'Only Relentless Pressure By U.S. & E.U. May Deter Iran From Nuclear Weapons Drive'
'Iran Will Now Step Up Support For Hezbollah in south Lebanon and Hamas And Especially Islamic Jihad in Palestinian Areas'
The election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, acting on the orders from Islamic leaders who call for Israel’s extermination, presents an even greater threat to the Jewish state. However, Menashe Amir, a leading Israeli expert on Iran, also says Tehran is threatening Europe & The U.S. as well as targets in the Middle East. The Iranians are determined to continue their drive to acquire nuclear weapons and will start resuming the enrichment of uranium for nuclear weapons, unless deterred by the European Union and the U.S. Moreover, although Iran already has developed a missile capable of delivering a nuclear warhead to many parts of the region, it is also working on an intercontinental ballistic missile with a range of 10,000 kilometers (over 6,000 miles). Interviewed by David Essing, analyst Amir also foresees the new Iranian President stepping up aid to Hezbollah in south Lebanon and Hamas and particularly the Islamic Jihad in the Palestinian areas.
Question: We're speaking with a leading Israeli expert on Iran - Menashe Amir, about the election of hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as Iran's new president. A race seems to be underway in Iran over whether the moderates would rise to power before the Islamic regime acquired nuclear weapons. Menashe Amir, in you view, has that race now been lost?
Menashe Amir: First, I have to mention that the decision making about nuclear policy and other main issues in Iran is not in the hands of the president, but in the sole hands of the religious leader of the country, Ayatollah Khamenei. He decides, and he dictates it to the president to implement it. So there will not be any change in the Iranian effort to reach the enrichment of Uranium and then to have the bomb. But there is a little difference between Ahmadinejad as president or Rafsanjani or Khatami or somebody else, because the president has to implement the policy made by the religious leader, and Ahmadinejad already declared that Iran will be much harder about this policy and will not make any concessions in this regard. In any case, any president in Iran even Rafsanjani, Khatami and others, could not change this policy but the way of implementation makes some difference.
Question: But is it also an indication the fact that he won a popular vote that the people of Iran also support this drive for nuclear weapons?
Menashe Amir: No, he didn't win any vote. There were no elections in Iran, there was a nomination, so Ahmadinejad is not elected by the Iranian people but nominated by Khamenei the leader and the guardians of the revolution and the radical, religious clergy in Iran. It doesn't mean that the Iranians want his policy of reaching a bomb. The main issue for the Iranian people is to have enough bread, to have a better life and not to be so poor. I have to mention that according to the Iranian official statistics, during the last ten years the Iranian youngsters have not been developed but their average height has gone down by two and a half centimeters, one inch. It means that the Iranians need more food and not a nuclear bomb, and they didn't vote for him to have a nuclear bomb.
Question: But at present Iran has temporarily stopped its enriching of Uranium, which is needed for nuclear weapons, do you think that they are going to re-continue this, they are going to resume this in the near future?
Menashe Amir: It was decided upon the international pressure two years ago and Khamenei knows that if he threatens and also Ahmadinejad threatens that Iran will resume the enrichment of Uranium soon if the negotiations with the EU will not bring the fruits that Iran is expecting. So, without any connection to Ahmadinejad's election, if the international pressure will continue upon Iran, and the US will continue to threaten that the Iranian file will be brought to the UN Security Council, if Iran will breaks its promise not to begin the enrichment of Uranium but anyhow, now the radical Islam, the extremist is governing the Iranian regime and it's hard to guess what will be their future policy in this regard.
Question: But you say at the present time that it is possible that the diplomatic efforts will succeed.
Menashe Amir: The Iranians put pressure to have many concessions from the EU and the other countries. In any case, they want to reach the nuclear bomb but once they will realize that having that means that their own existence is in danger and the international pressure may bring the toppling of the actual regime, they may concede.
Question: Well let's come now to the Israeli connection. Israeli leaders have said that the election of Ahmadinejad is a very serious development and so forth. We've heard in the past Ayatollah Rafsanjani once even spoke publicly about how one nuclear bomb could destroy Israel, and now the new president-elect says that Israel is illegal, illegitimate. It almost sounds like an act of war coming from Iran. How serious do you think is the Iranian threat to Israel at the present?
Menashe Amir: Nothing new about this threat, because all you have said has been said in Iran many times during the past also. But of course, once there is a radical Iranian president who will have full cooperation with the religious leader, who calls for an extermination of Israel, the situation is more dangerous. The fact that Iran is building the missiles to carry the nuclear bomb and will have the nuclear bomb, and it has very religious extremist ideology which calls for destruction of Israel, makes Iran the most dangerous country towards the existence of Israel.
Question: And the fact that Iranians also support Hezbollah and are responsible more or less for 13,000 rockets deployed in south Lebanon against Israel, how do you read this as part of the Iranian campaign against Israel?
Menashe Amir: Not only what you have said, but also I predict that coming into power of Ahmadinejad will bring more money to Hezbollah of Lebanon, to the Hamas in the Palestinian territories and especially to the Islamic Jihad which is funded and supported by the Iranians. They have in the past made the effort against the existence of Israel, they will continue it, and there is no doubt that they may increase their support for terrorist organizations.
Question: Also to the extent of encouraging Hezbollah to launch more attacks along the northern border?
Menashe Amir: No, it very much depends upon the international situation at the time, for the moment it's not in the interest of Hezbollah to launch any missile or rockets to Israel. For the moment, Hezbollah has to prove that it's not a provocative military organization but a Lebanese political organization. I don't see for the near future any escalation of fights from Hezbollah against Israel unless something, which is very unpredictable at the moment, will happen.
Question: Israeli policy has been that this is now an international problem, has been for sometime, because Iran is not only a threat to the Jewish state but also to Europe and to United States as well. Do you think that Israel has adopted the correct policy with regard to the Iranian nuclear threat?
Menashe Amir: Of course it is, and it's very important to explain to EU and to the Americans that Iran is not only building the missile Shihab 3 that can reach Israel, Turkey, Saudi-Arabia and even Egypt. But Iran is planning and has made experiments for Shihab 4 that may have a range of 5,000 kilometers and they are planning to build Shihab 5 that may have a range of 10,000 kilometers, and they may have a nuclear bomb. So not only Israel is in danger but the whole world, taking to consideration that Iran has a very extremist religious ideology, which believes that Islam must govern the world, and the Shiite sect has to have power over the Islamic world. They are planning and preparing themselves for such an Islamic war, such a crusade.