Will the Islamic Republic Last Long Enough to Get a Nuclear Bomb?

 Will the Islamic Republic Last Long Enough to Get a Nuclear Bomb?
(Patrick Clawson, February 21, 2018)

Transcript available below

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About the speaker

Patrick Clawson is Morningstar senior fellow and director of research at the Washington Institute, where he directs the Iran Security Initiative, a flagship program focused on assessing the many points of challenge Iran poses to U.S. and Western interest across the Middle East.

Widely consulted as an analyst and media commentator, he has authored more than 150 articles about the Middle East and international economics. He is the author or editor of eighteen books or studies on Iran, including Iran’s Strategic Intentions and Capabilities, Eternal Iran: Continuity and Chaos and Getting Ready for a Nuclear-Ready Iran. He serves on the board of editors of The Middle East Quarterly.

Dr. Clawson appears frequently on television and radio, and has published op-ed articles in major newspapers including The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post. He has also testified before congressional committees more than twenty times and has served as an expert witness in more than thirty federal cases against Iran.

Prior to joining The Washington Institute, he was a senior research professor at the National Defense University’s Institute for National Strategic Studies, a senior economist at the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, and a research scholar at the Foreign Policy Research Institute. A graduate of Oberlin College, he has a PhD in economics from the New School for Social Research. He taught at Seton Hall University from 1979-1981.

For more on Iran, see Ilan Berman’s Westminster talk, Iran’s Global Ambition, and former CIA Director James Woolsey’s Westminster talk, When Iran Goes Nuclear: Technology and Ideology.



Robert R. Reilly:

Tonight, I am very pleased to have an old friend address Westminster, Patrick Clawson, who was an old friend from my Voice of America/Worldnet TV days on a weekly foreign policy talk program called On the Line, which we regularly drew upon Patrick’s expertise on the Middle East and most especially Iran, which is the subject he is going to address tonight. He is the Morningstar senior fellow and director of research at the Washington Institute, where he directs the Iran Security Initiative.

He has written prolifically [as an] author or contributing author to 18 books or studies on Iran, including Iran’s Strategic Intentions and Capabilities, Eternal Iran: Continuity and Chaos, and Getting Ready for a Nuclear Ready Iran. I hope that is not a plot violation in relation to your topic, which is a question mark as to whether they will last that long.

He has also appeared regularly with op-eds in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, etc. Prior to joining the Washington Institute, Patrick was a senior research professor at the National Defense University’s Institute for National Strategic Studies (INSS). He was a senior economist at the World Bank [and] the International Monetary Fund. His PhD is from The New School for Social Research.

And his topic tonight is: “Will the Islamic Republic Last Long Enough to Get a Nuclear Bomb?” Please join me in welcoming Patrick Clawson.

Patrick Clawson:

Since Bob mentioned one of my books, Getting Ready for Nuclear Ready Iran, I have to brag that that book was found on the bookshelves of Osama bin Laden when there was a raid on his compound, so I know it was widely read. Presumably, he downloaded it, but-

Robert R. Reilly:

No residual?

Patrick Clawson:

Unfortunately not, so pardon me if I am telling you things that you already know, but I thought that it was important to discuss a bit about Iran’s nuclear program.

Pardon me if I massacre that word, I spent a number of years on a distinguished advisory panel at Sandia National Labs, and I was amused to discover that many of the people who design and build these weapons use the word ‘nucular’ rather than the correct pronunciation, ‘nuclear.’ I do not feel quite as, how shall I put it, uneducated when I slip.

Anyway, Iran right now is a somewhat controversial issue, and we saw a recent op-ed in The New York Times that was claiming that the allegations being made by the administration about Iran’s nefarious activities are an attempt to stampede us into war, much as was done before the 2002 invasion of Iraq.

What We Know About Iran’s Nuclear Program

And I just want to recount for everybody what we know about Iran’s nuclear program from what they themselves have told us and have showed off to journalists as well as to inspectors in the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The largest facility of concern is the one in which Iran has most of its centrifuges, which are the devices that can be used to make fuel for nuclear power plants or that can be used to enrich uranium further for a nuclear weapon.


Now, just to review, Iran has got a nuclear power plant, so you can say well, of course they have a plan to make fuel for their nuclear power plant. Except there is this minor detail that the contract that they have with the Russians about that fuel plan is that 100% of its fuel for its entire lifetime will come from Russia and will be returned to Russia when it is done, so the Iranians acknowledge that none of the enriched uranium they are making at Natanz will ever end up in the nuclear power plant the Russians have built. The Iranians claim that they will need this fuel for when they design a nuclear power plant and build it, which led the French government to propose in the negotiations, well, when you start construction on that nuclear power plant, well, then why do you not start up Natanz, right?

Anyway, this facility at Natanz for enriching nuclear fuel is the size of three football fields. It covers seven times the area of the Pentagon. And just to make sure that it is not damaged by rain, it has three meters of dirt on top of it. And that is, of course, what you do with every building, right? Now perish the thought that you are concerned that somebody might want to bomb it. This is not a modest effort.

Oh, and by the way, that is just the main facility. After it was discovered, because the Iranians [suggested], oh, we forgot to tell the International Atomic Energy Agency about this plant, the Iranians built another plant, this time under a mountain, not just inside the mountain, under the mountain, where they would put several thousand centrifuges. Each centrifuge is roughly the size of a refrigerator.

Now, the smaller facility at Fordow has got enough space for centrifuges that would produce the fuel for somewhere between, depending on how sophisticated they are, the Iranians are designing a bomb, somewhere between two and seven bombs a year. If Natanz were fully built out, we would be talking somewhere between 50 and 200 bombs here. Natanz is not fully built out.

And just to remind people, getting the fissile material, the highly enriched uranium of the plutonium — that is the hard part of building a nuclear weapon. Actually assembling the explosive device is not that hard. I remember being in Los Alamos and asking, well, gee, how hard is it to assemble that? [And then] they pointed to the shack across the way and said, well, that is where we did it in 1945. And we do not know how long it took us in 1945, but we do know that from the time the fissile material left Oak Ridge until the time it was dropped in Japan was two weeks. Now, we did it the easy way, which is we assembled a big, fat, heavy bomb and dropped it from a plane, and I have to admit that that is probably not going to work for the Iranians.

Iran’s Missile Program

They have been working on missiles. You hear a lot about the Iranian missile program and [how] they have been developing missiles, which are conveniently sized to carry a nuclear weapon of the early Soviet design. However, the tricky part with [this] is not so much the missile but, as the North Koreans have discovered, it is the warhead, and making a warhead that can survive reentry is, praise the Lord, hard to do, and the North Koreans have not yet mastered that and there are no indications that the Iranians have, but anyway, they are working away on this thing.


So, that is where their program stands, and then we get the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, JCPOA. Please do not call that an agreement. It is not an agreement. It is a joint declaration of the actions, which each of the parties plans to take. Nobody signed anything. Nobody made any agreement. This is a unilateral declaration of the various parties, the steps they plan to take. That was quite important for both sides or for all the sides, in particular for Iran and the United States because neither the Iranians nor the U.S. wanted this to go through legislative approval. It would never have gotten approved by a majority of either house of Congress much less be ratified as a treaty. So anyway, we have the JCPOA agreed to almost three years ago now.

Parking the Program

Now, the most accurate way to describe what the JCPOA does is that it parks the Iranian nuclear program for a while. The Obama folks often spoke about it dismantling parts of the program. Well, there were a couple of parts that got dismantled, but frankly, not very much got dismantled, and it did not get very dismantled. The chief, the head of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization, has taken to describing it as something that they could reverse within a few months. I do not think he is right, but the point is they did not dismantle much, and on the other hand, the Iranians were allowed to continue their research on advanced centrifuges. They cannot put them into action yet, but they can continue the research, so when you put this all together, I would say, basically, the JCPOA parks the Iranian program until about 2025.

Sunset Clauses

There are sunset clauses for most of the provisions in the JCPOA and most of the stuff that matters goes away either in 2025 or in 2030. The parts that stay are the Iranian promises, oh, we will never build a bomb. Well, since they are members of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, they have already pledged not to build a bomb. They have made a treaty commitment, but they restated it in nicer words, fancier. But what they can do after 2025 is they can build as many as they want of these quite advanced centrifuges that were four times as good as the centrifuges that they had when the agreement went into effect.

After 2030, they can have any kind of centrifuge they want and they can also start reprocessing, which is a way to get plutonium, which is the other fissile material. They also had accepted some limitations of what they would do in that facility under the mountain, and those go away in 2030. And, by the way, Iran put into the JCPOA very explicitly that they claim the right after 2025 to enrich uranium up to [the] 90% level, which is ideal for bombs. Anything above 25% is considered highly enriched uranium, and the Iranians say that they have the right to enrich up to 90%.

After these sunset clauses, frankly, it is pretty fair to say that¬†Iran’s nuclear program will have few¬†constraints on it and will enjoy the¬†international legitimacy of being what¬†Iran always said it would do in this¬†agreement, let us not call it an¬†agreement, in this Joint Plan of Action.

What Are We Going To Do With The Time?

Well, when the first nuclear agreement was reached with the Iranians two years before the final accord, Henry Kissinger and George Shultz wrote a long editorial and a long op-ed in The Wall Street Journal in which they said, okay, we have now kind of paused the Iranian nuclear program. The big question is what are we going to do with the time we have gained? And I think that is a very fair question. And in many ways, that was the comment that John Kerry made the other day in Munich at the Wehrkunde, in which he said that okay, the Iran deal is not perfect, but it causes things. He said 15 years. I would say 10 to 15 years. What are we going to do with the time? And that is the big question, what are we going to do with the time?

I mean, I am reminded [of the agreement with North Korea]. I was around and kicking at National Defense University when the agreement with the North Koreans was reached. And the widespread expectation at that time was that the North Korean regime was going to collapse anyway, so who cared what you agreed for what would happen in ten years. They were not going to be there in ten years. Wrong!

So what have we been doing with the time that we gained with this JCPOA?

We Are Not Pressing the Iranians

At the time that it was entering to effect, I and a group of other eminent [people] (other people eminent, not me) came out with a statement in which one of the things we said was, look, you have got to use this time in order to press Iran in order to achieve agreement about what is going to happen when this thing expires, and the Obama people took the statement more seriously than we did.

I got invited to the old executive office building more times those couple of months than I had before or since. And they insisted that they would press Iran, but of course, they did not because the natural impulse of diplomats when an agreement like this goes into effect is to say, oh, we cannot now raise all these contentious and difficult issues because if we do, the Iranians will walk away from the deal, and so therefore, the Obama administration was unwilling to press the Iranians on a whole host of things.

There was a recent major article about Drug Enforcement Administration people, who were very upset that they were not allowed to proceed with some cases about drug smuggling, and there were a lot of other things, including a number of nuclear things where we did not press the Iranians.

After the Sunset Clauses

But now under the Trump Administration there is a quite a different dynamic, and it is interesting to watch because what we have seen is that, in particular, the French, who had always said that this deal was not very good, now, they could have gotten a better deal if they had negotiated, which by the way is probably true. They have, under former President Macron, have stepped forward to say, let us start now forging a consensus about what happens when those sunset clauses kick in, and the interesting phenomena is that the hardest line people in the U.S. Senate about Iran, in particular Senator Cotton from Arkansas, have echoed the same line and said, look, let us not go back and wage the battles of the past about whether or not the JCPOA was or was not a good deal, but let us instead concentrate on what comes next and how can we make sure that if the Iranians do pursue a bomb after the sunset clauses, that we are going to really come down on them like a ton of bricks.

So what Senator Cotton has proposed is that rather than focusing on whether or not to walk away from JCPOA, what we should focus on is getting a broad international consensus that if the Iranians do the things that they claim they have the right to do, like make 90% enriched uranium, that we are really going to hit them hard with all kinds of sanctions and with a vigorous military presence around Iran to deter them.

How Has Iran’s Behavior Changed Since the JCPOA?

I¬†do not know. I do not know if that is going to¬†happen or not, but one thing I can say¬†with great confidence is that there were¬†some people in the Obama administration – the president’s own views were not quite so clear, he gave mixed signals, but¬†certainly a number of important people¬†in his administration felt that this¬†nuclear deal will be the start of a¬†process of change, that we would show¬†Iran that by cooperating with the international¬†community, they get a lot of benefits, and therefore that this was going to¬†lead Iran to begin to cooperate in other¬†areas as well, and that what we would see is¬†an Iran that became more of a country¬†and less of a cause to echo that Mr.¬†Kissinger’s famous question about it,¬†that Iran had to decide if it is a¬†country or a cause, and so the hope was¬†that we would see a more cooperative Iran on a¬†variety of other fronts.

Unfortunately, what has happened since the JCPOA came to¬†effect is the exact opposite and in¬†particular, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards¬†have said, alright, if you are going to do¬†that deal, then we have to show that we¬†remain the leaders, the axis of¬†resistance, by pushing ahead even firmer and that is what they have done, in¬†particular in Syria and in Yemen.

Iran’s Foreign Interventions

In Syria, Iran not only has deployed a substantial number, low thousands, of its own soldiers, but it has also recruited at least 20,000 other foreigners, mostly Pakistanis and Iraqis, the odd Afghan, to go fight in Syria, and it has raised a large militia in Syria of people who it trains and pays. General McMaster has said that 80% of those who are fighting on behalf of the Assad government are under Iranian command. The Assad government does such charming things as agree to a de-escalation zone in this suburb of Damascus, it is still rebel-controlled, and then in the last few days it has been dropping barrel bombs on hospitals and killing hundreds of innocent civilians.


Meanwhile, in Yemen, the Iranians walk into a situation where there is a domestic civil war going on, and the Iranians pour gasoline on this, contrary to UN Security Council resolutions, which say that we should help and support the internationally recognized government. The Iranians work with the rebels who are fighting that government, and the Iranians do not particularly make an effort to hide what they are trying to do.

So, for instance, a year ago, there was a missile that the Houthis fired at a U.S. ship in the Red Sea. Now, the Houthis could have taken a missile that belonged to the former Yemeni government, but they did not. They used a new style missile, which the Yemenis had never had, which, would you believe it, the Iranians produced. It is kind of like saying, guess where this came from? And then at least that was at sea. We did not recover the missile.

But then just a few months ago, the Houthis fired a missile at Riyadh at the International Airport, almost hit the airport, and guess what? We recovered the missile parts. And I will say this, for once the U.S. government was prepared to put a lot of pressure on the Saudi government to let the UN experts, from the UN body of experts looking at the sanctions on Yemen, to go and take a look at the missiles. And they came out with a report last week in which they said this missile was made in Iran, and more than that, it was made in Iran at a date after the UN sanctions, which forbid sending weapons to the Houthis.

The Regime May Fall

So, the hopes that some in the Obama administration had that the Iranian government would change aint happening. So, what I said so far is pretty discouraging. So, now I want to change gears and I want to talk about why the Iranian regime might, in spite of everything we are doing, not last until it has a nuclear weapon, and that is the Iranian regime has got a minor, little problem: its people. [That is] inconvenient.


And what we have seen on several different occasions is large-scale protests. Those protests in 1999 and of 2009 in each case brought more than 2 million people to the streets of Tehran, demanding change, but the demands were for change within the system. They are advancing the reform politicians. In the 2009 protests, after it has been going on for a while and there was a lot of suppression [of] the protests, we started hearing people saying to hell with the whole system.

Well, that was not the majority voice.

What we saw last December was very interesting because what we saw in December was protests that were not in Tehran, not by the middle and upper classes and educated people of Tehran saying we do not like this system, it was in the heartland. It was ordinary working Iranians in more than 80 smaller towns and villages around the country. In fact, we suspect and then now that more videos are coming out and more YouTubes, it looks like there may have been as many as 255 towns and villages involved, and these ordinary people had no patience. Their demands were death to the dictator, and we do not want the Reformers, we do not want the hardliners, we do not want the Islamic Republic. It rhymes in Persian. Whoops! This is the base of the Islamic Republic. This is the people who they have always thought were behind them and that they could count on and that while those effete snobs in north Tehran [do not support us], the Heartland was with us. No.

A Cultural Invasion

And what has happened is exactly what Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has spent 20 years warning might happen. He has spent 20 years warning that there could be a cultural invasion from the West and that this cultural invasion of Western values would be subversive to the Islamic Republic. He has given many speeches in which he explains that miniskirts are more dangerous than tanks, and he has made clear that what he really worries about is not Washington, it is Hollywood. You want to get an idea of his vision of what he thinks American policy towards Iran is? It is Michelle Obama, handing the Oscar award to Argo. That is proof that the U.S. government and Hollywood are in cahoots to overthrow the Islamic Republic.

That is what he worries about, okay? And what he worries about is all those thousands of Iranian women, when standing up and having taken pictures of themselves without their head covering on, and they, like the people in these protests, are not afraid, so they stand up there and say my name is so-and-so, I live at this address, and here is my national card, my national ID number. Come and get me.

You know, if you are running a highly¬†ideological state and you face this¬†problem, you got a problem. You got a¬†problem. Okay, you can say well, these protests have no leadership, they are not¬†organized, and all that is true. They have¬†no leadership, and they are not organized, but frankly, the Islamic Republic is¬†smelling more and more like Brezhnev’s Soviet Union. People do not believe it any¬†longer, alright?

A Less Aggressive Iran

Now, the history of the Middle East is a sad history (it is about as bad as Russia), in which what happens is that ideological regimes are replaced by corrupt semi-dictatorships or dictatorships, not by free societies, kind of like Russia. However, I have to say that at least in the Middle East, some of those corrupt states are not so aggressive. Some of them become hyper-aggressive, Saddam Hussein, but some of them, the Assad family in Syria, are not at all aggressive, so we will have to see. Even if Iran goes down that route, it is possible that its people may not get what they want, but frankly, it is possible we would get what we want as our absolute essential criteria, namely a less aggressive Iran. Someday however, I am worried that we will see the same phenomena in Iran that we saw in India, which for a long time had a latent nuclear capability and then someday, some politician wants to make it real.

Iran Will Build an Arsenal

Now, the judgment of the U.S. intelligence community for a long time has been that Iran is not going to go the route of North Korea of assembling a crude device and then exploding it to say, we have got a weapon, or we got it, we have got a nuclear bomb, we have got a nuclear device. It is not really a bomb; it is a device. In other words, it took tinkering with a thing and getting it, fixing it before they could test it. But the intelligence community has argued that instead Iran would wait until it could have an arsenal of at least a handful of weapons that it could deliver one way or another because if Iran just had one device, that would be a way of saying, we are armed, we have got dangerous intentions. And that would be an invitation for somebody РIsrael, United States, Saudi Arabia Рto preempt. We will see. I do not know.

Other States Are Hedging

Meanwhile, many of the other states of the Middle East are beginning to hedge. [The] front page of the Wall Street Journal today was here earlier. [There was an] article about how the Saudis are starting to build, starting to talk about building nuclear power plants Рmore than talk about, they are going to let a contract before too long Рand they are saying they want to have the capability to enrich uranium if they feel it is necessary. So, other countries are beginning to hedge on [this].

Although I have to say that it is¬†interesting that our main concern has historically been Iran’s nuclear¬†program whereas, especially the Gulf Arab¬†countries, their main concern has long¬†been Iran’s aggressive ambitions and for¬†many years during the nuclear¬†negotiations, the Gulf countries warned¬†the United States that if there were a¬†nuclear deal, that Iran would pursue its¬†aggressive ambitions by non-nuclear¬†means.

And so, the Saudis in particular said that if the United States does a nuclear deal with Iran, that would be at the expense of Saudi interests because we would in effect be letting Iran pursue its aggressive ambitions by non-nuclear means and the Saudis like to say we are not at the table or on the table, alright? And the Saudis regard what happened in Yemen and the missile landing outside Riyadh Airport as proof that they were right.


So, my focus tonight has been on the Iranian nuclear program but let me make it clear that I think that even if we are able to persuade the Iranians not to go further with a nuclear program, that is not the end of our troubles with Iran. Indeed, I know one eminent expert on nuclear things who says that what a mistake it was the Iranians to pursue a bomb. If they had just gone on sponsoring terrorism and persecuting their own people, the world would have paid no attention, but because they are pursuing the bomb, we woke up to the fact that we got all these problems with Iran, right? And it is now harder for them to get away with persecuting their own people and sponsoring terrorism. That is a bit cynical but also a bit true, so I will leave it on that optimistic note and see if there are any questions.


Audience member:

Thank you, professor. Great presentation. Earlier on you talked about Iran’s building of missiles and how they have not quite gotten this reentry vehicle thing figured out.

Patrick Clawson:


Audience member:

What if they decide they will eschew that and just go for a detonation outside the atmosphere? How dangerous might that be?

Patrick Clawson:

Well, that is an interesting possibility and of course, that is one of the things which is a concern that people who are worried about an electromagnetic pulse over the United States and so on and I have gone to more blasted conferences about that than I care to think about. For those who do not know, a weapon exploded outside the atmosphere could cause an electromagnetic pulse.

It is not clear how powerful it would be and how extensive it would be. The one thing which I gather from people for the electrical power industry is very clear is that it would be nowhere near as powerful or dangerous as some of these solar flares that we might have in the next few decades and that the way we have interconnected all of our electronic devices, we have created a magnificent antenna for magnifying the effects of electromagnetic pulses, be they from solar flares or from nuclear weapons and so, therefore, we need to invest quite a bit of money in protecting ourselves from electromagnetic pulses because we cannot stop the Sun from flaring. And so the possibility of an Iranian or other EMP bombs is yet another reason to do it.

What is fasting about these conferences is that the driver, which is really going to cause the electrical power industry to do something about this is the insurance companies. The insurance companies are saying we are not going to insure you new power plants unless you do something about this. And by the way, we see the same phenomenon in the Middle East. The people who really pushed the Saudis to do something about protecting their critical infrastructure projects were the insurance companies, which refused to insure until the Saudis created a 30,000-person infrastructure production force with Sandia’s help.

So it is possible, but there are no indications that the Iranians have done any work on that. Zip. Zero. Zilch. There are more indications that the Iranians have done some work on how to deliver bombs that are launched from short-range rockets launched off of conventional ships. They did that in the Caspian on at least one occasion and of course, the Iranians have been… for years have encouraged various of their groups to deliver bombs by a very powerful, very heavy bombs, by truck, so there are mechanisms besides missiles, but the strong judgment of the Intelligence Community has been that the Iranians are not going to be confident with those and would just want to have a missile by which they can deliver things. And the physics of it is if you have got a missile that goes more than a certain distance, it is going to leave the atmosphere and therefore you have the re-entry problem. I am not a rocket engineer. You know, one of the nice things about working problems like this is I get to go to all these conferences and listen to people who actually know something and can teach me things about engineering and rockets and so on and so forth.

Audience member:

Do I understand correctly that part of this declaration – if it is not an agreement – our government actually released a huge amount of funds to the Iranians and if that is that case with the additional financial potential to do a lot of things with those funds, what might by the feasibility of them doing an EMP over the United States over the next ten years?

Patrick Clawson:

Well, there are two kinds of funds that were controversial in the agreement. One is that as part of the sanctions the United States had persuaded a number of countries that took deliveries or any oils to block the payment the U.S. position was during the sanctions period was we did not mind if people imported Iranian oil, we just did not want them to pay for it. Okay? So, the Japanese and the Chinese and the South Koreans and the Indians blocked the payments, so there was a large amount of money that was sitting in certain accounts that the Iranians could only use to buy goods in those countries.

Now, this money was not frozen. It was kind of like a Slurpee. It was kind of half frozen, half liquid and the Iranians were learning how to make it more like they were learning how to use the money, so the Iranians were getting their hands and using the money more and more and that was big bucks, probably not $150 billion but certainly well over $50B, so that was one controversial pile of money, but frankly it was never frozen. There were some small parts of work. Most was not frozen and the Iranian from when he had a Milton there was another controversy about something which happened on the day the agreement went into effect, which is the United States government delivered between $400-800 million dollars in currency notes, U.S. dollar bills, in a Swiss airport to the Iranians and the Iranians released several dual nationals, who they had been holding.

Now, it was a remarkable lease,¬†remarkable that the Obama administration¬†made this look as crooked as they did. I¬†had been involved for twenty years¬†in the efforts, which date back to the¬†Reagan administration, to come to a final¬†settlement and all the claims back and¬†forth between the United States and Iran¬†from the Shah estate,¬†and the U.S. government has been¬†pressing for more than 25 years to bring¬†an end to that process so the U.S.¬†government can say that is done, that is¬†buried, that is over with, and the Iranians have¬†not wanted to because they wanted to¬†claim that we never returned the Shah’s¬†money. The Shah actually did not have that¬†much money. We returned whatever the Iranians could prove that he had been taking illegitimately, but the Iranians wanted to drag¬†this process out.

And we have spent decades trying to bring it to an end. The Obama people brought it to an end. That was a considerable successful achievement of U.S. diplomacy, and we all knew that when it came to an end, we were going to owe the Iranians a wad of cash because they had prepaid for a bunch of arms, which they had never gotten delivered. And on top of that, the Obama people managed to use this as a way to get the Iranians to release some Americans, dual nationals. They were all released. Not bad.

You have to return the money anyway, you wanted to end this thing, and you got the people released. It took really hard work by covering it up, lying about it, and generally playing ignorant to make this look stupid. You could have brought out Reagan administration people who worked on this issue to explain what an accomplishment this was. They did not want to embarrass the Iranians by saying, well, the Iranians finally caved and agreed to end this dispute that has been going on needlessly. I mean we have had a tribunal in The Hague since 1981 that is supposed to adjudicate these claims. It has not issued a judgment in ten years and still spend seven million dollars a year not a bad job, so anyway that was the second problem.

All about the MP look I have no idea, we have no evidence Syrians have been working in the enve and people have very different opinions but as I say my attitude about a MP is that because we have to worry about solar flares we go down well should protect ourselves against me and P if you protecting yourself against solar flares protecting yourself against the EMP cost teeny, teeny, teeny, teeny amounts money because it is very similar things right there is sudden they are unexpected you know about it you get a and it is a very similar physical phenomena so we ought to get off our butts and protect ourselves against sort of we do that we protect ourselves against the MP in the dough but actually that is operated at university intelligence community I remember hearing last junior United States attacking around it appeared too many radians that they encourage these communities or other biased and opportunities in its opinions and I just wanted us moving and how unbiased and my last question is do you believe that United States come when they come so let me start with the backwards the Trump administration in fact has been in intense negotiations discussions with the with the European governments about Iran for a number of months and ever since Trump’s October 12 speech in which he said, hey, listen, we have got to get some action from Congress in Europe or else we are going to walk with a deal there have been very active. I think it was this last week that then yet another dead discussions in Brussels this time. I do not know what is going to happen, but in any way the trumpet is October 12 speech outline, the things that he thought needed to be done in order to stay with the deal and they were they were what Senator Cotton recommended in the speech he made a few weeks earlier and they were we have got to do something about the missiles we have got to do something about the sunset clauses and we had to do something about some ambiguities about enforcement that the IAEA had mister has said ambiguities that need to be clarified and so what cotton are commanded would trump picked up was three things as the Europeans could imagine themselves doing so that was seen as a positive step that rather than laying down things of no way was going to agree to that Trump actually put down markers that it is conceivable it can see what you could get a bill through Congress about this the current atmosphere in Congress is acidic and very difficult to get a bill but senators Corker and Cardin have been negotiating with their caucuses much as with each other trying to get a consensus in the bill and you know it is conceivable it is conceivable what Trump lay down is what needs to be done you know he says he picked three areas that were two of the three were areas that said that French president might have I signaled he thought need to be done so we will see what happens I would say on the intelligence community there look there is a problem of groupthink in the intelligence community how many issues it is you know many of these issues are difficult tonight to know our track record of predicting revolutions is terrible our track record at knowing where countries are with their WMD programs is terrible we seriously underestimated Iran’s progress and we missed their facility is several different times so it is very hard to speak out and disagree with your comments so there is a groupthink problem but I do not think that is a I do not think it is a conscious bias. I think these are dedicated professionals who are determined to figure out as best they can what is going on and it is pretty darn tough. It is pretty darn tough and I do not expect a hundred percent success I do get nervous by the extent to which especially the political leadership of the intelligence community and the politicians have listened to previous intelligence community assume that what they are being told is the truth I would rather the people hedge their bets bit more so I would like us to hedge our bets on a whole variety of fronts so but as I said I do not think that is not a conscious possible it is good to see you thank you very much the presentation this year marks more or less the 30th year of the Iranian nuclear weapons program there is no country on the face of the earth that has taken 30 years to develop so you have talked about the program what do you think the program well locals as you pointed out the Iranians have turned out to be utterly, utterly incompetent to this effort utterly different it is really quite remarkable how badly they have done and it is also the case that after Natanz was found the world’s intelligence communities many countries intelligence communities suddenly started paying a great deal more attention and since then the Iranians have been remarkably unsuccessful hiding things so it is why possibly have things we do not know about it is a big country lots people pension food I mean I will give you an example okay in the last month there are has been a whole campaign of arresting environmentalists Noorani prominent Canadian Iranian environmentalists with died leaders to a person the Iranian social media world is convinced that is because the environmentalist acts that is a number of nuclear sites maybe they are right maybe they are not I do not know but a to a person they are convinced so that is the reason this is happening okay I do not know but I am quite certain that the US intelligence community is paying attention to that now we the Washington to give a book prize each year and two years ago we gave a prize to a book called the Twilight Wars by David Crist, who is actually at the Pentagon. He works the office of the historian, but he has been advisor the last couple CENTCOM commanders, and it is about that twilight wars between United States and Iran. And there are a lot of very interesting episodes. I god only knows how we got that stuff declassified, but I mean you know he describes a scene where a Navy SEAL raiding party was thirty seconds from being a feet dry and on going into Iran in 1998 18 2004 right so there is a lot of amiable also scenes where deputy director of the CIA meets with his Iranian counterpart in 2006 so there are a lot of things been going on right I mean I am reminded of the time with a New York Times correspondent called me up and said 10 years ago did I think that the Israelis were going to attack the Iranian nuclear program and I said absolutely he said how can you be so certain I said because it started two years ago because it started assassinating Iranian scientists so we have been in a twilight war and we have been hunting for Iranian facilities the longtime deputy director of the IAEA Olli Heinonen it was the charge of inspections in Iran he likes to say that if Iran does not have a nuclear testing program now be the first time in 30 years they do not we do not know you know we are but what we do know with great confidence and absolute certainty is that neither the American people or anybody around the world is going to believe a US intelligence judge from the 30 Ron is God nuclear weapons facilities that is not supported by IAEA inspections that is a legacy in the Iraq War ain’t nobody going into them I mean hint until the IAEA inspectors get out there that is a reality ain’t no president, including this one, then an act when that kind of Intel until the IAEA is been out there do not respect it that is just we well look the parts that the parts of the JCPOA, which frankly cannot be verified, and it is absurd they Larry put some of the clauses into the agreement because for instance there is a clause in there which said in which Iran pledges that it will do no computer modeling nuclear weapons and the IAEA is supposed to bear has no mana was said how the heck am I supposed to verify that no computer in Iran has been used to do computer modeling of a nuclear weapon what am I supposed to do Bogg every computer in Iran I mean it was a stupid provision to put in there I mean I do not understand why put in provisions which are inherently non-monetary and there is a number of those okay and it is a problem, but the biggest single problem we have frankly is not monitoring the agreement the biggest problem we have is what happens is someday the DPRK decides to sell a nuclear weapon to the Iranians and the arraigns decide to buy it we probably would not know about it too happened we might not know about it until after that and given that the Iranians in the DPRK have cooperated in missile development for over 30 years and that in fact it was missiles provided by Iran which were the foundation and part of the DPRK’s initial missile program. I am more worried about that than I am about most things but if you ask me what would be a way in which Iran that suddenly have very dangerous capabilities which does much they have my answers purchasing it from DPRK and if you ask me what clandestine facilities are you most worried about it is that the Iranians the Iranian clandestine facility is located in the DPRK that would be my biggest word do not think it is happening there I do not think it is happening but we would not know we would not find out to follow up on your comments about internal political instability in Iran some say that despite the Trump administration’s very good intentions and they are very dramatic differences with the previous administration the bureaucracy has not really been affected with news to support internal political Iranian instability for example the world America perhaps Dr. Reilly I have read very little money has been spent on supporting Internet activities to allow the Iranians have more access to Western news well my first comment about the news is and I hate to say this the Bob’s in the room but the government’s thought I was the best at doing exciting and interesting programming and so the wonderful the internet television which most Iranians watch is actually run by a private company and BBC plus it is hard has been smart enough to give them a bunch of contracts to produce news shows they do quite good documentaries with BBC funding and I wish that we took a chunk of the money that we now spend on VOA and instead used it to fund mannitol’s what and they do it tonight run advertisements um my complaints against the VOA are mostly that they are I do not think much the quality of their professional broadcasting we do not need cooking shows and I really wish that they were run more like NPR and less like the government bureaucracy but that is different on the Internet I agree with you there is real probably face though which is that you know the programs that to evade the supervising super smoky by the Iranian authorities are precisely programs that drive the FBI nuts and the encryption programs that the FBI says are such a threat to our civilized society or the concurrent programs that Iranians want to be able to communicate free from interference in their government so the FBI has complained about some of the come to programs the State Department is paid for it because whoops Americans use them too right so we got a problem but I do think that we should be doing more in encouraging internet stuff – dude starting a Persian website next month but you know in spite of how many ease fantasies that it was that the foreign sponsored radio stations are the real source of trouble that is overwhelmingly not true what is overwhelmingly the source of trouble is what the Iranian cent sales introduced so Iran is a country of 80 million people and 85 million smartphones 40 million Iranians of accounts on what is called Telegram, which is a program that is really quite good at keeping you sorry 40 million Iranians have programs on telegram which is a program it is quite good at blocking government snooping and it is that is really the source of what matters now sure there is lots of fake news out there in Iran I mean but know anyone that that is having information kit so back in 1997 when on the unexpected election of our reforms president took place and the agency organized a big event with all kinds of radians coming in all God’s people Iranian experts coming in talking about it I made the prediction he said I had no idea what has got the next 25 months, but I would be very surprised the Islamic Republic last in the 25 years oops that is getting close I hope people forgot about that I do not know my worry now is that the Islamic Republic I think is most likely to evolve into a typical military run dictatorship for the Middle East that is more corrupt than an ideological that is not the Islamic Republic, but it sure ain’t no free democratic society, so what replaces the Islamic Republic may not be very pretty, yeah, but you know I hope better for the Iranian people okay I hope better for the ready people what can we do about it probably not that much you know the business of overthrowing the Eastern Bloc countries would how many e has read hundreds of books about that experience intensely aware of it it is something that preoccupies the entire leadership Revolutionary Guard Corps it is one of the reasons why they come down so hard on all kinds of civil society organizations it is really hard to replicate something like that when you have a really unexpected massive victory like that it is hard to duplicate and I think it is unrealistic to anticipate what will happen in Iran would follow that same model how long it is going to last I mean I mean is this one as a more rooted in their societies and cognizant was I do not know I mean I can give you good arguments for and against and I do not think we have a good sense as I say our track record of predicting revolutions is miserable not entirely unmarked by success but pretty close so do not know I think we should have contingency plans in effect now is a nuclear weapon going to help extend the life of the Islamic Republic the answer is almost certainly yes because there is certainly going to be some nationals pride in having this in some sense that we are invulnerable and that is to be part of and then also be honest they are going to be many actors are going to be afraid to move against the government if it has something to it many conflicts start from miscalculation the 2006 conflict between Israel and Hezbollah certainly started for miscalculation Hezbollah’s leaders said after it was over that had he had any idea how the Australians of react when they kidnapped these civilian soldiers he would not have done it and I think that it would not take much to start an Israeli Hezbollah confrontation at the moment all it would take is you know some Hezbollah rocket which lands in the kindergarten kills thirty kids I mean I think that there are all kinds of scenarios in which there could be an inadvertent conflict and in a conflict between the two sides is widely anticipated by both Hezbollah fighters and the Israeli Defense Forces they are both they have both come to come to the conviction in the last six months that it is it is more likely than not that there will be a conflict in 2018 and they will come from an inverted conflict and that it will be more bloody and deadly than all the Israeli is Arab Wars today that is the conviction in both sides I hope to god they are wrong I hope to god they wrong you talked about the perhaps changing attitude by the situation with the more educated segments and businesses but one of the interesting fauna the second play Cintron in the last 20 years is the spread of education for the last 10 years university participation rates in Iran and exceeded that of the United States and by the way they are much higher among women than they are among men your Iran is one of the few countries in the world where the majority of those getting PhDs in physics are women every subject every reason all that all the STEM subjects at every level and one of the things just happened is the rural areas are going boy about 30 percent of Iranians live in rural areas more Iranians live in the top 4 big cities and live in the rural areas and Iran’s countryside is depopulated so a large part of what is happening is a real process of social change or rosacea education and these people want to participate in the world and that is a real problem Islamic Republic a real Punk Islamic Republic their natural base of rural and small-town focus disappeared and the natural base of reform-minded western-oriented people mainly well-educated people living in big cities is growing round it is not good for the Islamic Republic last question I just simply point out that eyeliner problem get archaea the TV station as well as a television station we started that cooking show roast pork is not a frequent activities to what extent are they animated by millenarian ambitions in the age of Ahmadinejad clearly to what extent is that a resuscitation of ancient Persian hegemonic desires and in this arc to the Mediterranean that they are creating through Iran in Syria do you think this leaves that vulnerable in terms of the Iranian population for their successes there will consolidate a base of support well millenarianism in Iran is primarily a declare of Elizabeth and clericalism right because anti-clericalism because you see if you think that you are speaking directly to the math then what do you need the Clio tell us and since the grand tradition is on the aisle total returns one of the things this can do is kill along happily the American returns one things it can do is kill all the articles so millenarianism is overwhelmingly anti clearly and I that was having to transitive okay so that place kind of differently you buy this lock right out to me that is why people are glaring they want to get rid of these damn aisles there is a lot of proud nationals it is easier on is a great civilization I like to give my I do a thing four times a year for OD and I one thing and I like to start by putting up maps of what Iran’s looked like for most the last 2,500 years and I remind people that the first marathon was to bring news of the desperate battle against the mighty Persian army invading your honor and that beautiful building in the middle of India the Taj Mahal has all those lovely inscriptions on it that are written in Persian because that is the language spoken by the people who built it that is the Iranian sense of their natural space okay oops it has shrunk in recent centuries 200 years ago Iran was twice its present size so you can play into nationalism pretty easily I by the way by I was speaking to Jewish audiences a lot at the time of the JCPOA and I like to point out that the Western Wall in Jerusalem who paid for that Cyrus in the Bible Cyrus the one who paid for the Second Temple who pays the piper just to call it is so anyway there is a lot of nationalism it has been a resurgent recent years and Thursdays pretty good at playing buddy okay Colin takes me into regime to talk so there has been this whole you know Cyrus we are with you thing that turned out a couple hundred thousand people every year now at and machine does not like that yeah Osiris is not exactly Muslim. The U.S. Intelligence Community thinks that this fascination with this land bridge, this art, it is a crock because they say look, you know, a lot of that you are driving across great big stretches, the desert where it is real obvious when you try to convoy across that and as really as it had that whether it is really or it is really they are not already invited so much so. I participated in any number of meetings in which various people from the least have been yelled at by the U.S. Intelligence Community about stop obsessing about this land or I do not or not but I just that is the U.S. government is convinced it is not as big an issues Middle Easterners make it out to know as well I got very, very few weapons that way the good Lord invented airplanes request.