US Missile Systems, Not Iran’s Missile Program, Destabilizing Region: US Author

TEHRAN (Tasnim) – Marsha Freeman, from the Executive Intelligence Review, said what has destabilized the “strategic situation” in the region is the US stationing of anti-ballistic missile (ABM) systems in Europe and on warships patrolling Russia’s borders, not Iran’s missile program.

“I am not aware of the focus of the Europeans on Iran's missile program, beyond the long-standing accusation that it is a potential threat to Europe. What has destabilized the strategic situation in the region has been the deployment of US anti-ballistic missile batteries in Eastern Europe, on the Russian border, in the name of protection against a strike from Iran…,” Marsha Freeman told the Tasnim News Agency in an interview.

Marsha Freeman was born in New York City and was educated at Queens College and Columbia University. She is the author of hundreds of articles on the US space program and has been published in Fusion Magazine, Executive Intelligence Review, 21st Century Science & Technology, Acta Astronautica, Space World, New Federalist newspaper, Science Books & Films, Space Governance Journal, The World & I, Quest, The Encyclopedia of the Midwest, and many other periodicals. In 1993 she authored the acclaimed book “How We Got to the Moon: The Story of the German Space Pioneers” and then in 2000 she authored “Challenges of Human Space Exploration.” She has been a witness before the United States Congress at hearings on science, energy, space, and transportation budgets and policies.

Following is the full text of the interview.

Tasnim:  According to a report carried recently by the New York Times, Britain, France and Germany are trying to create a “successor deal” to the 2015 nuclear agreement between Tehran and world powers. The proposed instructions stipulate that the Europeans agree to three key fixes: “a commitment to renegotiate limits on missile testing by Iran; an assurance that inspectors have unfettered access to Iranian military bases; and an extension of the deal’s expiration dates to prevent Iran from resuming the production of nuclear fuel long after the current restrictions expire in 2030.” What’s your take on this?

Freeman: In general, the maneuvering that is going on around the Iran nuclear agreement is part of larger strategic policies in the Middle East.

The Europeans are trying to be a buffer between Iran and the United States, and find ways, on the one hand, to remove the threat by President Trump to renege on the agreement if there are not changes, and on the other hand, the insistence by Iran, supported by Russia and China, that the treaty cannot be renegotiated. The three stipulations that the United States has put on the table, according to the New York Times article, are not all appropriate to the nuclear agreement. If Iran's missile tests are an area of concern, they should be discussed with Iran, not be used to hold the nuclear agreement hostage, or subject Iran to unilateral sanctions. Under the existing agreement, there is not to be missiles that can carry nuclear weapons. If Iran is not developing nuclear weapons, which the IAEA verifies, there should not be a “missile” issue. If there is concern about missiles for other reasons than to carry nuclear weapons, new talks should be initiated, separate from the existing agreement.

Tasnim: It seems that the Europeans are most comfortable with enforcing new limits on Iran’s missile program. What do you think?

Freeman: I am not aware of the focus of the Europeans on Iran's missile program, beyond the long-standing accusation that it is a potential threat to Europe. What has destabilized the strategic situation in the region has been the deployment of US anti-ballistic missile batteries in Eastern Europe, on the Russian border, in the name of protection against a strike from Iran. In fact, on the practical level, these land-based anti-missile systems are ineffective, and have failed in 50% of their tests. But these installations are a threat to Russia's nuclear deterrent, and that is a real danger.

Tasnim: European diplomats say they worry that Trump’s scorn for the deal runs so deep that he would find other reasons to pull out. What would happen if Trump pulls out? How should Iran react?

Freeman: Although it is the President of the United States who makes the final policy determination, especially on foreign policy, there are differences of opinion, analysis, and advice within the Trump Administration. The cited New York Times article reports that three times, the President's Defense Secretary, National Security Adviser, and Secretary of State advised him not to abrogate the nuclear agreement. One group outside of the Administration with influence, is the Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS), which is an association of former top US intelligence officers. In a Memorandum released Feb. 26, they warn the President not to be taken in by the claim that Iran is “the world's top sponsor of terrorism,” and get drawn into a military conflict with Iran, which is being provoked by Israel and Saudi Arabia, from their common interest of regime change in Iran.

Tasnim: In the shadow of the Iran deal, reports suggest that the Trump administration is opening talks with Saudi Arabia on a potentially lucrative atomic energy agreement. The Saudis have reportedly indicated they might accept curbs on their future nuclear program only if a separate nuclear deal with Iran is tightened. What is your idea about a nuclear Saudi Arabia?

Freeman: Saudi Arabia is attempting to hold a commercial nuclear energy deal with the US hostage to US policy toward Iran. They are counting on the Trump Administration's willingness to put in jeopardy the Iran nuclear deal, with the promise of jobs to manufacture Saudi nuclear reactors, for a dying US nuclear industry. It is being claimed that if the US does not accede to the demand to allow them to do uranium enrichment and reprocessing of spent fuel, the Saudis can go to Russia or China for the nuclear reactors. It is asserted that this would be a nonproliferation concern, because Russia and China would not place restrictions on the technology. In fact, that is not the case. In non-nuclear states, Russia provides the fuel, and repatriates the spent fuel. Russia's success at exporting nuclear plants comes from its offer of advantageous financing, not violation of nonproliferation regulations. The complexity of a Saudi nuclear plan is a question broader than its relationship with Iran, and should be discussed with the nations that collectively would be affected by it, and with the nations that could supply the reactors and technology.

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