Ex-IDF of­fi­cial: Iran foot­print in Syria may be to hide from IAEA

Jerusalem Post - - NEWS - • By YONAH JEREMY BOB

A ma­jor pur­pose of Iran want­ing to en­large its foot­print in Syria may be to hide as­pects of its nu­clear pro­gram from the In­ter­na­tional Atomic En­ergy Agency, for­mer top IDF Mil­i­tary In­tel­li­gence of­fi­cial Yossi Ku­per­wasser said on Wed­nes­day.

Speak­ing at a Jerusalem Cen­ter for Pub­lic Af­fairs con­fer­ence on the Iran nu­clear si­t­u­a­tion, JCPA fel­low Ku­per­wasser, a for­mer IDF brigadier-gen­eral, noted that IAEA in­spec­tors are lim­ited to in­spect­ing Iran’s ter­ri­tory, as the Iran nu­clear deal did not grant IAEA in­spec­tors com­plete ac­cess to Ira­nian sci­en­tists.

Based on that lim­ited ac­cess, Ku­per­wasser said Iran could move and con­ceal its nu­clear sci­en­tists and var­i­ous nu­clear ac­tiv­i­ties in Syria.

He noted that Iran hold­ing on tight to the deal, even though the US has al­ready left it, shows that Iran knows it got a good deal; that a bet­ter deal could have been ne­go­ti­ated; and that Iran may lean to­ward com­pro­mis­ing so as not to lose the deal.

Ear­lier at the con­fer­ence, En­ergy Min­is­ter Yu­val Steinitz said that he be­lieves the cur­rent US sanctions would suc­ceed at get­ting Iran to make fur­ther com­pro­mises re­gard­ing its nu­clear pro­gram and over­all be­hav­ior, be­cause “in six to 12 months, the [eco­nomic] si­t­u­a­tion in Iran will be ex­tremely grave.”

Steinitz said that the key to un­der­stand­ing how Iran will re­spond to the cur­rent US eco­nomic pres­sure is to un­der­stand that even as the US is act­ing alone, its se­condary sanctions could be even more suf­fo­cat­ing for Iran’s econ­omy than prior UN sanctions, which most of the world signed on to.

He was pressed af­ter­ward by The Jerusalem Post about whether the EU’s re­tal­ia­tory sanctions and vow to prop up any of its com­pa­nies that con­tinue busi­ness with Iran, as well as the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s trade wars, would limit the US sanctions’ im­pact.

The en­ergy min­is­ter re­sponded that he is less con­cerned about EU ac­tions to prop up the agree­ment, but is con­cerned that if the Trump trade wars are drawn out for a long time, this could re­duce the power of US se­condary sanctions.

He explained that if EU, Chi­nese and other for­eign com­pa­nies were al­ready be­ing lim­ited from ac­cess to the US econ­omy by broader trade war is­sues, they would not view Iran-re­lated sanctions as caus­ing them new dam­age.

Steinitz also said that Iran might choose to make new com­pro­mises re­gard­ing its nu­clear pro­gram and ad­ven­tur­ism in the Mid­dle East, out of fear that if it tries to rush to­ward a nu­clear bomb, the US un­der Trump is more likely to at­tack than it was un­der Obama.

He said that Trump’s ad­min­is­tra­tion has been more mus­cu­lar in pro­ject­ing power and keep­ing Iran and oth­ers off guard about how far he would go.

Fi­nally, he said that US ne­go­ti­a­tions with North Korea could greatly im­pact whether Iran de­cides to com­pro­mise or dig in its heals, for good or for ill.

JCPA di­rec­tor and for­mer for­eign min­istry di­rec­tor-gen­eral Dore Gold told the con­fer­ence at­ten­dees how the pres­sure of the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s sanctions will force Iran to make hard eco­nomic choices.

“Iran was re­ly­ing on hav­ing more cash on hand for ex­port­ing rev­o­lu­tion. If there is no cash, will Ira­nian be­hav­ior or [Ira­nian] im­pact on the re­gion change? My view is that Iran has pri­or­i­tized the funds given to the Iran Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Guard Corps... and will be very re­luc­tant to cut back those pro­grams,” said Gold.

He added that if Iran con­tin­ues to fund rev­o­lu­tion and ter­ror­ism in other coun­tries, this would neg­a­tively im­pact what would be left over for the com­mon Ira­nian cit­i­zen, and that “peo­ple on the street [in Iran] are aware of it, cre­at­ing in­ter­nal dif­fi­cul­ties for Iran.”

More­over, Gold said that Iran is al­ready reel­ing some­what from loss of al­lies and in­flu­ence in some coun­tries. He said it failed in ef­forts to sway Jor­dan into its corner and lost re­la­tions with Morocco after Morocco caught it deal­ing with a group try­ing to over­throw Moroc­can sovereignty in the dis­puted Western Sa­hara area.

Also, Gold said that over the last decade of war in Ye­men, with coun­tries hav­ing to choose sides be­tween Iran and Saudi Ara­bia, Iran lost its strong tra­di­tional ally Su­dan to the Saudis.

Gold noted that the Su­dan de­vel­op­ment also harmed Ha­mas, as Su­dan’s Red Sea ports had pro­vided a stag­ing area for Iran to un­load weaponry for Ha­mas.

Over­all, he said that Iran is in greater “dan­ger of hav­ing weak­en­ing eco­nomic in­fras­truc­ture,” which means that there is a “bet­ter chance of cre­at­ing more mod­er­ate Ira­nian be­hav­ior.”

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