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Prominent expert on Iran, Menashe Amir

 What approach will the Iranians take when they meet Western nuclear negotiators in Geneva on October 15th? In Jerusalem, Israeli expert Menashe Amir has some words of warning - the Iranians WILL again try 'to have their cake and eat it too'. Now in dire economic straits, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani will oversee a new Iranian move to erode the sanctions by offering some minor nuclear concessions that will enable the regime to continue its drive for its first nuclear weapon, as did its ally North Korea. In a wide-ranging interview in the IsraCast studio, Amir also takes issue with those American analysts who contend that containing a nuclear armed Iran may be the 'least bad option'. 

 Listen to interview with Menashe Amir and David Essing: 


 Read full transcribed version of the interview below:  


Journalist, David Essing interviews Iran expert, Menashe Amir

 ESSING: Shalom, this is David Essing in Jerusalem. Welcome to our listeners of IsraCast worldwide. In our studio is Menashe Amir, a prominent Israeli expert on Iran. Menashe Amir was born in Iran, is fluent in the language, and has followed Iranian developments for decades. He also broadcasts to millions of Iranian listeners on Israel Radio. In addition, Menashe Amir has served as a consultant on Iran to foreign governments.

 First of all, the upcoming round of nuclear negotiations between the six powers and Iran will be the first meeting since President Hassan Rouhani, the so-called moderate, was elected in June. After his recent charm offensive to the UN and the US, the Iranians are obviously feeling the impact of the international sanctions.

 So, Menashe Amir, what do you expect from this Geneva meeting?


 AMIR: In fact, I am very pessimistic about the results of this talk. I think that the Iranians will bring some kind of offers, propositions, and the others will give their answers and their propositions, and they will again fix the next meeting for another three or six months [from now]; although, Iran is demanding and claiming that it wants to solve the problem as soon as possible, even in six months. This is a trick of the Iranians who say that 'we are ready for a quick solution', but they are not serious.


 ESSING: What is their ultimate goal then in your view, to break down the sanctions regime on Iran?


 AMIR: I have no doubt that the sanctions have brought Iran into electing, or selecting, Rouhani as the president. It has brought them to the Geneva negotiations, and it may bring them to a kind of not important concessions. In fact, the Iranians want to have the cake and to eat it at the same time. It means that the Iranians want to give the least possible and to get the most possible.


 ESSING: In other words, to break down the sanctions by going piece by piece: a little piece of their nuclear program in return for a big of the sanctions.


 AMIR: Exactly. The main aim of Iran, the main goal they are following, is to bring an easing of the international monetary sanctions. That has done the most damage to the Iranian economy. Iran is selling the oil, but they cannot receive the money. Several billions of dollars are in Chinese banks and in India, and none of them are ready to pay Iran by dollars or by Euro. So, if the international SWIFT sanctions will be released, it gives the Iranian economy a possibility of recovering very fast, without any real Iranian concessions, and that's the danger.


 ESSING: Ok. You know the Iranian mindset, you know the language, you know what going on inside Iran from your contacts there and from studying the media. What would you advise if you could talk to the western negotiators - those nuclear negotiators are I mean that we going to be meeting with the Iranians in Geneva – what would you advise them to be on guard for? 


 AMIR: I think that the most important thing is the policy of not giving them unless Iran is giving first.  We want real concessions of Iran, real steps of the Iranian leadership to show their transparency, and their real will to solve the problem. There are three main urgent small, small steps that Iran has to do, and I think that at the Geneva conference, they have to demand it:

First, an immediate visit to Parchin, which is a military base near Tehran, and there are good reasons to think that they have some military nuclear experiments.


 ESSING: For a nuclear warhead?


 AMIR: For a nuclear warhead, and illegal. And the second is that Iran has to accept to carry on the supplement of NPT (Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty).


 ESSING: Specifically, what is that?


 AMIR: The [Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty] supplement gives the permission to international inspectors to visit any site in any country at any time that they want, without any previous arrangements. It means that if Iran will join the supplement, it will be great transparency of the Iranian nuclear program, and they haven't done it yet. And the third is to stop the enrichment; at least to stop the 20% enrichment that they do, and they claim that they want to do that to produce the fuel needed for a very small Iranian nuclear reactor, which is in Tehran, for scientific and medical reasons.


 ESSING: But foreign minister Javad Zarif has repeatedly said Iran has "absolute right" to enrich uranium, and they're never going to give this up.


 AMIR: If they speak formally, by NPT they are right, but they are not allowed to because they haven't fulfilled the conditions of [an] NPT treaty, because Iran began its nuclear programs in secret. And when they did it, the international community decided to go to the United Nations and to the Security Council after Iran was refusing to give enough information about its nuclear programs to IAEA; so they sent the file to the Security Council, and [from] there have been the economics sanctions on Iran. So Iran has to change its policy for real, to give the concessions, to prove full transparency, and then, only then, to release or to loose some of the sanctions.


 ESSING: All right. If the Iranians want to erode some of the sanctions, but they're still going to refuse those very tough conditions that you've just laid down now, what will happen after that? The sides will go home and they'll try to meet midway, will they not? Because this is the American position; in such a situation, the Americans usually – if America's national security interests are not directly involved and there's not a clear and present danger from America's point of view, this is the American position: always to try and adjudicate some kind of international conflict.


 AMIR: That's our concern, that's the Israeli concern, and that's Netanyahu's concern, that they will make a kind of half deal, which is a bad deal; because if you release some of the sanctions, and the Iranian economy can breathe again, they will continue their real enrichment activities, even if they are ready to stop the 20% enrichment, as Ali Larijani has declared. But, even this point was opposed by many Iranian leaders inside the country, and they denied that Ali Larijani has said such a thing and has offered such a proposition. So, I'm very whether there will be any real agreement in Geneva next week.


 ESSING: And what about the danger of containment? Because there are some very influential experts in the US, who probably don't speak the Farsi language as you do, who are talking more and more about containment, about living with a nuclear Iran. And now that they've got Rouhani as their leader, this could lead to more support for such a position.


 AMIR: The short answer is, don't forget North Korea, which has done the same tricks. And that's the real concern that…I have the feeling that the United States and Western countries are tired. They don't want any real confrontation with Iran, they need to regard their own economy, they maybe need the trade with Iran, and they are pessimistic to force Iran to leave some of its nuclear programs. That's the reason that they are going to the 'containment', which is a very bad deal, and it means that Iran will keep the enrichment capabilities. Don't forget why there have been the sanctions from the beginning - these sanctions by the Security Council. Because Iran was enriching uranium. And if the United States and Western countries will agree with the continuation of enrichment in any percentage that they may agree upon, it means that they have to lift all the sanctions. It means that Iran has the full capability and permission to continue the nuclear programs; and according to the experts' assessments, Iran is very, very close to its first nuclear bomb.


 ESSING: So now we're coming down to the finish line, and what we see is U.S. President Barack Obama is saying that the U.S. will not allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapons. On the other hand, Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu has declared repeatedly that Israel will not allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapons capability. In other words, that Israel will act to prevent Iran from acquiring such a capability and breaking out to the Bomb whenever they see fit. And moreover, the news came out this week that Israel has carried out a long-range air operation, air maneuver, over parts of Europe, apparently with the agreement of some European countries. In other words, Netanyahu is saying, 'we'll act against an Iranian capability', and on the other hand, it's not only words, we're also seeing deeds by this air operation. How is this being perceived in Iran, do you think?


 AMIR: I think that the Iranians are very much concerned about such a kind of attack. At the same time, it will give them many occasions that they don't have yet. I think that even Israel's going to a military option or capability of destroying the Iranian nuclear installations is very limited. Israel can cause damage for six months, one year or two years, after that Iran will go on and continue its programs. And then, if they are attacked, they will have the legal reason or legal pretext to continue their nuclear programs; and then Israel can expect a continuous missile attack from the Iranian side, which is very difficult to put a stop to. These are a few reasons why it's not good for Israel to carry out the military attack by itself. I have to emphasize that an Iranian nuclear bomb is not only the Israeli concern, it has to be the Arabs' concern, the European concern, and it has to be the Americans' [concern]; because Iran has missile which not only can reach Israel, they can reach any American military base in Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudia [Arabia], or other countries in the region. Iran has missiles of 6,000-kilometer range, which may reach London, Paris, Berlin, Madrid, Rome, and other capitols in the Western countries. According to the American intelligence reports, Iran is planning to develop a missile with 10,000-kilometer range, which will endanger the eastern coast of the United States. So why only Israel? Why should we do it by ourselves with our limited capabilities? Except that the Israeli army is a big on and a very strong one; but there is another bigger and stronger one, which is the United States and Britain and others who already have a massive military presence in the Persian Gulf. So they have to do it, and Israel has to continue its efforts to convince the international community how dangerous the situation is. And I think that Netanyahu is very right in demanding the total stop of any nuclear activities in Iran.


 ESSING: Well, this brings me back to the question of these experts who are floating this idea of containment; because it seems to me they are ignoring what you've just talked about. It seems to me they are looking at Israel as if it might be a tripwire, a warning in the future, if Israel is attacked, then the United States will attack Iran and so forth. So they're taking a step back, and don't seem to realize what Iran's ultimate goal is in the Middle East and worldwide. How would you describe that goal, and what should be taken into consideration when experts start talking about containment?


 AMIR: I think that everybody has to recognize the real dangers of the Iranian regime. I spoke about the military strength of Iran; I want to speak also to explain the religious and ideological side of this problem. Iran is very fanatic Shiite Muslim. They think that even if you destroy the whole universe, you have to put the Shiite Islam as the leader of human beings all over the world, and their ideology is that 'we have now the money, the people, the military capability, and now's the time, and we shall have the nuclear bomb, and we have the missiles. Now's the time that we have to frighten the whole universe, and especially Western countries to advance our goals, which is the ruling of Islamic society by the Iranian religious belief’. And that's what the Western countries have to know, and to be aware of it.


 ESSING: Menashe Amir, thank you very much for coming to our studio today.


 AMIR: Thank you.


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David Essing

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