Saturday, November 25, 2006

Ex-Intelligence officer and weapon inspector in Iran

Homeyra has provided a link to Scott Ritter's account of his Visit to Iran, in interview with Amy Goodman. Full transcript

Commenting on his experience in Iran, he states:
What an eye-opening experience to be on your own in a nation that has been called an Islamic fascist state. I have been to dictatorships in the Middle East. I have been to nations that have a high security profile. Iran is not one of these nations. I’m a former intelligence officer who has stated some pretty strong positions on Iran, and yet I had full freedom of movement in Iran with no interference whatsoever. And as a result, although I didn’t have the approved agenda, I had my own agenda, which allowed me to interview senior government officials, senior military officials, senior intelligence officials, and to visit sites that were deemed sensitive. The conclusion is that the American media has gotten it wrong on Iran.

He comments on the similarity between Bush administration's position with regards to WMD in Iraq and in Iran:

the Bush administration once again is putting the onus on Iran, saying, “It’s not up to the inspectors to find the nuclear weapons program. It’s up to the Iranians to prove that one doesn’t exist.” Why do we go down this path? Because you can’t prove a negative. There’s nothing Iran can do that will satisfy the Bush administration, because the policy at the end of the day is not about nonproliferation, it’s not about disarmament. It’s about regime change. And all the Bush administration wants to do is to create the conditions that support their ultimate objective of military intervention.

Look, we’re already overflying Iran with unmanned aerial vehicles, pilotless drones. On the ground, the CIA is recruiting Mojahedin-e-Khalq, recruiting Kurds, recruiting Azeris, who are operating inside Iran on behalf of the United States of America. And there is reason to believe that we’ve actually put uniformed members of the United States Armed Forces and American citizens operating as CIA paramilitaries inside Iranian territory to gather intelligence.

Ritter's report was published on November 3rd in the Nation Magazine the Case for Engagement

He duely observes:
Iran today is a fully functioning capitalist society, and in addition to the old rich, there is a larger population of wealthy Iranians who made their fortunes after the Islamic revolution and who owe their ability to sustain their wealth to the continued governance of the Islamic Republic. Likewise, those in the West who believe that the youth of Iran (more than two-thirds of the population today is under 30) share the same aspirations as the Western-oriented moneyed class will be disappointed. Those under 30 have no memory of the Iran that existed pre-theocracy and seem more willing to support a moderating change from within than a drastic change imposed from without.

Commenting on Western Media's obsession with Ahmadinejad:
For all the attention the Western media give to Ahmadinejad's foreign policy pronouncements, the reality is that his effective influence is limited to domestic issues. The citizens of Tehran I spoke with, from every walk of life, understood this and were genuinely perplexed as to why we in the West treat Ahmadinejad as if he were a genuine head of state. "The man has no real power," a former Revolutionary Guard member told me. "The true power in Iran resides with the Supreme Leader." The real authority is indeed the Ayatollah Sayeed Ali Khamenei, successor to the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
The Supreme Leader's powers are impressive, but they are not absolute. Iran has a system of checks and balances that is played out through two primary bodies: the Guardian Council and the Expediency Council. Until recently the Guardian Council had absolute veto power over parliamentary legislation and was unchecked in the exercise of its oversight responsibilities. However, in 1997 Khamenei beefed up the role and responsibility of the Expediency Council, and it was further strengthened last year; now the decisions of the Guardian Council, if challenged by the Iranian Parliament, can be overturned by the Expediency Council.

He also reminds :
In our haste to lash out at those who attacked us on September 11, 2001, we forget that Iran not only condemned the attacks, as did its Hezbollah allies in Lebanon, but that it nearly fought a war against Afghanistan's Taliban and their Al Qaeda allies in the late 1990s. There is no greater potential ally in the struggle against Sunni extremism than Shiite Iran, a point made over and over by everyone I talked to, especially those affiliated with the Revolutionary Guard.

He proposes that:
The solution to this problem is clear. The most logical course would be to put Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on a flight to Tehran, where she could negotiate directly with the principal players on the Iranian side, including Supreme Leader Khamenei. If Administration officials actually engaged with the Iranians, they would have an eye-opening experience. Of course, Rice would need to come with a revamped US policy, one that rejects regime change, provides security guarantees for Iran as it is currently governed and would be willing to recognize Iran's legitimate right to enrich uranium under Article IV of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (although under stringent UN inspections, and perhaps limited to the operation of a single 164-centrifuge cascade).

Rice would undoubtedly be surprised at the degree of moderation (and pro-American sentiment) that exists in Iran today. She might also be shocked to find out that the Iranians are more than ready to sit down with the United States and work out a program for stability in Iraq, as well as a reduction of tensions between Israel and Hezbollah.

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