FrontPageMagazine.com| June 24, 2005
Frontpage Interview's guest today isbest-selling investigative reporter Kenneth Timmerman, the author ofthe new book Countdown to Crisis: The Coming Nuclear Showdown withIran.
FP: Ken Timmerman, welcome back toFrontpage Interview.
Timmerman: Good to be hereagain.
FP: One of the most startling revelationsin your book is about Osama being in Iran. But before we get to that,let's backup for a moment, because your book is obviously about muchmore than just that. First things first: what made you write thisbook?
Timmerman: The Islamic Republic ofIran represents a clear and present danger to America. We are facingnew threats, new capabilities, with very old and familiarintentions.
This is a regime whose leaders open officialmeetings with shouts of "Death to America." This is a regime that hasa long track record of murdering Americans, in Beirut, in SaudiArabia, and in Iraq. Now this regime has acquired nuclear weaponscapability.
Combating the clerics in Tehran should be atthe heart of the war on terror. I wanted to make ordinary Americans&endash; not just think-tankers and policy wonks &endash; aware ofthis deadly threat. I trust the common sense of ordinary Americansmore than I do the policy prescriptions of the elites.
FP: Tell us the details of Iran'sclandestine nuclear program.
Timmerman: One of the great ironies ofour repeated policy failures in responding to the threat from theIslamic Republic is that we are always searching for "moderates."Hashemi-Rafsanjani, the former president, is now poised for acomeback &endash; as we see from last Friday's elections. And onceagain the same old tired faces who greeted him as a "moderate" in the1980s are welcoming him back as the man who can bring America andIran back together again.
And yet, it was Rafsanjani who spearheadedthe effort to revive Iran's nuclear weapons program in 1985, when heinvited exiled nuclear scientists to return to Iran, as I detail inmy book. It was Rafsanjani who became the driver of the nuclearweapons program, who sent buying delegations to Communist China andto North Korea &endash; as well as to Germany and France &endash; forequipment.
It reminds me of a cartoon in the WashingtonTimes about another "moderate" Iranian cleric, outgoing presidentHojjat-ol eslam Mohammad Khatami. Clinton is pointing to a missile,taking off behind him and headed toward Israel. "I thought you weresupposed to be moderates?" Clinton exclaims. "It's a very moderatemissile," Khatami replies.
This regime in Tehran has a very "moderate"mission: to destroy Israel and to drive the United States out of theMiddle East, using nuclear weapons if need be.
At the end of my book, I present a table withthe nuclear capabilities the Islamic Republic has now admitted topossessing, and its production facilities for the full gamut ofnuclear weapons material, highly-enriched uranium andplutonium.
The real tragedy of this story is that we'veknown about Iran's nuclear intentions for nearly twenty years, butour "friends" and "allies" have consistently refused to help us toput an end to it. That farce is continuing today with the shamnegotiations being conducted with Tehran by the EU3 over yet another"freeze" &endash; not a roll-back &endash; of Iran's uraniumenrichment and plutonium production activities.
FP: This is all pretty frightening. Whatis going to happen in this nuclear showdown? What must the U.S. do?Is there a chance the nuclear Mullahs might make a pre-emptivenuclear attack soon? (i.e. wipe out Israel?)
Timmerman: Regime leaders in Tehranevoke a nuclear showdown with Israel with an almost millennialexaltation. It's really quite extraordinary. Here's Rafsanjani, thesmiling turban who is seeking to return to the presidency in Iran'srecent "selection." He was speaking at a Jerusalem day sermon atTehran University on Dec. 14, 2001: "The use of an atomic bombagainst Israel would destroy Israel completely, while [thesame] against the world of Islam only would cause damages. Such ascenario is not inconceivable."
Iran's ruling mullahs realize that Israel isa one-bomb country. When they parade their Shahab-3 missiles in thestreets of Tehran, they festoon them with placards that read, "Wewill wipe Israel off the map." This missile is capable of reachingIsrael with a nuclear warhead, so it is no idle threat.
The Israelis have made clear they cannotallow Iran to become a nuclear weapons state. But just how long theyare willing to wait &endash; will it be weeks, months, a year&endash; no one knows. We have very little time to get thisright.
FP: So in order to "get this right" whatdo you propose to do?
Timmerman: The problem is not Iran'snuclear weapons; it's combining nuclear weapons capability with adedicated terrorist regime. Our best hope is to empower thepro-democracy forces in Iran to change the regime through anorganized campaign of non-violent conflict. We need to provide themassistance at the very least on a par with what we provided theUkrainians recently (around $65 million). All the other options gofrom bad to worse.
FP: What do you think of the recentso-called "elections" in Iran? You think the chances are high thatthere can be a peoples' democratic revolution there that willoverthrow the Mullahs?
Timmerman: These elections are afarce, and were widely boycotted by Iranian voters. I was receivingcalls, emails, and photographs of empty polling places all during thevoting. At one point, the mullahs tried to convince people there wasa high turnout by replaying video footage of a crowded pollingstation in Tehran. The posters in the background, however, gave themaway: they referred to the 8th presidential election &endash; whichwas four years ago.
Rafsanjani is positioning himself as thesmiling turban who will make nice to Iranians, and make nice toAmerica, as he has in the past. Fool me once, shame on you; fool metwice, shame on me. We ought to know better by now.
This is the man who ordered hit teams totrack down and murder Iranian dissidents around the world during histwo terms as president from 1989-1997. This is the man who revivedIran's nuclear weapons program as Majles speaker in 1985, and who hasbeen one of its biggest backers ever since. In Iran, he is known as"the Fox" &endash; and for good reason.
FP: Ok, so let's get to it: Osama inIran?
Timmerman: One of the recurring themesof Countdown to Crisis is the wilful blindness and incompetence ofour intelligence community, especially the CIA. For years, Agencyanalysts, led by the likes of Paul Pilar &endash; who headed theCounterterrorism Center under Clinton &endash; have sworn up and downthat there can be no cooperation between Iran and al Qaeda becausethe Iranians are Shia Muslims and al Qaeda are Wahhabis, and Wahhabiseat Shias for breakfast.
Khobar Towers? All those travels of theSeptember 11 hijackers to and fro Iran? Meaningless, according to theCIA. Iran was just serving as a travel agent &endash; 5% commissionon all bookings.
My sources, former Iranian intelligenceofficials who have defected recently, simply laugh when I tell themwhat the CIA believes and has told the 9/11 Commission. It isludicrous to believe that al Qaeda operatives were simply transitingfrom Tehran to Afghanistan before 9/11 without extensive contacts andcontrol by Iranian intelligence. And yet, because of the "concept"driving the CIA mindset, that is what they believe. According to our$40 billion a year intelligence community, there can be no Sunni-Shiacooperation in murdering Americans.
My sources have brought me hard evidence,which I detail in the book, not only of the active participation ofIranian intelligence in the September 11 attacks on America, but ofthe ongoing cooperation between Iran and al Qaeda, including meetingslast November and this March between Osama bin Laden and top regimeofficials in Iran.
Simply put, al Qaeda would not exist today asan organized force without the active material support fromIran.
FP: Your sources?
Timmerman: I have relied on extensiveface-to-face debriefings conducted over several years with high-leveldefectors from Iranian intelligence organizations, as well asinterviews with family members of top regime leaders. This is notsecond or third-hand information, but face-to-face debriefings. Insome cases, my sources were eye-witnesses to meetings between Saadbin Laden and other top al Qaeda leaders and Iranian governmentofficials. I describe those meetings in the book. They included twomeetings in January and May of 2001 where details of the September 11attacks were knocked out between Iran and al Qaeda. In other cases, Irelied on former U.S. officials, members of the 9/11 commission,foreign intelligence officials and confidential documents.
FP: What can we do about Osama in Iran? IfI had it my way, I would organize a strike force of some kind to goin and get him. But I guess the U.S. can't just go into a sovereigncountry like that. What can we do?
Timmerman: CIA Director Porter Gossessentially confirmed that Bin Laden was in Iran, as I reveal in mybook, in an interview with Time magazine that was released recently.The reason the U.S. can't go in and snatch him, he said, was becausewe are "dealing with sanctuaries in sovereign states, you're dealingwith a problem of our sense of international obligation, fairplay."
Fair play with a regime that has beenmurdering Americans for over twenty years, and that continues tomurder Americans today through the insurgency in Iraq? I beg todiffer. We have special forces warriors trained to do precisely thistype of thing.
FP: Special forces going into Iran tocapture Bin Laden? I am all for this, but couldn't this be seen as adeclaration of war with Iran, or trigger a war?
Timmerman: And isn't Iran'scooperation with Bin laden in the September 11 attacks on America anact of war?
FP: Ok, so if Bush made you his mainadviser on Iran, what would your policy recommendationbe?
Timmerman: First, delegitimize theclerical regime. We should refuse to recognize any governmentissued from illegitimate elections, as was suggested to me by aformer supporter of the regime turned oppositionist, Mohsen Sazegara.Second, we should unilaterally refer Iran's violations of the NuclearNonprolifeartion Treaty to the UN Security Council for action, justas soon as John Bolton gets to New York. I doubt the UNSC will act,but at least we will have gone through the kabuki dance. It is anecessary if absurd step. Third, we should provide massive assistanceto pro-democracy forces inside Iran &endash; not through the CIA,which should probably be dismantled and rebuilt from scratch &endash;but through the National Endowment for Democracy and through privatefoundations. And fourth, we should never, never, never, never, neverlet up the pressure on the ruling clerics.
FP: Mr. Timmerman, thank you, it was apleasure to talk speak with you.
Timmerman: My pleasureJamie.