Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Next Chairman of the Assembly of Experts

With the recent death of Ayatollah Mahdavi Kani following a a several month long coma, a new chairman of the Assembly of Experts will be chosen soon. The Islamic Republic is still undergoing what Matthew Wells called a 'Thermidor', and fighting between Iranian political factions continues. At such a pivotal time, with remaining questions over the health of the Supreme Leader, the chairmanship is increasingly important and all the factions will want the position to go to someone who will promote their agenda.

Acting Chairman Ayatollah Shahroudi is a possibility for the position, along with former Chairman, Chairman of the Majles, and President of Iran, Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani. For years there have been poor relations between Rafsanjani and his family and conservative elements of the Islamic Republic, and a return as chairman of the Assembly of Experts is probably too much to hope for for Rafsanjani. Shahroudi is more likely, but it would not surprise me if someone else entirely gets selected.

The Chairmanship of the Assembly of Experts is more than symbolically important, and at this critical time, the decision is an important one.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

ISIS wants Iran's 'Nuclear Secrets'?

Yesterday The Sunday Times published a report indicating that the 'Islamic State' intends to obtain Iran's nuclear secrets, among other bizarre, ambitious and unrealistic schemes. The nuclear one is most interesting for a variety of reasons.

It appears as though this point was either misunderstood by the reporters, or the Islamic State has no idea how nuclear technology works. If the Islamic State wants Iran's 'nuclear secrets' are they referring to nuclear reactors and enrichment, or are they referring to secrets about nuclear weaponry? The report claims that the Islamic State wants nuclear weapons, but no one believes that Iran actually has nuclear weapons, and most do not even believe that Iran has the requisite technologies developed to make a nuclear weapon if they wished to.

So what are the 'nuclear secrets' the Islamic State desires? I cannot imagine it, but do they wish to build a nuclear reactor or enrichment facility? Does the Islamic State have intelligence that Iran has completed experiments such as those alleged to have occurred at Parchin, and that the information relating to these experiments is still accessible? How would they know of these experiments? Is their intelligence on Iran's nuclear research superior to that of the Israelis, Americans, British, Australian etc?

Additionally, IF Iran has in fact conducted these experiments AND the Islamic State somehow knows about them, does ISIS actually plan on making a nuclear weapon? Why would they want to make a more complicated device requiring more time, expense, material and expertise when a dirty bomb would suffice? Do they even have nuclear scientists that could make a proper nuclear weapon?

Disappointingly, the reporters did not examine these claims critically, noting the problems with the logic, nor clarifying some important points. It is not the responsibility of the terrorists to write something logical. It is however the responsibility of reporters to note when something is illogical, or problematic in some way; especially when it is a 'scoop' of this magnitude. Because the reporters and editors were not careful, this story has become much more of a story than it should be.