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Nuclear bombs and Iranian regime’s military doctrine

Ali Safavi, President of the Near East Policy Research Iranian regime’s military doctrine and the options before the international community to deal with this threat.
Address by Ali Safavi, President of the Near East Policy Research in Paris Conference; "Iran after elections – Global consequences"

Since the year 2000, under the direct supervision of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s military planners and strategists have been working on a new concept for the theocratic state’s military doctrine to take into account the new realities in the region and on the world stage. That concept is “asymmetric warfare.”

And obtaining nuclear weapons is an indispensable part of this strategy, with three important benefits:

  • The survival of the theocratic state in Iran would be guaranteed;
  • The Islamic Republic would become the undisputed regional hegemon and capable of blackmailing governments in the region, particularly its southern Arab neighbors;
  • It would raise the Islamic Republic’s standing in the Muslim world as the Umm-ol-Qura, (the Mother of All Islamic Lands), which would in turn facilitate both the recruitment of extremists and export of Islamic revolution to other Muslim nations.

Iran’s Two-Track Nuclear Program
The Iranian regime has organized its nuclear program in two parallel, autonomous systems – a civilian and a military program – that ultimately fall under the supervision of the Supreme Leader and a close circle of trusted advisers.

The main agency in the civilian program is the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI). It is responsible for power plants such as the Bushehr light water reactor and the nuclear fuel cycle activities, including the mining site in Saghand, the yellow-cake producing sites in Bandar-Abbas and Ardakan, and the Uranium Conversion Facility in Isfahan.

This program is not just a cover for the military program, but also provides it with both technological expertise, a pool of experts and access to the necessary materials and equipment. For this reason, AEOI itself is under the supervision of the Supreme National Security Council

The military program is controlled by the secretive Supreme Military Committee, made up of the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces, Maj. Gen. Hassan Firuzabadi, IRGC Commander in Chief Maj. Gen. Rahim Safavi, and Defense Minister Adm. Ali Shamkhani. All three are from the Revolutionary Guards.

The IRGC and the Defense Ministry run the nuclear weapons program, with the IRGC effectively in control of activities in the relevant departments of the Defense Ministry. The Supreme Military Committee reports directly to Khamenei.

It is essentially focusing on three key projects: production or procurement of enough quantities of HEU for a nuclear bomb; development of alternative enrichment techniques; work on weaponizing technology and means of delivery.

Chain of Command
All important decisions regarding the nuclear project are taken with the full participation and approval of Khamenei.

The two-track system gives Iran greater ability to conceal the military program and thwart international inspections. Those involved in the military component are essentially kept away from IAEA inspectors. Scientists and experts in the military program have full, unimpeded access to all expertise and materials in the civilian program, but those in the civilian program are kept completely in the dark as far as the military program is concerned.

The following are the unmistakable signs of Iran’s bomb-making plans:

  • Covert plants for the production of highly enriched uranium and separated plutonium;
  • Traces found of these weapons-capable materials;
  • Experiments with polonium (a neutron initiator used to trigger nuclear explosions);
  • Experiments with laser enrichment (an unconventional technology with little commercial promise but with the potential to produce bomb-grade uranium with high efficiency);
  • A heavy water reactor that is too small to produce significant electrical power, too large for legitimate civilian research, but ideally suited for production of weapons-grade plutonium;
  • There is an overall pattern of deceptions, omissions and belated admissions of covert nuclear activities.  These constitute clear evidence of ongoing activities that, unless halted, will lead inevitably to bomb-making.

What’s to be done?
The election of Ahmadinejad as the new president is consistent with the Supreme Leader’s strategic decision to continue nuclear enrichment. The choice is all the more significant because in the past five years, the Iran’s nuclear program has been managed and directed by the Revolutionary Guards Corps. As a former IRGC commander, Ahmadinejad, was a perfect fit for the job.

While the deadly London bombings revived the tragic memories of Madrid, Bali, New York and Washington, DC, the question we have to ask ourselves today is which regime now poses the greatest threat to civilized society?

Traditionally speaking, seven countries have been identified as terror-sponsoring regimes. Two, Iraq and Afghanistan, have gone through regime change. Libya is trying to return to the international community. The Sudan and Syria are on the retreat. North Korea is a threat more because of its nuclear program than terror sponsorship. And the Island nation of Cuba espouses an ideology that Muslim fundamentalists would never accept.

We are left with only one country that not only considers itself as the guardian of Islam but also is hell bent on exporting its fundamentalist brand of Islam to the rest of the Muslim World. I am, of course, speaking about the theocracy that has ruled Iran for the past quarter century.

The mullahs have closed ranks because they feel the domestic and international pressure to change their ways. The only way to resist the winds of change, the Supreme Leader felt, was to have total control of all levers of power.

Against this backdrop, Europe, and particularly Britain, France and Germany, face a grave responsibility.

This is the make-or-break point for the international community as it faces the prospects of the world’s most dangerous regime arming itself with the world’s most dangerous weapon. The “cut-a-deal” approach with the terror masters of Tehran has never worked before and will not work now.

This is the moment of truth: either refer the mullahs’ nuclear file to the United Nations Security Council right now, or be prepared to ultimately face the world’s most active sponsor of terrorism armed with nuclear weapons.

Appeasement has clearly failed and it is time for a new approach: decisiveness. Part and parcel of this new approach is to reach out to anti-fundamentalist Muslims who have hitherto been hamstrung because of appeasement

Paris – July 12, 2005

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