Q&A: Iranian Jewish expert Nikbakht on why Iran Deal is a Failure
In Southern California, Frank Nikbakht is perhaps one of the Iranian Jewish community’s foremost experts on the history, behavior and long term goals of the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI). As the head of the Los Angeles based Committee for Minority Rights in Iran, he has been the leading voice advocating for better human rights conditions for Jews, Christians, Baha’is, Zoroastrians and even Sunni Muslim minorities living in Iran today who face almost daily threats to their lives. For nearly four decades he has been educating himself and others on the true nefarious objectives of the Iranian regime and warning Americans of the Iranian regime’s quest for expanding their radical Islamic ideology by any means necessarily throughout the world.
I recently sat down for an interview with him to discuss the “Nuclear Deal” that the Obama Administration, China, Russia and other Western powers signed with the Iranian regime. His feedback on how this deal will embolden the power and increase the regime’s longevity in the region is chilling. The following is a portion of my conversation with him…
From your perspective as an Iranian American activist what are the biggest problems or holes with this Iran Nuclear deal?
Assuming that the now famous 159 page publicly available document is the genuine and full text of the “JCPOA” – a safe term for a deal which is neither an “agreement” nor a “treaty” and is therefore exempt from a congressional approval – and supposing there are no secret annexes, I can refer to the following: This deal enriches, legitimizes and greatly empowers an unreformed Islamist regime with open Jihadist ambitions and an ISIS like internal human rights record, to increase its brutal dictatorship over its own people and encourages it to boost its military intervention in the Middle East and beyond. Notwithstanding the advertisements, this deal may well serve to ignite regional wars and set in motion, a series of unstoppable consequences in the region, including the danger of a nuclear war. Within the deal itself, there are a multitude of mind boggling concessions made to the IRI and a host of vague conclusions which are very hard to understand even by optimists.
For one thing, contrary to Kerry’s promises, there are no “anytime, anywhere” inspections. Any inspection of the very few sites allowed, will typically take 24 days to take place, enough time for removal of incriminating evidence particularly those not physically related to radio activity, which can be dismantled and removed. In the case of more controversial inspections, the IRI can easily refuse entry after the 24 day procedures, and refer the issue to the UN Security Council!
On another note, World powers commit themselves to provide the most advanced “safe” nuclear technologies to the Iranian Regime, and train their people for about a decade. In addition to the present day signatories, the IRI will be allowed to ask for the cooperation of “other” entities, not a part of the 5+1 group, which brings to mind countries from North Korea to Pakistan, and all kinds of greedy and cheating private companies all over the Western World who by the way, helped nuclearize the IRI in the first place. People should read about the “Civil Nuclear Cooperation” in detail, in Annex 3. While you are on Annex 3, stay calm as you read Section D, item 10, which even calls for the United States to help the IRI against any security breaches, sabotage and cyber-attacks! This item in particular, signifies a shift of alliances in the Middle East – and a possible beginning of a military pact with the IRI against Israel.
You are an expert on the Islamic Republic of Iran and their leaders’ ideology, mentality and behavior to remain in power in Iran. How does this Nuclear Deal prolong the life line and longevity of this regime in Iran?
Extending the life of this regime is probably the intension of some of the signatories of the present nuclear deal; however, this lifeline may in the end prove to be a death trap for the Islamist regime in Iran. The infusion of over $100 Billion into the Iranian economy and the quick availability of hundreds of billions more in credit, will clearly bring about an inflationary period with a matching social corruption, unprecedented in Iranian history. In an economy controlled by an unresponsive government with no official financial records and reports, and a military establishment led by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and their cronies and clans, there will be a rapid polarization of the society, increasing antagonistic class differences.
The arrogance and illusions of grandeur of the IRI, will be augmented by such a degree that a social explosion becomes almost a certainty as a consequence of the deal. Externally, the deal which has already legitimized and forgiven this regime despite its dark history, and is promising to enrich it beyond its dreams and to lift sanctions from their IRGC commanders and their military purchases, will encourage the IRI military circles who already boast about their military victories from Iraq to the “shores of the Mediterranean Sea”, to feel bolder and expand their imperialistic mandates and adventures far beyond where it can be imagined today.
President Obama and Mr. Kerry claim that the only other viable alternative to this deal is war. Is this really true, or is there another alternative?
In all complex problems, there are always multiple solutions. People who act panicked and claim there are no choices, are usually just marketing their products without giving the buyer time to think. Advertisements are made up after the products have been produced, and usually no one likes to admit the merits of a competing product. The JCPOA is not the product of just a short period of negotiations with some new adversary, and it is not just over a “single” nuclear issue either. This is the result of a very long process of planning and activity, over a wide range of subjects with far reaching affects.
Tremendous efforts have been expended to bring about a situation where there will be “no other alternatives”. What we are watching today, has been discussed for decades by people representing interests in the West, under such names as “The Grand Bargain”, since before 9-11, and even before that. The difficult task has really been the preparation of Western voters and bringing about weariness among the general public and using their indifference to make such incredible deals acceptable.
Years of meticulous and step by step planning has gone into marginalizing, closing down and destroying Iranian opposition ideas, persons and organizations abroad, excluding all opposition voices from official and semi-official Western media and from Farsi language international broadcasts. Large sums have been spent and even squandered in order to create and promote fake opposition leaders and organizations, who/which follow a “safe” political path, but end up suddenly supporting the Islamic Republic itself, and the need for rebuilding bridges with it and throwing it a life line, at critical junctures. It is logical to conclude that in parallel with the above preparations, there are many more important areas of concern and importance that need to be prepared for major international turning points. We must assume they have mostly been taken care of as well, except in the case of interests or countries which have to be abandoned or pressured into acceptance by means of international as well as domestic levers.
The United States had always declared in public and private, that it was not after “regime change” in Iran but after a “change of behavior” by the Islamic Republic, in areas such as international terrorism, hindrance of peace between Israelis and Palestinians, a few temporary issues like non-interference in Iraq (which has now changed to demanding active interference in Iraq !) and of course the nuclear weapons issue and finally, a certain level of concern over human rights, which did in fact save the lives of hundreds of thousands of Iranians. In fact, adherence to the old Algiers Accords between the US and the IRI at the conclusion of the hostage crisis was frequently brought up as the reason for not interfering in Iran’s internal affairs. In the course of time however, through all the ups and downs of the US-IRI relations, certain global views gained the upper hand in the United States, whereby all avenues of democratic and secular change in the Iran were consciously and purposely closed, in order to leave a very few alternatives within the framework of the existing Iranian regime.
When the Secretary of State mentions “no other alternative”, this is in fact a code for saying “we do not want an alternative”. It is a question of outlook and policy, rather than being tricked or duped. The nuclear threat had become so dangerous and illegal from the point of view of the IAEA, the UN and the United States, that a vast array of sanctions and restrictions were imposed on the IRI, impacting not just the nuclear non- compliance of the Iranian regime, but a host of other threatening behaviors. The lifting of the sanctions therefore, were hopefully going to gain major concessions on other issues and in particular, defanging a belligerent power which openly threatened the destruction of another country – Israel- and the eradication of the US from the region. In the end, however, the uncontrollable urge to regain the IRI as a major regional ally, has trumped all other concerns, and hence the JCPOA non- treaty! It has even been announced that the last American aircraft carrier will soon leave the Persian Gulf and will not be replaced. Of course, there is no relation between this and the JCPOA non-agreement!
From your knowledge of the radical Shiite Islamic ideology of the IRGC and the Ayatollahs ruling Iran, what is the honest possibility of them actually launching a nuclear strike on Israel or the Sunni states they oppose in the region? Are they that suicidal?
There are a variety of advantages to possessing nuclear weapons besides using them, and there are a variety of ways to try to destroy Israel. The present Iranian regime, might under favorable conditions, try them all. Most people do not know that the Iranian regime, is one of the very few Islamic powers whose constitution openly prescribes a global Jihad by military means. The issue of Israel, according to hundreds of proclamations in Iran and even in the infamous Ahmadinejad “wipe off the map” speech, is just one stage in the grand scheme of forcing the West to retreat and make way for an Islamic resurgence after centuries of Islamic retreat. Very few, noted the much grander plan outed by Ahmadinejad, lost in the outrage of his anti- Israeli rhetoric. Ahmadinejad put it as the need to reverse a 300 year retreat of Islam, in his “World without Zionism and America” seminar about a decade ago, whereas the Supreme Leader referred to it as a planned resurgence after a 200 year demise, just a week after the signing of the JCPOA! Yes, that is as recent as last week!
Here is a direct quote from the Iranian regime’s Constitution, written in its preamble, which explains the intents and purposes of the constitutional articles:
“The Army of the Islamic Republic and the Corps of the Guards of the Revolution … will be responsible not only for guarding and preserving the frontiers of the country, but also for fulfilling the ideological mission of Jihad in God’s path; that is, extending the sovereignty of God’s law throughout the world. This will be in accordance with the Qur’anic verse: “Prepare against them whatever force you are able to muster, and horses ready for battle, striking fear into the enemy of God and your enemy, and others beyond them “ (8:60). (This was originally translated by Hamid Algar, a Berkeley scholar and an early devotee of Ayatollah Khomeini. Emphasis by FN.)
Incidentally, the Qur’anic verse used in this section, which was also placed on the official IRGC emblem, used to be explained in the early periods of the revolution as a commandment for acquiring all kinds of weapons and skills of war, with no exceptions or mentions of nuclear or non-nuclear ! Historically, no one ever attacks another, without a moral justification establishing a “casus belli”. The Islamic Republic, more than most others, has proven time after time in its brutal crackdowns on its internal opposition that it first establishes its moral right, before supposedly striking “back” from a defensive and righteous moral stance. It has and will keep doing so in its foreign attacks as well.
First of all, a nuclear weapon, in the hands of a regime with its well-known Jihadist intentions, will give the IRI, a strong enough deterrence which makes it much easier for it to destroy Israel or greatly weaken it by other means. Note that is the Qur’anic quotation they chose for their constitution, “striking fear into the enemy of God” is one of the goals for mustering force. Secondly, a nuclear attack does not need to be a huge cataclysmic and explosive event. A series of smaller terrorist acts using dirty radiation bombs, can depopulate tiny Israel by simply driving the people out, until the situation is right for repopulation by an invading force or an invading nation. The advantage of this method is that it may not even leave an “address” as Shimon Peres once noted, for anyone to retaliate against. As someone said it here, it could be considered as a “work related accident”! Finally, in a hypothetical great war, there may be junctures where anyone could use large scale nuclear weapons as an accepted means of “defense”, or they may feel so strong or so desperate that the nuclear attacker may not care what others will say in the future.
As far as the simplistic argument goes, about the fear of the IRI against a nuclear retaliation, which may prevent it from ever attacking Israel, it must be noted that in a not too distant future, if present day world policies are continued, there may be a major disarmament of Israel, even BEFORE a Palestinian peace, an Iranian peace or any secured “alternative” is realized. There may be “no alternative” then too. There may also be no one whose retaliation can act as a deterrence, because there is nothing to theoretically retaliate with. In fact the disarmament issue is already being talked about in the West, and the IAEA has been probing the Israelis in this respect, and this may not be just a temporary pressure tactic either.
The persistent IRI lobbyists in Washington, have for many years raised the issue that the ultimate wish of the IRI, is to be considered as America’s main ally in the Middle East, in place of Israel. Things are already moving towards that direction because of the JCPOA non-agreement; however, in any case, any strategic rapprochement with the IRI automatically means distancing from Israel under today’s circumstances. This is clearly a zero sum strategic game, but it is going ahead nevertheless. Another IRI argument that appeared on the Iranian expatriate scene as part of the Khatami charm offensive in the late 1990s, was the question of why stop the IRI from having a nuclear bomb if Israel had them? While this argument hasn’t had much success outside the pro IRI circles, but its essence which is accepting moral equivalency between the IRI and Israel, seems to have gained serious traction among Western countries in the past decade. This attitude can have far reaching effects along the lines of disarming Israel, now that the Iranian regime has proved to be a “nice guy”, and is close to getting a Nobel Peace Prize”!
Do you believe that the current Obama administration could have avoided this entire Nuclear Deal fiasco if they had simply and quickly voiced support for protestors during the 2009 election uprisings in Iran?
This is still a popular thinking among many young Iranians who watched their friends and fellow “Greens” cry: “Obama, Obama, Either With us or With Them” on Tehran streets. Yet, it is too simplistic. In keeping with the American general foreign policy, the “Green Revolution” in Iran, was launched and supported only to the extent that it would not step outside the frame work of the existing regime and remain within the acceptable goals of supporting the two “reformist” ( and IRI approved ) candidates, deemed to be dependable by the US State Department. As usual, all nuisance opponents and nay-sayers had already been excluded from the Western media and there were no doubts about the easy success of the grand “Green” plan inside Iran. However, once the Iranian street broke with the two Western favored candidates and started a week long campaign of anti-regime slogans, the support dried up and the Western media disappeared from the scene. There were two of the popular slogans that shook the regime, but ended the Obama support: “Neither Gaza, nor Lebanon– my life is dedicated to Iran”. Of all the days, this slogan debuted on the dreaded anti-Israel Quds Day, on the last Friday prayer of Ramadan, in and around the televised event at the central prayer venue of the Tehran University and also “ neither Eastern, nor Western– (we want) an Iranian Republic “ , instead of an “Islamic Republic”, as in the similar sounding central street slogans in 1979. There was no “Plan B” for the “Green revolution”– there is never another ‘alternative’ planned ! and there was no desire on the US part to support the masses who wanted to part with the Islamic regime as a whole.
Also, unlike in Egypt a few years later, there was no armed force to come up with its own surprise “plan B” with the mass support on the street. Even if the independent street movement could have survived the international news blackout, it did not possess any unified leadership structure or the force to withstand the inevitable regime backlash, such as the one we witnessed in Syria following their failed “non-violent colored revolution”. The Syrian crackdown by the way was highly suspected to have been led by the Iranian IRGC forces, experienced in “anonymous” sniper tactics against crowds and night time mass arrests at neighborhoods during Tehran’s Green revolution. The IRI, frequently has “alternative” plans!
The following sites here and here explain in detail, how “non-violent, colored revolutions” were planned and led and how much time was required to prepare the “alternatives”. In the video, the specific references to Egypt, are very similar to the Iranian efforts before 2009. The “Green Revolution” therefore, was planned to fail if it ever diverted from the original plan.
Based on your knowledge of this Iranian regime, how trustworthy are they to keep their international promises and agreements?
The whole existence of Iranian regime has proven to be based on lies and brutality. There is no doubt that it cannot be trusted. The whole nuclear crisis with Iran began after these people cheated repeatedly on their IAEA commitments, going as far as removing cameras, removing soil, destroying buildings and etc. In my opinion however, the problem is not mainly about why the world powers have “trusted” the IRI. The main issue is the willingness to legitimize and empower a regime like that.
A few years ago, several “nuclear scientists” were assassinated in Iran. These were called “nuclear martyrs” and many publications inside Iran published their biographies and eulogized them to the max. Now, as the regime was fully denying any inclination towards producing nuclear weapons, one could read a wife of an assassinated “scientist” saying her husband’s mission in life had been the annihilation of Israel, but since he couldn’t physically participate in military activities, he joined the nuclear project! Now, go figure how the production of electricity for lights and refrigerators can contribute to Israel’s annihilation!
Iran is a huge country, and this regime has had a history of conducting its illicit activities internationally and dividing its work among several rogue regimes in the past. Once sanctions are lifted, once thousands of companies begin investing, loans extended, and lawyers employed by the hundreds, have no way of being snapped back. Cheating will be done for sure in its own time; however, while according to this agreement, cutting edge nuclear technological transfer is going to be freely poured into Iran by the world powers there might not be an incentive to cheat inside the Iranian territory, right away. In the end of course, there are so many other things the IRI can do, which are not covered under this deal. History has shown that under the biggest supervisions, while even adhering to treaties, intact rogue regimes can legally accomplish great feats of cheating in the spirit of an agreement. Hitler’s circumvention of the spirit of the Versailles Treaty of World War I, enabled the Nazis to create weapons, systems, technologies and capabilities, not even envisioned by the Allies back in 1919, until such time that he felt confident to openly defy the letter of the treaty as well, by demanding moral equivalency and demanding respect, dignity and fair play, kind of like some regimes we know today! And the tragic thing, is that world powers did give him all he asked for, just in return for promises of limiting his territorial ambitions to one little country! That little country was in fact sacrificed by the world powers who triumphantly announced “peace in our time”, a year before the breakout of one of the biggest wars on earth. Sounds familiar?
In the case of the IRI, possibilities of creating dirty bombs, or legal delivery systems for smaller nuclear payloads such as long range artillery, or even conventional aircraft have not even been mentioned. It is even not clear exactly what kind of ballistic missile restrictions have been agreed upon, in this “voluntary” JCPOA non-agreement, which refers the reader to multiple other resolutions and issues quite unfamiliar to the layman. In any case the use of smaller devices, by third parties, during chaotic times, fits very nicely within the military doctrine of the IRGC based on Asymmetric Warfare. This deal will give them time – and money- to rebuild their air force and acquire major weapons systems and prepare for bigger things, as mentioned in the IRI’s Constitutional quotation before.
I believe that while the IRI’s appetite is being fed in terms of massive cash infusion and military opportunities in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and elsewhere, enabling it to legally and safely surround Israel, it will probably afford to wait. In the meantime, they can possibly shift their unofficial research activities towards bombs into places like North Korea. You see, that would not be illegal under this agreement, if performed under different names, private endeavors or non-Iranian shell companies. If you are wondering if the IRI can really come up with efficient cheating methods, you will probably be surprised at their skills. When the official Iranian airlines “Iran Air” was placed on the sanctions list many years ago, the IRI started painting those planes and flying them under the name of new private companies. This reminds me of an old saying in Iran: “painting frogs and selling them as Volkswagen Beetles!”
Many average Iranians were cheering and celebrating in the streets of Iran after the deal was announced because they believe their economic situation will improve. Can you share with us if this is a false hope they have and what will be the long term impact on the average Iranian living in Iran as a result of this deal with the West?
My heart goes out to the Iranian youth and the heavily robbed and exploited poor, who have no recourse open to them, but to dance to the regime’s tune and keep hope alive for themselves. Every few years, a euphoria takes over, only to subside into ridicule and hopelessness. There was a time back in 1978, a few weeks before the return of Khomeini to Iran – called a Saint by the Carter Administration people- when you would risk a good beating by the crowds – including many college educated people – if you denied seeing the picture of the Ayatollah in the moon. We have seen too many episodes like this.
There is no doubt that most Iranian people wish their country to have normal relations with the US. They all hope for a deal which would either bring them prosperity and perhaps liberalization of the government or an easy visa to come to America. Too many times though, they have been disappointed to find that the issues dear to their hearts – such as personal freedoms, moderation in religion, and prosperity – have had no place in international deals. In fact such agreements with the United States were proposed by the business sector of the Islamic fundamentalists back in the 1990s. They called it “The China Alternative”, meaning establishing normalized business relations with America, while preserving opposing political systems, without any interference in the human rights issues within Iran. The old Islamist “Bazari” faction behind Khomeini’s revolution, now called the “Mo’talefeh” meaning the coalition, and previously associated with an Islamic Brotherhood inspired terrorist group called the “Self Sacrificing Devotees of Islam” in Iran who killed several secular intellectuals, prime ministers and others, has finally got what they wanted . These people, who control most the foreign private trade in Iran, together with the Revolutionary Guards and major religious foundations controlling the bulk of the complex public sector in Iran, will surely get the lion’s share of all the wealth generated by this deal, while the people will have to work for a small share, trickling down to the lower levels of the society, as the accompanying inflation cuts into their purchasing power.
For the time being however, the euphoria has died down and the market has the last word. In Iran, there are three major dependable economic indicators: The price of oil, the price of the US Dollar or major hard currencies, and the real estate market which is where your money goes in the absence of a substantial stock market. Well this is what they tell us…
Oil prices have had two considerable crashes since the JCPOA was signed, and now stand between $45 and $48 per barrel, because of Iran’s dumping of over to 40 floating tanker oil reserves into the market. The biggest crash though, is expected once Iranian oil production adds a million barrels a day to the market, sometime in 2016, after the JCPOA is implemented.
US Dollar, the biggest indicator of public economic optimism or pessimism, expected to be dropping upon normalization of trade with America and the West, has fluctuated a bit, and risen to $33,000 Rials per dollar, about 3% over its value at the signing.
The real estate market has been almost frozen since the nuclear deal negotiations began a few months ago, because of all the unknowns associated with it. Owners expect a huge rise in values and rents.
Finally we see the fledgling stock market is falling, while the prices of major food items has been officially raised by 6% since two weeks ago. The real euphoria however, is in foreign economic activities, a mass arrival of European firms and American oil and gas related companies into Iran, for signing future deals. Hundreds of thousands of Iranians of all classes, are also trying to secure contracts, franchises or representations to sell American products of all kinds. It is a rat race in which some will prosper while most will be left behind.
Many non-Muslim Iranian Americans I have interviewed here in Southern California are genuinely concerned about the potential negative influence the Iranian regime may have on their lives here in California as a result of sanctions being lifted on Iran due to this deal. Can you please share with us why they have such a concern?
This is not just a concern among non-Muslims. Many Muslims who escaped Iran because of political issues, or in order to simply live in freedom, live here in Southern California. In Los Angeles, they number in tens of thousands at least. Non-Muslims, like Jews, Armenians, Christians, Zoroastrians and Baha’is, took refuge here in order to live without fear of religious persecution – not only by the government, but also by the thousands of fanatics who would humiliate or threaten them on a regular basis- and to live with dignity. A mass migration of pro-Islamic Republic Iranians in the last few years, have already had its effects felt, to the point that most Iranians are once again afraid to express their feelings about the IRI, in the streets of Southern California, and in the Persian language media based here. On the other hand, new people have appeared among the expatriates, who openly support the IRI and freely try to rally Iranians against Israel, America and around similar causes.
Wouldn’t you fear persons who say something like this in a Southern California wedding, in 2014; “yes, we will sacrifice 70 million, close to the whole population of Iran, for the glory of Islam”. Wouldn’t you be additionally concerned to know this was in response to someone who said in case of an atomic attack on Israel, the Israelis will react and destroy Iran with a hundred nuclear bombs! Wouldn’t you be worried to know that thousands of others like him- now a small minority- will soon be coming here with their nuclear dollars and their political connections and lobbying power. These will be ranging from “retired” Revolutionary Guards commanders as well as non-retired young devotees of the Jihadist regime in Iran and passionate anti-Israeli activists and even anti Semites. Some people call it the “Londonization” of Los Angeles.
If you are a Jew, you will be doubly concerned, because anti-Semitism among Southern California Iranians has climbed to a new level already, since the campaign to intimidate the opponents of the nuclear deal shifted into a higher gear back in 2014, encouraged by their close relations with the State Department.
Please share with us some unique insights from the Iranian regime's leaders that have come out in the regime's state-run press recently that our average non-Farsi readers would find interesting.
Basically both pros and cons are being discussed, while heated arguments are seen in the Islamic Assembly, as IRGC commanders issue military threats and diplomats defend the deal. The most important thing though, is that the Supreme leader has cautiously accepted the deal, but he has explicitly ruled out normalization, and in fact any change of policy vis-a-vis the United States, in opposition to those who consider this deal as a first step towards establishing confidence and trust between the US and the IRI. The big fight in Iran, will be over the cash, the major deals and the commissions. They say that the IRGC has already been assigned the biggest chunks, while a major bank official has tried to convince everyone that there is “no cash” as such, except for about $10 Billion which will have to be quickly spent on Government obligations. Some people believe that this “denial” has to do with the fact that almost all of the $100 to $150 Billion, has already been spoken for. This will be a fight to watch!
What other observations have you had since the Iran “Deal” was signed coming from the Iranian regime during the past few weeks?
The mastermind in the movie “The Usual Suspects”, mentions an old adage, saying: “The biggest trick the Devil ever pulled, was to convince the world he doesn’t exist.” These days, all the propagandists and lobbyists serving the Islamic Republic of Iran, are saying that there is no nuclear bomb, there is no inclination to build one, all the “Death to Israel” thing in Iran is a joke, Israel is paranoid and Nentanyahu is crazy. I have to say, that these people have been successful to some extent, and all those weary of the non-stop evil scenes in the Middle East, want to believe that not all is bad. The ugly truth however, is that the Devil has been taught by the masterminds in the IRI, the “Usual Suspect” in the Middle East.