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Jerusalem Peace & Security Forum

Jerusalem Peace & Security Forum: Iran after the 2013 Election—Military Implications

Jerusalem, Israel - The Jerusalem Peace and Security Forum continued its discussion of Iran on Sept. 30, 2013 from the previous month’s meeting. The forum met at the Impact-SE Institute at the Hebrew University on the same day that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. President Barack Obama were meeting in the White House and just four days after Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani addressed the UN General Assembly in New York.

The discussion focused on Iran's diplomatic, military and strategic capabilities and in particular on its efforts to produce nuclear weapons.

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Dr. Eldad Pardo, an Iran expert and the head of research at the Impact-SE Institute, hosted the forum. He opened the discussion by explaining that in the last century Iran never invaded other nations, but sometimes was invaded. Nevertheless, Iran has been involved in terror activities since the revolution in 1979 through two main terror organizations: Hezbollah and Hamas. Iran assured the continuation of the 17-year war in Lebanon and was involved in the chemical weapon area in Syria, he said.

Dr. Ephraim Kam, a specialist in Middle East security problems and strategic intelligence and a senior research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University, described a phone call between President Rouhani and President Obama as historic, coming after 34 years of disconnection between the two nations. The general atmosphere has become easier, which will enable negotiation and compromises in the future, Dr. Kam said. "The Western sanctions are a heavy burden on Iran, and Iran's situation in the international arena is weak," he said. President Rouhani has the power of attorney from Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei to pursue an agreement with the Americans.

"The Iranians want to remove the Western sanctions and continue developing their nuclear weapons," Dr. Kam said. "The Americans want to block Iran's ability to create nuclear weapons and thereby keep Israel from a military action." He mentioned Iran’s underground uranium enrichment facility in Fordow, which the Americans want opened for inspections, and predicted that eventually Iran will be willing to allow inspections in return for the removal of sanctions.

Lt. Col. (ret.) Michael Segall, a senior Iran analyst with the Terrogence Company, gave his opinion that Iran will not give up its nuclear weapon development, even at the cost of enduring Western sanctions. Regarding the relationship between Iran and Israel, he said he sees Iran’s involvement in Syria as a sign that Iran will not hesitate to activate Hezbollah and Hamas against Israel. Hezbollah, as an Iranian organization, would respond if Iran were attacked. "Hezbollah and Hamas are the powerful arm that Iran is using to demonstrate its strength around the world," Col. Segall said.

Mr. Alex Grinberg, a research fellow at the Institute for Policy and Strategy at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya, said, "Indeed, Rouhani received the power of attorney to negotiate, yet we don't know what their goals of negotiations are, and we don't know what they would agree to give up." The same uncertainty applies to the United States, he said: It is not known if it will negotiate only on the issue of nuclear weapons, or on other issues including Israel. Regarding sanctions against Iran, Mr. Grinberg said, "It is quite clear that without [Iran] giving some meaningful commitments in return, the Americans would not remove the sanctions."

List of participants:

Professor Eliezer Glaubach, president of the Jerusalem Peace and Security Forum

Dr. Galia Pres-Bar Natan,senior professor, Department of International Relations, Hebrew University

Mr. Yossi Nesher, head of the Arab desk at The Voice of Israel, Israel’s national radio station

Mr. Ran Segev, head of the National Security Doctrine Division in the Israeli Ministry of Strategic Affairs

Dr. Itzhak Gerberg, director, Southern Africa department in the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Dr. Shelley Elkayam, poet and religious researcher

Mrs. Miri Kamar, secretary general, UPF Israel

Mrs. Adi Sasaki, director of the Jerusalem Peace and Security Forum

Dr. Nurit Hirschfeld, director of the Jerusalem Interfaith Dialogue

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