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The Iranian President toes the Supreme Leader's red lines

By Lt. Col. (ret.) Michael Segall
web posted June 22, 2015

Iranian President Hassan RouhaniAmid the allegations that Israel had cyber-spied on the nuclear talks in Europe, and with the approach of the June 30 date for the signing of a nuclear agreement, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani addressed Iranian and foreign journalists on June 14, 2015 to mark the second anniversary of his election. His speech was broadcast live in the Iranian media.

Rouhani focused on Iran's achievements on the nuclear issue and its successful fight against sanctions. Throughout the speech, he adhered to the red lines stipulated by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei concerning the scope of the monitoring of Iran's nuclear program, asserting that inspectors would not be allowed to enter military sites. Rouhani thanked Khamenei for "outlining and defining the path, supporting the negotiating team, and maintaining domestic unity in Iran." Intelligence Minister Mahmud Alavi said that "the negotiating team never transgressed the red lines that Khamenei established."

"No" to Inspections of Sensitive Sites

Rouhani, who faces mounting domestic criticism as the signing date approaches, lauded his government's successes both domestically and internationally in safeguarding Iran's nuclear program and contending with the sanctions. He added that "no one in the world, including the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany (the P5+1), doubts any longer that Iran has the right to enrich uranium and that the enrichment facilities at Natanz and Fordo will not be shut down. This is Iran's greatest achievement in the nuclear sphere."

Rouhani further remarked that no one had anticipated two years ago that a final agreement would lead to "the cancellation of all the cruel decisions and sanctions that the Security Council imposed on Iran," and that Iran would be able to keep injecting UF-6 for purposes of research and development of centrifuges.

Sanctions to Be Lifted with the Signing of the Agreement

Rouhani stressed that Iran continues to insist that "the signing of the agreement must be accompanied by the [simultaneous] lifting of the sanctions, and at present the negotiating teams are working on this synchronization." He claimed it was clear that "in case we reach an agreement all the economic sanctions will be lifted, canceled, and come to an end."  He asserted that the sanctions have failed because Iran has not capitulated (by insisting on its nuclear rights), though they have caused the Iranian population many difficulties.

As for the future monitoring and extent of Iran's nuclear facilities in the context of the agreement, Rouhani, hewed to Khamenei's hard line.  He said it was clear that Iran would not allow its secrets to fall (during visits to military sites or conversations with nuclear scientists) into others' hands – whether as part of the implementation of the Additional Protocol or of any other international agreement. He said that Iran is quite familiar with the Additional Protocol (and even implemented it voluntarily from 2003 to 2005) and the word "inspections" does not appear in it. Rouhani parried the "baseless" claims of his critics who warned of untrammeled inspections of Iran's nuclear facilities as part of the implementation of the Additional Protocol.

The Iranian president expressed optimism that the agreement would be carried out, and remarked:

"As you know, a number of states in the region are not happy about it being signed…. They think that if it is signed, Iran's power in the region will increase dramatically and they will be in trouble [a hint at Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states]…. They have nothing to worry about. Iran is not interested in attacking or interfering in the affairs of other countries."

The Ultraconservative Establishment's Support

Rouhani also won support from the ultraconservative religious establishment in the latest Friday sermon. Tehran's Friday prayer leader and member of the Assembly of Experts, hardline cleric Ayatollah Seyyed Ahmad Khatami, gave backing to Rouhani and the negotiating team. He said Iran would not accept a bad agreement, that its nuclear achievements must be maintained, and that it must not agree to any inspections of military facilities and/or interviews with Iranian scientists related to the military nuclear program.

Massoud Jazzayeri, Deputy Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces, reiterated that permission "will definitely never be issued for any kind of access to the military centers, even if it runs counter to the acceptance of the additional protocol (to the NPT) … Foreigners' visits to defense and military centers as well as obtaining information about the related equipment and tactics are against the orders (of the commander-in-chief Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei) and also the demands of the entire Iranian nation."

Khatami also stressed the fact that the nuclear talks are advancing and that a renewal of relations with the United States is in no way on their agenda. He called on the Majlis to turn this issue into law so that Iran's enemies would stop pushing it to capitulate. He also called on the Iranian people to stop ascribing every problem from which Iran suffers to the sanctions, criticized those who claim that if the sanctions are not lifted Iran will be in a crisis and maintained that if an agreement is not signed it is U.S. President Barack Obama who will be facing a crisis.

The Last Hours

Two years after taking office, and as the possible signing of a historic nuclear agreement draws near, Rouhani is taking a tough stance toward the Western negotiators on the core issue of future intrusive inspections of the nuclear program. This issue, which has accompanied the negotiations from the beginning, is still unresolved and is critical to understanding both Iran's intentions once an agreement is signed and its approach to the agreement's military aspects in recent years. So far Iran is yet to provide answers, and it appears that it does not intend to provide any by the scheduled date. Thus, again, Tehran is continuing its foot-dragging tactics, waiting for the last hours of the negotiations in attempt to pressure the United States and President Obama, who, in Iranian eyes, desperately needs some sort of foreign-policy achievement.

In Washington, Warnings to Congress: The Agreement Is Dangerous

In recent testimony on Iran's missile capabilities to the Joint House Foreign Affairs and Armed Services Subcommittees, Lieutenant General (ret.) Michael T. Flynn, former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, warned that the agreement that may soon be signed with Iran "suffers from severe deficiencies."7 After elaborating on Iran's deleterious role in the region and involvement in the killing of American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, Flynn focused on the inspections issue and stressed:

"There is also the matter of incomplete verification. Iran's leaders made it clear the furthest they will go is to allow international inspectors (IAEA) only ‘managed access' to nuclear facilities, and only with significant prior notification. This makes it nearly impossible, as a matter of full transparency, to have real ‘eyes on' the state of Iranian nuclear development to include their missile program….

"Iran's nuclear program has significant – and not fully disclosed – military dimensions. The P5+1 dialogue with Iran has glossed over a number of such programs (including warhead miniaturization blueprints) in pursuit of an agreement. However, these factors are important insofar as they signal the true aim of Iran's program. That aim will doubtless continue in the wake of any negotiated settlement that leaves the Iranian nuclear effort largely intact….

"What we don't know is the full scope of Iran's nuclear effort itself…. Moreover, given the history of the nuclear age, it is prudent to conclude that there are elements of Iran's nuclear program that still remain hidden from view (Iran has demonstrated in their own actions, they cannot be trusted)."

Also testifying at the same hearing was Dr. Robert Joseph, former Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, who discussed Iran's ballistic-missile program at length and asserted, among other things, that:

"The failure to limit ballistic missiles, or to constrain Iran's missile buildup in any way, is one of a number of central flaws in the emerging agreement on Iran's nuclear program…. The negative consequences stemming from the failure to include ballistic missiles in the negotiations are magnified by the other flaws in our negotiating posture…. As a result, the threat to the U.S. homeland and to our NATO allies of an Iran armed with nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles will increase not decrease under the anticipated agreement."

Joseph harshly criticized the overall strategy of the nuclear negotiations and the large holes that remain.

Testimony was also given by national security analyst Anthony Cordesman, who described in great detail the different Iranian missile programs and their strategic impact on the region, as well as the dramatic consequences for the region if Iran succeeds to go nuclear. Cordesman, from the Center for Strategic and International Studies, also addressed the vital need for effective inspections in any agreement:

"Any meaningful arms control agreement must be based on the principle of ‘trust but verify.' For all the reasons set forth…there is no basis for trust in any aspect of Iran's weapons related activities. This will evidently be true whether an agreement is reached, whether the negotiations are extended, or whether the negotiations collapse." ESR

IDF Lt.-Col. (ret.) Michael (Mickey) Segall, an expert on strategic issues with a focus on Iran, terrorism, and the Middle East, is a senior analyst at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and at Foresight Prudence.





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