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News | Barak: Iran Has No Nuclear Arms Program; Panetta Angry with Israel

by MUHAMMAD SAHIMI

06 Aug 2012 23:45Comments

Press Roundup provides a selected summary of news from the Farsi and Arabic press and excerpts where the source is in English. Tehran Bureau has not verified these stories and does not vouch for their accuracy. Any views expressed are the authors' own. Please refer to the Media Guide to help put the stories in perspective. You can follow breaking news stories on our Twitter feed.

EhudBarak.jpg 11:45 p.m. IRDT, 16 Mordad/August 6 In an interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak acknowledged that Iran neither has nuclear weapons nor is trying to make them. Blitzer asked Barak, "What does that mean that the ayatollah [Ali Khamenei] has not given the order to build a nuclear bomb?" The defense minister responded,
It's something technical. He did not tell his people start and build it -- a weapon on -- an explodable device. We think that we understand why he does not give this order. He believes that he is penetrated through our intelligence and he strongly feels that if he tries to order, we will know it, we and you and some other intelligence services will know about it and it might end up with a physical action against it. So he prefers to, first of all, make sure that through redundancy, through an accumulation of more lowly enriched uranium, more medium level enriched uranium and more centrifuges and more sites, better protection, that he can reach a point, which I call the zone of immunity, beyond which Israel might not be technically capable of launching a surgical operation.

For the past year, Barak has been referring to a "zone of immunity" -- a stage in Iran's nuclear program beyond which it could survive an Israeli attack, or as he put it recently, "It means they reach a situation where, through redundancies, neither Israel and probably not even America can do anything surgically to block it. Once Khamenei reaches this kind of situation, he can be practically assured that he [has] crossed the point of no return and will end up more like North Korea or Pakistan, rather than like Iraq or Syria."

Now, Barak has admitted an important point that has been widely accepted by U.S. officials and even by many in Israel, which is that Iran has no nuclear weapon program, a point that has been emphasized over the last year by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, CIA Director David Petraeus, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey, and National Intelligence Director James Clapper.

The Israeli newspaper Maariv reported that during Panetta's recent trip to Israel, heated words were exchanged behind the scenes. As translated by Richard Silverstein, here is that was reported by Maariv,

In meetings with the defense minister [Barak] and prime minister [Benjamin Netanyahu], they criticize the U.S.' "restrained" policy toward Iran. Israeli sources say: Washington is talking about Israel as being "piggish." Panetta expressed frustration with Barak and Netanyahu's expression of a lack of faith in America's commitment to stopping the Iranian nuclear program. The Americans talk of Israel's ungratefulness for our unceasing support for Israel's security.

Panetta's anger with Israel is apparently due to the fact that Netanyahu virtually endorsed Mitt Romney during the presumptive Republican presidential candidate's recent trip there.

Meanwhile, Ephrim Halevy, the former head of Israel's Mossad intelligence agency, has been reported as saying, "If I were Iranian, I would be very fearful of the next 12 weeks.... If the Iranians continue to play their games in nuclear talks with world powers, they would be underestimating Israel's resolve. Their math is off if they think they have open-ended immunity." Halevy told Israel Radio that Israeli threats of military action had a certain "credibility" and "seriousness."

The Jerusalem Post reported that retired Major General Aharon Farkash, former intelligence chief of the Israeli Defense Forces, is worried that Israel will attack Iran soon. As reported by the newspaper,

Farkash [said] that from what he is reading and hearing a decision is not far off. But, he warns, a strike against Iran's nuclear facilities now would be wrong.

"The timing is not now since, even if it is successful, it will ruin the legitimacy that is needed," he said, suggesting instead that Israel wait six to eight months or even until spring 2013 before deciding on such an attack.

One word that repeats itself throughout the interview with Farkash is "legitimacy," a reference to the required diplomatic support Israel will need after a strike to ensure that the Iranians are not allowed to rebuild their facilities and race toward the bomb -- something he believes they will definitely and immediately do.

"An attack is not a single strike and once it happens we are in a whole other world," he said. "Iran will pull out of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, Khamenei and [President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad will reunite and it will be clear that they need a bomb now so that we cannot attack them again."

Farkash added that the diplomatic and sanctions process should be allowed to "run its course" so as not to "break the legitimacy." In his view, the maintenance of sanctions is imposing a heavy burden on the economies of countries in both Europe and Asia. "If Israel attacks, we will find ourselves being asked why we attacked when the world was imposing tough economic sanctions and was paying for this and was hurting as a result," he said.

HamidSoorianIRNA.jpgGold medal for Iran at London Olympics

Iran's Hamid Soorian, a Greco-Roman wrestler who competed in the 55-kilogram (121-pound) weight class at the London Olympic Games, was awarded a gold medal after defeating a wrestler from the Republic of Azerbaijan in the final. "I have been waiting for this medal for ten years, and present it to my mother," Soorian said. It was Iran's first gold medal at the London Olympics.

Book mocks Khamenei and Ahmadinejad

A book by the popular religious novelist and storyteller Seyyed Mehdi Shojaei that implicitly but unmistakably criticizes both Khamenei and Ahmadinejad can now be downloaded here. The book was originally allowed to be published in 2009, but when it became clear that it was criticizing the Supreme Leader and president, it was banned and all available copies were confiscated by the Ministry of Intelligence.

The book mocks the two leaders and others for abusing Islamic teachings for their own benefits. For example, a chapter titled "Thievery Is a Sin, Unless It Is Done for a Higher Purpose" mocks all the financial corruption in the Islamic Republic and the justifications given for it. Another chapter, "The King and God Live in the Same Neighborhood," criticizes the absolute power of Velaayat-e Faghih (the doctrine under which the Supreme Leader exercises absolute authority).

Over the years, Khamenei has invoked "the enemy" in order to warn about plots by the foreigners, mostly imaginary, against Iran, without ever naming the perceived enemy. A chapter called "The Enemy Is a Useful Thing; If You Do Not Have One, Make One," criticizes Khamenei (without naming him) and the role that "the enemy" has played during his rule. The book defines "enemy" as an entity "whom you can blame and fault for all of your mistakes and shortcomings...something that you can terrify the people with, so that they can take refuge with you...something that allows you to exaggerate what you have accomplished, and blame him if you have not."

Shojaei is very well known in Iran. Once on good terms with Khamenei, he has increasingly turned against the ayatollah and his supporters. After Ahmadinejad made baseless accusations against Mir Hossein Mousavi in their nationally televised presidential debate in June 2009, Shojaei wrote a strongly worded letter to the president, rebuking him for his attack on Mousavi and expressing his concern about the Iranian youth and what they might learn from Ahmadinejad's manner.

Rafsanjani: Détente with world will solve our problems

After Khamenei spoke recently about a "resistance economy" to counter the sanctions that have been imposed on Iran, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani said that "implementing a resistance economy requires competent and honest leaders," suggesting that the present government falls short. "We should not have arrived at this juncture, given the high earnings that we had from oil exports over the past few years. Even now, if we act properly and have détente with the world, we can, using the experience of our officials, pass this difficult period," he told a group of clerics and present and former Majles deputies.

Amir Arjomand: We must force government to hold free elections

Dr. Ardeshir Amir Arjomand, spokesman for the Coordination Council for the Green Path of Hope, the temporary Green Movement leadership council while Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi are under house arrest, said, "The only way out of the present crisis is the release of all the political prisoners, as well as Mousavi, his wife, Dr. Zahra Rahnavard, and Karroubi." "The most honorable way out is the [regime'] admission that their [the Green Movement leaders'] positions are correct. Without national unity, there will be no way out of the present domestic and international crises," He added.

Arjomand said that the regime speaks only of the "enemy," as if having friends is "a great sin," but when it searches for friends, "it ends up with Bashar al-Assad." He continued, "Tying the struggle against Israel and the foreign powers with [the fate of] Assad is a grave strategic mistake," because "it will hurt both Iran's national interests and the struggle against Israel in the long term.... Given the level of incompetence and depth of corruption, foreign powers do not need spies and agents penetrating the government. The ruling elite, through its actions, is in the service of foreign powers."

He added that it is too early to decide about whether to participate in next year's presidential election, declaring, "We must use the opportunity to inject positive energy, expressing our demands, and activating social networks, other social organizations and the people. The only way to have national salvation is to hold fair and free elections."

The "bad-omen triangle"

Akbar Fotoohi, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps commander for Yazd province said that the reformists, the Green Movement, and the "perverted group" -- the inner circle of Ahmadinejad's chief of staff, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei -- are "the three vertices of a triangle of bad omens that help the worldwide blasphemy." Addressing a gathering of Basij members, Fotoohi declared that the three groups "must recognize that they have no support within the country, particularly in the province of Yazd."

Embezzlement at charitable foundation

The conservative Khorasan newspaper reports that a case of embezzlement has been discovered in the Martyr Foundation, which aids the families of those who lost their lives for the Islamic Republic. The total embezzled amount has been reported to be 15 billion tomans -- roughly $12 million, according to the official rate of exchange. A long-time foundation manager succeeded in transferring the amount out of control of the foundation. When it was discovered, a bribe of one billion tomans was offered to the government agents, which was turned down.

Meanwhile, Interpol, the international police organization, has turned down Iran's request to arrest Mahmoud Khavari, former governor of Bank Melli, who lives in Canada and has been linked to the largest case of embezzlement in Iranian history, involving nearly $2.6 billion. Four of the people charged with involvement in the embezzlement were recently sentenced to death.

Copyright © 2012 Tehran Bureau

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