief editor.
Two classified reports by the Office of Political and Legal Studies of the Majlis (parliament), both dated December 2004, shed further light on the hidden aspects of the tactics and assessments by the Iranian regime in its negotiations with the West. These two reports, which have not been made public before, are titled:
· “Substantive study of Tehran and Paris agreements – Report No. 1”
· “A critical and analytical look at the Paris Agreement – Report No. 2”.
The reports were prepared in December 2004 to brief legislators on the nuclear talks.
These two reports have been secured by the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), a coalition of the democratic opposition, from inside the Iranian regime and they contain aspects of internal assessments made by the regime regarding the nuclear talks.
Albeit various forms or shapes of the nuclear negotiations during the years and irrespective of the different negotiating teams or individuals leading the talks with the West on behalf of the Iranian regime (four individuals during three presidencies), a study of the negotiations shows that as far as Tehran is concerned, certain laws govern these talks and Tehran has been pursuing specific objectives. This study has ascertained seven principles govern the Iranian regime’s position in these negotiations:
Rules governing Iranian regime’s moves
1. It is the Supreme Leader:
Decisions are made at the highest levels of the Iranian regime (practically, the negotiating team just advances the strategy dictated by the regime’s leaders, in particular the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei). The composition of key and decision-making figures on the nuclear program has not changed significantly in the past two decades and they remain mostly the same individuals. Saeed Jalili, the principal negotiator during Ahmadinejad’s era is among special advisors to Khamenei in these negotiations.
2. Evade the Military Dimension:
As far as Tehran is concerned the military dimensions of the nuclear program have been removed as much as possible from the talks; they either have never been discussed or they have been intentionally minimized or watered down. The military sites have in principle been excluded from inspections. In exceptional cases where access has been granted, it has been fully controlled, limited, opaque and specifically designed to remove the issue from the table.
3. Only Deal with Disclosed Sites:
The negotiations and even any agreements that have been made have just involved the disclosed aspects of the nuclear program and Tehran has never showed any desire to reveal all aspects of its nuclear program. In fact, the opposite is true. The Iranian regime has consistently attempted to portray that the program has been made public in its entirety and that there are no more aspects to the nuclear program.
4. Drag the IAEA:
In principle Tehran has tried to cloak the program, dodged offering essential responses to queries, created ambiguity, and left IAEA questions unanswered. If and when it has offered replies it has been when left with no other option, and even then it has only given the minimum amount possible to escape further scrutiny.
5. Keep the Entire Nuclear Infrastructure:
As far as Khamenei is concerned, every attempt must be made to preserve the nuclear program in its entirety. In particular, research and development has not ceased at any juncture.
6. Build Trust Verbally:
Where serious issues have been raised about the program the Iranian regime has offered verbal promises and attempted to gain trust by using already disclosed secrets while concurrently postponing and not responding to IAEA investigations.
7. Keep the Talks Alive:
Resorting to and portraying an inclination for negotiations have been employed by Khamenei to prevent the international community from adopting any resolute policy vis-à-vis Iran so that the nuclear project may continue to advance under this cloak. Meanwhile, Tehran is also reluctant to find itself in a position where talks crash since this would pave the way for the adoption of a resolute policy towards Tehran.
Main tactics employed by Tehran in negotiations
This study shows that Tehran has employed at least eight different tactics to achieve the above mentioned goals:
1. Buying Time:
Buying time and prolonging the negotiations
Amongst the principal methods specified by Khamenei to be employed in the talks was to buy time and prolong the negotiations. This tactic was conducted in this manner that although Tehran would not offer anything specific or offer precious little, the negotiations would continue and not be halted or if they come to a halt this period would be for a short period.
2. Avoiding the PMD:
Distracting attention and focus from the possible military dimensions of the program, pushing it to the sidelines, and deferring to provide responses in this regard
A tactic continuously employed by Tehran to prevent the investigations from focusing on the essence and ultimate objective of the nuclear project, has been to water down the role of the military figures and their presence in the decision making regarding the nuclear program. Tehran not only never brings up such issues, but also through various tactics pales any mention of this reality or denies it altogether. As an example, Tehran and in particular Rouhani never clarified the role of IRGC Brigadier General Ali Hosseini-Tash, the then Deputy Defense Minister in the meetings of the Supreme Nuclear Committee during the years 2003-2004. While from every ministry just the ministers (and in the case of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, AEOI, only the head of this organization) participated in these meetings, awkwardly, in addition to the Defense Minister, Deputy Defense Minister also took part in those meetings. According to specific information, the organ tasked with weaponization of the nuclear project (i.e. the organ currently called SPND headed by Dr. Mohsen Fakhrizadeh) was working under Hosseini-Tash at that time.
3. No Access to Sensitive Sites:
Refusing altogether or deferring access of IAEA to sensitive sites
4. Hide until Exposed:
Refusing to provide information and lack of transparency regarding projects, smuggling networks, or illicit measures until disclosures and revelations are made by other sources (constant emphasis by the regime that the whole project and its dimensions have been disclosed and there is nothing more to disclose)
This is one of the principal tactics used by Tehran in the talks that it would only offer the least possible information necessary to keep the negotiations alive. The Iranian regime offers information only when it is absolutely necessary to do so or when credible and undeniable information reaches the IAEA or parties to the negotiations from other sources.
5. Defer to Lengthy Reports:
Deferring providing answers until lengthy reports are prepared and until pertinent authorities of the regime’s counter-parts have studied the reports
At several junctures during these years, Tehran has bought time at the specific time and also for a certain period afterwards by presenting “comprehensive and detailed reports” or even by simply promising such reports “that would explain everything and would clarify all issues”. This tactic in turn delays clarifications and disclosures of aspects of the program.
6. Inject Optimism:
Inducing a perception that negotiations are proceeding forward as a tactic to extract concessions
Tehran frequently fans this perception in its counterparts that the talks are going forward and gaps are being bridged in order to extract further concessions.
7. No Halt to R&D:
Removing the issue of research and development from discussions
Tehran has always insisted that research and development is not up for discussion. This is one of the major evasions created and maintained by Tehran in the talks. To keep open the path to the advancement of its nuclear program, Tehran always haggles about the context of research and development as a method to continue such activities. As such, it has constantly kept its nuclear program on the march and this program has never been brought to a complete halt.
8. Side Talks:
Tehran attempts to resolve an outstanding issue with just one party in the talks or tries to strike a deal with one party on the margins of the negotiations and then cornering other parties on the topic as a fait accompli.
It then uses this agreement as a lever to advance its aims instead of resolving the issue in collective negotiations where all parties are present. It conveys that the agreement reached at the sidelines is an agreement by all parties to the negotiations and abrogating it will derail the talks.
 Chair of the Commission for Freedom of Religion and Denominations of the National Council of Resistance of Iran was a pupil of Khomeini’s in Najaf when he was in exile and subsequently stood up against Khomeini’s religious dictatorship, earning himself a death sentence and branding as an infidel but he escaped Iran.