KHALILI: The West’s dangerous naivete on Iranian nukes

The mullahs do not fear U.S. retaliation

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Now that negotiations over Iran’s illicit nuclear program have concluded, the Islamic regime is positive the West will start easing sanctions, not because Iran will halt its nuclear activity, but rather owing to a belief that the West has reached the end of its ability to pressure the regime.

As I’ve written several times over the years, Iran has long thought that the West, particularly America, will do everything it can to avoid a military confrontation, leaving negotiations and sanctions as the West’s only options. It thinks that eventually the West will realize that Iran’s nuclear program cannot be stopped and, therefore, will look for a way out of this dilemma by reducing sanctions and finally accepting a nuclear-armed Iran.

Gen. Rahim Safavi, a former commander of the Revolutionary Guards and currently a special adviser to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said in a recent speech that America regrets its invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq and cannot repeat another war.

“Before the U.S. election, [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu visited the White House for a meeting with Obama, and President Obama had taken him to a U.S. Army veterans hospital and told the Zionist prime minister that [the veterans] were the face of the war, and the American people cannot tolerate such a situation anymore,” Gen. Safavi said.

This belief was underscored by last week’s talks in Kazakhstan between Iran and the 5-plus-1 countries — the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany. The 5-plus-1 for the first time accepted that Iran could continue to enrich uranium up to 20 percent, a level needed only for its so-called medical nuclear research reactor.

This is a major shift from the prior 5-plus-1 position of wanting a total halt to the 20 percent level. At that level, uranium could be further enriched to weapons grade within weeks, should the regime decide to do so. It will.

“We are of the opinion that sanctions will no longer be intensified but from now on we will witness the gradual lifting of sanctions,” Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi told Iranian media after the talks. He said the Islamic republic had managed to circumvent all sanctions and reduce the effects of the sanctions, “wearing the enemy away.”

After several years of negotiations, the demands of the 5-plus-1 have changed dramatically from requiring Iran to ship out its enriched uranium, to accepting its right to nuclear energy, to accepting its enrichment to 5 percent for peaceful purposes and finally, to accepting its right to produce at the 20 percent level for medical research.

Meanwhile, the regime has successfully bought time to master the enrichment technology and add thousands of centrifuges to increase output while working on its nuclear bomb program at several secret sites.

A recent analysis in Keyhan, the newspaper mouthpiece of Ayatollah Khamenei, refers to the West’s demands over the past decade as not allowing Iran to have a handful of centrifuges for research, to the current situation in which the West “has knelt” in front of Iran as more than 10,000 centrifuges now enrich uranium.

“During the last decade, the resistance front and Islamic Awakening (Arab Spring) led by the Islamic Republic of Iran have managed to defeat the power of Zionist Christians in four corners of the Middle East and have forced America to beg for negotiations,” the analysis said, adding that the future is bright for Iran and that America is hopeless.

Officials of the International Atomic Energy Agency in their visits to Iran in January and February failed again to get the regime to allow inspections at several secret sites, including the Parchin military site, where it’s thought tests on nuclear bomb components took place. In its Feb. 21 report, the U.N. nuclear watchdog also talked about a lack of cooperation by the regime on its Arak heavy-water plant, which is set to go into full operation in 2014 and could produce plutonium, providing Iran with a second path to building nuclear bombs.

Those who promoted negotiations and reached out to the Islamic regime in hopes of changing its behavior have not only failed, but also have created a dangerous situation that could haunt the world for many years to come.

A nuclear-armed Islamic regime in Iran at the least could become a nuclear proliferation nightmare in which humanity, world peace and global stability could become hostage. The clock is ticking, and it seems the West still fails to understand the ramifications of its failure.

Reza Kahlili is a pseudonym for a former CIA operative in Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and author of the award-winning book “A Time to Betray” (Simon & Schuster, 2010).

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