Iranian leaders contradict each other over weapons

Dr. Majid Rafizadeh
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh
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As the optimism still remains high about halting the Islamic Republic of Iran from becoming a nuclear-armed country— which would increase the prospect of instability and an arms race in the region— Tehran’s rhetoric is constantly contradicting its actual powerful hegemonic intentions.

First of all, new reports recently have shown several undeclared nuclear sites within Iran. In addition, over the past few days, Iranian military authorities have been publically boasting about the new military capabilities that the nation has either already acquired or currently establishing.

According to the reports from the official IRNA news agency, Iran unveiled a missile-equipped drone with a range of 2,000 kilometers just a few days ago. Iranian Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan stated that the “Fotros drone has an operational range of 2,000 kilometres and can fly at an altitude of 25,000 feet, with a flight time of 16 to 30 hours.”

The timing of this revelation is crucial in that Iranian authorities are seeking to send a strong message to the international community, particularly the West. Iran is defiantly pointing out that the economic, political, and diplomatic sanctions on Iran are not only not yielding the expected results that the international community seeks to achieve, but are also making Tehran more self-sufficient and ambitious in its path to becoming a hegemonic power in the region— allowing Iran to impose and project its militaristic and ideological and power.

Dehghan has clearly (and gleefully) pointed out that the aircraft was tested “successfully” and “shows that sanctions imposed by the enemies are not an obstacle to the progress of the defense industry.” Recently, the leaders of the Iranian army also boasted about establishing and launching an ambitious drone program that has raised concerns in the region and the West, particularly the United States in considering Tehran’s regional hegemonic ambitions.

This ambitious drone program includes producing a series of drones called Rad-85, along with the mass production of the Shahed 129 drone, according to an announcement by Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard Corps. Shahed 129 is believed to have the ability to carry eight missiles, fly for 24 hours and go for a range of 1,700 kilometers. Previously, Iranian authorities mentioned that the developed drone Yasseer was claimed to be designed based on the U.S. ScanEagle drone that was captured in December 2012 by the Iranian army.

The crucial issue is that the actions and rhetoric of the Iranian leaders blatantly contradict each other. The development and mass production of weapons such as drones, both for offensive and spying purposes, can hardly be justified as peaceful and are almost exclusively seen as a means to increasing influence in the region and exercising hegemonic ambitions by spying on or attacking other institutions or nations.

Although Iranian leaders have attempted to blame every state and non-state actors, including the international communities and other countries in the region, for every action, almost every political or military act and operation conducted by Iran is in complete contradiction with its recent pleasant rhetoric.

Majid Rafizadeh

Besides that, the People’s Mujahideen Organization of Iran (PMOI), a group affiliated with the National Council of Resistance of Iran (the group that first exposed Iran’s Natanz uranium enrichment plant in 2002), along with a related heavy-water facility Arak, have announced new information about Iran’s clandestine activities. This information comes at a time when Iran is getting closer to the nuclear breakaway capacity along with moving closer to reaching a deal with representatives of the P5 + 1 coalition, made up of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council — United States, Russia, China, Britain and France — and Germany.

PMOI has stated that they have proof that Tehran has been working on a secret and undeclared underground nuclear facility that would be key to developing an atomic weapons program. According to NCRI’s Mehdi Abrichamtchi in the Ynet News report, “According to specific information obtained by the Iranian resistance, the clerical regime is establishing or completing parallel secret and undeclared sites for its nuclear project”. It is argued that this clandestine nuclear facility and site is located inside a large tunnel underneath mountains approximately six miles from the town of Mobarekeh, close to the existing military industrial complex, at Haft-e Tir. Accordingly, the site has been in operation under Hassan Rouhani’s presidency as well.

Virtually indestructible

Essentially, the crucial issue with these underground nuclear sites such as Fordow and the allegedly new undeclared site is that they are virtually indestructible because of their geographical location and installation underground. The plutonium reactor is also indestructible because of the danger that it could create for the neighboring enrichment. According to AFP, previously, Boroujerdi warned that Iran will never close Fordow; “We have created the conditions for America and the Zionist regime in a way that they will never think of attacking our nuclear sites. Our missiles are a deterrent ... but Fordow is one of our red lines.”

Although Iranian leaders have attempted to blame every state and non-state actors, including the international communities and other countries in the region, for every action, almost every political or military act and operation conducted by Iran is in complete contradiction with its recent pleasant rhetoric. Every few years, some new undeclared and clandestine nuclear sites are discovered; with latest one, the secret facility of the Fordow fuel enrichment plant near the holy city of Qom, which holds about 3,000 centrifuges, believed to have achieved full capacity earlier this year.

Two years after completion of the plant, American intelligence services presented the IAEA with concrete evidence, gathered from independent satellite monitoring systems and exile reports, of what was happening there. According to nuclear experts, the site has enough centrifuges to provide the material to build nuclear weapons. According to the IAEA, Iran built the Fordow site in 2007, with the intent of secretly beginning to enrich uranium.

As a result, the contradictions between what the Iranian authorities and government have said and their actions (along with the facts provided on the ground) have culminated in a sense of distrust among many countries within the international community towards Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Iranian leaders and high-ranking army generals’ constant boasting about their military capability, new weaponry, and drone advancement, does not reflect anything other than Iran’s ambitions and its effects in increasing the instability and security dilemma in the region.

Dr. Majid Rafizadeh, an Iranian-American political scientist and scholar, is president of the International American Council and he serves on the board of Harvard International Review at Harvard University. Rafizadeh is also a senior fellow at Nonviolence International Organization based in Washington DC and a member of the Gulf project at Columbia University. He has been a recipient of several scholarships and fellowship including from Oxford University, Annenberg University, University of California Santa Barbara, and Fulbright Teaching program. He served as ambassador for the National Iranian-American Council based in Washington DC, conducted research at Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and taught at University of California Santa Barbara through Fulbright Teaching Scholarship. He can be reached at [email protected].

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