Why Tehran Fears the Iraqization of Iran on Nuclear Inspections

The reactor building at the Russian-built Bushehr nuclear power plant in southern Iran, 1200 Kms south of Tehran, where Iran
The reactor building at the Russian-built Bushehr nuclear power plant in southern Iran, 1200 Kms south of Tehran, where Iran has began unloading fuel into the reactor core for the nuclear power plant on October 26, 2010, a move which brings the facility closer to generating electricity after decades of delay. AFP PHOTO/MEHR NEWS/MAJID ASGARIPOUR (Photo credit should read MAJID ASGARIPOUR/AFP/Getty Images)

Across the board in Iran -- from Ayatollah Khamenei to the Revolutionary Guard -- there is support for completing the Lausanne Accord if it means (a) sanctions will be lifted and (b) there is certainty that any inspections are not a ruse for eventual military action against Iran.

The latter issue is not clearly understood in the West, where it is seen as an attempt to hide activity that would subvert any nuclear agreement. But, for Iran, the history of the region gives reasonable pause.

Iranian leaders are deeply concerned about the IAEA inspection regime, and are afraid that Iran will meet the same fate as Iraq's, right before its invasion in 2003, when the agency demanded inspecting even Saddam Hussein's palaces. The IAEA searched everywhere and found no evidence of a nuclear program, yet Iraq was invaded.

Ayatollah Khamenei and the military leaders believe that, beginning with the day after signing the final agreement, Israel and the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq will surely declare every single military site as "suspect," claiming that the Islamic Republic is secretly trying to make nuclear bombs there. If Iran does not allow inspecting the "suspect" sites, Israel and MEK will declare victory, and if Iran does allow the inspection, the agency may eventually demand to inspect even Khamenei's bedroom.

Khamenei and the military commanders are also thinking about possible successors to President Obama. Suppose, for the sake of argument, that the president will be succeeded by someone in George W. Bush's mold. Some of the current Republican legislators have advocated bombing Iran's nuclear infrastructure. Obama's successor will be under tremendous pressure by his own party, Israel, and its lobby in the United States to repeat the Iraqi scenario with Iran. It is this aspect that worries Khamenei and his military leaders. He has said repeatedly that Libya gave up its nuclear program, helped the United States in its confrontation with terrorism, and yet it was attacked by NATO and the United States.

President Obama has indicated his flexibility on the issue of lifting sanctions by exploring ways to reimpose them in short order if any agreement is breached. That will reassure the West and the other powers who have signed on to the Lausanne Accord.

Similarly, Iran will have to be assured that any inspection regime is transparent enough to show it is keeping its side of the bargain, but credible enough that it cannot be used as an excuse for military action down the road.

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