June 23, 2015 Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 1171

U.S. Secretary Of State Kerry: 'We Have Absolute Knowledge' About 'Certain Military Activities' The Iranians 'Were Engaged In'; Iran Rejects Outright U.S. Terms For Future Inspection – For Example, Inspection Of Military Site

June 23, 2015 | By Yigal Carmon and A. Savyon*
Iran | Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 1171


In a June 16, 2015 statement, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry officially acknowledged that the U.S. is aware of the military dimensions of Iran's nuclear program.[1] Kerry said: "The possible military dimensions, frankly, gets distorted a little bit in some of the discussions in that we're not fixated on Iran specifically accounting for what they did at one point in time or another... We know what they did... We have no doubt. We have absolute knowledge with respect to certain military activities they were engaged in."[2]

This statement reveals the Iranian deception, which has been accepted by the Obama administration, regarding the existence of a fatwa by Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei banning nuclear weapons.[3] Kerry's remarks indicate that the administration knows very well that Khamenei is lying about the fatwa, and about the ostensible religious ban on nuclear weapons.

The Concessions Demanded From The U.S. In Order To Allow An Agreement To Be Reached

U.S. Concession On Investigating Iran's Possible Military Dimensions (PMD)

Kerry clarified that the U.S. was not interested in focusing on Iran's past military violations, because it is aiming to ensure that the Iranian nuclear program can be inspected in the future. He said: "What we're concerned about is going forward. It's critical to us to know that going forward, those activities have been stopped and that we can account for that in a legitimate way... That clearly is one of the requirements, in our judgment for what has to be achieved in order to have a legitimate agreement... And in order to have an agreement, to trigger any kind of material, significant sanctions relief, we would have to have those answers."[4]

With this statement, the U.S. waives its demand regarding Iran's PMD - that is, that Iran provide explanations to the IAEA on previous suspicions of PMD of its nuclear program. Without this demand, all future inspection arrangements will be meaningless, because this concession by the U.S. sets a precedent for Iran to refrain from responding to any suspicions raised in the future.[5]

Possible U.S. Concession Also On Future Inspections

At this point, it appears that the U.S. might back down on future inspections in two additional areas:

·   According to as-yet-unverified reports, instead of "any time any place" inspections,[6] a committee comprising representatives of all countries participating in the negotiations, including Iran, would decide whether particular suspect Iranian facilities will be inspected, if they can reach a consensus on this. In this way, the IAEA will be stripped of all independent authority.

·   Access to military facilities, if allowed at all - and at this time, Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), the Majlis, and Iran's negotiating team all reject this option out of hand - will no longer be a precondition for an agreement, but will be postponed until after an agreement is reached.

What Went Wrong In The Negotiations Process?

The U.S. and Iranian perceptions of the essence and implications of a comprehensive nuclear agreement are diametrically opposed:

The U.S. Perception

The U.S. sees a comprehensive nuclear agreement as a chance to turn over a new leaf with Iran, and even to obtain U.S. and Western influence in the country, thus transforming it from a hostile state to a friendly state that shares interests with the West.

Thus, the Obama administration's policy is based on the rescinding of the six UN Security Council resolutions that punish Iran for its nuclear violations, and is likewise based on disregarding IAEA reports expressing suspicion that Iran is committing violations. This is why the Iranian dossier in the IAEA was dealt with based on the international community's view of Iran as a suspect state with six UNSC resolutions still pending against it for various nuclear violations.

However, since the negotiations with Iran were taken over by the Obama administration, and are no longer in the hands of the EU3, Iran has been transformed from a suspect state under investigation and punishment to a partner of equal standing in negotiations, in which its demands have the same status as the demands of the other side. That is, a quasi-judicial process against a suspect - Iran - has become a negotiation between judge and suspect.

All this is aimed at transforming Iran de facto into a state friendly to the West and under Western influence.  The model for this is U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger's bringing Egypt, in the 1970s, and later China and the Soviet Union, to stances that were friendlier to the West.

The Iranian Perception

Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei completely rejects the U.S.'s view. As far as he is concerned, the agreement is righting a wrong inflicted on Iran, and has nothing to do with turning over a new leaf - no expurgation of the past, and no transformation of Iran into a state friendly to the West, open to Western influence, or sharing Western interests. He perceives these latter notions as a plot to bring down the ideological camp that he heads, to elevate Iran's pragmatic camp, and to eliminate the Islamic revolutionary regime - a process which he will prevent. In his view, Iran's future is in reliance on an independent "resistance economy" - and absolutely not on the West and on foreign investments.

Therefore, we assess that Khamenei is unwilling to reach any agreement that conforms to what the U.S. seeks. It will be remembered that in April 2015 at Lausanne, the Iranians categorically refused to sign anything  or even to shake hands with the other side, and that even a positive outcome to the negotiations will not be in the form of an agreement between the sides, but will be transferred to the U.N. Security Council for a resolution.

It appears that Khamenei's view has some basis in reality. The Obama administration is offering all these concessions neither out of naivet├® nor as a conciliatory move per se, but in a realpolitik effort that is manipulative in essence and imperialist in nature, which aims for regime change in Iran not via authentic internal processes but by means of external political manipulation. The ideological camp is also aware of these intentions, and has for several years been preparing to thwart them, particularly following the emergence of the civil protest movement of 2009.[7]

Just as Iran is not letting go of the notion of itself as an empire, it cannot let go of the idea of American policy as an imperialist attempt to manipulate the internal power brokers in Iran, to play kingmaker, and to bring down the regime. This is also why it is suspicious and completely distrustful of the Obama administration; despite all this administration's gestures to Iran, and its submission to Iran's demands, its policy is still perceived as nothing more than part of an imperialist American plot to bring down the current regime. This attitude explains the widespread use of terminology regarding the U.S. that regime spokesmen are unwilling to relinquish - "the Global Arrogance," "the Great Satan," and the slogan "Death to America" that was reiterated by Khamenei most recently on March 21, 2015 in a speech marking Norooz, the Persian New Year, and in response to President Obama's Norooz greetings to the Iranian people (see MEMRI TV Clip No. 4838).[8]

In June 4, 2015 statements at the tomb of Iranian regime founder Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, Khamenei confirmed this position, saying: "Everyone must know that the Arrogance [the U.S.] is still eying our nation because of its geopolitical importance and its wealth. They have not retreated, and  they will retreat only when the Iranian nation finds a particular strength and progress that brings them to despair... The continuation of the use of the defining and practical term 'the Great Satan,' is highly significant. When a certain person or a certain apparatus is defined as Satan, then it is obvious how you should act towards it and how you should feel about it. The Imam [Khomeini] felt this way about America until his final day, calling it 'the Great Satan'... This is the logic of the Imam with regard to the struggle against the Arrogance, and this logic makes it possible for us to understand today's global issues and the proper position for us to take [regarding them]...

"Everyone must know that our enemy [the Americans], with its shifting facial expressions - sometimes glowering, sometimes smiling, sometimes with promises, sometimes with threats - aims to take over the country. The enemy wants to regain the limitless control of Iran [that it once had], and it is against Islam because Islam vigorously opposes its return... The enemy opposes Islam because it knows that Islam's dictates  are like a mighty dam in its path. It opposes the Iranian nation because this nation stands fast against it like a mountain. It will be even more opposed to those in this nation who show greater steadfastness against it... It is even more opposed to revolutionary organizations and institutions, and Hizbullah elements [such as the IRGC, the Basij, etc.], because it knows that they are like a mighty dam that prevents it from infiltrating.

"The enemy seeks control, and all its efforts are geared towards preventing the Iranian regime's Islamic movement, which advances the nation. A senior American statesman said... 'What is important to us is [the regime of] Islamic Iran, because Iran wants to establish a civilization.' [But] he used the wrong term, 'empire.' He said, 'We must see Iran as our most significant enemy.' This statement shows us how important it is to build [our] nation."[9]


Khamenei will continue to obstruct the negotiations, deliberately thwarting representatives of his rival, the pragmatic camp, by insisting on demands that can never be met. Not only that, but he can be expected to prevent the pragmatic camp from implementing the American vision of an agreement - that is, opening Iran to American and Western economic, political, and cultural influences - even if it means using force, which has happened before in the history of the Iranian Revolution.

*A. Savyon is Director of the MEMRI Iranian Media Project; Y. Carmon is President of MEMRI.



[1] On April 2, 2015 President Obama hinted in a statement following the Lausanne declaration about his knowledge that Iran's nuclear program included military dimensions, when he said: "Iran's past efforts to weaponize its program will be addressed.", April 2, 2015.

[2], June 16, 2015.

[4], June 16, 2015. State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke told reporters on June 12, 2015 that there is a possibility that the U.S. would settle for an agreement between Iran and the IAEA on investigation of the PMD that would be implemented in the future. It should be mentioned that during the press briefing, Rathke was asked about Kerry's public statement in April 2015 that the issue of the PMD is a precondition to an agreement, and his current position that the topic would be addressed after an agreement., June 12, 2015. Also see press briefing by State Department spokesman John Kirby on June 19, 2015.

[5] The following day, State Department spokesman John Kirby issued a partial denial and said that there wasn't "any kind of concession or change in the policy. It's just simply not true... The sanctions lifting will only occur as Iran takes the steps agreed, including addressing possible military dimensions." He added: "We've said we're not looking for a confession (from Iran); we've already made judgments about the past", June 16, 2015.

[6] On April 2, 2015 President Obama addressed the Lausanne declaration and said: "This framework would cut off every pathway that Iran could take to develop a nuclear weapon.  Iran will face strict limitations on its program, and Iran has also agreed to the most robust and intrusive inspections and transparency regime ever negotiated for any nuclear program in history.  So this deal is not based on trust, it's based on unprecedented verification... International inspectors will have unprecedented access not only to Iranian nuclear facilities, but to the entire supply chain that supports Iran's nuclear program -- from uranium mills that provide the raw materials, to the centrifuge production and storage facilities that support the program.  If Iran cheats, the world will know it.  If we see something suspicious, we will inspect it.  Iran's past efforts to weaponize its program will be addressed.  With this deal, Iran will face more inspections than any other country in the world.", April 2, 2015. See also April 6, 2015 statements by U.S. deputy national security adviser for strategic communication Ben Rhodes to Israel's Channel 2: Asked directly if the IAEA would have anytime, anywhere access, Rhodes said, ÔÇ£Yes, if we see something that we want to inspect.ÔÇØ ÔÇ£In the first place we will have anytime, anywhere access the nuclear facilities,ÔÇØ he said, referring to ÔÇ£the whole supply chain.ÔÇØ And, he added, ÔÇ£if there is a suspicious site, for instance somewhere in a military base in Iran, and we want to seek access to that, we will be able to go to the IAEA and get that inspection because of the additional protocol of the IAEA that Iran will be joining and some of the additional transparency and inspections measures that are in the deal.ÔÇØ, April 6, 2015. Also, see June 8, 2015 statements by U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken: "[W]e would not agree to a deal unless the IAEA is granted access to whatever Iranian sites are required to verify that Iran's program is exclusively peaceful - period.ÔÇØ, June 8, 2015. Also see U.S. document published following the Lausanne declaration on April 2, 2015: "Iran will be required to grant access to the IAEA to investigate suspicious sites or allegations of a covert enrichment facility, conversion facility, centrifuge production facility, or yellowcake production facility anywhere in the country.", April 2, 2015.

[7] It should be mentioned that contrary to the U.S. administration's claim that its initiative began only after the election of Iranian President Rohani, the pragmatic camp representative, in 2013, the U.S. began secret negotiations with Iran during the era of his predecessor, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

[9] Tasnim (Iran), June 4, 2015.

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