Sanctions on Iran are 'a fantasy'

Revolutionary Guard defector dismisses West's efforts.

By HILARY LEILA KRIEGER
July 11, 2010 02:15
4 minute read.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad 311. (photo credit: AP)

WASHINGTON – An Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps defector who once spied for the CIA sharply criticized US efforts to end Teheran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons Friday as ineffective, dismissing sanctions as a “fantasy” and engagement with Teheran as a betrayal by the West.

“Reza Kahlili,” a pseudonym used to protect his family and contacts, warned that a nuclear weapon in the hands of the current “messianic” regime would be used to bomb “Israel, European capitals and the Persian Gulf region at the same time.”

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He called for the West to impose a total diplomatic embargo on Iran to have any hope of preventing such a scenario by means other than war.

“Sanctions is a fantasy, it’s an illusion,” Kahlili declared in a rare public appearance at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “Stop dreaming, please.

There’s not going to be a change of behavior.

You’re not dealing with rational people.”

He suggested that European and other nations cut all diplomatic ties, shipping lines and airspace access and otherwise quarantine the country. He predicted this would cause anxiety among Iranian leaders and persuade many to “jump ship,” and after that “this government will be overthrown very fast.”

Kahlili blamed the West for missing an opportunity for regime change during last year’s flawed presidential elections, in which hundreds of thousands of protesters took to the streets but were ultimately suppressed by the use of brutal force, much of it at the hands of an emboldened Revolutionary Guards.

“The West failed in carrying out their duties of supporting strongly and vocally the aspirations of the Iranian people. They failed in that and let them down,” he charged.

“Every time you do negotiate, every time you send a letter, you provide an extended hand, you call Iran the Islamic Republic of Iran, you send flowers, you send chocolate, you send tapes, you invite them to parties – this is how you betray your principles,” he continued. “This is how you give them legitimacy. You have to call it out. Call out evil. Call it out and say, ‘This is wrong, we’re not going to stand for it.

We will support freedom.’” Kahlili said that there was enough antipathy toward the regime from the general Iranian public, however, that even an attack by Israel would be welcomed so long as it was aimed at the regime itself and its overthrow.

“It doesn’t matter who did the attack.

Everyone will be clapping, saying, ‘At least somebody’s got the guts,’” he claimed.

He described most Iranians as not having “any resentment” against Israel, and caring very little about the Palestinians – in contrast to the Revolutionary Guards for which hatred of Israel was a driving cause.

He spoke of the general population’s frustration when “they see the revenues that should have been directed to their well-being given to terrorists.”

He also noted that many Iranians get their information from Israel Radio’s Persian service. “They trust the radio of Israel more than the BBC and definitely more than the Voice of America.”

Israel and Iran had a close alliance as two major non-Arab powers in the Middle East prior to the Islamic Revolution in 1979.

Kahlili was a student in America in the 1970s and came back to Iran hopeful that the revolution would mean democracy and freedom for his people.

He joined the Revolutionary Guards after his best friend recruited him, but quickly became disillusioned after witnessing rapes, murders and torture at the hands of the Guards, a key component of Iran’s state military force and its extensive furtive business and technology networks.

At that point, he contacted the CIA to help them gain information on the regime. He said he didn’t ever receive “any magical watch or a pen or a car that James Bond has” but was trained in using codes to communicate with his American handlers.

“I was most shocked by the lack of understanding about what was going on in Iran and their willingness to negotiate with the people who were dangerous not only to the Iranian people but also to the world,” said Kahlili, who recalled successive efforts at covert engagement with Iran from his time as a spy in the 1980s.

Though he no longer works for the CIA, having left the Guards and moved to the US years ago, Kahlili still travels with bodyguards and appears only in disguise.

On Friday, he wore a facemask, sunglasses and a baseball cape to hid his features and spoke through a voice distorter.

He said he did not want to put his family and contacts still in Iran at risk, through which he still provides tips to the US government when he comes across them.

At the same time, he expressed deep disillusionment with the US since after his years of service, the regime in Iran still stood.

“It didn’t accomplish what I had hoped,” he said.


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