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Interview with Journalist Ken Timmerman on Iran, Gitmo and Middle East

December 6, 2010

In light of this weekend’s latest WikiLeaks document dump of more than 250,000 State Department cables, Accuracy in Media’s exclusive interview with veteran journalist Ken Timmerman couldn’t be more timely. As of last weekend, it is clear that most of the world stands in fear of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons, and for the most part desires that actions be taken to keep the regime from gaining those weapons.

According to ABC News, “Some of the most fascinating documents are about Iran, depicting Arab governments practically begging the United States to prevent the Iranian government from getting nuclear weapons.”

One document quotes Bahrain's King telling Gen. David Petraeus in November 2009 that "That program must be stopped.” It says, "The danger of letting it go on is greater than the danger of stopping it."

In another document, the foreign minister of the United Arab Emirates says, "Ahmadinejad is Hitler.”

The New York Times reported that “secret American intelligence assessments have concluded that Iran has obtained a cache of advanced missiles, based on a Russian design, that are much more powerful than anything Washington has publicly conceded that Tehran has in its arsenal.” It says that “Iran obtained 19 of the missiles from North Korea, according to a cable dated Feb. 24 of this year, and that these missiles for the first time give Iran the capacity to strike at capitals in Western Europe or easily reach Moscow, and American officials warned that their advanced propulsion could speed Iran’s development of intercontinental ballistic missiles.”

If there’s a silver lining in all this, it might be that no one can pretend any more that the threat of Iran acquiring these weapons can be stopped by negotiations, sanctions or even deterrence. There are too many willing, or fearful, accomplices.

Ken Timmerman said that the latest series of United Nations sanctions against Iran are actually having some impact, but that President Obama had stalled the imposition of sanctions for a period of 15 months. The sanctions legislation was introduced by the Democrats in April of 2009, but “the White House put them on the back burner and insisted that they not get passed because they wanted to negotiate with the Iranian regime. I think that was a huge mistake,” said Timmerman. “It allowed the regime to buy time, and allowed them to craft workarounds to the sanctions in advance.” Some of those workarounds have now come to light, thanks to the WikiLeaks documents.

Ken Timmerman is a journalist, author, and contributing editor for Newsmax. His recent books include Shadow Warriors: The Untold Story of Traitors, Saboteurs, and the Party of Surrender, and Countdown to Crisis: The Coming Nuclear Showdown with Iran. In 1998, Timmerman tracked Osama bin Laden and his international terrorist network for Reader’s Digest, and his exposé was published just weeks before the bombings of the two U.S. embassies in Africa. In April 1983, Timmerman was the first U.S. correspondent on the scene when the U.S. embassy in Lebanon was blown up by Islamic militants. Through his Foundation for Democracy in Iran, Timmerman has been working for about 15 years, helping the pro-democracy movement in Iran.

Below, in quotes, are excerpts from the interview. You can listen to the entire interview, or read the transcript here.

“The civilian courts do very well when we’ve got somebody that law enforcement has captured here in the United States—the World Trade Center bombing case in 1993, and the subsequent case of the “Blind Sheikh” that Andy McCarthy tried, from 1994—those worked very well, because it was all handled by law enforcement. But when you have intelligence content, and intelligence information—such as you did in the Ghailani case—that cannot be shared with a civilian court because of sources and methods, clearly, the prosecution could fall down, and it did fall down in this particular case.

“I think that they have been committed, from the very beginning, to closing down Gitmo—as the President said he was going to do—ending the Bush-era military commissions, and trying all of the terrorists there in civilian courts, and it’s only the push-back from Mayor Bloomberg in New York, elected officials in New York, New Yorkers in general, to holding those trials in New York City, that has forced them to reconsider. Logically, rationally, they ought to abandon any effort to try these terrorists in civilian courts, but, given their political orientation, I think they’re going to keep on trying.

“The U.S. government, and the West in general, has little access to the secrets of the Iranian nuclear weapons program. We probably do not have agents in place inside those programs. We know a lot of information from the International Atomic Energy Agency and their inspections in Iran—we know, for example, how much enriched uranium they’re producing in a declared facility in Natanz, but we don’t know what we don’t know. For example, we don’t know if they have other facilities.

“We know, for example, that there were a number of top al-Qaeda officials, including Ayman Zawahiri, who traveled to Iran before the 9/11 attacks, met with very senior officials in the Iranian government and in the Revolutionary Guards, talked about joint terrorist operations—and, specifically, talked about the 9/11 operation. We know that about five months, four months before the attacks, Saad bin Laden the oldest son and heir apparent of Osama bin Laden, went to Iran with a significant entourage, and stayed there. He was, essentially, kept in safekeeping in Iran in the event that bin Laden himself was killed in what everybody expected to be a massive counterstrike after the 9/11 attacks. We know, from the 9/11 Commission, that the Iranian government provided extensive travel facilitation services, passports, money, safe conduits to the 9/11 hijackers. Specifically, the 9/11 Commission says that eight of the ten “muscle” hijackers were traveling through Iran to Afghanistan. They were escorted by a senior Hezbollah operative...

“The U.S. military has told us a great deal about Iran’s involvement with terrorist groups in both Afghanistan and Iraq—the insurgents. They are supplying IEDs and what they call “explosively formed penetrators.” These are, essentially, shaped charges that are able to penetrate tank armor. They’ve been very effective against some of our Humvees, the up-armored Humvees. The Iranians are training the Taliban, the Afghan Taliban, at special camps inside Iran. We learned that a couple of months ago from the United States Treasury...So we know an awful lot about Iran’s involvement on the side of the insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan, and yet they pretend to be playing a positive role in both countries! It’s really quite extraordinary that we let them get away with it.

“I was in Israel in the summer of 2006, reporting for Newsmax on the war there. I was up right along the Lebanese border. The Iranians essentially pulled the trigger on that war July 14, 2006, gave the orders to Hezbollah to attack Israel. Ultimately, the Hezbollah group launched something like 4,000 rockets into Israeli population centers in an effort to kill as many civilians as they possibly could. They hit schools, they hit apartment buildings. I remember, at one point, in Haifa, we went rushing down to the hospital in the center of the city because a rocket had just hit right next to the emergency room. When we got there, it was like the wings of angels had been beating the air, because that rocket could have hit the emergency room. It landed 100 yards away from the emergency room, 50 yards away from a retirement center, and it blew out a palm tree in a traffic circle. It was an act of God, if you wish—the protection of God!

“After the announcement of the Stuxnet worm, there were also a number of unexplained incidents at gas pipelines around Iran. They started blowing up mysteriously. There was a missile site that blew up mysteriously. We don’t know if that was another kind of computer worm or virus or some kind of cyber-attack, and we certainly don’t know who was behind these attacks. Some people are pointing their fingers at Israel. I don’t know if that’s true or not true. If it is true, it would certainly be a novel way for a state such as Israel, which has been singled out by Iran—the Iranian leadership has said they want to “wipe Israel off the map,” they want to carry out a “new Holocaust” against the state of Israel, the Jewish state in the Middle East—it would be a novel way for Israel to respond without using their air force, without dropping bombs, without killing people. They would disable, essentially, pieces of Iran’s nuclear archipelago through peaceful means. I think it’s absolutely brilliant—if it’s true.

“...you have a lot of people at the Pentagon and various think tanks who think we can, indeed, deter the Islamic Republic of Iran. I don’t think so. When you have an ideological regime—a regime that believes that it wins when it sets off a nuclear war because the Twelfth Imam will return and save mankind for Islam—I don’t think you deter a regime that is based on that ideology. Ayatollah Khamenei believes in the Twelfth Imam. Ahmadinejad starts every single speech that he gives with a prayer, a hymn of praise, to the Twelfth Imam. This is something that is very deep. We don’t understand it very well in the United States. Those leaders in Iran do not think the same way that we think. They do not have a cost-benefit analysis, as the Soviet leaders had.

“I don’t read a lot of what you call the “mainstream media,” on Iran or on anything else, because they’re lying fools. I will say there are a couple of good correspondents—I notice Thomas Erdbrink, at The Washington Post, has done some good reporting from Tehran. I respect his reporting. When he’s allowed to report the facts, I think he’s done a good job. But in general, I don’t get my news from those media. I read the Iranian papers. I read the Iranian blogs. I have other people who are reading them for me in Persian.”

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Copyright ©2010 Roger Aronoff

Roger Aronoff is the Editor of Accuracy in Media, and a member of the Citizens’ Commission on Benghazi. He can be contacted at roger.aronoff@aim.org.