'Iran has only accelerated its nuclear activity'

Tue 07 August 2012 07:07 GMT | 12:07 Local Time

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Ahmad Majidyar

News.Az interviews Ahmad Majidyar, a senior research associate at the American Enterprise Institute.

How likely does the soonest war of the west against Iran seem to you given the ‘last prewar council’ held by the supreme leader of the Islamic Republic A.Hamenei last week?

I don’t know whether or not the news story is accurate. But I think an Israeli attack against Iran’s nuclear facilities is now more likely than any time in the past, and the Iranian leaders understand this.

This is because all diplomatic efforts to persuade Iran to halt its controversial nuclear program have produced no results. The recent talks between Iran and the 5+1 Group in Baghdad and Moscow largely failed. While economic sanctions have had a real impact on Iran’s economy, they have so far failed to force Iran to stop its nuclear activity. Moreover, there is no sign of strong internal opposition inside Iran that could topple the current regime.

Thus, with no alternatives solution in sight and Iran’s nuclear enrichment continuing apace, Israeli leaders may any time opt for a military strike as the only option to delay the Iranian race toward a nuclear bomb.

Israel sees a nuclear Iran as an existential threat, and it may launch an attack to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power with or without Washington’s approval.

Do you believe in possible peaceful solution to the problem connected with the Iranian nuclear programme?

In the past twenty years, diplomacy with Iran has failed to produce any positive results. In the 1990s, Germany and France tried to use diplomacy and offered economic incentives to persuade the regime in Tehran to stop its nuclear program. They failed. In the past three and half years, the Obama administration has tried to use a combined policy of diplomacy, sabotage and sanctions to deter Tehran from continuing its march towards a nuclear bomb. But Iran has only accelerated its nuclear activity.

Indeed, both the Ahmadinejad government and the reformists before him have used diplomacy as a tool to advance Iran’s nuclear program without direct confrontation with the West. Hassan Rowhani, former Iranian nuclear negotiators, and Abdollah Ramezandzadeh, former spokesperson of the President Mohammed Khatami’s government (1997-2005), have articulated that Tehran’s diplomatic engagements with the West were aimed at buying time to advance Iran’s nuclear activities rather than to find a peaceful resolution to the issue. Now that Iran is on the threshold of becoming a nuclear power, diplomacy alone is unlikely to persuade it to halt its nuclear program.

How effective are the resolutions of the UN Security Council and economic sanctions against Iran for the peaceful resolution of the ‘Iranian problem’?

The U.N. Security Council resolutions and unilateral sanctions by the United States and the European Union have had a significant effect on the Iranian economy. Iran is facing rising inflation, major depreciation of its currency, and increasing unemployment rates. Figures issued by Iran’s Central Bank show inflation above 20%. The actual number could be much higher. The price of food, especially bread and chicken, has skyrocketed in the recent months, triggering protests in some regions.

While these economic woes will definitely have political cost for the regime in future, they are currently not at a level that would force Iran to abandon its nuclear program. Iran’s defiant stance in the Baghdad and Moscow negotiations showed the current sanctions regime has not been effective enough to force Tehran to make a compromise.

And finally, what do you think about the US State Department’s report spread last week which states that the Azerbaijani government has undertaken to place seven radars on the Caspian shore? Can these radars be targeting Iran?

As the report noted, Azerbaijan has had notable success in combating terrorist facilitators in the Caucasus region, and the sustainment of the radar stations will further boost the country’s capabilities to detect smuggling threats. It will also help with the surveillance of nuclear proliferation in the region, especially from Iran.

If the Foreign Policy report was accurate, it may have been leaked by the Obama administration in an effort to dissuade Israel from carrying out a military attack against Iran.

Without a doubt, there has been improvement in ties between Azerbaijan and Israel recently. Surrounded by hostile neighbors, it is pragmatic for Azerbaijan to foster closer relations with outside powers such as the United States and Israel.

Cultivating closer ties with Azerbaijan also helps Israel and the United States to counter the Iranian threat.

If Azerbaijan grants Israel access to its airfields, it would greatly help a potential Israeli military strikes against Iran, especially in targeting nuclear facilities in Iran’s remote regions where Israel cannot carry out an air attack without the need for refueling. But it is not yet clear if the Azerbaijan government would cooperate with Israel if the latter launches a military strike against Iran in the near future.




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