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Iran - Masters of Diplomatic Deception

Menashe Amir: 'Iran's Latest Response Is Aimed Solely At Gaining Time For Nuclear Program Until U.S. Presidential Election'

'Iran Will Agree To Dialogue While Refusing To Give In On Its Uranium Enrichment Project'

'Iranians Want To Buy Not Only SA-20 Air Defense System From Russia, But Also More Advanced S-300'

Menashe Amir at IsraCast Studios (©IsraCast)

What has been Teheran's response to the latest international offer to halt its uranium enrichment, the basis for its nuclear weapons development? What reaction has there been in Iran to the recent Israel Air Force exercise over the Mediterranean that might have been a simulated attack on Iran's nuclear installations? Menashe Amir, an Israeli expert on Iran, assesses both the diplomatic and military aspects of the current confrontation in a two part interview with IsraCast's David Essing. The first segment deals with the current diplomatic campaign and its ramifications.

Question: How has Iran reacted to the latest offer by the international community to halt its uranium enrichment program?

Menashe Amir: 'I would say Iran has taken one step forward and one step back. Iranian leaders have said yes to the essence of dialogue but no, they will not give in and stop enriching uranium. They said they were ready for discussions but also want to continue the present situation at Natanz where they are now operating some 3,000 centrifuges for uranium enrichment. The Iranians apparently said: 'Let us continue working with them but we promise you not to inject any more UF-6, which is uranium in its state of gas'.

Iranian missiles (photo: MEHR)

Question: Could the Iranians be picking up on Barack Obama's offer to start a dialogue, if he enters the White House in January?

Amir: 'No, the Iranians are simply trying to buy time until the U.S. presidential election. They declare they are not stepping back from what they call their natural right to enrich uranium but they are ready for a dialogue. This is a tactic for prolonging the process while continuing to enrich uranium until the American election'.

Question: And if Obama is ready for that dialogue, could the Iranians prolong it well into 2009 or early 2010, when Israeli intelligence expects Iran to pass the point of no return on its nuclear weapons project?

Amir: 'Lately, I haven't heard Obama repeat that he is ready for negotiations with Tehran. But if he were to begin such a dialogue, I hope he would soon realize there is nothing to talk about with Iran. Moreover, the Iranians are masters of diplomatic deception and there is no real basis for a dialogue because the U.S. and Iran have totally different goals, which could never be reconciled'.

Menashe Amir and David Essing at IsraCast Studios (Photo: Tomer Yaffe)
Menashe Amir at IsraCast Studios (Photo: Tomer Yaffe)
Menashe Amir and David Essing at IsraCast Studios (Photo: Tomer Yaffe)

Question: Shabtai Shavit, a former Mossad director has just said that Russia shows no interest in cooperating with the U.S. in stopping Iran. The outcome will be that Washington will do nothing and Israel will be left on its own to face the Iranian nuclear threat. What do you think of that assessment?

Amir: 'I don't have any real answer because I am not aware of America's inside diplomacy and what the Bush administration will decide. There are many options and I prefer not to speculate'.

Question: The Russians and Chinese obviously play an important role. But the Russians have not only sold the Iranians the nuclear technology to develop nuclear weapons, they have also agreed to sell them the sophisticated SA-20 anti-aircraft system to protect the Iranian nuclear installations. Aren't the Russians concerned about a nuclear Iran on their border?

Amir: 'Listen, the Russians built the Bushehr nuclear reactor and it's a matter of prestige for them that they want to protect. The Russians have made clear the Iranians are not not to produce uranium at Bushehr and the Iranians have committed to return to Russia the remnants of unused nuclear fuel. Therefore, Moscow says it's only natural that they sell the SA-20 to Tehran'.

Menashe Amir

Menashe Amir is an Israeli expert on Iran and Arab Affairs, formerly head of the Israel Broadcasting Authority's Persian language division and the chief editor of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' Persian language website.

Question: But what if the Iranians use the SA-20 air defense system to protect its other nuclear installations?

Amir: 'If the Russians sell more than are needed to defend Bushehr, that has to worry Israel. However, there are negotiations now on a Russian S-300 air defense system that is much more sophisticated and more dangerous for Israel'.

Israel will present the second segment of the interview on July 9th. Menashe Amir will then discuss the impact in Iran of the recent Israel Air Force exercise over the Mediterranean, and the real thing.

David Essing

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