Former CIA analyst: Tehran wants nuclear weapons for two key objectives

Politics Materials 12 February 2010 13:25 (UTC +04:00)
Trend News interviewed Vice President of the Intelligence Summit and Professor at the Center for Counterintelligence and Security Studies (CI Centre) Clare M. Lopez.
Former CIA analyst: Tehran wants nuclear weapons for two key objectives

U.S., Washington, Feb. 12 / Trend N.Bogdanova /

Trend interviewed Vice President of the Intelligence Summit and Professor at the Center for Counterintelligence and Security Studies (CI Centre) Clare M. Lopez.

Lopez is a former CIA analyst, and has previously produced technical threat assessments for U.S. Embassies.

Trend : Iranian president announced yesterday that the country has finished producing its first batch of 20-percent enriched uranium. Do you believe the nuclear program influences Iran's domestic policy?

Lopez: Iran's nuclear weapons program is considered by its clerical rulers to be indispensable for both domestic and foreign policy. Internally, the mullahs believe that acquisition of a deliverable nuclear weapon would encourage national pride, but also convince dissidents and internal opponents that if the entire world could not stop Iran from getting a bomb, then their quest for liberty is also a hopeless one.

Externally, Tehran wants a nuclear weapons capability for two key objectives: geostrategic dominance, including adventuresome aggression, in the Persian Gulf and Middle East region, and to seize leadership of the international Jihad movement away from the Sunnis. The idea is 'Shi'a Rising,' Persian Empire reborn, and Shi'a at the forefront of the Islamic Jihad vs. the Western, non-Muslim world.

Q: Do you think that Iran has the necessary technology to use the enriched uranium that it supposedly has?

A: It is my conviction that Iran has already developed nuclear warheads and tested them in non-chain reaction, non-fission, trigger device testing, probably in deep underground sites. I don't think there is any doubt whatsoever that Iran has mastered the full nuclear fuel cycle....moving to 20 percent enrichment is merely the latest challenge to the impotence of the international community.

Once a nation has mastered enrichment even to 4-5 percent, moving additional steps beyond that is merely an exercise in the re-calibration of the centrifuges. The hardest technological challenge comes at the beginning, learning how to build and install and calibrate centrifuges and to link them into cascades. Once that is mastered, the rest is actually much easier - also a quicker process to reach Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU) at 90 percent or even Weapons Grade, which is 93 percent enriched. Finally, we are fools if we think that Natanz and Qom are Iran's only two nuclear enrichment sites. We have no idea at what stage of enrichment the other clandestine sites are.

Q: Do you think that Iran's nuclear program will stop under pressure of economic sanctions?

A: No, Iran's nuclear weapons process will not stop for any reason whatsoever except actual credible threat to the survival of the regime itself. Sanctions are useless.

Q: On the whole, what is the possibility to stop Iran's nuclear program with discounts? What is the role of the U.S.?

A: The only possibility to stop Iran from achieving a deliverable nuclear weapon in the very near future is forcible destruction of their known sites, and/or regime change. Regime change is possible by a number of conceivable methods: internal implosion (the founders of the revolution actually fighting among themselves); internal dissident movement, like the Green opposition, but this has a long, long way to go and is under severe repression; external attack by Israel, the U.S., and/or the international community.

It seems highly unlikely that the U.S. will lift a finger to either support or assist the internal dissidents because the Obama administration wants to preserve what it naively thinks to be a possibility of negotiating a nuclear deal with the mullahs. This will never succeed. The international community, especially the IAEA, the U.N., and the Security Council are essentially impotent, in part because China and Russia do not see it in their national interest to stop Iran right now.

Only Israel retains the ability and will to act. I believe Israel will strike eventually when it perceives that its final red lines have been crossed, or when Iran is about to acquire a game-changing air-defense missile system (like the S-300 from Russia), or when it decides is the best moment to achieve tactical surprise. For Israel, this is an existential question.

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