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IRAN & NORTH KOREA

Menashe Amir: 'Iranians Fear Harsher International Sanctions Could Lead To Fall Of Regime'

'Mounting Voices In Iran Calling For Halt To Nuclear Enrichment'

'Today Some Iranian Clergy Charge That President Ahmadinejad Has Exaggerated Progress In Nuclear Program'

Analyst Menashe Amir

What's the impact on Iran of the international agreement with North Korea on halting its nuclear weapons program? Israeli expert Menashe Amir says that the international sanctions on Tehran are already having an effect. Amir, who follows Iranian developments on a daily basis, says there are fears in Tehran that harsher sanctions could lead to the fall of the regime. Mounting voices are also calling for a halt to the nuclear enrichment program necessary for developing nuclear weapons in return for economic concessions from the international community. Interviewed by David Essing at IsraCast, Menashe Amir analyzes various aspects of Iran's nuclear weapons drive in light of the agreement with North Korea.

Interview with Menashe Amir

Q: We are speaking now with Menashe Amir. He is one of Israel's best known experts on Iran. First of all, Menashe Amir, how do you think that this agreement worked out with North Korea and their nuclear weapons, nuclear development? What kind of impact is this having on Iran if any at all?

A: I think that for the Iranian leadership there are some encouraging points in this agreement. The fact that the United States and the International community have promised not to intervene in the internal political affairs of North Korea, that they have also agreed to leave some nuclear potentials to the North Koreans, and the economic concessions that they have given to North Koreans, to the Pyongyang government, may encourage the Iranians to pursue their nuclear programs. But there are also some discouraging points. The fact that North Korea, after investing such a big amount of money and energy in developing the nuclear bomb and now they are agreeing to stop it, that the international community is continuing its efforts to prevent the proliferation of the nuclear bomb. These are the points that may discourage them, but in total I can say, and we have to emphasize, that Iran is not North Korea. The conditions of the two countries are totally different and so we can not speak about a parallel situation.

Q: Do you think that this is going, perhaps, to persuade the Iranian leadership that it is best to go the way of North Korea and seek some kind of political solution? To seek the solution that will give them economic concessions? Or is the Iranian leadership locked into this messianic approach that it has to lead the radical Islam campaign here in the Middle East and primarily against Israel?

A: Even before the agreement with North Korea there have been voices in Iran that we have to get into a kind of a compromise with the international community. They are looking for that, and some of the Iranians are ready to stop the enrichment efforts if the Security Council and the United States will give them some concessions, especially in a week that Iran's issue will go again to the Security Council. Iranians are very much afraid that more and harsher sanctions will be decided against Iran. They are very much afraid that once their issue is in the Security Council, it will remain there and will get worse and worse, and may endanger the existence of the regime in Iran. So they are trying not to go in a very direct confrontation with the international community, but to seek for a kind of agreement, solution and compromise.

Q: Is there any sign there has been any kind of let up in the Iranian drive to acquire nuclear weapons despite the sanctions?

A: Yes, I can say that first of all my assessment is that they have technical difficulties in pursuing their programs. The fact that Ahmadinejad did not announce the functioning of the three thousand centrifuges means that they have some problems, and they are speaking now less and less about their power. Today I read in the Iranian media, that some of the senior clergies accuse Ahmadinejad that he is exaggerating about the Iranians possibility and the potential of the Iranian nuclear programs, exactly what Prime Minister Olmert said during his visit in Ankara. So, there are voices inside Iran that I hope will be stronger and stronger, and if there will be a steady international pressure on Iran, a military threat and diplomatic actions, they all together may bring Iran to stop the enrichment and to make a compromise.

Q: At the same time we heard this report about a European document that says that sanctions would not really work, and that it is best to accept the fact that Iran will go nuclear when it comes to its weapons program?

A: I strongly believe that if there will be a coalition of military threats, diplomatic actions, economic sanctions and encouraging the Iranian people to rise up, then the Iranian regime will realize that its mere existence is in danger, they will concede, they will stop and the international community will get rid of the Iranian nuclear threat.

Q: Menashe Amir, thank You very much for talking with us today.

 

David Essing

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