Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Nuclear Delusion and Public Jubilation!

Nuclear Delusion and Public Jubilation!

Ali Asghar Kazemi
25 February 2008


The tale of nuclear venture in Iran has become more like a funny satirical story than a serious national strategy and foreign policy issue. Upon the publication of the long awaited IAEA report* on Iran’s controversial nuclear activities, the hard-line government ushered a widespread propaganda campaign claiming over again another national victory. How far this claim is appropriate; what is behind this public jubilation, where the whole venture is heading to?

With the most optimistic and liberal interpretation of the report of the Director General of the IAEA issued on February 22, 2008, it contains nothing to justify such a public euphoria. On the contrary, the concluding parts of the report explicitly refer to a number of new activities which might cause the crisis to escalate even more in the future where it says:

“Contrary to the decisions of the Security Council, Iran has not suspended its enrichment related activities, having continued the operation of PFEP and FEP. In addition, Iran started the development of new generation centrifuges. Iran has also continued construction of the IR-40 reactor and operation of the Heavy Water Production Plant. “

This means that Iran not only continues to defy the UN Security Council Resolutions but has also embarked to further aggravate the situation by launching new enrichment facilities during the cooling period of supposed confidence building. Similarly, the report does not hesitate to speak about existence of eventual undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran, which means serious allegations and suspicions about the true nature of the program and the possibility of concealment and deception. Since, the Agency clearly states that “in the light of the many years of undeclared activities in Iran and the confidence deficit created as a result,” it has not been able to provide ”credible assurance” that Iran’s nuclear project is peaceful.

Further more, in the view of the IAEA; “the one major remaining issue relevant to the nature of Iran’s nuclear program is the alleged studies on the green salt project, high explosives testing and the missile re-entry vehicle. This is a matter of serious concern and critical to an assessment of a possible military dimension to Iran’s nuclear program.“

Obviously, these statements can not be taken as friendly compliments by the IAEA which could give reason for claim of “historic victory of Iran in its greatest confrontation with the oppressive powers since the Islamic revolution". Indeed, IAEA last statement in the report alone can provides enough grounds for the Security Council to take a stubborn position in the upcoming third resolution on sanctions against Iran.

Curiously, while the Islamic government constantly maintains its peaceful and non-aggressive intention of nuclear project, it does not hesitate to aggravate the situation by threatening the “long tail of the United States” (Israel) and to showing signs of strength through dubious activities such as long-range missile testing amid the confidence building period.

Assuming that hard-liners in Tehran are not foolish people and are quite aware about the power of world public opinion, mass media and harsh impact of UN sanctions to Iran’s overall national interests , what are really the in the back of minds in their nuclear jubilation and continuous defiance? Here are some loud thoughts about their possible objectives:

• To overshadow the negative impact of the serious failure in the fulfillment of their economic promises to people in the coming parliamentary elections;
• To pave the way to comply with the IAEA request “ to implement the Additional Protocol… as an important confidence building measure” with the hope that the nuclear file be returned from the Security Council to the IAEA;
• By the same token, to give eventual concession to the five plus one states in the Security Council in the midst of public jubilation, in order to avoid the worst to happen;
• To continue to claim victory and show that the nuclear project is the most important achievement of the hard-liners , while following the same course of action as the previous progressive government with much more costs;
• To disarm their political opponents in the upcoming parliamentary elections campaign with a long-run objective of succeeding in the future presidential elections.

Yet, even with the fulfillment of some of the above objectives in the short-run, Iran’s continuing disregard of UN resolutions will have serious consequences on the future trends of the case. Without trying to be pessimist on the point, it is almost certain that:
• Firstly, a third resolution in the UN Security Council against Iran will be adopted by consensus (meaning that it will be backed by stronger enforcement measures);
• Secondly, Iran will be further squeezed in order to go along with the Security Council demands in its enrichment process; and finally
• Thirdly, the hard-line government in Tehran will be forced to adopt a more rational and flexible attitude fearing a complete fiasco. This could lead to widespread public discontent and loss of confidence and credibility.

Whatever might be derived from the above propositions, the truth of the matter is that the incumbent government in Iran is in no way ready to accept the responsibility of its dire mistakes and failures in domestic and foreign affairs. This has already been proven in various occasions and many areas of policy- making. It does not seem that hard-liners will be in a position to candidly confess to their blunders and misjudgments.

No matter what might be deducted from the recent IAEA report, based on the current state of the affaire, it would be hard to conceive that the West and the United States in particular will give a chance to hardliners in Iran to go nuclear. Unless the feuding parties opt for wisdom and moderation, mutual persistence on inflexible position is susceptible to lead to an inevitable clash. In such circumstances, despite all impeding international constraints, the outcome would be disastrous. Quite naturally, the weaker party is much more vulnerable and can not count on the protection of international law, since the law is always on the stronger side.

Iranians are caught in a critical period of history when hope and peril are running side by side to determine their fate. They are the ones who solely should decide for themselves the rational course of their future. They should make a decision in the next elections between wisdom and moderation on the one hand or eccentric and reckless politics on the other. /

* All references and quotations in the text are to the Report by the Director General of the IAEA on: The Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement and relevant provisions of Security Council resolutions 1737 (2006) and 1747 (2007) in the Islamic Republic of Iran. GOV/2008/4. Date: 22 February 2008. http://payvand.com/news/08/feb/IAEA_Iran_Report_22Feb2008.pdf

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Iran's Revolution and Military in Politics

Iran’s Revolution and Military in Politics

Ali Asghar Kazemi

February 2008


Almost 30 years after the fall of the monarchy, the Islamic regime is still fomenting revolutionary fervor and slogans in Iran. Revolutions by nature carry destructive forces which can not be easily routed to construction and development. Those who advocate the Shiite belief of perpetual revolution look forward to the time when the savior of all mankind will reappear and take the lead of humanity to the path of salvation. Meanwhile the revolutionary regime will have to tackle with various mundane problems of a state, while paving the way for the advent of the promised day.

We are not in a position here to pass judgment on the wisdom and suitability of such a doctrine to run the complicated affaires of a modern state. We want just to examine the obstacles before a revolutionary regime to fulfill its earthly pledges to its people and the context in which some military elites may be tempted to enter into the political process.

Among all political activities in Iran after the revolution, presidential and parliamentary elections have been always surrounded by rumors, mysteries and controversies. One such controversy relates to the phenomenon of military involvement in politics. How much this contention is accurate, who are these military men, and what are their objectives?

At the outset let’s clarify the terms military in the present state of affaire in Iran. By military we usually refer to the conventional definition of regular armed forces whose cadre is recruited and educated through a well-established and rigorous disciplinary and hierarchical system. The conventional military man in Iran is historically under strict military regulations which prohibit any involvement in politics while in active duty.

However, this is not true for the volunteered army “Bassiji” and “revolutionary guards” (Pasdaran) composed of devoted men who originally have fought in a patriotic war against Iraq without much background and education in the field. These were essentially young people who dropped from high schools and colleges who chose to offer their priceless lives in the defense of the homeland alongside with the regular army. Many of them were killed or injured and those who returned back from the fronts were reorganized as revolutionary guards “Pasdaran” and incorporated in the armed forces.

After the war they have been given various civilian projects like constructions of dams, roads, irrigation canals, and other economic activities in order to keep them busy and happy. At the same time, they have been offered special quota in higher educations and universities to continue their studies. Many of them are now graduated in various fields and carry the titles of doctors, engineers, generals etc. To be sure, by “military in politics” we refer to these people.

There is no doubt that there are many devoted, clever and bold men among the revolutionary guards’ corps who fought the 8 years Iraq-Iran war with loyalty and patriotic zeal. They have been occupying many important billets in high civilian and military positions. They have shown their aptitude to learn and acquire experience in some jobs and continue to work in various posts such as members of parliament, governors, mayors, city councilors etc.

Except few countries where historically military intervention in political affaires is accepted as final solution to crises and emergencies, armed forces are forbidden to get involved in politics. Turkey, Pakistan and a handful of Latin American states are among those exceptions. But nobody can imagine such thing to happen in democratic Western states. Constitutional provisions usually do not permit military people, who possess the real instruments of power and forces, to take side with any particular party in political strata.

There is no specific mention with respect to military involvement in political affairs in the Islamic constitution. However, while the regular army is “entrusted with the task of protecting the independence, territorial integrity and the Islamic system…” (Art.143) the “Revolutionary Guards Corps” (Pasdaran) has been given the main responsibility of “safeguarding the revolution and its ensuing outcomes” in a separate provision. (Art.150)

In reality, the Revolutionary Guards are in a sense the elite corps in the Islamic Republic armed forces and inherently possess political power and leverage over all other institutions. This is especially true during crises and civil strives like university students and workers unrests during past several years. Here we are reminded of a number of ultimatums and harsh declarations issued by a group of Pasdaran commanders threatening to use iron fist against dissidents, cut journalists’ tongues and topple the government during President Khatami’s tenure in office.

Mr. Ahmadinejad (a former Bassiji) ascendance to power as president was the consequence of a delicate balance with respect to military involvement in politics. But, his poor performance to fulfill its promises in economic and other areas incited a number of high ranking commanders to get directly involved into political fronts. The fear of repeating the tumultuous years of reformists reign, which in their view, brought the Islamic regime to edge of disintegration, gave Pasdaran the necessary pretext to step in for the purpose of avoiding their resurgence to power in the parliament and executive branch.

The problem now is that the elite corps, as guardian of the revolution, is not satisfied with the ongoing process and the share given so far to it in political scene. Pasdaran may think they merit to be taken into play in all affairs of the country. They see themselves more competent than anybody else to run the state. Perhaps in the back of their minds they rationalize they were able to participate in the war without much specialty and education why should not they be allowed to conduct the country in peacetime.

In the final account, Pasdaran see themselves as the ones who saved the revolution and the Islamic regime despite all internal and external conspiracies. They have been already given many lucrative projects during the privatization programs, including the ones in oil and gas industries. But, it seems that economic power alone does not satisfy their expectations; they are asking for more political power.

Indeed, they have now forcibly accumulated much more experience and knowledge in various domains. However, their capacity to run the sophisticated affairs of a state is subject to query. Since, so far no impartial and independent evaluation about their performance in war and their efficiency in civilian positions has been made. They are only fit to function in crisis situations and emergency cases where immediate actions are needed to establish order and secure the status quo. In other words, they can perform only through revolutionary manners, which mean without accountability.

Apparently, the Islamic regime has no other choice than to go along with their increasing demands. Since, they are the ones who have both the material instruments of power and potential motivation to get rid of the cleric rule under the pretext of rescuing the revolution and Imam Khomeini’s legacy. They could, if they so decide, emerge as hero savior in public eyes, as did Napoleon Bonaparte in French Revolution and Colonel Reza Khan after the constitutional revolution in Iran.

The future has many turnings beyond which it is difficult to see. Who knows? May be in the long run we will be deceived in our judgment. /

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Iran: New Space Partner!

Iran: New Space Partner!

Ali Asghar Kazemi
February 5, 2008

The 29th anniversary of the revolution in Iran was different this year. Along with numerous academic, sportive and artistic festivals, inaugurations, ground breakings and a host of other celebrations, the launching of a ballistic missile Kavoshgar I (Explorer) on February 4, 2008 was indeed most eye-catching. Apparently the missile was intended to carry and put a research satellite in the orbit. But as we shall see here, the political aspect of this test is much more controversial than its technological dimension, which is more or less a common occurrence elsewhere in the world.

While space, as the common heritage of mankind, is supposed to be reserved solely for peaceful uses, so far few states possessing the monopoly of highly sophisticated science and technology have been competing in this realm. Indeed, some nations are more talented and have more aptitude in the path of innovation and technical Know-how.

There is no doubt that Iranians are among gifted people. Yet, due to a number of historical impediments, they also have developed a number of weak points among which their superiority complex is more blatant. They want to be admired, well liked and accepted by others, individually and collectively. They usually have a tendency to over-estimate their capability but, are not prepared to commit themselves to discipline and hard work. Thus, they set their goals beyond the reach of their capacity and knowledge.

This characteristic has been reflected in the attitude of leaders and governments before and after the revolution. They have little tolerance vis-à-vis their political opponents and those who happen to think not like them. They easily label them as traitors, enemy collaborators and spies, who should be eliminated. No government likes to be criticized for poor performance even with good intentions. They expect all citizens, scholars, scientists, poets, writers, and intellectuals to devote their full talent and capacity at the service of the incumbent regime.

Being quite aware of this trait, most foreigners who have some benefit in dealing with Iranians often exaggerate in their compliments. Here we are reminded of President Jimmy Carter’s observation during his visit to Tehran just before the revolution in 1979. He naively alluded to the “island of stability” referring to the Shah’s excellent leadership right in the middle of social turmoil in Iran. This was indeed a slippery compliment which incited the Shah to tighten the repressive rope around opponents’ necks.

Nevertheless, Persians have proven that they possess scores of potentialities and can perform tremendous achievements, provided they have the necessary motto, forward-looking institutions and good leadership. The proof is the great number of successful and talented Iranians scientists, physicians and scholars now residing in Western countries.

Ever since the Islamic regime in Iran was dragged into an unwanted and unequal war with Iraq and was denied of war equipment and weaponry, it had no other choice than to rely on the patriotic zeal and ingenuity of its people in order to compensate its deficiencies. Besides from procuring its defense needs in world-wide black-markets, it has been investing hard in various fields of science and technology inside the country.

After the war, in order to show its capacity to govern a nation and lead it to the path of power and development, the acquired technical capacity during the war was a good basis to launching ambitious projects in defense industry and other fields. Indigenous innovations, from the construction or assembling of jet fighters, mini submarines and assault fast boats to long range missiles and other projects in the fields of genetics and cloning, nanotechnology and medicine got underway. The nuclear endeavor can be considered as one such investment which is now experiencing harsh pressure from outside for the purpose of abandoning the scheme.

It is worthwhile to remember that both the nuclear and satellite projects are among the many ambitious ventures that originally date back to the Shah regime which were abrogated as a revolutionary action by the religious regime.

The Islamic regime’s particular endeavor to revive and aggrandize most of these projects later bears good witness that Iran’s geo-strategic position in the crisis-ridden Middle East dictates certain requirements that whoever rules this country will follow the same path. This is of course a source of preoccupation for many who nourish anti-Persian sentiments inside and outside the region.

However, these whole undertakings at this particular juncture seem to be essentially used as justifying grounds for political legitimacy, proof of efficiency, good governance and national pride of a religious-revolutionary regime. Since, there are no clear indications that any of these grandiose projects, including the ballistic missile project, have gone through a rigorous cost-benefit analysis in order to evaluate their economic suitability in the context of national interests.

Whereas many developed countries use Russian or Chinese missile technology to put their sophisticated satellites in the orbit considering the much lower costs, there is no rational for Iran to rely on its own means to launch a few satellites. For many, the nuclear enrichment scheme falls in the same kinds of misjudgment and reasoning, which is a dire burden on Iran’s national resources.

Despite the fact that we don’t have yet the detailed specifications of the missile and the degree of the launch success, on the basis of what was shown in the media, the following hypotheses can be formulated with respect to recent ballistic missile test during the 29th anniversary of revolution:

*It intends to deter those who plan to isolate the Islamic government and threaten to overthrow the regime through preemptive strikes;
*It wants to show that economic sanctions and other limitations to pressure the regime to submit to the will of big powers, are condemned to failure;
*It implicitly threatens that the religious regime has the capability and intention to strike back if necessary hostile states in the region and elsewhere;
*It wants to dissuade members of the UN Security Council, and by the same token 5+1 States, to adopt a new resolution against Iran;
*It intends to demonstrate to the people, especially domestic opponents, that the regime is solid and resolute in its grip of power and does not allow anybody to challenge its legitimacy and existence; and finally
*It wants to prove the efficiency and effectiveness of a religious regime to run the sophisticated affairs of a country in 21st century, despite all the malicious schemes and conspiracies to show the contrary. /