- By Raymond TanterRaymond Tanter served as a senior member on the National Security Council staff in the Reagan-Bush administration and is now professor emeritus at the University of Michigan.
The United States and five other major powers negotiating about the Iranian nuclear program agreed to a four-month extension of the talks until Nov. 24. This period is a time of peril for opponents of the Islamic Republic of Iran, who have been of great value in revealing intelligence about its nuclear cheating. It’s possible that Tehran may use its negotiating leverage in this phase to attack its dissidents in Iraq, including the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), the main resistance group that rejects clerical rule, and its largest unit, the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MEK).
Because the resistance is instrumental in exposing double-dealing by Tehran, it may attack to end dissidents’ ability to reveal regime secrets. It’s time for Washington, for which the regime opponents have long been a useful ray of light on the covert Iranian nuclear weapons program, to use its diplomatic leverage with Baghdad to protect them while getting the dissidents out of Iraq to safer countries, including the United States.
As the July 20 target date approached for reaching the nuclear accord, the Iranian regime’s media person at the U.N. penned a letter to the Wall Street Journal, which I countered with an accompanying one. The regime spokesman launched an ad hominem attack on the main source of a Journal editorial, the NCRI, without dealing with the substance of the evidence. Because that organization has an excellent track record exposing the regime’s lack of transparency and noncompliance with its financial and nuclear commitments, the PR attack failed.
During his first news conference in June 2013, Iran’s President-Elect Hassan Rouhani claimed that its nuclear programs were completely transparent but promised "even more." Because of Iran’s deceitful record on financial and trade sanctions, however, Jonathan Schanzer and Mark Dubowitz of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), demonstrate there is "no such thing as a good Iranian Bank." They argue, "History will judge whether the president [Barack Obama] was right to compromise with a regime that has a long track record of nuclear mendacity."
Despite Rouhani’s claims, Tehran is not transparent in its nuclear program, particularly regarding possible military dimensions. In referring to NCRI revelations about Tehran’s nuclear activities, President George W. Bush stated in 2005, "Iran has concealed its…nuclear program. That became discovered not because of compliance" with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), "but because a dissident group pointed it out to the world."
The Center for Strategic and International Studies noted the NCRI role shedding light on Iran’s nuclear program. A 2006 report declared, "The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) revelations about Iran’s secret nuclear program did prove to be the trigger point in inviting the IAEA into Tehran for inspections."
Contrary to Iran’s disingenuous offers to be transparent in nuclear talks of Jan. 17, 2005 and March 23, 2005, NCRI intelligence revealed in late 2005 that Iran may be engaged in nuclear-related work at a site near the city of Qom.
Three Western allies disclosed on September 25, 2009 intelligence also about the Qom site during a G-8 economic summit in Pittsburgh, implicitly validating a resistance disclosure of the same date. And by Jan. 2012, Iran had acknowledged it had begun enrichment at revealed a heavily fortified site, the Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant.
Meanwhile, during June 2009, the regime cracked down on country-wide demonstrations in which dissidents tied to the NCRI participated. Iraqi forces acting on behalf of Tehran then attacked NCRI associates in Camp Ashraf, Iraq in July. Iraqis killed 11, held 36 as hostages, and then only released them in October under intense international pressure.
After moving to Camp Liberty, a former American base in Iraq, on Feb. 9, 2013 rocket and mortar shells fell on the dissidents, killing six and wounding over fifty. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees called these attacks, "a despicable act of violence," describing residents as asylum seekers entitled to international protection.
The most evident case of retaliation as it relates to nuclear revelations of the NCRI came on Sept. 1, 2013. The organization had in previous years uncovered a number of undeclared nuclear sites and announced them in a series of press conferences, e.g., in Washington during July. Tehran retaliated to take advantage of ongoing secret nuclear talks with Washington; it let the regime off the hook by saying very little about the assault. Yet in October 2013, the resistance disclosed additional intelligence, that time about suspect weaponization activities by Iran.
As the new date to complete the nuclear accord approaches, resistance intelligence reveals Tehran has Farsi-speaking Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Quds Force agents in positions at key locations around Camp Liberty. It houses almost 3,000 residents. Under the charge that they are working with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, the Iranian regime and its Baghdad proxies are in place to destroy the camp.
The prime minister of tiny Albania accepted a few hundred NCRI supporters from Iraq; now is time for President Obama of mighty America to stand his ground against Tehran and take in the remainder. Iran will not bolt the talks that promise it so much benefit.
It is in our national interest to accept NCRI supporters because they maintain a capacity to expose Tehran’s cheating on its nuclear commitments. As negotiations enter the final lap, it is critical to have ties with our friends who have a vast network of human intelligence in Iran.