The Iran Threat
Lou Dobbs, CNN, January 15, 2007
Lou Dobbs: Tonight, the United States
and Iran appear to be on a collision course over
Tehran's dangerous nuclear weapons program and rising
support for insurgents in Iraq.
We'll have a special report from the Pentagon. One of the world's leading authorities on Iran's nuclear and terrorist ambitions join us.
Announcer: This is LOU DOBBS TONIGHT, news, debate and opinion for Monday, January 15th. Live in New York, Lou Dobbs.
Lou Dobbs: Good evening, everybody. The anti-American government of Iran is escalating its global challenge to this country and U.S. interests in this hemisphere. And Iranian agents are financing, equipping and training insurgents in Iraq. Tehran is also moving forward with its program to build nuclear weapons despite international sanction.
Joining me now, one of the world's leading authorities
on Iran, its rising nuclear and terrorist threat,
Alireza Jafarzadeh. He's the author of the important new
"The Iran Threat: President Ahmadinejad and the
Coming Nuclear Crisis." He was the first to
bring the true extent of Iran's nuclear program to the
world's attention. It is good to have you with us.
Alireza Jafarzadeh: It's a great
pleasure to be on your show, Lou.
Lou Dobbs: This book, this is actually your first interview on this book. Just out today.
Alireza Jafarzadeh: Absolutely, yes.
Lou Dobbs: We're delighted to have you here. It is certainly, if nothing else, extraordinarily timely. Let's go straight to the issue. Iran is moving ahead despite U.N. sanctions, somewhat tepid, some would say, but nonetheless sanctions. What do you expect to be the end result?
Alireza Jafarzadeh: I think ever since
Ahmadinejad took office as the new president of the
Iranian regime—I have discussed in details about his
mission, his plan—he has been intent on getting Iran its
first nuclear bomb at any cost. So he's not going to
buckle. He is not going to back down on his regime's
plan to get the nuclear bomb. And he is going to defy
the international community. He just started installing
as many as 3,000 centrifuges.
Lou Dobbs: That report came out, 3,000 centrifuges, generally considered to be adequate to create one weapon at least in the next year. The United States has limited ability to respond. Europe's not responding at all. The United Nations, with Iranian -- the support of Iran, by both Russia and China. There's very little that we could expect to be done, right?
Alireza Jafarzadeh: Well, when it comes to international community, I think it was very important to have a resolution at the Security Council, not that because it will solve all the problems, but it lays a very important foundation for other measures to be followed up.
I think it's very important to, right along Security
Council resolution, political pressure is imposed on
Iran. And strike at the Achilles' heel of Ahmadinejad
which is the internal situation.
Lou Dobbs: His what?
Alireza Jafarzadeh: His internal
situation, inside the country. There were some 4000
anti-government demonstrations in Iran the past one
Lou Dobbs: We have been hearing this for years, that there is dissent. That the containment Khomeini, Khatami, Ahmadinejad is working on really borrowed time because of a rising upsurge in a young culture that's pro-Democratic.
Alireza Jafarzadeh: Well, if you saw
the shah with all of his military might, after 37 years
of rule, he was eventually wiped out by the Iranian
people. There is a limit …
Lou Dobbs: Believe me, I'm the last people to underestimate the popular will in any nation. But I am confounded if I can find any evidence of this anti-radical Islamist government, any rejection of it within Iran.
Alireza Jafarzadeh: Well, there's
tremendous rejection against Ahmadinejad. As I said,
when he spoke at the Amir Kabir University in Tehran,
just last month. Despite all the pressure by the
Revolutionary Guards, the students stood up, they
shouted Ahmadinejad out of the student hall. They were
Lou Dobbs: I would say to you that within this nation when you hear the name George W. Bush at a university here in this nation you would think that there is a revolution under way here as well.
Alireza Jafarzadeh: Well, this is very different. Because in the case of Iran, those students once arrested, they could be tortured and executed. The riots down south in the Khuzistan province, in the Kurdish area. There were various riots in Tabriz, northwest Iran. In Tehran, the Capitol, bus drivers were on strike.
So this is something that we have never seen in this scale before.
Lou Dobbs: Let's be hopeful, but at the same time, forgive me I'm also very skeptical. The idea that the United States has any leverage whatsoever over Iran right now, and more bluster and more threats against a nation, roughly three times the size of Iraq in which we now have committed with the additional troops, would be about 150,000 American troops, without glaring success over the course of what has been almost four years of warfare. How effective, how significant is U.S. military power in the equation of Iran in its thinking?
Alireza Jafarzadeh: Well, I think
there's a big difference between Iran and Iraq, not only
in terms of the size and the population, but the overall
strategy, impact, the population in Iran, the very
defiant population that you really didn't have in the
case of Iraq. A very organized opposition that exists in
Iran. This is the same opposition which revealed all of
the nuclear sites of Iran. This is the very same
opposition that revealed the terrorist network of the
Iran regime. You did not have such a situation in the
case of Iraq.
Lou Dobbs: Correct.
Alireza Jafarzadeh: And I think this is something that has not been exploited before by the United States and the international community.
Lou Dobbs: Now, the entrance of Ahmadinejad into Central and South America, hooking up with Hugo Chavez, Evo Morales, Bolivia. What should we make of this, what should be the U.S. response, if any.
Alireza Jafarzadeh: I think Ahmadinejad is taking any opportunity that he's facing to build a coalition against the United States, because he's facing a tough situation down the road. He's concerned what's going to happen at the Security Council. He's concerned what the rest of the countries are going to do.
So it doesn't matter whether Islamic countries, or countries in the Middle East, even the Communist countries, he goes to and tries to build a coalition against the United States because he wants to protect a very chaotic situation that he faces down the road.
Lou Dobbs: And the idea, let's go back to the idea that in the Middle East, we have to consider two possibilities right now, actually a third. One is that there is fazed withdrawal, as the Democrats are urging, that there is a escalation, as the president seems headed toward, or the possibility of a military conflict with Iran.
What do you see as the outcome of the direction of which we're headed right now with these three clear choices at least presenting themselves to us?
Alireza Jafarzadeh: I think the military option is not really a viable option. I don't think anyone's seriously thinking about that. But I think whether people go with the surge or the withdrawal, the important thing is that you have to realize what the real problem in Iraq is. I, as I've shown in the book, believe that the main problem in Iraq is the Iranian regime's involvement supporting the...
Lou Dobbs: The military is categorically saying that Iran is the leading killer of Americans in Iraq.
Alireza Jafarzadeh: Well, if that's the case, and that's established. which it is, then you have to confront that. You have to confront the Iranian regime's involvement in Iraq. That has not been done so far. There are 32,000 of Iranian agents operating in Iraq.
Lou Dobbs: How many?
Alireza Jafarzadeh: 32,000 on the payroll of Tehran. Iran has built a network of terrorist groups.
Lou Dobbs: So what should be the U.S.
Alireza Jafarzadeh: I think the U.S. response should be to tell Tehran that any of your agents we arrest, we're going to hold them responsible. Every single centers of the Iranian regime, such as this center in Irbil, needs to be shut down. And Tehran needs to be held responsible. At the same time…
Lou Dobbs: Natanz, the nuclear facility.
Alireza Jafarzadeh: I'm not talking about the nuclear facilities. I think that's off limits.
Lou Dobbs: Oh, OK.
Alireza Jafarzadeh: I think we'll have to forget about the military option.
Lou Dobbs: This is getting awfully complicated because the United States seems to be at the limit of its effective power right now in Iraq. Yet at the same time to urge a confrontation with Iran that is hollow without the capacity to bring the military to bear. I'm lost as to what United States leverage would be?
Alireza Jafarzadeh: I think it would be a hollow threat if you only talk about the military option, that they more or less know is not going to happen. And if you only talk about negotiations, which the mullahs are going to win. There is a third option, which is reaching out to the Iranian people, empowering the Iranian opposition, who are already calling for regime change in Iran. This is the option the United States needs to pursue. And this is something that has not been done.
Lou Dobbs: Alireza Jafarzadeh, he's the author of the brand new book, "The Iran Threat: President Ahmadinejad and the Coming Nuclear Crisis." A very important read. We thank you for being here.
Alireza Jafarzadeh: Grateful to be on your show, Lou, thank you.