- - Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Iran’s newly elected president, Hasan Rouhani, officially took office Sunday and, with the blessing of the supreme leader, promised moderation. Don’t believe it.

Mr. Rouhani’s election was orchestrated by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei for a specific mission: buy time so the Islamic regime can complete its nuclear-weapons program, according to a former intelligence officer who defected to a Scandinavian country.

A second goal is to persuade the United States to relieve some of the crippling sanctions as a sign of good faith. Iran’s economic situation has deteriorated to the point that officials have warned of the possibility of food rationing. Inflation is rampant, and unemployment growing.

Mr. Rouhani, through his Cabinet picks, is sending a signal that he is willing to engage the West and even hold direct talks with the United States. He already has named former U.N. Ambassador Mohammad Javad Zarif, who has had deep conversations with U.S. officials before, as foreign minister, and Mohammad Nahavandian, a U.S.-educated businessman, as his chief of staff.

Though the new government is trying to paint an image of moderation, almost all aspects of the regime are controlled by the supreme leader. As I revealed on YouTube Monday, Mr. Rouhani bragged in a pre-election, videotaped interview that he deceived the West over the regime’s illicit nuclear program and claimed credit for vastly expanding it. “We wanted to complete all of these [nuclear programs]. We needed time,” he said.

Mr. Rouhani was Iran’s nuclear negotiator starting in October 2003 in talks with France, Britain and Germany.

“The day that we invited the three European ministers [to the talks], only 10 centrifuges were spinning at [the Iranian nuclear facility of] Natanz,” Mr. Rouhani said on the tape.

He said the three European ministers promised to block the U.S. desire to transfer the Iran nuclear dossier to the United Nations, using veto power if necessary. He called Iran’s claim that it stopped its nuclear program in 2003 a statement for the uneducated and admitted that the program not only was not stopped, but was significantly expanded under his tenure.

While President George W. Bush was increasing pressure on Iran in 2007, a report by American intelligence agencies concluded that Iran halted its nuclear program in 2003 and that the program had remained frozen since.

In the interview, Mr. Rouhani said that when he took over the country’s nuclear project, the country’s 150 centrifuges grew to more than 1,700 by the time he left the project.

Then Mr. Rouhani made his boldest statement: “We did not stop. We completed the program.” He said Iran’s nuclear activity was under the supervision of the supreme leader and that he, as Ayatollah Khamenei’s representative, was to make sure of this deceit.

Today, Iran has more than 10,000 centrifuges spinning at its Natanz facility and has stockpiled enough low-enriched uranium for six nuclear bombs while its stock of the higher-enriched uranium is constantly rising.

By his own confession, Mr. Rouhani clearly proved that the Islamic regime never intended to engage in serious negotiations, but was intent on building nuclear weapons.

Decade-long negotiations have been fruitless, and all the U.N. resolutions and even harsh sanctions have not forced the tyrannical clerics to abandon their goal of a nuclear-armed state.

The regime thinks that the United States and the West will not risk war and disruption of the global economy to thwart Iran’s goals, and that the worst they can do are sanctions. It also thinks that through Mr. Rouhani’s image of moderation, the West might back off on some of its sanctions without Iran taking a meaningful step toward accommodation.

It’s only a matter of time before Iran successfully arms its ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads, which will change the geopolitics of the region and the world. Reports indicate that by next year, Iran will have completed its nuclear bomb program, its intercontinental ballistic-missile program, putting the United States within its reach. Its heavy-water plant will provide the regime a second path to nuclear arms by way of plutonium. Global security and the global economy will become hostages to the radicals in Iran.

Mr. Rouhani, by his own videotaped statements, has shown that he is indeed a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Any future negotiations must be limited and to the point, and sanctions increased if there is no immediate conciliation by the Iranian regime.

The regime is looking for a way out of the current impasse without giving up its goal of obtaining nuclear weapons. We must not allow it any more time. We must make it much harder on the regime economically while openly supporting the aspirations of the Iranian people for change.

It’s only then that war can be avoided, and the regime will either fold, or Iranians will do it for them. Either way, the regime will be defeated, and that could go a long way for major change in Iran.

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

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