Recent estimates that Iran may be just one month away from producing enough enriched uranium to facilitate a nuclear weapon are likely on target, and the likelihood of Iran achieving success is enhanced by an insincere charm offensive by new Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.
Rouhani was touted as a surprise winner in Iran’s recent presidential elections. Since then, he has projected a desire to soften the tone with the United States and open a new dialogue between the two nations. But the man who first warned the world of Iran’s latest quest for nuclear weapons says this public relations campaign by Iran is just a giant smokescreen.
“President Rouhani is actually more dangerous than Mahmoud Ahmadinejad because he creates the perception as though he’s going to be someone different, as though he’s willing to talk to the West and come into some kind of an agreement meaning that he would abandon some aspects of the Iranian nuclear program and that he would come clean,” said Alireza Jafarzadeh, deputy director of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), which the formal name for the Iranian parliament in exile.
“If we look at the whole structure of the Iranian regime, Rouhani is just the player that only carries out the mission of the supreme leader. All the issue related to national security, particularly the nuclear file, are totally in the control of the supreme leader, Ali Khamenei,” said Jafarzadeh, who also says Rouhani is no innocent newcomer to the international chess game over Iranian nukes.
Rouhani was one of the first Iran negotiators once the NCRI exposed the nuclear program in 2002. Jafarzadeh says Rouhani’s duplicity has been evident since the start of this impasse,
“He later boasted about having the ability to basically beguile the West and cheat them by saying that they have actually frozen their program when in fact they hadn’t,” he said. “The issue is not whether he speaks over the phone with a western country leader or not. The issue is does the Iranian regime comply with a series of UN Security Council resolutions that has been in place since several years ago.”
Just last week the independent Institute for Science and International Security reported that Iran is on pace to produce enough enriched uranium to produce a nuclear weapon within the next month. Jafarzadeh finds that estimate wholly credible because the group had access to data from the International Atomic Energy Agency and had solid estimates on the number of active centrifuges and the number of centrifuges operating at specific enrichment levels. Jafarzadeh says the reality is sobering.
“It’s a scary situation because you never want to be in a situation that Iran, by any estimates, would be only months away from having the ability to build the bomb,” said Jafarzadeh.
He says there’s not much time for the rest of the world to act, especially since the most effective measures of tighter economic sanctions and supporting internal opposition would be tough to ramp up fast enough to make a difference. Jafarzadeh is also not sure the U.S. is willing to do what’s necessary to stop Iran from going nuclear.
“We saw in 2009, when hundreds of thousands of thousands of people came to the streets, but unfortunately, the outside world was not prepared to stand with them. That’s the kind of leverage that I think the United States can use. I don’t know whether this administration is prepared to do that. I don’t think that signs indicate that they will,” said Jafarzadeh.
Jafarzadeh and the NCRI is also imploring President Obama to get tough on Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki when the two meet in Washington this week. Iranian exiles are outraged that Maliki authorized the murder of 52 Iranian dissidents at Camp Ashraf and the government took seven more activists hostage, six of whom are women. Maliki is know for his very close ties with Tehran and Jafarzadah says it’s time for Obama to lay down the law.
“He cannot be invited to the White House when he is a hostage-taker. He’s a kidnapper. That sends the wrong message to all the allies in the region,” said Jafarzadeh.
The NCRI will lead a protest at the White House on Friday which will feature speakers ranging from Newt Gingrich to Tom Ridge to former Rep. Patrick Kennedy.