AEIdeas » Ahmad Majidyar http://www.aei-ideas.org The public policy blog of the American Enterprise Institute Fri, 18 Apr 2014 00:11:27 +0000 en-US hourly 1 US poised to repeat mistakes in Afghanistan http://www.aei-ideas.org/2014/01/us-poised-to-repeat-mistakes-in-afghanistan/ http://www.aei-ideas.org/2014/01/us-poised-to-repeat-mistakes-in-afghanistan/#comments Mon, 27 Jan 2014 21:52:45 +0000 http://www.aei-ideas.org/?p=123367 read more >]]> The New York Times reports that the American intelligence agencies are alarmed that if President Obama pulls out all troops from Afghanistan by this year’s end, the intelligence community could lose strategic air bases vital for the US drone strikes against al Qaeda in Pakistan and for responding to a potential nuclear crisis in the region:

The concern has become serious enough that the Obama administration has organized a team of intelligence, military and policy specialists to devise alternatives to mitigate the damage if a final security deal cannot be struck with the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, who has declined to enact an agreement that American officials thought was completed last year. If Mr. Obama ultimately withdrew all American troops from Afghanistan, the C.I.A.’s drone bases in the country would have to be closed, according to administration officials, because it could no longer be protected. Their concern is that the nearest alternative bases are too far away for drones to reach the mountainous territory in Pakistan where the remnants of Al Qaeda’s central command are hiding. Those bases would also be too distant to monitor and respond as quickly as American forces can today if there were a crisis in the region, such as missing nuclear material or weapons in Pakistan and India… “There’s no easy alternative to Afghanistan,” one former senior American counterterrorism official said.

As I argued in an article last year, that the United States needs a significant post-2014 military presence in Afghanistan for two vital interests: 1) to sustain the gains made over the past decade and prevent the Taliban and al Qaeda from reconstituting themselves in parts of Afghanistan; and 2) to fight al Qaeda and its associates in Pakistan and ensure they will not get access to the country’s nuclear arms.

Without a post-2014 military presence, the CIA-led drone strikes into Pakistan’s tribal regions will either cease or be rendered ineffective. With Washington’s intelligence cooperation with Pakistan at its lowest point since 2002, the US drone campaign against terrorists in South and North Waziristan is now entirely reliant on bases in Afghanistan. The US intelligence may not have been able to locate and kill bin Laden without bases in eastern Afghanistan. In addition to geography, as I’ve explained here, a complete withdrawal will also deny the intelligence community another essential asset: human intelligence and local contact.

It is true that President Karzai has not been a reliable ally, but the Obama administration should decide on the size and scope of its post-2014 engagement in Afghanistan based on national security needs in South Asia rather than the Afghan president’s erratic behavior. After all, there will be a new president in Afghanistan after April, and most Afghans back an enduring partnership with the United States. A complete withdrawal of American troops from Iraq has resulted in a resurgence of al Qaeda affiliates in Iraq and in the broader Middle East. Repeating the mistake in Afghanistan will allow “core al Qaeda” and its Pakistani and Afghan terrorist associates to reestablish themselves along the Afghan-Pakistan border, from where they could plot against America and its allies.

Follow AEIdeas on Twitter at @AEIdeas.

]]>
http://www.aei-ideas.org/2014/01/us-poised-to-repeat-mistakes-in-afghanistan/feed/ 8
Iran’s Revolutionary Guards send Afghan refugees to fight in Syria http://www.aei-ideas.org/2014/01/irans-revolutionary-guards-send-afghan-refugees-to-fight-in-syria/ http://www.aei-ideas.org/2014/01/irans-revolutionary-guards-send-afghan-refugees-to-fight-in-syria/#comments Wed, 15 Jan 2014 19:38:01 +0000 http://www.aei-ideas.org/?p=122654 read more >]]> In a new escalation of its sectarian involvement in Syria, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) is reportedly training and sending scores of Afghan refugees (mostly Shi’ites) to fight alongside President Bashar al Assad’s forces in Syria. According to a report by Afghanistan’s leading daily Hasht-e Sobh, the IRGC has deployed 120 Afghan fighters to Syria over the past two months alone, of whom 28 have been killed and 8 others wounded. Those killed were buried in the Behesht-e Reza cemetery in the Iranian city of Mashhad, and the wounded were treated at an undisclosed IRGC hospital. Based on statements by five Afghan militants who recently returned from Syria to Mashhad, the report adds that the Iranian government recruits Afghan refugees by offering them permanent residency in Iran and other inducements. There are about 2.5 million Afghans living in Iran, a third of them registered refugees and the remainder economic migrants.

Last November, the IRGC-affiliated Tasnim News Agency also reported the death of 10 Afghan refugees in Syria. Officials from Bonyad-e Shahid (the Foundation for Martyrs) participated in the burial ceremony for two of the “martyrs” in the Iranian holy city of Qom, which indicates that the Iranian government pays compensation to the families of the victims, as it did for Iranians killed in the Iran-Iraq war. Later that month, Sayed Hamed Iqtedar, an Afghan journalist who fled Syria, told Afghanistan’s Bokhdi News Agency: “Thousands of Afghans are present on both sides of the Syrian war… and tens of them have been killed or injured.” Iqtedar added that Afghans coming from Iran to Syria are fighting for money, while others fighting on the rebel side are sent by jihadist groups in Afghanistan.

The Afghan government is reportedly probing these cases.

The IRGC’s use of Afghan refugees for its terror agenda should surprise nobody. Over the past decade, the IRGC’s secretive Quds Force has provided training, funding, and weapons to the Taliban to expedite the withdrawal of American forces from Afghanistan. Afghan government officials have repeatedly accused the Quds Force of training Afghan citizens in terrorist camps in the Iranian provinces of Khorasan, Kerman, Sistan va Baluchestan and Khuzestan. The IRGC has assigned the Ansar Corps, a Quds Force sub-command based in Mashhad, to run operations in Afghanistan. In August 2010, the Department of Treasury sanctioned the commander of the Ansar Corps, Mossein Musavi, and another senior Quds Force officer, Colonel Hasan Mortezavi, for providing monetary and material support to the Taliban.

Syria’s sectarian conflict – between a Shi’ite axis of Iran-Hezbollah-al Assad and rebel groups backed by regional Sunni governments – has inflamed longstanding tensions between Islam’s two largest sects and has destabilized the Middle East. The conflict’s spillover effects have already pushed Iraq and Lebanon to the brink of new civil wars. But the IRGC’s use of Afghan refugees in its sectarian struggle against regional Sunni monarchies is likely to have serious implications for Afghanistan and for South Asia more broadly. Sunni violence against Shi’ites in Pakistan has reached its highest point: there were almost 700 sectarian killings in Pakistan last year, a 22% increase over 2012. And as foreign troops are leaving Afghanistan by next year, Afghanistan is also likely to turn into a proxy battlefield between Shi’ite Iran and a Sunni alliance of Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and the Taliban.

Follow AEIdeas on Twitter at @AEIdeas

]]>
http://www.aei-ideas.org/2014/01/irans-revolutionary-guards-send-afghan-refugees-to-fight-in-syria/feed/ 4
Mullah Omar’s actions contradict his words http://www.aei-ideas.org/2013/08/mullah-omars-actions-contradict-his-words/ http://www.aei-ideas.org/2013/08/mullah-omars-actions-contradict-his-words/#comments Tue, 06 Aug 2013 18:48:04 +0000 http://www.aei-ideas.org/?p=112270 read more >]]> In his annual Eid message, Taliban leader Mullah Omar has called on his fighters to spare civilians and promised that his group will not monopolize power after foreign troops leave Afghanistan next year. In a lengthy statement published on the group’s website today, he said:

I assure all, no personal revenge will be taken on any one following the end of occupation because our struggle is neither for achievement of personal gains nor personal power… I reiterate once again that we do not think of monopolizing power… Rather we believe in reaching understanding with the Afghans regarding an Afghan-inclusive government based on Islamic principles.

While Omar’s conciliatory tone may raise hopes in Washington and Kabul over the prospect of a political settlement with the group to end the Afghan war, any notion that the Taliban will honor its pledges in the future is pure folly.

As Pakistani author Ahmed Rashid documented in his book “Taliban: The Power of Militant Islam in Afghanistan and Beyond,” Taliban leaders preached inclusivity and peace when it first emerged in southern Afghanistan in 1994. Indeed, the group conquered much of southern and western parts of the country not by military offensives but by co-opting and negotiating with regional power holders of different ethnicities. But once it captured Kabul in 1996, the Taliban eschewed slogans of inclusivity and embraced despotism. It killed or marginalized moderate Pashtun leaders and excluded all non-Pashtun ethnic minorities that make about 60% of the country’s population.

Omar’s show of concern for civilian casualties should also be taken with a grain of salt. Omar made a similar remark in last year’s Eid message, but a recent UN report showed a 23% rise in civilian killings this year – nearly three quarters of them by the Taliban.

Omar also made clear that the Taliban would not accept the Afghan constitution and denounced Afghanistan’s upcoming presidential elections:

As to the deceiving drama under the name of elections 2014, our pious people will not tire themselves out, nor will they participate in it. Our pious and Mujahid people know that selection, de facto, takes place in Washington… Participation in such elections is only a waste of time, nothing more.

The Taliban reject democracy and elections because of both religious beliefs and pragmatism. The group’s members believe legitimacy comes from God – not elections. In 1996, Omar assumed the title of Amir al-Mu’minin – Commander of the Faithful who should rule the Islamic community in the world – not through an election but an oath of allegiance by his supporters, including Osama bin Laden. Moreover, the group lacks popular support in Afghanistan and realizes that its only chance of returning to power is through violence.

Although Omar reiterated in today’s statement that his group would continue fighting against the “infidel invaders and their allies,” he maintained that his group was open to talks with Washington through the Qatar office. But it is clear from his words that he pursues talks not to reach a settlement to end the conflict, but to encourage Washington to speed up troop withdrawal and not to leave behind a residual force that could help the Afghan government after 2014.

]]>
http://www.aei-ideas.org/2013/08/mullah-omars-actions-contradict-his-words/feed/ 2
For the White House, timeline trumps reality in Afghanistan http://www.aei-ideas.org/2013/07/for-white-house-timeline-trumps-reality-in-afghanistan/ http://www.aei-ideas.org/2013/07/for-white-house-timeline-trumps-reality-in-afghanistan/#comments Wed, 31 Jul 2013 19:31:26 +0000 http://www.aei-ideas.org/?p=111997 read more >]]> A new Pentagon report claims that Afghanistan’s security forces aren’t yet ready to protect the country against the Taliban and al Qaeda on their own and will require “substantial training, advising, and assistance, including financial support” after the 2014 transition. The report cites significant progress in the number and quality of Afghan forces in the past two years, but maintains that they’re still heavily dependent on coalition forces in key support areas, such as air operations and logistics. Another report by the United Nations released today cites an alarming 23% rise in civilian casualties in the country in the first six months of 2013 – indicating an increase in Taliban violence and a deterioration of security as Afghan forces are taking the lead from withdrawing US and NATO troops.

The findings of the two reports show that the White House’s withdrawal timelines are at odds with security realities on the ground. About half of the remaining 60,000 American troops will leave Afghanistan by next February. More ominously, the administration says it is considering a complete troop withdrawal if negotiations with the Afghan government over a security agreement are not finalized soon. As I wrote earlier, however, a “zero option” will undo the last decade’s security gains and undercut the effectiveness of US counterterrorism operations in South Asia. Afghanistan may revert to a pre-9/11 situation, where al Qaeda and its affiliates operated with impunity and used the Afghan territory as a launching pad against Western targets.

]]>
http://www.aei-ideas.org/2013/07/for-white-house-timeline-trumps-reality-in-afghanistan/feed/ 7
Obama’s ‘zero option’ in Afghanistan is a recipe for disaster http://www.aei-ideas.org/2013/07/obamas-zero-option-is-a-recipe-for-disaster/ http://www.aei-ideas.org/2013/07/obamas-zero-option-is-a-recipe-for-disaster/#comments Tue, 09 Jul 2013 18:22:47 +0000 http://www.aei-ideas.org/?p=110391 read more >]]> The New York Times reports that President Obama is “giving serious consideration” to pulling out all US troops from Afghanistan next year because of growing tension with Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Suspicious of direct US-Taliban talks in Qatar, Kabul last month suspended planned negotiations with Washington over a Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) that lays out a legal framework for a residual American military presence in Afghanistan after 2014.

Let’s hope that this is a pressure tactic used by the administration to increase its leverage with Kabul in the negotiation process. But given President Obama’s rush to exit from Afghanistan and his track record in Iraq, it appears to be déjà vu all over again.

A premature US pullout from Iraq proved disastrous: the country is sliding back into chaos; al Qaeda has made a comeback; and Iran has emerged as the most influential player in post-Saddam Iraq. But the consequences of an abrupt withdrawal from Afghanistan are likely to be much worse. A complete pullout next year would put at risk all security gains the US and its allies have made against al Qaeda and its affiliates in South Asia in the past 11 years. Afghanistan could revert to a pre-9/11 situation.

As I wrote on CNN GPS earlier this year, the US needs a significant military presence in Afghanistan beyond 2014 to achieve four principal objectives: 1) to send a strong message to friends and enemies in the region that the US is not abandoning Afghanistan; 2) to continue to assist and advise Afghan security forces until they are self-sufficient; 3) to conduct unilateral counterterrorism operations in remote Afghan provinces to further weaken al Qaeda and associated forces and prevent them from reconstituting in parts of the country; and 4) to keep a check on the growing terrorism threat emanating from Pakistan. The success of drone strikes against al Qaeda and its affiliates in Pakistan largely depends on military and intelligence assets in Afghanistan. A complete withdrawal means the US will no longer be able to conduct counterterrorism in South Asia effectively.

]]>
http://www.aei-ideas.org/2013/07/obamas-zero-option-is-a-recipe-for-disaster/feed/ 14
Taliban’s hypocrisy in peace talks http://www.aei-ideas.org/2013/06/talibans-hypocrisy-in-peace-talks/ http://www.aei-ideas.org/2013/06/talibans-hypocrisy-in-peace-talks/#comments Tue, 25 Jun 2013 18:30:34 +0000 http://www.aei-ideas.org/?p=109411 read more >]]> Early this morning, a group of Taliban gunmen launched a sophisticated attack on the presidential palace and a nearby CIA base in Kabul, infiltrating into one of the most fortified security zones in the Afghan capital and forcing President Karzai to cancel a planned news conference to discuss peace talks with the insurgents.

The brazen assault – the latest in a series of high-profile suicide bombings and spectacular attacks by the Taliban in recent weeks – is yet another indication that the terrorist group is insincere about peace negotiations, which have gained fresh momentum after the Taliban opened a political office in Qatar last week.

The office was meant to facilitate direct negotiations between all parties to end the war. But the process ground to a halt almost immediately as Kabul boycotted the talks, protesting that the Taliban used the opportunity as a publicity stunt to present itself as an alternative government in exile. At the inauguration ceremony, the Taliban hoisted their white flag and placed an “Islamic Emirate” banner outside its embassy-like building. Instead of pursuing peace, Taliban representatives appear to be using their presence in Qatar to raise funds in the Gulf region, spread propaganda through international media, and build closer ties with state and non-state actors in the Middle East. A senior Taliban delegation traveled from Doha to Tehran earlier this month, which the group praised as a PR victory on its website.

In past years, the Afghan government and its foreign allies have given many unilateral concessions to the insurgents to encourage them to join the peace process, such as releasing hundreds of Taliban prisoners and removing senior insurgent leaders from the UN sanctions list. But the Taliban has only stepped up violence, continued its close ties with al Qaeda, and refused to accept the Afghan constitution. Now that foreign troops are leaving, they have even less incentive to lay down their arms and make peace.

As my colleagues and I have written before (here, here, here, here, here, and here), the Taliban is using diplomacy not to end the conflict but to speed up US withdrawal, enhance its international credibility, and seek concessions from Kabul and Washington. The Taliban’s strategy is to wait out foreign troops and to try to topple the Kabul government after 2014. And Washington’s hasty exit is helping the Taliban to achieve that goal.

]]>
http://www.aei-ideas.org/2013/06/talibans-hypocrisy-in-peace-talks/feed/ 3
Hasty transition would jeopardize US gains in Afghanistan http://www.aei-ideas.org/2013/06/hasty-transition-would-jeopardize-us-gains-in-afghanistan/ http://www.aei-ideas.org/2013/06/hasty-transition-would-jeopardize-us-gains-in-afghanistan/#comments Tue, 18 Jun 2013 18:05:59 +0000 http://www.aei-ideas.org/?p=108770 read more >]]> At a ceremony in Kabul today, Afghan President Hamid Karzai announced that his country’s security forces had taken the lead for security across the country from the US and NATO coalition, marking a significant milestone since the ouster of the Taliban nearly 12 years ago. NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the coalition’s mission was shifting from combat to support: “We will continue to help Afghan troops in operations if needed. But we will no longer plan, execute, or lead those operations. And by the end of 2014, our combat mission will be completed. At that time, Afghanistan will be fully secured by Afghans.”

The surge of troops President Obama ordered in December 2009 helped drive out the Taliban from their strategic safe havens in southern Kandahar and Helmand provinces. But the administration’s premature withdrawal timeline did not allow the commanders on the ground to replicate the success in eastern provinces, where the Haqqani Network maintains entrenched safe havens and continues to pose a serious threat to the government in Kabul.

The surge also helped to develop the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) from 190,000 poorly trained and inadequately equipped personnel into a more effective counterinsurgency force of 350,000 soldiers and policemen. Despite these gains, however, the ANSF remains heavily reliant on the coalition for support roles, primarily air power, logistics, and intelligence. Without continued coalition support in such areas, the ANSF’s operational capabilities will decline considerably.

It is therefore imperative that the transition not be seen as a one-time event, but a gradual process until the ANSF stands on its own and becomes able to prevent al Qaeda and the Taliban from reconstituting in parts of the country.

President Obama must also announce how many troops he intends to leave behind after the majority of coalition troops leave Afghanistan by the end of 2014. An enduring, clear commitment by Washington to post-2014 Afghanistan is necessary to send a strong message to friends and enemies in the region that the US is not abandoning the country any time soon. It will encourage the militants to seek a political settlement rather than to continue violence, and also alleviate the growing anxiety amongst political stakeholders in Afghanistan about stability in the country after 2014. There are already alarming signs that regional power holders are beginning to disobey the central government as coalition troops are leaving. As I argued here, the US needs to keep a significant military presence in Afghanistan beyond 2014 to continue to assist the Afghan forces in the fight against al Qaeda and the Taliban, and also to keep a check on rising terrorism threats emanating from Pakistan.

Furthermore, it is wishful thinking to expect a breakthrough from today’s Taliban announcement about the opening of a political office in Qatar. As I wrote last week, the Taliban is not sincere about talks and is using diplomacy to gain international legitimacy and support and to buy time until the foreign troops’ departure next year.

]]>
http://www.aei-ideas.org/2013/06/hasty-transition-would-jeopardize-us-gains-in-afghanistan/feed/ 3
Repealing the Authorization for Use of Military Force will empower al Qaeda http://www.aei-ideas.org/2013/06/repealing-authorization-for-use-of-military-force-will-empower-al-qaeda/ http://www.aei-ideas.org/2013/06/repealing-authorization-for-use-of-military-force-will-empower-al-qaeda/#comments Mon, 17 Jun 2013 21:02:31 +0000 http://www.aei-ideas.org/?p=108654 read more >]]> Since 9/11, both the Bush and Obama administrations have used the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) to target al Qaeda, the Taliban, and associated forces in South Asia and the Middle East in order to prevent any future terror plots on American soil. But in his May 23 counterterrorism policy speech, President Obama said he would work with Congress to “refine, and ultimately repeal” the legislation.

Last week, Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA), a member of the House Intelligence Committee, introduced legislation to repeal the AUMF by the end of 2014, when most of US forces are expected to leave Afghanistan. Critics allege that the law is “outdated” and “overly broad” and promotes a “permanent war.” Others claim it is now unnecessary because al Qaeda is defeated and the Taliban is not a US enemy.

But as I argue today in my US News & World Report piece, repealing or significantly restricting the AUMF at a time when al Qaeda remains a viable threat would be premature and dangerous. It undercuts the effectiveness of US counterterrorism efforts and allows al Qaeda and its associated forces to grow stronger in South Asia and the Middle East.

Until al Qaeda and its associated forces are degraded to an extent that they pose no significant threat to US national security, the AUMF must not be repealed or replaced. In a testimony to Congress last month, top defense officials said combatant commanders had “great familiarity and great confidence” in the existing AUMF to continue counterterrorism efforts against al Qaeda and its affiliates effectively. And limiting the law to a specific number of geographical areas and terrorist groups is also unwise, as it would allow the enemy to seek new sanctuaries in areas immune from US counterterrorism responses.

]]>
http://www.aei-ideas.org/2013/06/repealing-authorization-for-use-of-military-force-will-empower-al-qaeda/feed/ 1
Kabul attacks show futility of talks with the Taliban http://www.aei-ideas.org/2013/06/kabul-attacks-show-futility-of-talks-with-taliban/ http://www.aei-ideas.org/2013/06/kabul-attacks-show-futility-of-talks-with-taliban/#comments Mon, 10 Jun 2013 18:20:15 +0000 http://www.aei-ideas.org/?p=108025 read more >]]> A group of heavily-armed Taliban fighters launched an attack against the military wing of Kabul International Airport early this morning, firing rocket-propelled grenades and assault rifles in a four-hour firefight with Afghan security forces. In an almost-simultaneous attack in southern Afghanistan, six other Taliban suicide bombers attempted to storm the provincial council headquarters in Zabul Province, injuring at least 18 civilians. Militants also attacked a district police headquarters just outside the Afghan capital.

Today’s violence – the latest in a series of suicide bombings and spectacular attacks since the Taliban announced its “spring offensive” in April – yet again shows that the terrorist group has no desire for a peaceful settlement and is determined to use militancy and terror to return to power.

Ironically, today’s attacks came as Afghan President Hamid Karzai was meeting with Emir of Qatar Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani in Doha to discuss peace talks with the Taliban, who recently opened a “political office” in the Qatari capital with Kabul and Washington’s endorsement. Yet instead of entering into a meaningful negotiation with Afghan and US officials, the Taliban has been using the Qatar office to spread its propaganda through international media, increase fundraising in the Gulf region, establish ties with other fundamentalist Islamic groups, and reach out to governments in the Middle East for legitimacy and support.

Earlier this month, for example, a delegation of senior Taliban members visited Tehran to meet Iranian officials — without the Afghan government’s knowledge. “Iran officially recognized the Taliban,” opined an article in Afghanistan’s leading daily Hasht-e Sobh, posting photos of Taliban leader Mullah Omar and Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei next to each other.

Indeed, Washington and Kabul’s diplomatic engagement with the Taliban over the past years has done more harm than good. The so-called “peace process” has only benefited the Taliban. In a failed attempt to appease the insurgents, President Karzai has over the years purged his government of pro-American and anti-Taliban officials, and has released hundreds of Taliban fighters and commanders as a “gesture of goodwill.” In return, the Taliban has stepped up violence and refused to cut ties with al Qaeda. It is time for Washington and Kabul to realize that the terror group is not sincere about talks, and to reconsider their policy of appeasement and engagement, which only empowers the terror group politically and militarily.

]]>
http://www.aei-ideas.org/2013/06/kabul-attacks-show-futility-of-talks-with-taliban/feed/ 12
The myth of the ‘moderate’ candidate in Iran http://www.aei-ideas.org/2013/05/the-myth-of-the-moderate-candidate-in-iran/ http://www.aei-ideas.org/2013/05/the-myth-of-the-moderate-candidate-in-iran/#comments Thu, 30 May 2013 20:00:28 +0000 http://www.aei-ideas.org/?p=106897 read more >]]> There’s a myth in the West that if Ahmadinejad’s successor is “reformist” or “moderate,” he would improve Iran’s relations with the world community and potentially help resolve the country’s nuclear standoff. With the disqualification of Hashemi Rafsanjani, a former president who was set to represent the reformist camp in Iran’s June 14 presidential vote, all eyes have turned to former nuclear negotiator Hassan Rouhani. Dubbed as “moderate” by the Western press, some hope Rouhani could be a better partner than Ahmadinejad on the nuclear issue if he wins.

But this is only a pipe dream.

First, the office of the presidency in Iran lacks the authority to decide on major foreign policy issues, especially relating to the country’s nuclear program and relations with the United States. Such key decisions rest with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the country’s powerful Revolutionary Guards.

Second, when it comes to Iran’s “right” to develop its nuclear program, both hardliners and reformists are unified – although they advocate different approaches to deal with the West regarding the matter. While hardliners such as Saeed Jalili, Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator and a leading candidate in the upcoming polls, promise no compromise “whatsoever” with the West over the nuclear issue, reformists favor a softer approach and engagement with the West in order to lift sanctions, prevent a military attack, and buy time to further advance Iran’s nuclear technology.

In a recent interview with the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB), Rouhani defended his record as a nuclear negotiator (2003-2005) under the reformist government of President Khatami, rejecting the notion that his team gave any concessions to the West. Instead, he argued, his team used negotiation with European powers as a ploy to avert a military attack and buy time to advance and complete Iran’s nuclear program.

Below is an excerpt from the interview:

The principal issue for us is to change the threat into an opportunity… Our policy… was to defend against threats; to foil America’s plot. Wherever America’s plots are defeated, it’s very pleasant and likable. Our nation rejoices it. What did America want to do? America wanted to take our case to the [UN] Security Council… We wanted to turn this threat into an opportunity; not to let this reach the Security Council; not to let the country fall into a war; not to let the country suffer sanctions… America wanted to impose on us the same catastrophe it inflicted upon Libya. It wanted what we had in nuclear technology not to be completed, and that we surrender what we had already. What we aimed to do was to create a space so that this technology is completed. The day when we invited three European ministers, there were only 10 centrifuges active in Natanz. We weren’t able to produce one gram of UF4 and UF6… The total number of our centrifuges across the country was 150. We wanted to complete all these. We needed time… We didn’t allow Iran to be attacked. In those serious circumstances… when America had just – Bush and the craziness of that neocon government you remember…- invaded Afghanistan and occupied Iraq within three weeks. And they were thinking Iran would be next…

]]>
http://www.aei-ideas.org/2013/05/the-myth-of-the-moderate-candidate-in-iran/feed/ 1