Christian Leaders Write to President Obama
and Congress on Iranian Repression and Nukes

Ahmadinejad

AP Exclusive: Iran prez said pushing for nukes

By George Jahn, The Associated Press, July 22, 2011

VIENNA — Iran's president wants to shed the nation's secrecy and forge ahead openly with developing nuclear weapons but is opposed by the clerical leadership, which is worried about international reaction to such a move, says an intelligence assessment shared with The Associated Press.

That view, from a nation with traditionally reliable intelligence from the region, cannot be confirmed and contrasts with assessments by other countries that view Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as relatively moderate on the nuclear issue compared to the country's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Attempts to interpret Iran's goals are important because as it expands uranium enrichment, it is moving closer to being able to make a nuclear weapon by the day, even as it asserts that it is not interested in such arms and its programs are geared only to making reactor fuel.

A U.S. official cited one assessment he has seen suggesting Ahmadinejad may be more "moderate" — more open to talks with the international community on resolving nuclear concerns than Khamenei. He asked for anonymity because his information was privileged.

But a blunt comment by Ahmadinejad last month raises questions. While repeating that Iran does not want nuclear arms, he openly reinforced its ability to make them, telling Iranian state TV that "if we want to make a bomb, we are not afraid of anybody."

That defiant statement fits the scenario laid down by the intelligence assessment shared with the AP, depicting Ahmadinejad as wanting to move publicly to develop a nuclear program.

Ahmadinejad is pushing "to shake free of the restraints Iran has imposed upon itself, and openly push forward to create a nuclear bomb," says the assessment shared with the AP. But Khamenei, whose word is final on nuclear and other issues, "wants to progress using secret channels, due to concern about a severe response from the West," says the report.

The varying views reflect the difficulties that intelligence agencies face when probing a secretive nation that plays its cards close to its chest. Lines of division are murky. Alliances shift and positions change, leaving governments and private analysts frustrated as they try to nail down Tehran's nuclear end game.

They converge, however in noting that recent political divisions between Ahmadinejad and Khamenei have spilled over to encompass Iran's nuclear activities to a greater degree than before.

While much about Iran's nuclear program is opaque, the growing capacity — if not the intention — to make weapons is on the record, captured in International Atomic Energy Agency reports documenting the expansion of Iran's enrichment program from its clandestine beginnings more than a decade ago to one that has produced enough material for more than two nuclear bombs.

More recently Iran has begun enriching to higher levels that would lessen the time needed to make weapons-grade material. And its stonewalling of an IAEA probe based on U.S. and other intelligence of secret work on components of a nuclear weapons program is adding to concerns raised by Tehran's refusal to freeze enrichment despite U.N. sanctions.

Intelligence reports of tensions between Ahmadinejad and the ruling clerics are in line with other signs showing Ahmadinejad at odds with Khamenei with less than two-years to go into his presidency.

In recent months, Ahmadinejad apparently fired — and was forced by Khamenei to reinstate — his interior minister in what some analysts see as a rebuffed attempt by the president to eliminate rivals to candidates he would like to see in positions of power, once his second and last term ends in 2013. That prompted an outburst of public criticism and led rivals in parliament to start proceedings that could in the most extreme case lead to impeachment.

Reports of disagreement on nuclear issues predate that dispute, but some officials from member nations of the Vienna-based IAEA see tensions over the future of the nuclear program sharpening.

Proliferation expert David Albright of the Institute for Science and International Security says his briefings from European government officials who have seen the latest U.S. intelligence assessment on the Islamic Republic seem to support the assessment shared with the AP that Khamenei is worried about how the world would react to a nuclear-armed Iran.

"There is a lot of caution in the regime about the implication of building nuclear weapons," says Albright. Asked whether Ahmadinejad or Khamenei have been the most circumspect, he says "the implication is that it was the Supreme Leader."

The leadership is "worried about starting a nuclear weapons race and worried about the international impact," said Albright, naming reactions from regional powers Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Turkey as that of greatest concern to Tehran. Both Egypt and the Saudis have indicated that they would contemplate acquiring nuclear weapons if Iran had them.

One theory voiced by government officials and private analysts is that Iran might be looking to reach the level just short of making nuclear weapons — but able to do so quickly if it feels threatened. That would fit in with Khamenei's reported cautious stance.

In any case, Ahmadinejad seems to be further weakened by the dispute. That leaves the Revolutionary Guard — the military-industrial powerhouse that is increasingly asserting itself in most aspects of Iran's society — as a beneficiary says the intelligence assessment.

"Khamenei has decided to transfer engagement with the most sensitive parts of the nuclear program, including activity that can be used for nuclear weapons, from ... the group of scientists at the Defense Ministry, who are identified with Ahmadinejad, to a special body in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corp.," it says. "This, due to the increasing lack of trust the Leader has in people in sensitive positions, who are identified with the President."

The summary interprets the apparent decision to give the guard greater say over nuclear issues as a boost to its quest "to establish its status as a leading power force in the regime."

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George Jahn can be contacted under http://twitter.com/georgejahn

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Bradley Klapper in Washington contributed.

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Read Original Article on Yahoo! News


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 7, 2011

Contact: Audrey Mullen
Phone: 703-548-1160
Email: Audrey@advocacyink.com

Leaders Representing 25 Million Americans Send Letters to
World Leaders Regarding Iran’s Nuclear Weapons Program
and United Nations Actions on a Palestinian State

Washington, D.C. - A coalition of Christian leaders representing 25 million Americans of faith sent letters to President Obama, Congress, and foreign Ambassadors and Heads of State, requesting that they take the immediate steps necessary to keep Iran from repressing its citizens, developing nuclear weapons and supporting terrorism through its proxies.

The letter comes as an Iranian man, Youcef Nadarkhani, is facing the death penalty if he refuses to recant his Christian faith.  The U.S. State Department issued a release calling on the Iranian government “to respect the fundamental rights of all its citizens and uphold its international commitments to protect them.”

“While Iran’s leaders hypocritically claim to promote tolerance, they continue to detain, imprison, harass, and abuse those who simply wish to worship the faith of their choosing,” the statement included.

The leaders further detailed the threats posed to Middle East security by Iran’s alignment with terrorists such as Hamas, Hezbollah and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, as well of the dangers of unilateral actions by the Palestinians which will harden extremists on both sides and only make peace between Israel and the Palestinians harder to achieve.

Christian Leaders for a Nuclear Free Iran detailed their concerns in a letter to Ambassadors and to the White House and Congress that reads, in part:

While continuing to develop nuclear weapons, support terrorism and repress its own people, the Iranians are also backing the brutal suppression of pro-democracy forces in Syria and backing a unilateral declaration of independence of Palestine at the United Nations as a way to sabotage real negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

Indeed, without the threat of active nuclear weapons Iran has already expanded its hegemony through its active support of Hamas. The recent agreement between Iran-backed Hamas and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas means that Israel no longer has a true partner for peace and that Iranian influence threatens to extend into the West Bank.  Iran already has immense power in Lebanon through its Hezbollah allies which now dominate the government. The Muslim Brotherhood may soon take a share of power in Egypt. Control of the West Bank by Islamic extremist fundamentalists would complete the encirclement of Israel and put major sites of importance to Christians and Christianity at risk.

We ask you to act now, for the sake of security, regional stability and hopes of an eventual Middle East peace, by using all the diplomatic means at your disposal to pursue security and peace.  We urge you to work with our allies to isolate Iran and to persuade the Palestinians to reject terrorism, respect previous agreements and recognize Israel’s right to exist as a nation state of the Jewish people. We know America will stand with us at the United Nations this September - but we cannot be alone.  Thus, as American Christian leaders we urge you to uphold these principles and to reach out to America’s friends
Christian Leaders for a Nuclear-Free Iran is an ad-hoc coalition of evangelical, Roman Catholic and other faith leaders who have come together as a united voice that is reaching out to policy makers and opinion leaders calling for urgent action to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.  The coalition argues that Iran’s nuclear weapons program will destabilize the Middle East, lead to an arms race in a volatile part of the world, and threaten the United States and its allies in Europe.

--

The signers of the letter include the following Christian leaders:

 Dr. Richard Land, President of Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, Southern Baptist Convention
Dr. Richard G. Lee, President, There’s Hope America
John C. Hagee, Senior Pastor, Cornerstone Church, San Antonio, Texas
Dr. James Merritt, Senior Pastor, Cross Pointe Church
Dr. Mark A. Smith, President, Ohio Christian University
Elmer F. Hansen, Jr., Director, Catholic Leadership Conference
Dr. Jim Garlow, Chairman, Renewing American Leadership
Jordan Sekulow, Director of International Operations at American Center for Law and Justice
Paul F. Crouch, Jr., Chief of Staff, TBN
Deal Hudson, President, Catholic Advocate, Washington, DC
Mathew Staver, Founder and Chairman, Liberty Counsel
C. Preston Noell, III, President of Tradition, Family, Property, Inc.
Gary J. Palmer, President, Alabama Policy Institute
Benny Tate, Senior Pastor, Rock Springs Church
William Donohue, PhD., President and CEO, Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights
Jerry Newcombe, D. Min., Christian author/TV producer
James Robison, President and Founder, Life Outreach International
Jim Martin, Chairman, 60 Plus Association
Barrett Duke, PhD., Vice President for Public Policy and Research, Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention
Dr. Jack Graham, Pastor, Prestonwood Baptist Church
Troy A. Miller, President, COO, National Religious Broadcast Network, Inc.
Colin Hanna, President, Let Freedom Ring
Dr. Robert E. Reccord, President, Total Life Impact Ministries
Tony Perkins, President, Family Research Council
Dr. Rusty Hayes, Pastor, First Free Church, Rockford, Illinois
Anthony Verdugo, Founder and Executive Director of Christian Family Coalition
Gary Bauer, President, American Values
Garry Poole, Author and Minister, Willow Creek Community Church
Micah Clark, Executive Director, American Family Association of Indiana
Rev. Louis Sheldon, Chairman, Traditional Values Coalition
Michael D. Little, President and Chief Operating Officer, Christian Broadcasting Network
Penny Nance, CEO, Concerned Women for America
Jay Dennis, Author and Senior Pastor of Church at the Mall


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