Dr. Majid Rafizadeh: Lifting sanctions will only convey Western weakness to Tehran-Tackling the Iranian Regime’s Nuclear Threat/د. ماجد رفي زاده: رفع العقوبات عن إيران سيفهمه الملالي على أنه ضعف غربي/معالجة التهديد النووي الإيراني

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د.ماجد رفي زاده /معالجة التهديد النووي للنظام الإيراني
Tackling the Iranian Regime’s Nuclear Threat
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh/Arab News/April 18, 2022


د. ماجد رفي زاده: رفع العقوبات عن إيران سيفهمه الملالي على أنه ضعف غربي
Lifting sanctions will only convey Western weakness to Tehran
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh/Arab News/April 18, 2022
The Iranian regime continues to defy the international community. Ever since that community set out to punish Iran for its illicit nuclear activities, and its support of global terrorism and regional warmongering, Tehran seems to have been able to find ways to sidestep the sanctions regime through money laundering, smuggling and hostage taking.
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who enjoys the final say in Iranian foreign policy, believes his government must find other paths to move forward in the face of international sanctions. During his new year address in March 2021, three months before installing Ebrahim Raisi as the new president, Khamenei gave instructions on how to steer the regime away from a vulnerability to sanctions.
“Our emphatic advice to the officials of our country, whether those who are now in office or those who will come later, is not to tie our economy to the lifting of sanctions,” he said. “Presume that the sanctions will remain. Plan the country’s economy based on the continuation of sanctions.”
It is important to point out that oil and gas have historically been the backbone of Iran’s gross domestic product. The regime will find it extremely difficult to fund the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ military adventurism, and its militias and terror groups in the region, without the profits from the export of oil and gas. That is most likely why the Iranian regime has been attempting to sell oil through smuggling.
In fact, by resorting to propaganda the regime is not even attempting to hide its violations of sanctions and how it is cheating, as it has used official and unofficial channels to send the message that it will not bend under Western sanctions.
For instance, the regime’s minister of oil, Javad Owji, claimed on April 6 that more than $16 billion of new oil contracts have been signed since Raisi became president. On April 3, Iran’s official news agency, IRNA, boasted: “According to the estimates of oil market consultants and analysts, despite the sanctions Iran was able to double its exports in 2021 since the beginning of the year.”
Currently, Iran’s leaders appear to be pushing for more concessions from the West. Nevertheless, some of them believe that the regime ought to revive the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, commonly known as the Iran nuclear deal, as soon as possible and at all costs. This is due to the additional benefits and flow of funds that a renewed nuclear deal would bring to the regime and its beneficiaries.
It is time to learn from the Iranian people’s resistance against their regime and to stand tall instead of lying low.
As Ali Akbar Salehi, former nuclear negotiator and former head of the regime’s Atomic Energy Organization, told state-controlled news outlet Shafaqna: “Currently there is an exceptional opportunity for Tehran if the JCPOA is revived. It is an opportunity for a significant export of Iranian oil, for which there is demand now.”
But there are also some in Tehran who believe it is time to push the West for maximum concessions.
So far, these Iranian hopes have turned out to be short-lived. The clerical regime openly insisted that Washington should remove the Revolutionary Guards from its list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations, which sparked heated debate in the US and the Middle East. In addition, Moscow threw a wrench in the works of the nuclear negotiations in Vienna when it asked Washington for its deals with Tehran to be sanctions-free.
In 2018, the US, under President Donald Trump, decided that the 2015 nuclear deal was incapable of curbing Tehran’s regional and ballistic missiles ambitions and withdrew from the agreement. As a consequence, many sanctions that had been lifted under the deal were reimposed. The regime’s illicit activities throughout the Middle East were not immune to the renewed austerity this created in Tehran.
The regime stepped up its nuclear program and increased its hostility toward the US military and its allies in the region. Tehran and its mouthpieces in the West continue to claim the regime has been successfully circumventing sanctions, for example by restoring oil sales to pre-sanctions levels.
No matter how much of this is true, the Iranian regime’s smuggling networks and a clandestine finance system have indeed provided a vital lifeline that has given the regime the perception it can take advantage of the current situation and ridicule the West’s determination for retribution.
The underlying problem is that the longer the regime’s cheating and violations go unpunished, the more it believes it can continue to spoon-feed the IRGC and its regional proxies enough to keep the Iranian people suppressed and its neighbors living in dread.
If the world is truly to change the attitude of the Iranian regime, it should not be appeasing it and lifting the sanctions against Tehran, the IRGC, and its militias and terror groups across the region.
Waving sanctions, offering political concessions and security guarantees will only convey a message of remorse and weakness to the Iranian regime. It is time to learn from the Iranian people’s resistance and to stand tall instead of lying low.
• Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated Iranian-American political scientist.

 

د.ماجد رفي زاده /معالجة التهديد النووي للنظام الإيراني
Tackling the Iranian Regime’s Nuclear Threat
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh/Arab News/April 18, 2022
[N]o deal will stop the ruling mullahs of Iran from pursuing their nuclear ambitions.
The only way to deter or stop Iran is to impose drastic economic sanctions on the regime again, thereby cutting the flow of funding to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and — one hopes for the sake of the repressed Iranian people as well as any stability in the region — bringing the regime financially to its knees. No deal will stop the ruling mullahs of Iran from pursuing their nuclear ambitions. The only way to deter or stop Iran is to impose drastic economic sanctions on the regime again. (Image source: iStock)
If we closely examine the Iranian regime’s nuclear file, it reveals that no deal will stop the ruling mullahs of Iran from pursuing their nuclear ambitions. A few years after the 1979 revolution, the Islamic Republic appeared to make the advancement of a nuclear program a top item on its agenda after consolidating power in 1984. In the decade after, the Islamic Republic began its nuclear program with the help of some intermediaries such as Russia, China and Pakistan.
At the time, the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, Gholamreza Aghazadeh, acknowledged that Pakistan assisted Tehran. He pointed out “I do have information that some years ago, through intermediaries, we received pieces for centrifuges”. According to the United States intelligence, A.Q. Khan, who was known as “the father of Pakistan’s nuclear bomb”, sold expertise and equipment to North Korea, Libya and Iran, and made more than $50 million.
Since then, the Iranian regime has been progressing steadily and investing in its nuclear program for more than three decades. Currently, it has reached a point near the “nuclear threshold.” The regime is perhaps weeks away from obtaining the weapons-grade materials necessary for a nuclear weapon. According to a report in the New York Times:
“Iran has come within roughly a month of having enough material to fuel a single nuclear weapon, crossing a threshold that may raise pressure on the United States and its allies to improve the terms of a potential deal to restore the 2015 nuclear agreement.”
Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz, during a briefing at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, told ambassadors from countries on the United Nations Security Council that Iran “is only around 10 weeks away from acquiring weapons-grade materials necessary for a nuclear weapon”.
The only times the Iranian regime has supposedly scaled back its nuclear program was due to two critical reasons. The first was linked to the drastic economic sanctions which threatened the ruling clerics’ hold on power, forcing the leadership to recalculate its priorities. The sanctions prior to the 2015 nuclear deal, for example, were significant, as they endangered the power of the ruling clergy and ultimately brought Iranian leaders to the negotiating table between 2013 and 2015.
There were four rounds of sanctions. The five permanent members of the UN Security Council unanimously called on all countries to freeze the financial assets of Iranian entities linked to the nuclear program, to ban Iran’s import and export of “sensitive nuclear material and equipment,” and to sanction the supply or sale of nuclear-related equipment and technology. They also imposed restrictions on Iranian bank transactions and called on countries to inspect Iranian ships and cargo planes where there were reasonable grounds to believe that the regime was smuggling prohibited products.
After the Iranian regime was able to make the world powers lift the major economic sanctions, however, Iran began clandestinely pursuing its nuclear ambitions even during the term of the nuclear deal. For instance, the detection of radioactive particles in Turquz Abad, Iran’s reluctance to answer simple questions about the secret facility, and non-partisan evidence about Iran’s nuclear activities at the location, all point to the fact that Tehran was most likely violating the 2015 nuclear deal since it was reached.
The second reason the Iranian regime may have scaled back on achieving its nuclear ambitions was linked to the fear of military operations against Tehran. After the US invaded Iraq in 2003, Iranian leaders rushed to offer the Bush administration a deal that would reportedly have curtailed their nuclear program. That was probably because the Islamic Republic was concerned that the Bush administration might next attack Iran or its nuclear facilities. then US President George W. Bush did in fact debate bombing Iran, as he pointed out in his memoir, Decision Points, “I directed the Pentagon to study what would be necessary for a strike.” He added, “This would be to stop the bomb clock, at least temporarily.”
The only way to deter or stop Iran is to impose drastic economic sanctions on the regime again, thereby cutting the flow of funding to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and — one hopes for the sake of the repressed Iranian people as well as any stability in the region — bringing the regime financially to its knees.
*Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a business strategist and advisor, Harvard-educated scholar, political scientist, board member of Harvard International Review, and president of the International American Council on the Middle East. He has authored several books on Islam and US foreign policy. He can be reached at Dr.Rafizadeh@Post.Harvard.Edu
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