Syria And Iran Cannot Be Trusted: Both Regimes Have A Long Record Of Cheating


February 17, 2014 – San Francisco, CA – - “We’re now in the negotiation, and I think we’ve got to play that out and see whether or not they really do implement what they say they’re going to do. I’m skeptical. My suspicion is that Assad will try to protect some of his chemical weapons and that it will be very difficult for us to figure out where they all are. So yeah, we got the U.N. involved; we got teams there. Let’s try to see where that takes us.”

This quote is from Leon Panetta, former CIA Director and Defense Secretary who was interviewed by Foreign Polilcy last December. Panetta’s skeptism is justified. War criminals such as Bashar al-Assad cannot be trusted. It was only a few weeks ago that Defense Secretrary Chuck Hagel pointed out that the U.N.-backed plan to remove Syria’s chemical weapons was behind schedule. Damascus “had to take responsibility for fulfilling its commitment.” The U.S. says only around 4% of the chemical weapons declared by the Syrian government has been removed. Echoing Republican Senator John McCain, Panetta told Foreign Policy’s Ty McCormick: “I would have preferred an attack on President Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria.”

Panetta was once a very liberal democrat and a staunch critic of the Bush administration. After he had become CIA Director, however, his foreign policy views became more realistic. The so-called “war on terror” still is a real war, and it is sometimes unavoidable to use unmanned drones to kill America’s mortal enemies in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia or Yemen, even if they are U.S. citizens. Thus, Panetta told Foreign Policy: “We are talking about a war here, my friend. It’s a war against the people who would attack this country again if they were given the chance. Now, you can go to war with F-16s and blow the hell out of them and everybody else, you can drop bombs on them, or you can use weapons that are a hell of a lot more precise and do this in a way that avoids a lot of collatoral damage. I don’t have a problem going after people that want to attack this country.” Nevertheless, Panetta is in favor of military intervention in Syria.

Former U.S. President George W. Bush was under the illusion that Muslim countries such as Iraq and backward Afghanistan would adopt the Western democratic system once the anti-Western rulers would have been driven out. Unfortunately, Islamic culture and religion are incompatible with Western democracy. That is why the Muslim Brotherhood won the elections in Egypt in June 2012 and had to be driven out by the military last year. (I never understood why U.S. President Barack Obama sided with the “democratically elected” Muslim Brotherhood President Mohammed Morsi.) Hamas has been ruling over Gaza since it won the elections of 2006. Why did the Algerian army intervene in Algeria back in 1991? Because Muslim fundamentalists were about to win the elections. In Turkey, Kemal Atatürk tried to create a secular and pro-Western democratic state. But now Atatürk’s legacy is being undone by Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyib Erdogan and his Islamist and anti-Semitic Justice and Development Party. The Reagan administration accepted the fact that Turkey was ruled by military leaders back in 1982/83. Relations between the United States, Turkey and Israel were excellent.

And what about Iran? Iran was much better off under the totalitarian but pro-Western Shah than under the Islamists who have ruled the country since the fall of the Shah. Panetta believes that “we should engage with Iran.” ‘”We should try to pursue discussions to see whether or not we can limit what they’re are trying to do in terms of nuclear capability. But I also think we shouldn’t kid ourselves that it’s going to be easy, mainly because some of the things we want them to do – like not enriching nuclear fuel– are going to be difficult lines for them to cross.”

There is no need for nuclear enrichment if the intentions are strictly peaceful. “Without a reactor to be fuelled, Iran simply had no need for an enrichment program at all,” David Patrikarakos writes in his thorough study Nuclear Iran: The Birth of an Atomic State. “Even today, Busher will be fuelled by Russia. Iranian desires for ‘self-sufficiency’ notwithstanding, the huge political cost of its enrichment program (it stands at the center of global concerns, and it is the Iranian nuclear crisis) suggests desires that transcend a mere wish for nuclear fuel. Even more worrying is the choice of technology: an enrichment path to a bomb made, and makes, sense on a security level – it can be hidden underground, with centrifuge plants dispersed accross te country.”

The Iranian nuclear enrichment facility at Natanz was first disclosed to the public by the so-called People’s Mujahideen, an Iranian opposition group.

That is why the Iranians do not want to abandon their nuclear enrichment program. “As of August 2012, only 91.4 kg of near 20 percent LEU (=low enriched uranium) hexafluoride was stored at the enrichment plants,” a report on Iran’s nuclear program finds. “There is growing concern about the relative short breakout time at Fordow once the plant is fully operational and Iran has accumulated enough near 20 percent LEU for the production of one significant quantity of WGU (=weapons grade uranium).” “Iran’s breakout time is currently four to six weeks – which is to say, that is how long it would take to produce a sufficient quantity of weapons grade uranium (WGU) for its first bomb,” writes Gary C. Gambill in The National Post.

Iran’s thirty year record of cheating

A dubious agreement was signed in Geneva last November between Iran and six world powers. “The agreement says Iran and six world powers will negotiate over the next six months ‘would involve a mutually defined enrichment program with practical limits and transparancy measures to ensure the peaceful nature of the program,’” Eli Lake reports in The Daily Beast. “Iran’s right to enrichment is respected, and Iran continues to exercise that right,” Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif told Christiane Amanpour on CNN. Iran’s president Hassan Rouhani said: “Today, we are a country which has reached a point in the field of nuclear tehnology and uranium enrichment that the U.S. president frankly says that taking nuclear technology from the Iranian people is impossible.” Obama himself argues that those who “say we can’t accept any nuclear enrichment on Iranian soil… have to be more realistic.”

Senator John McCain recently told CNN that “Iran has a 30 year old record of cheating.” “They must abandon the right to enrich.”

Covert nuclear facilities or plants were built by the Iranians in the past and there are probably other covert facilities. “Iran could construct the facility in secret while maintaining the option of plausibly denying any intended role in its centrifuge program, if detected,” Patrick Migliorini, David Albright, Houston Wood and Christina Walrond write.

The Geveva agreement stiputales that Iran’s enrichment program be curbed. Iran is no longer allowed to enrich uranium to 20 percent and “has to dilute or convert into oxide its 20 percent stockpile.” (New York Times). “A stockpile of 20 percent uranium makes the process of accumulating fuel for a weapon much faster.”

The problem is that verifcation is not as easy as some would like us to believe. “Iran retains the technology and material to produce fuel of a weapon for now,” the New York Times concluded after the Geneva interim agreement. ”The deal adds time to an Iranian nuclear breakout.” “The time ranges from several weeks to almost a month, according to the Institute for Science and International Security.”

Emanuele Ottolenghi, Director of the Brussels-based Transatlantic Institute, wrote an alarming book on Iran’s deceptive practices. He gives a number of examples of European companies that fell for the Iranian trap. Italy’s Seli Tunnel and Germany’s Wirth “are world leaders in the production of earth-moving equipment.” One of the projects is the so-called Dez Ghomroud tunnel near Isfahan. “Independent research revealed, however, that the Iranian company that was responsible for phase five of the Ghamroud project was called Sahel Consulting Engineers, which was also designated by the U.S. Treasury Department in October 2007 as a subsidiary of the IRGC.” The IRGC is the notorious Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, a highly effective military organization which also intervened and still intervenes in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Afghanistan. They are also responsible for a quite number of terrorist attacks abroad.

“It also emerged,” Ottolenghi writes, “that the tunnel project was contracted to another Iranian company, Pars Geometry, which claims to be a private, independent company. But an examination of the Pars Geometry board reveals that almost all its members were associated with Sahel Consulting Engineers in the past. One – the CEO – was employed as an engineer at Iran’s Ministry of Jihad during the eighties.” “Nuclear bunkers, missile silos, underground military bases… Such projects are a glaring example of how the line can be crossed from legitimate civilian projects to illegitimate military projejcts using politically neutral technology, and morally neutral machinery from European companies that believe they are doing the right thing. A tunnel-boring machine can be used to build a freshwater facility and a nuclear bunker.”

Some Iranian immigrants in Europe and the United States have been recruited by the Iranian intelligence service. This was probably the case with Mozaffar Khazaee who holds dual U.S. and Iranian citizenship. He has recently been charged “of shipping secret copyrighted documents relating to the U.S. Air Force F35 Joint Strike Fighter Program and military jet engines to Iran.” “The documentation for Khazaee’s shipment indicated that it contained household goods.” Law enforcement officials learned that Khazaee, “as recently as August 2013, worked as an engineer for defense contractors, including firms that are the actual owners of the technical and proprietary documents and materials in Khazaee’s shipment.”

Emerson Vermaat is an investigative reporter in the Netherlands. Website:


 Foreign Policy, December 2013, p. 39 (“Leon Panetta: Former U.S. Defense Secretary”).

 BBC News, January 30, 2014 (“U.S. ‘concern’ about Syria chemical weapons delay”).

 The Algemeiner, July 8, 2013 (“Erdogan Insults Blacks as State Media Continues Anti-Semitic Campaign”).

 David Patrikarakos, Nuclear Iran: The Birth of an Atomic State (London: I.B. Tauris, 2012), p. 283, 284.

 William C. Witt, Christina Walrond, David Albright and Houston Wood, Iran’s Evolving Breakout Potential (Washington: Institute for Science and International Security, ISIS Report, October 8, 2013) p. 7, 20.

 Gary C. Gambill, What’s worse than an Iranian bomb? An Iranian almost-bomb, in: National Post, January 8, 2014 (reprinted by Middle East Forum).

 Eli Lake, Why the Iranian Nuclear Deal is Dangerous, in: The Daily Beast, November 24, 2013.

 Roy Gutman, Deal seems near on Iran nuclear program but experts wonder about uranium stocks, , November 7, 2013.

 Pipelinenews, December 16, 2013 (“Iranian President – Obama Accepts a Nuclear Iran”). Quotes from Rouhani and Obama.

 CNN, February 13, 2014 (Quote John McCain: “Iran has a 30 year record of cheating.”)

 Patrick Migliorini, David Albright, Houston Wood and Christina Walrond, Iranian Breakout Estimates, Updated September 2013 (Institute for Science and International Security October 24, 2013), p. 6.

 New York Times, November 24, 2013 (“Understanding the Deal with Iran”). “Iran retains the technology and material to produce fuel for a weapon for now.”

 Emanuele Ottolenghi, Under a Mushroom Cloud: Europe, Iran and the Bomb (London: Profile Books, 2009), p. 186-189.

 Abha Shankar, U.S.-Iranian Citizen Arrested for Shipping Military Secrets to Tehran, Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT), January 13, 2014; FBI/New Haven Division, Former Connecticut Resident Indicted for Attempting to Ship Sensitive Military Documents to Iran, Press Release, January 21, 2014.


©2014 Emerson Vermaat. All rights reserved.