Last week Iranian President Hassan Rouhani appointed former defense minister Ali Shamkhani as head of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council. Not surprisingly, the move was greeted with media applause – but absolutely no scrutiny.
Indeed, the Christian Science Monitor’s Scott Peterson declared “something good is happening,” Reuters called the move “a further sign of a shift towards relative moderation,” and “Iran Primer” called him a “centrist.”
Now the facts: Shamkhani served as defense minister between 1997-2003, a critical period in Tehran’s efforts to clandestinely advance its nuclear program; most of this time pre-dates the 2002 exposure of the program and the subsequent international crisis. A close reading of the 2007 NIE report and the IAEA’s November 2011 comprehensive review annex clearly indicates that Shamkhani played a central role in these activities.
Among the IAEA findings, readers might find particularly interesting references to the “AMAD Plan” dealing with nuclear weaponization, which was moved forward under the auspices of Shamkhani’s Defense Ministry (annex page 5/clause 19 through to page 8/clause 37; diagram on annex page 5; and annex Attachment 1). Proliferation experts consider this period the “golden age” of Iran’s weaponization efforts.
Shamkhani is no dove. In an article from 2002, he is quoted as saying Iran would continue a missile program the US State Department had “serious concerns” about “in order to promote the power and precision of the Shahab-3 missile,” after the medium-range ballistic missile was successfully tested for the fourth time. Furthermore, Shamkhani – who rose to prominence in the IRGC, where he fostered long-standing ties to Rouhani’s new defense minister Hossein Dehghan– called for development of longer-range Shahab-4 and Shahab-5 missiles.
This is the real Shamkhani, not the media-fantasy version. Rouhani’s new/old Iran includes those who surround him.