Wednesday 20th Feb 2019 

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News: Nuclear Program

Maintaining a hard line on mullahs - the only option to guarantee Tehran does not get the bomb

By: Shahin Gobadi 

The apparent willingness of the Iranian negotiators to accede to some demands by Western powers at Geneva was indicative of a politically weakened position for the theocratic regime of Ali Khamenei. This weakness is attributable to the effect of sanctions and international pressure, and the growth of domestic resistance within Iran.

Unfortunately, by showing willingness to negotiate so easily with the Iranian regime, the UN Security Council members have effectively spoiled that advantage.

It should be obvious by now that Iran’s politicians are masters of duplicity. When Iranian President Hassan Rouhani was chief nuclear negotiator, he boasted of his nation’s ability to “proceed in both directions at once” on the nuclear issue. As should be obvious in retrospect, the government pretended to cooperate with Western powers, but then merely dropped a new veil of secrecy over its old operations and went on as before.

By accepting such small concessions as a halt to enrichment above five percent and a reduction of existing stores of highly enriched uranium, the West is giving the mullahs the resources they need to follow the same path all over again. And the danger is even greater now, precisely because it is not the first time. If Iran was able to suppress Western fears long enough to make further progress in developing a nuclear weapon when Hassan Rouhani was chief negotiator, how much more progress will it make now, when the skilled and devious diplomat is the president of the country, and thus a friendly face for television cameras and publicity photos?

It would be too cynical to say that the Geneva talks could not have worked with a regime as deceptive as Iran. But it would be far too optimistic to say that they have already worked with a regime so dangerous. They might have worked if the Western negotiators had maintained a hard line approach and demanded the adoption of resolutions to halt enrichment completely, while also giving unrestricted access to the IAEA. The West should not have given even an inch on the issue of sanctions until these essential conditions were met.

In extracting concessions from Iran and then accepting a compromise, the UN Security Council permanent members and Germany essentially had its opponent on the ropes, and then let up pressure and allowed it to get back up on its feet. The current agreement leaves the enrichment infrastructure in place and gives Iran an unacceptable opportunity to move its most ambitious operations into new, secret locations, where it can hide them from inspectors all over again. It has done this before. It would be naïve to think that in the meantime they haven’t been planning to follow the same formula to even greater effect.

At the same time, the regime’s leader Ali Khamenei and his cohorts know that if they can convince their counterparts that they are abiding by these remarkably modest demands, then the economic and diplomatic pressure on the country will begin to lift. Along with it, something like half of the threat to the regime’s tenuous hold on power will also vanish.

Domestic resistance to the murderous and repressive regime of the mullahs cannot keep up at former levels if it doesn’t have the same support from the outside. For some, an improved economy will make the regime look legitimate even when it has done nothing to change its mismanagement of funds. To others, the absence of international scrutiny will simply make domestic resistance too great a risk to their lives and property.

Inside and outside of Iran, progress has been made towards removing the dictatorship that is currently in place. The mullahs are in real trouble at home and as Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, President-elect of the Iranian Resistance, said, the “forced” retreat by the religious dictatorship ruling Iran in its nuclear bomb project during the Geneva talks was a direct result of international sanctions and the Iranian people’s widespread opposition to the Supreme Leader’s policies. The full implementation of Security Council resolutions, particularly the complete halt to uranium enrichment, agreeing to the Additional Protocol, and the IAEA inspectors’ unhindered access to suspected nuclear centers and facilities are essential for the regime to abandon nuclear weapons. As such, the first step can be viewed as the beginning of the process of drinking "a chalice of poison" by the regime on the nuclear issue.

The US and the others should realize the mistakes that they have made in softening their position in Geneva, which puts all the progress that they have made against the mullahs at risk in the very near future.

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