Can sanctions stop Iran? Interview with Meir Javedanfar

Tension surrounding Iran’s nuclear programme has increased considerably in recent weeks. This follows the imposition of new and harsher sanctions against Iran, growing speculation surrounding the possibility of a military strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities, and attempts to harm Israeli diplomats in Georgia, India and Thailand, suspected to be caused by Iranian agents.

To discuss the latest developments within Iran, BICOM’s Head of Research and Analysis, Toby Greene, interviewed Meir Javedanfar, a leading independent expert on Iran. Born in Iran and now living in Israel, Javedanfar is the co-author with Yossi Melman of the 2007 book, ‘The Nuclear Sphinx of Tehran.’ Scroll down to listen to the interview in full.

On what we can learn from forthcoming Iranian elections:

“These upcoming elections are not going to be democratic. I think it’s safe to say that the results are already being prepared before the elections… Depending on which parties [Supreme Leader] Ayatollah Khamenei chooses, it could be an indication of the approach Iran will adopt with regards to the nuclear programme. If Ayatollah Mesbah-Yazdi’s… [ultra-conservative] faction… wins I think the chance of an Iranian compromise is going to be extremely low. But if the more moderate conservatives… win I think it will tell us that there is a chance that perhaps we could see some kind of a compromise, if at any point Ayatollah Khamenei decides that sanctions are breaking the back of his regime.”

On the impact of sanctions:

It’s very important for sanctions to continue because the Islamic Republic can’t live without its economy. It can live without its nuclear programme… Sanctions could make the regime bankrupt and sanctions are an existential threat to the regime. If you bomb the Iranian nuclear installations that’s not going to be a threat to the regime. But if the regime runs out of money it’s going to lose loyalty. The reason why the Revolutionary Guard are loyal to the regime is because they get contracts. It’s because they see Ayatollah Khamenei as a cash machine. The second that cash machine stops giving out cash the loyalty s going to disappear.“

“Its a question of time. How long can we afford to wait for the sanctions to work? I think it won’t be this year. It could take longer than a year or two years but I see the situation as not being sustainable.”

On Ayatollah Khamenei’s desire for an Iranian nuclear bomb

“Number one he wants if for his own legacy. Number two he is scared of peace… He sees the West as a danger to the regime because if there is good relations between the West and the people of Iran the regime will lose its legitimacy… He believes that if he gets a nuclear bomb nobody will be able to impose peace on his regime and nobody will be able to impose war on his regime, as was the case with the US invasion of Iraq. He will be able to maintain Iran in a state of isolation… That will afford him the opportunity to suppress democracy, to abuse human rights and to stay in power. And to stay in power means having all the oil contracts, having all the construction contracts, his children living the lives of billionaires in Iran and him buying loyalty and enriching his pocket. I think for Ayatollah Khamenei, enrichment of uranium is a means to enrich his pocket in the long term.”

On President Ahmadinejad’s antisemitism

“He called the Holocaust ‘Afsane’ which means a myth. In Iran we use the word ‘Afsane’ to describe Cinderella and Snow White, children’s stories,  myths… It shows that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is anti-Semitic. No Iranian leader had ever said that. But it also goes to show that a regime that’s denying your past and denying the death of six million innocent people is a regime that should not have a nuclear weapon.”

On the instability that an Iranian nuclear weapons would create

“Imagine Iran tomorrow has a nuclear bomb, and they are not going to use it. Imagine next time Ahmadinejad says Israel should be eliminated, how are we going to feel in this country? And unlike North Korea and South Korea, there is no direct line. There is no hotline between Iran and Israel and there will not be, like the one there is between India and Pakistan. And imagine after such a statement the Iranians start moving their forces. How are we going to react? This could lead to an accident. This regime is acting in a very irresponsible way and its own behaviour, more than anything else, is a reason why it should not have a nuclear bomb.”

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