Fox Business News, June 12, 2009
Alireza Jafarzadeh, Foreign Affairs Analyst and Iran Expert
David Asman: Iranians are headed to the polls today to vote for their next president and both main candidates are now claiming victory. State media is now saying that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has been a thorn in the side of the US for a couple of years now has made repeated threats towards Israel and others and is all for the nuclear program is 66% of the vote, of the votes that have been counted so far but his main opponent, Mir Hossein Moussavi, told a news conference that he is the actual winner. There he is, the guy with the white beard. The presidential race has been hotly contested and some observers hope that a Moussavi win might mean a thawing of relations of some kind between Iran and the West. Could that be possible? What does this all mean to us? And Iran’s nuclear plans. Joining us now from DC, Fox News contributor, Alireza Jafarzadeh and Jim Philips, senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation. Good to see you both.
Alireza, now first you. Now I read something that you wrote, saying that it’s a sham election because both guys are both going to be doing the same thing and the real power is actually held by the ayatollah and all of the clerics. But wouldn’t there be at least some ray of light if this alternative to Ahmadinejad wins?
Alireza Jafarzadeh: Well I think, tactically speaking, maybe for a few days or few weeks there you might see some relief. But whoever comes out as winner would have to pursue the policies of the Supreme Leader; would have to stick with the policies of the regime regarding the nuclear weapons program., regarding what they’re doing in Iran, and regarding their overall policies in the Middle East. And don’t forget. Moussavi who has been portrayed as the big moderate voice, does not have a moderate background. He was Prime Minster for eight years. He presided over the Iran-Iraq war, sending children to the minefields, sweeping minefield. He presided over the massacre of political prisoners in the summer of 1988, when thirty thousand political prisoners were murdered. And he had very many radical anti American, anti-Israeli stances when he was in office. So I don’t think anyone should believe them.
David Asman: By the way, didn’t Alireza, he has something to do with the ‘83 marine barrack bombing in Beirut?
Alireza Jafarzadeh: Absolutely, remember in the mid-eighties, that was the time that Tehran was heavily involved in terrorism in Lebanon, including bombing of the marine barracks in Lebanon., holding Americans and western people hostage in Lebanon. He was the one who was actually holding press conferences, negotiating and expressing support for Hezbollah and other groups who were involved in the whole thing.
David Asman: It’s good to get that background out there. Because he’s still the same guy and some of these guys don’t change their stripes. But Jim, the question I have, Iranians have this wonderful history, Alireza I’m sure will back me up on this, as being entrepreneurs. I’ve known a lot of business people from Iran. They are unbelievably good entrepreneurs. They are sort of like the Cubans are in Latin America. They’ve got this reputation as great entrepreneurs. Isn’t it possible, conceivable, that what this new guy if he wins, of course he may not be allowed to become President. But if he wins, could he at least open the door for more business transpiring in Iran which might lead to other kind of liberalization.
Jim Philips: I think the Iranians would like that, especially if they could improve business relations with Europe while they continue to cold war with America. It is important to note as Alireza said, that this Prime Minister Moussavi was present at the creation and acceleration of the Iranian nuclear program. I mean he may inject a new tone or atmosphere in relations between Iran and the US. But it’s really the Supreme leader that sets the agenda and that hasn’t changed.
David Asman: What’s a supreme leader? But Alireza, I mean the voice on Israel anyway, and the whole holocaust denial and all that sort of stuff came from Ahmadinejad at least recently. I guess they’ve all been saying that but it’s only since Ahmadinejad came in power that we’ve heard it blasted practically everyday form Iran.
Alireza Jafarzadeh: Well certainly, Ahmadinejad is the more controversial person, there’s no doubt about that. But when we put aside the rhetoric and look at the substance, in fact, Ahmadinejad in terms of pursuing policies against the West, against the United States, in favor of the nuclear weapons program, is not significantly different than his predecessor Khatami, when he was portrayed as moderate. Remember back in 1997, when he won the election, everyone said that this is the end of all the bad days and he is going to improve relations and put aside terrorism and weapons of mass destruction. To the contrary, it was under Khatami’s watch that the nuclear weapon program was significantly boosted. When he became president in 1997, the major nuclear sites in Natanz, Arak, much of what they have in Isfahan didn’t even exist. They were all built under Khatami. And Moussavi is not even close to where Khatami was in terms of his portrayal as moderate.
David Asman: The big Cahoona here is that what happens if Israel decides that they have to go ahead and take out the Nukes out themselves. That is, they realize that President Obama is not going to have anything close to military confrontation with Iran. He essentially changed US policies, or seemed to in my mind anyway last week when he suggested that rather than absolutely positively opposing a nuclear program, we can allow some kind of nuclear program to take place in Iran. What happens now, if the Israelis do go into Iran? Is there no other possibility now to change Iranians from pursuing a nuclear weapon?
Jim Philips: I think hopes for a negotiated exit from this impasse are really falling quickly, regardless of who wins this election, unfortunately the Iranian strategy seems to keep the talks going in order to buy time to complete their nuclear project.
David Asman: Well you know the Israelis are not going to buy it. The Israelis are far smarter about what the Iranians are doing than anybody in the United States that I know. They can see through all the disguises, they can see through all the veils so if they decide that they are close to getting the nuclear weapon, don’t you think they are going to go in and try take out the facilities Jim?
Jim Philips: I think there is a real possibilities and much greater than most people in this country realize. That the Israelis are going to act. Because they have the world’s foremost state-sponsor of terrorism now working on the one of the world’s most terrifying weapons.
David Asman: Okay so Alireza, if they do it, and you just heard Jim say, that it’s a good possibility. What happens then? What do the Iranian’s do in retaliation? What happens to the world if the Israeli’s take out those reactors?
Alireza Jafarzadeh: Well I don’t really think that would alleviate the Iranian threat. Because remember, the threat coming from Tehran is not just a nuclear threat. You have Tehran heavily involved in terrorism. You have the situation in Iraq that Tehran is trying to dominate.
David Asman: So what happens Alireza? We only have a couple of seconds. What would Iran do? Would they gear up Hezbollah to strike in the US and throughout Europe?
Alireza Jafarzadeh: I’m sure they would attempt to do all of that. But I think the real solution lies inside Iran. The population, the vast majority of the people who don’t believe in any of the four candidates, who want regime change by themselves and they call against the dictatorship and they basically boycotted the elections; those who stayed out of the elections. I think those are the ones that the United States and the outside world need to count and rely on.
David Asman: Alright. Alireza Jafarzadeh, who is by the way the author of The Iran Threat. We thank you and Jim Philips from the Heritage Foundation. Good to see you both.