Two weeks ago, Iran’s supreme ruler Ayatollah Ali Khamenei sent an order to every member of the Iranian leadership involved in the nuclear issue to write down his views and recommendations on how to deal with the international crisis surrounding Iran’s nuclear program.
This is revealed exclusively by DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s sources in Tehran.
The supreme ruler wanted the diverse views clearly articulated in writing placed before him before deciding once and for all whether to forge forward to the manufacture of a nuclear bomb as distinct from a weapons capability. (This debate was outlined in the last DEBKA-Net-Weekly issue 224 on September 30 – Iran Can’t Decide on the final Leap to the Bomb.)
Our intelligence sources have viewed the most important responses submitted to the ruler and sum them up here.
Never provoke the West
HASHEMI RAFSANJANI: The ex-president and accomplished diplomat, who, according to DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s Tehran sources, is in line to lead Iran’s critical negotiations on the issue had this to say:
Tehran must avoid a deliberately provocative stance in dealing with international organizations. He goes on to propose gradually and without publicity closing down production at the UCF plant in Ispfahan in central Iran, and on no account resume uranium enrichment at the Natanz nuclear center. In his view the Iranian program has not overcome the technical glitches delaying the activation of the P-2 centrifuges; the program has also acquired enough yellow cake for the suspension of work at Isfahan not to hold back the continued nuclear effort. He also suggested inviting international governments and firms as collaborators in the program for the sake of –
calming international fears that Iran is developing a bomb;
profiting from financial and economic incentives on offer from some of the IAEA members through trade accords and oil sales. This would drive a wedge between participants and the United States;
getting hold of the missing technology for overcoming the shortcomings still holding up the program
Another Rafsanjani proposal is to negotiate the transfer of Iran’s dispute with the nuclear watchdog to the personal jurisdiction of the UN secretary Kofi Annan instead of the EU-3 – Britain, France and Germany. He believes Annan would introduce to the process governments friendlier to the Islamic republic than the three Europeans.
AYATOLLAH MOHAMMED TAGHI MESBAH-YAZDI: As the spiritual guru of the radical president, Mesbah-Yazdi advises Iran to quit the Non-Proliferation Treaty altogether and go full steam ahead with the massive resumption of its nuclear plans heedless of international protests. He asserts that the current reality is different from that of two years ago when the former president Mohammed Khatami was led astray into signing all kinds of disastrous commitments. Today the United States is sinking fast into the Iraqi quagmire, the Afghanistan crisis is deepening and oil prices are rocketing to a potential $100 per barrel. His advice to Khamenei is simple: “Allah’s hand is more powerful that the hands of the big powers. We must therefore make haste to revive our effort to attain a bomb.”
Try The Hague International Court
AYATOLLAYH HOSSEIN NOURI-HAMEDANI: A central figure in the Qom clerical establishment, he advises the supreme ruler: The future and strength of Islam depend on Iran completing the nuclear fuel cycle and making a bomb. No obstacle to that end must be feared. America’s power is waning; its handling of the Katrina Hurricane disaster is proof of this and Iran must hurry to fill the empty space.
MOHSEN REZAI: The Secretary of the Council for Formulating the Regime’s Interests strongly advised the regime against going to war against international conventions. Tehran must play for time and attract world attention by appealing to the International Court at The Hague. On the quiet, Tehran must carry on with its efforts to overcome still unsolved technological impediments. In his view (which is shared by many Western experts), Iranian has not breached any NPT prohibitions so far in its efforts to make nuclear fuel and it stands a good chance of a favorable ruling in The Hague. In the meantime, key projects will continue to run, such as the assembly of centrifuges (50,000 units of which are necessary for the 90% enrichment for making a bomb). He rejected the idea of quitting the NPT and resuming enrichment at this point.
ALI AGHA-MOHAMMADI: He recommends the utmost restraint in public utterances. He also pins high hopes on the future composition of the IAEA board which takes over at the end of the year being more sympathetic to Iran. The number of non-aligned members should increase from 14 to 16. At the same time, Tehran must not neglect diplomacy for winning the current members round. He notes that out of the 22 delegates who voted against Iran at the last board meeting, 20 have developed trade relations with Iran, a point that should be exploited.
But he also warns that Iran cannot always count on Russian and Chinese veto votes against sanctions, because in the long run, Moscow and Beijing will decide on balance to follow the US-EU line. India is a case in point, because, despite the agreements it has signed to buy Iranian gas and embark on military cooperation, Delhi voted with America against Iran.
Hand the nuclear program to Iranian universities
ALI LARIJANI: The newly-appointed nuclear negotiator and secretary of the National Security Council proposes handing the whole nuclear issue over to Iranian university scientists. They will draft a national nuclear charter and take over full responsibility for the issue. The world will then no longer accuse Iran of plotting to make a nuclear bomb and accept that the Islamic Republic is motivated solely by a drive for scientific development. If Tehran shows any signs of weakness and surrenders to international pressure, it will end up like the Saddam Hussein regime. He thinks the government should immediately set about organizing popular demonstrations and “private citizens'” petitions to the UN.
A group of economists consulted by Khamenei warned that sanctions would have an extremely injurious effect on the Iranian economy; they would reduce national income and foreign currency receipts, halt investment, discourage tourism and trigger price rises.
The only recipient who held back from responding to the supreme ruler’s questionnaire is president Ahmadinejad. He seems to be torn between his hardline posture before and since his election and the reality he sees laid out before him.
Khamenei will now convene all the respondents to his questionnaire for a whole day of threshing out a uniform position. He is conscious that no time is to be lost and that a wrong consensus could be detrimental to national stability and even upset the regime.
By passing the buck to Rafsanjani, who is regarded (not quite accurately) in the West as a moderate, Khamenei has disencumbered himself – not only of direct responsibility for past failures but also for future missteps. A few days ago, some leading Iranian figures proposed to Khamenei that he personally take over the conduct of the nuclear issue. Our sources report he burst out laughing and said: “Not me!”