The West: Still Misreading Iran

The similarities between unsuitable reactions to the Iranian revolution then and the crisis about Iran’s nuclear program now are striking.

Yochanan Visser,

OpEds Yochanan Visser
Yochanan Visser
INN:YV

This article was written in cooperation with Israel Facts member Sharon Shaked.

The talks between Iran and six leading nations in Geneva recently gave the wrong impression that there might be a diplomatic solution for the nuclear standoff with Iran.

In most of the West a proposal whereby another country would enrich uranium for Iran instead of it developing its own nuclear power was seen as a positive development. In Iran, however, spokesmen were quick to point out that the proposal was about something entirely different. They stated that the proposal was only about the purchase of enriched uranium for a reactor in Teheran used for research purposes. Media and officials in Iran were very skeptical about “the intentions of the West” in proposing this purchase.

In Jerusalem there was total silence about these developments in Geneva, which gave rise to much speculation
The moment of truth could indeed have arrived for Israel. The offer to enrich uranium in a third country outside of Iran means acceptance of a nuclear Iran
about an impending Israeli decision about military action against Iran.
 
The moment of truth could indeed have arrived for Israel. The offer to enrich uranium in a third country outside of Iran means acceptance of a nuclear Iran. The problem with this offer is that it is based on incorrect analysis and wishful thinking about Iranian intentions and policies. These mistaken assumptions have dominated the attitude of the West toward Iran for more than 30 years. In fact, the similarities between reactions to the unfolding revolution that took place then and the crisis about the nuclear program now are striking.
 
In 1978 the US had an embassy staff of thousand members in Teheran. Five US intelligence services were active in Iran. The US ambassador had a weekly two hour meeting with the Shah. Nevertheless, the US was totally blind to the developments leading up to the Islamic revolution.

Newly elected president Carter was keen on presenting himself as a  “clean” alternative to the discredited Republican Nixon. The first time Carter made a completely wrong judgment about the situation in Iran was when he held a speech in Teheran on New Year’s Day in 1978. He called Iran “an island of stability in one of the most turbulent areas of the world”.

Even after the uprising forced the Shah out of power, Carter refused to see that the revolution was directed against US influence in Iran. He called on Khomeiny to accept a pro US interim government, a request which, of course, Khomeiny refused.
 
Later, Carter thought that Iran would bend under tough sanctions during the hostage crisis in Teheran. The idea was that an embargo on Iran, at the time of the beginning of the war with Iraq, would force Iran to negotiate a deal on the US hostages. Khomeiny, however, outsmarted the US and bought needed spare parts and ammunition in
Iran builds its own combat aircraft, tanks, submarines, missile ships and even has a space program
Vietnam for the American weapons the Iranian army used.
 
Misjudgments are still rampant during the ongoing crisis about the Iranian nuclear program. In 1993 Iranian negotiator Masoud Naraghi, who led the secret talks with Abdul Qadeer Khan the chief of the Pakistani nuclear program, defected to the USA. He informed the CIA about the purchase of the blueprints for the Urenco P1 centrifuge from Pakistan by Iran. In 1998 Pakistani defector Khan Chaudry told the FBI about visits of Iranian scientists during which they were instructed about methods of producing weapons grade uranium.

The US, however, was obsessed with Russian involvement in Busher [Iran] and did not seem to understand what was really happening. In 2003 the US revealed the real content of the Iranian program at last, after the Mossad discovered the Natanz plant.

The most recent incorrect assumption seems to be the National Intelligence Estimate of 2007. This report claimed that Iran halted its nuclear weapon program in 2003, despite the fact that in 2006 the CIA  was aware that Iran had built a new uranium enrichment plant in Qum.  Incredibly, US intelligence services have just begun to consider rewriting the NIE of 2007.
 
Developments in the nuclear standoff with Iran are not the only signs revealing where Iran is heading. Recently Iran tested the Sejjil rocket which has a longer range then the Shihab 3 and has a two stage engine running on solid fuel.  Iran builds its own combat aircraft, tanks, submarines, missile ships and even has a space program.

Iranian statements about the goals of the Islamic revolution are crystal clear. Just this week the Iranian Spokesman for Foreign Affairs stated that the world now has accepted that Iran is one of the five strategic powers in the world. The result of this is that Iran has to play a role in managing the world, he said.
 
The attempts by the current US administration to engage in talks with Iran and efforts to impose sanctions at this point in the crisis, are comparable with the attempts by the Carter administration to uphold the regime of the Shah
The coming meeting in Vienna should be used by the West to show that determination and defiance are also possible for the free world
in 1979. Iran will not abandon its nuclear program when faced with the sanctions proposed, simply because it is convinced that the decisive stage of the Islamic revolution has arrived. Ideology of this type has always been stronger than the appeals to pragmatism displayed by the West.

However, the “radio silence” in Jerusalem could very well mean that Israel has come to the conclusion which Ehud Barak prophesied three years ago in a BBC documentary entitled “Will Israel bomb Iran ?” Barak said at the time: “Ultimately Israel will stand alone”.
 
The West should not misinterpret the silence in Jerusalem and the noises coming out of Teheran once again. The coming meeting in Vienna  should be used by the West to show that determination and defiance are also possible for the free world. At stake is not only the survival of Israel but also the future of the Iranian people and the world as a whole.





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