For the West, the deal was going to be transformational — moderating the Iranian government’s foreign policy and halting its nuclear ambitions. But from the viewpoint of Iranian leaders, the nuclear accord was a transitory and fleeting deal. It was a means to an end.
There are increasing signs that Iran’s leaders never intended to abandon their nuclear proliferation. Recently, in a surprise move, the so-called “diplomat” of Iran, president Hassan Rouhani, as well as several other high level officials, warned that the Islamic Republic now has the capability to advance its nuclear activities much more quickly than before the nuclear agreement. Rouhani cautioned: “If Americans want to return to those experiences, Iran certainly in a short time – not weeks and months, but hours and days — will return to a more advanced situation than at the start of negotiations.” In addition, Ali Akbar Salehi, head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, pointed out: “We have created a lot of bridges to return to the previous conditions, quicker and better. Nuclear activity is going on better than in the past in the area of enrichment and heavy water production, and with the new design of the Arak plant in cooperation with the Chinese, and the extraction of uranium.”
These remarks indicate that, when it comes to their nuclear program, Iran’s leaders have not been sitting idly by since the nuclear deal was reached. Instead, they suggest that Tehran has conducted nuclear research in violation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). That is why Iran can boast that it has the capability to resume its nuclear proliferation at a much faster pace.
This argument is supported by new revelations from the organization that was the first to reveal Iran’s clandestine nuclear sites at Arak and Natanz. The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) recently disclosed that the Organization of Defensive Innovation and Research (SPND), which is thought to be the main player behind attempts to weaponize Iran’s nuclear program, has continued its research after implementation of the nuclear deal. The NCRI revealed the existence of a previously unknown site in Parchin called Pajouhesh Kadeh, or Research Institute, which is being operated by the Center for Explosives, Blast Research and Technologies, a sub group of SPND, in order to research the weaponization of the nuclear program.
It has been crystal clear from the outset that Iran viewed the nuclear deal as a transitory accord in the sense that, by agreeing to it, Tehran would first gain its objectives, including gaining economic concessions and global legitimacy, ensuring its hold on power and pursuing its hegemonic ambitions. Later, the Islamic Republic would revert to pursuing its nuclear ambitions from a much powerful stance.
The six world powers who agreed the nuclear deal viewed it as an end in itself, but for Tehran it was merely a tactic in the weaponization of its nuclear program
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh
In other words, for Iran, the nuclear agreement is merely a tactical policy shift, not a fundamental change in the core pillars of its foreign policy.
Unlike in Western governance, where policies are often based on short-term goals because administrations change every few years, the autocratic regime of Iran holds a long-term perspective and agenda. Iran is at an advantage because it can plan and pursue its policies and objectives for decades, while occasionally making some tactical shifts toward those ends. That is why the core pillars of Iran’s foreign policy have remained the same for almost four decades.
From the Iranian leaders’ perspective, they killed two birds with one stone; on the one hand the Iranian government continues to receive concessions for the nuclear agreement, on the other hand, it has not abandoned its nuclear research and ambitions.
• Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated Iranian-American political scientist. He is a leading expert on Iran and US foreign policy, a businessman and president of the International American Council. He serves on the boards of the Harvard International Review, the Harvard International Relations Council and the US-Middle East Chamber for Commerce and Business. Twitter: @Dr_Rafizadeh