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Briefing: Policy Options to Counter the Rising Iranian Threat

On Wednesday, the U.S. Representative office of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) holds a press conference discussing policy options to counter the rising Iranian threat. The NCRI-US also presented its newly published book “IRAN: IRGC’s Rising Drone Threat; A Desperate Regime’s Ploy to Project Power, Incite War.” Renowned American experts and politicians attended this event. This page will be updated with the latest remarks on this event.
Alireza Jafarzadeh, Deputy Director of the Iranian opposition coalition NCRI – US Representative Office, Washington, DC

Alireza Jafarzadeh

We’re revealing for the first time a number of Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) front companies running the regime’s drone program. These companies have civilian names but are in service of the IRGC. They provide parts and accessories for the UAV program. They are doing what the IRGC can’t do itself. They are helping the IRGC circumvent sanctions. It’s a smuggling ring.

We need to deal with firmness to this regime. It should be granted no sanctions relief. It is imperative to reinstate all UNSC resolutions.

Sen. Joe Lieberman
Sen. Joe Lieberman, U.S. Senator (1989-2013)

Sen. Joe Lieberman

We have the continuing threat of terrorism to the US, including the state-sponsored terrorism of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

There seems to be an opinion rising that the United States is trying to pull back from the front lines of the Middle East. I think it’s a mistake not only in terms of our principles and values, but we’re also very engaged in the Middle East today.

This is causing worry among our allies in the region that they can’t depend on us.

We’re on the wrong course in the US in our efforts in Vienna to re-enter the JCPOA. They are well-intentioned but they don’t meet the realities of what Iran is doing in Vienna or the world. They are highly risky.

It’s not only important that the US toughens our position, to step back from the negotiations as they are happening now, but also to move toward more containment and constraints against the regime.

The best opportunity to counteract the impressions that we’re left with the withdrawal from Afghanistan is to be tougher on Iran to tell our allies in the Middle East that “we are with you.”

To those who challenge us, it will say that not only does the US follow its principles but that we’re willing to stand up and be strong and fight for them.

We have to change course toward Iran not only to limit its threats but also to use this opportunity to tell our friends and enemies that we’re willing to be tough.

The regime in Iran now returns to the table to negotiate over the JCPOA, but it is coming with dirty hands. This is a regime that has recklessly violated the most important terms of the JCPOA. There were certain requirements on Iran and they breached them, including the enrichment of uranium.

Sen. Joe Lieberman, U.S. Senator (1989-2013)

They continued to be aggressive in the Middle East.

The regime in Iran has become more totalitarian in the past year with the presidency of Ebrahim Raisi. He should be in the court in The Hague instead of the president’s office.

The Iranian regime executes more people per capita than any other country. Iran continues to target political dissidents and minorities with capital punishment.

This is a brutal inhumane regime that doesn’t understand what we mean by ‘the rule of law.’

It’s time to stop this game they’re playing with us which is dangerous and gives them time to build up their nuclear program.

Amb. Robert Joseph
Amb. Robert Joseph, Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security (2005-2007)

Amb. Robert Joseph:

We are meeting at a critically important time concerning the future of the religious dictatorship of Iran. The Biden Administration continues to seek an agreement at any talks despite the tough talk by Iran. The administration seems to be enthusiastic to pay a high price for a bad agreement. And the higher the price, the more resources the regime will have for its nuclear program, terrorism in the region, and suppressing its own people.

The correct decision, both politically and morally, is to support the people of Iran in their struggle for freedom and democracy.

This is a deplorable regime that wants the world to focus on the JCPOA negotiations to provide a sense of legitimacy and distraction from its critical domestic situation.

The report being released today provides a wealth of information about the regime’s drone program.

Having lost all legitimacy, the regime sees its survival in exporting its ideology abroad.

As the Biden Administration continues a quixotic attempt to restore the 2015 agreement, we must ponder on the consequences, including providing the regime with billions of dollars in resources.

Amb. Robert Joseph
Amb. Robert Joseph, Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security (2005-2007)

The JCPOA was framed as a means to empower the so-called moderate faction in the regime. We now know what happened to the windfall that was provided to the regime. Iran used the money on drones, missiles, and terrorist proxies in the region.

The selection of Raisi indicates the mullahs’ moral bankruptcy.

The people of Iran have seen their beloved country become a prison to those inside and a pariah to those outsides.

We can pursue misguided policies that provide support to the oppressors, or we can support the Iranian people to stand up against their oppressors. Appeasing a rogue regime is the wrong choice. The right choice is to support the resistance to this regime.

David Shedd
David Shedd, Acting Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (2014–2015)

David Shedd

The Iranian regime since 1979 has had a very expansive definition of what it believes constitutes a foreign policy by being consistently on the offense. They will go anywhere at any time and their reach is pervasive. They go after anybody that expresses dissent. It continues to target dissidents abroad, journalists, and there’s no end in sight.

I find that there’s no sign of diminishing in their intent to go after those who oppose the regime and speak out. The fraudulent election associated with Raisi and Khamenei’s role in supporting this is only going to become more hardline in their pursuit of the opposition abroad. There’s no limit to what they might use in terms of tools in their kit to do this.

1-The asymmetrical use of technology applies to Iran: The drone program is one example of asymmetrical technology that they can use.

2-The internet: the ability by Iran to use the internet as a means to target people through phishing attempts or disruptive actions. They go after their adversaries in that regard.

3-Their proclivity to enter agreements with our adversaries

David Shedd
David Shedd, Acting Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (2014–2015)

How do we respond? The last thing you want to do is to take the foot off the proverbial petal of pressure on the regime. The thought that any kind of lifting of sanctions of the regime will result in a kind response is false.

Second, you must support the internal opposition. This is an opportunity for the Biden Administration to support the international opposition.

Third, use the international forums with the US in leadership to keep human rights issues at the forefront.

Matthew Kroening
Matthew Kroening, PhD, American political scientist and national security strategist

Matthew Kroening

Drones are a real threat in the Middle East. Iran is using drone proliferation to further their goals in the region and destabilizing the region.

As we think about the global competition between democracy and autocracy, we must put more focus on the Iranian regime.

The regime’s aggressive foreign policy has turned the world against it. The regime also spends a lot of resources on suppressing the Iranian people.

This is a conflict between the current regime in Iran and the rest of the world.

Regarding the nuclear challenge, first, Iran is close to having nuclear weapons capability. Right now, experts have estimated that Iran’s breakout time has shrunk to three weeks. This is the worst position we’ve been in.

Matthew Kroening
Matthew Kroening, PhD, American political scientist and national security strategist

Why do we care about a nuclear-armed Iran? It can lead to nuclear proliferation in the region. If it has nuclear weapons it will engage in more aggressive policies in the region. And it can trigger a nuclear war. This is something they’ve been working on for more than 20 years. They negotiated the JCPOA in a way that they could continue their program. We need to keep our focus on the problem, which is the Iranian regime.

What to do about it? We need to have a stronger pressure track. The regime needs to understand that if it remains on its current path, there will be consequences. Supporting the democratic aspirations of the Iranian people is important. And finally, we must keep a military option on the table as a last resort to prevent Iran from building a nuclear weapon.

Our goal is to, one day, have a better government in Iran.

Jonathan Ruhe
Jonathan Ruhe, JINSA Director of Foreign Policy

Jonathan Ruhe

Iran’s use of drones in the region tries to project strength abroad and compensate for its weaknesses at home. Drones of the type Iran uses for attacks are often referred to as the poor-man’s cruise missile.

Iran has improved its drone and missile capabilities in the five years it has enjoyed the benefits of the nuclear agreement. It increasingly uses drones and missiles in mixed swarms.

Iran’s ability to proliferate these capabilities in the region is also important. It encircles the Middle East with overlapping fields of fire. You have to have a 360 perspective which complicates air defense.

The third problem is the lack of depth of defense by US and allies in the region.

Iran’s drones are becoming weapons of mass effectiveness. The attack on the Saudi Abqaiq facility was Iran’s proof-of-concept regarding its drone capability. This attack could have been much, much worse. Since that attack, we’ve seen drones becoming central to Iran’s projection of power in the region.

Today, Iran uses drones in 60 percent of its attacks across the Middle East.

We need genuine sanctions enforcement on Iran’s capabilities to procure the material for these activities.

Jonathan Ruhe
Jonathan Ruhe, JINSA Director of Foreign Policy