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Congressional Advisor: Iran is Not Suicidal

Mohammed Shabani, National Iranian American Council (NIAC)

Washington, D.C. - According to former State Department international security expert Stephen Rademaker, countries in the Middle East "need to believe that the U.S. views an attack on Doha as an attack on Detroit." Mr. Rademaker, along with Congressional foreign policy advisor Gregory Aftandilian, discussed U.S. security commitments in the Middle East as part of the Center for National Policy's event yesterday titled "A Nuclear Middle East."

Both experts agreed on the central premise that a nuclear armed Iran poses a threat to the global nuclear nonproliferation regime, while differing in their views of how to address that threat.

According to Aftandilian, in the event Iran acquired a nuclear weapons capability, it could be contained through the long-established principle of nuclear deterrence--or as it was known during the Cold War: Mutually Assured Destruction. "Iran is not stupid enough to strike has a long history, thousands of years, of statecraft...Tehran is not suicidal." While he believes there "could be a nuclear balance in the Middle East," he acknowledges that Israel is unlikely to accede to this type of arrangement on the premise that "it's not convinced of the deterrence value of nuclear arms."

Mr. Rademaker, formerly of the US State Department's Bureau of International Security and Non-proliferation, also stressed the potential that a nuclear Iran could "trigger a regional nuclear arms race," and thereby jeopardize the entire Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Regardless of safeguards or international inspections, he said, "Iran cannot be trusted."

Regarding the ongoing nuclear negotiations with the West, Aftandilian argued that "the Iranians were softening early in the summer." Unfortunately, he said, this development was reversed by the crisis in Georgia, which diminished the Russians' "appetite for pursuing further sanctions against Iran." Hence, hard-line factions were emboldened in Iran, and Ayatollah Khamenei lavished praise on Ahmadinejad in the media, after indirectly criticizing him only weeks earlier.

Pointing to recent statements by both presidential candidates supporting a ban on gasoline exports to Iran, Aftandilian voiced reservations about measures that would significantly harm average Iranians. "This is dangerous - who would Iranians blame for this?" he argued, fearing that Tehran's further demonization of the West would hit home with the Iranian public. If a ban on sales of refined petroleum would be imposed on Iran, Aftandilian maintained that it has to be in tandem with a "rigorous U.S. public diplomacy campaign that recognizes Iran's right to nuclear energy but insist on that it has to follow IAEA guidelines."

Concluding the session's question and answer period, an Iranian woman in the audience wondered why imposing an all-inclusive sanctions regime, including an embargo of Iranian oil exports was not seriously considered by U.S. policymakers. Mr. Rademaker and Mr. Aftandilian in unison responded that such a move would cause Iranians to rally around their leaders, strengthening rather than weakening the government. In addition, no lawmaker would welcome the prospect of a doubling of gas prices as a result of cutting off Iranian oil from the world market.

... Payvand News - 10/10/08 ... --

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