By Dan Raviv
I’ve just had the interesting experience of reading parts of an advance copy of a memoir by a former official in Iran’s foreign ministry, who served as spokesman for the Iranian nuclear negotiators from 2003 to 2005. Seyed Hossein Mousavian earlier had been Islamic Iran’s ambassador to Germany, but his career in the Iranian government ended when he was arrested in 2007 and tried on charges of espionage – basically, he says, because he opposed Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s foreign and nuclear policies.
I hope I’m doing justice to Mousavian’s book – titled Inside the Iranian Nuclear Crisis (about to be published by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace) — when I report my impression that he doesn’t deviate from Iran’s official insistence that it wants nuclear power only for peaceful purposes. The worst act that Iran has committed on the nuclear front, it seems, is its failure to explain convincingly that it will never develop nuclear weapons.
In his view, shared by current officials of the government in Tehran, the campaign by Western nations – led by the United States, Britain, and Israel – to whip up a sense of necessity to stop Iran’s nuclear program is really a thinly disguised desire to cause instability and topple Iran’s Islamic government.
His book does report, often dispassionately and with many footnotes, on the assertions made by the United States and the International Atomic Energy Agency – including the strong official suspicion that Iran secretly has a military aspect to its largely hidden nuclear research.
But Mousavian, at one point, dismisses it all with these words (p. 62): “From the Iranian point of view, however, the IAEA could at most claim that Iran had failed to report some of its nuclear activities in a timely fashion. Condemnation that secrecy was evidence of military nuclear activities was unjustified because Iran, due to sanctions and pressure from the West, had no option other than to obtain materials and technology for its civilian nuclear program secretly and on the black market.”
That last sentence is long, but worth re-reading. Iran claims that it has no choice but to be secretive and sneaky – but not because it’s hiding a weapons program.
Western intelligence officials and many politicians would respond – among other points – by asking why Iran is developing missiles that would be ideal delivery systems for nuclear weapons. And why has Iran been building facilities – recently revealed by the IAEA — that seem perfect for testing the triggering explosions that would set off nuclear bombs?
This book does provide a service to Americans who normally ignore the official declarations that come from Tehran or Iran’s ambassadors at the United Nations or at the IAEA. One gains considerable insight into the truth as seen by Iran – and many of the claims and conclusions are rational, if you first accept that America and its allies are adamantly insistent on destroying Iran’s Islamic Republic.
No matter whom you believe, somewhat troubling – and perhaps disturbingly true – is Mousavian’s conclusion that if each side totally refuses to believe the other, and there are no successful negotiations (ultimately, he suggests, aimed at making the Middle East a WMD-free zone with “an end to double standards”), then war is likely.
“The key question,” he writes, “is whether the United States and its allies are interested in ensuring that Iran’s activities are peaceful, or whether they are using Iran’s nuclear program as a rationale to advance an ultimate agenda of destabilization and regime change in the Islamic Republic. If there is no genuine and sincere will for a compromise and peaceful resolution of the nuclear issue, then no realistic scenario can work. And if that is the case, we can expect a real confrontation with disastrous consequences for all parties.”