Iran has offered North Korea cash for the purchase of a complete nuclear bomb at the earliest possible date with the option of a second one within six to eight months of taking possession of bomb number one. DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s military and intelligence sources revealing this report that the two governments are secretly in the process of negotiating the sale, which was also a focal subject on the unpublished agenda of last month’s US-North Korea talks in Beijing.
US assistant secretary of state James Kelly demanded a North Korean promise to break off its negotiations with Iran. According to our sources, the delegation from Pyongyang simply replied its members had no authority to discuss the issue. The talks subsequently petered out.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s sources in Teheran report that a bitter debate has been raging inside the Iranian leadership since February when it was realized that nothing would stop the US invasion of Iraq.
The faction supporting Iran’s hardline spiritual leader Ali Khamenei argued that an American victory being a certainty, it was up to Tehran to acquire weapons capable of deterring the Americans from making Iran their next target. This group was led by Expediency Council secretary Mohssen Rezai, a former commander of the Revolutionary Guards, the current commander of the Guards Asgar-Ovladi Mosalaman, their deputy commander Mohammad Bagher Zol-Ghadr and the head of the Islamic coalition, one of Iran’s top 10 top clerics, Ali Meshkini. They claimed Iran cannot afford to wait until it built its own nuclear bomb – Iran and US intelligence agree that will not happen until the end of 2005. The advocated an off-the-shelf purchase because the United States would anyway not let Iran make its own bomb. Washington would strike Iran’s nuclear facilities during the countdown to the completion of a home-made device. Furthermore, Iran had saved up about $5 million from the last three years’ oil revenues earmarking it for nuclear armament. If it is not used to purchase a bomb, the money will go to waste.
The opposite argument was advanced by the reformist faction led by Iranian president Mohammed Khatami, who contended that Tehran had better tone down its nuclear militancy as its only chance of keeping Iran’s atomic facilities at Natanz (first reported in DEBKA-Net-Weekly 82 and 85 last year) out of the US and International Atomic Energy Agency’s spotlight. Iran could then quietly bring its own nuclear program to completion without precipitating an American attack.
In any case, they argued, by the time the US and IAEA bureaucracy gets into gear and Washington goes through all the procedures at the United Nations – this time, Washington will not wish to antagonize the world body after the severe frictions set up by the Iraq war – Iran will have consummated its nuclear weapons program.
The upshot of the dispute was a decision in Teheran to enter into negotiations with North Korea for the purchase of a bomb – or two.
Tackling Iranian hardliners on their home front, the United States this week managed to raise a majority of Iranian parliamentarians, members of the Majlis, to put their signatures to an open letter firing a powerful broadside at the regime in Tehran and its repressive and anti-American policies.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly sources report that the White House, the Pentagon, the State Department, the National Security Council, the CIA and every congressman or senator with a connection in any Iranian expatriate community fired every weapon in their collective diplomatic arsenal to round up the signatures in time to publish the letter on Wednesday May 7.
Three important principles were laid out over the signatures of 153 out of 290 deputies:
1. The Iranian regime will merit legitimacy only after narrowing the gap between it and the people and by reviewing the inefficient methods of governance that led to its failures of policy.
Our sources note that never before has any parliamentary publication used the term “failures” in reference to the Islamic government in Tehran.
2. Legitimacy of the Iranian regime is conditional on the promulgation of two laws: One, providing for electoral reform and another for the expansion of presidential authority.
Our sources explain the aim of this motion as being to place all foreign policy-making within the exclusive province of the president.
3. The reformist faction urges the government to take advantage of US threats by turning them into opportunities for making terms with Washington and effective necessary reforms.
The US lobbyists hoped for 180 Iranian deputies to sign the letter. But even after a score or so parliamentarians developed cold feet, a majority remained. It is therefore seen in Washington
as a triumph and an important step towards regime change in Tehran generated by domestic forces.