Alireza Jafarzadeh, president of the Washington-based Strategic Policy Consulting Inc. and spokesperson for the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), was the guest of the Middle East Forum at Philadelphia’s Cozen O’Connor law offices last Wednesday over lunch. Bob Guzzardi, Esq. chairman of the Middle East Forum introduced Mr. Jafarzadeh. Jafarzadeh used his visit with the Middle East Forum to promote his new book, The Iran Threat: President Ahmadinejad and the Coming Nuclear Crisis.
The best policy option for the U.S., according to Jafarzadeh, is to support the MEK (Mujahedin –e Khalq), currently listed by the U.S. State Department as a terrorist organization. Jafarzadeh said that all other options including an economic boycott of Iran, support for minority groups within Iran, and military action are only ancillary to supporting MEK.
Bombing Iran, Jafarzadeh claimed, will not help and, at best, would delay the nuclear program. In focusing on Iraq, Jafarzadeh said, “Nuri al-Maliki, the current Prime Minister must be removed, and Shiite militias disarmed.” He accused Maliki of being an agent of Iran and emphasized Iran’s decisive voice in the Maliki government. He asserted that, “Ministerial appointments in the Maliki government get approval from Tehran.”
America’s and the free world’s best hopes for Iran, he said, are with the younger generation and women. Being born into a climate of oppression, the young people and women in particular are rebelling and demanding freedom.
Jafarzadeh stressed the futility of any talks held between U.S. officials and their Iranian counterparts. “Talks with the Iranian officials exposes the U.S. weakness and encourages Iranian aggression,” Jafarzadeh asserted.
Jafarzadeh, an active Iranian dissident became more widely recognized in 2002 when he revealed the existence of clandestine nuclear facilities in Iran. When he originally sounded the alarm, Jafarzadeh noted, “it did not seem real to many people at the time, now people are realizing how serious the situation is.”
Referring to Iraq, Jafarzadeh said that Iran is waging a proxy war against the U.S. forces in Iraq and that General David Petraeus and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, admitted as much in their testimony before Congress. Jafarzadeh asked rhetorically why it took so long?
Jafarzadeh charged that the Iranian regime dominated everything in Iraq, and that it has delivered the Improvised Explosive Devise (IED) bombs to Iraqis in order to kill Americans.
These bombs, according to Jafarzadeh, are built in the suburbs of Tehran and shipped to Iraq. He added that Iran is training the militias and providing them arms and assistance to the tune of $70 million a month. Moreover, Jafarzadeh said that Iran has 32,000 agents in Iraq, and that key Iraqis in local and provincial governments take their orders from Tehran. The same is true, he said, with regard to the Defense Ministry and police.
Iran’s goal is to establish an Islamic Shiite State in Iraq according to Jafarzadeh. He pointed out that immediately after the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime in 2003, three million Iranians crossed the border into Iraq to visit the holy cities of Najaf and Karbala. And, he quoted a member of the Iraqi National Assembly, Jamal al-Din (a Shiite cleric), as openly claiming that, “Iran already controls the Iraqi government.”
Iran’s extremism, coupled with its possession of a nuclear bomb, would be “a nightmare scenario” Jafarzadeh emphasized. The Iranian regime, he added, “believes in global Islamic rule,” and a nuclear bomb would give it the leverage and “help it to consolidate power.”
Ahmadinejad has pushed for this nuclear program with the backing of the Supreme Leader and the Revolutionary Guards. The nuclear program itself is under the control of the Revolutionary Guards, who are in turn loyal to Ahmadinejad. The Revolutionary Guards, Jafarzadeh said, have carried out the R&D on the nuclear weapons.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has not interviewed the Revolutionary Guards on the nuclear weapons situation, Jafarzadeh asserted, adding that the IAEA failed to inspect a number of underground facilities that the Iranian opposition revealed to them. Jafarzadeh claimed that the Iranian nuclear program has not been slowed down, and that progress is being made with plutonium in Nantaz.
Addressing actions the U.S. must take, Jafarzadeh said that Washington must demand that the Iraqi government “purge the Iranian elements.” Iran, Jafarzadeh said, created such entities as the Badr Brigades, and other such militias and they should be disbanded and disarmed. “The U.S.,” Jafarzadeh said, “needs to empower the more moderate voices in Iraq since they are a majority.” He stressed that the majority of Shias in Iraq are not radical, and that the moderate voices get killed.
Jafarzadeh brought up the Iranian opposition in the context of Iraq and pointed out that they have pressured the Sunni groups to stop fighting the Americans and Iraqis. He went on to say that the Iranian opposition groups (NCRI) have been fighting the Ayatollahs in Tehran and Qum for more than 27 years.
“Sitting with Iranian government officials sends the wrong message to moderates in Iran and weakens their voice,” Jafarzadeh said. The U.S. must be firm with Iran’s agents in Iraq and with Iran itself, and the Mujahedin –e Khalq (MEK) opposition group should be supported by the U.S. instead of it being on the terrorist list of the State Department. Saddam Hussein had supported the MEK for over twenty years and used them during the Iran-Iraq war. The group is heavily armed (took tanks and artillery left in Saddam’s arsenal) and is strong enough to confront Iranian troops.
“Iran is vulnerable internally,” Jafarzadeh claimed, citing the more than 5000 anti-government demonstrations in Iran last year. Demonstrators burned Ahmadinejad’s photo right in front of him, in spite of the mass executions faced by opposition members since 1988.
In ending his 30-minute presentation Jafarzadeh said, “There is no need to invade Iran or use military action and the U.S. need not go on with fruitless negotiations with the Iranians. The people of Iran are ready for change.” The U.S. banned the MEK and labeled it a terrorist organization as a gesture to Iranian president Muhammad Khatami (1997-2005), who was perceived in the West as a “moderate.” It is high time, Jafarzadeh said, the U.S. ends its ban on the MEK and begins supporting it openly.