Iran's Chief Nuclear Negotiator 'We Have to Be Constantly on Guard'

The general secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, Saeed Jalili, talks to SPIEGEL about allegations that Israel assassinated nuclear scientists in Tehran, the dangers of waging cyber warfare against Iran's nuclear facilities and the West's false expectations for upcoming negotiations in Istanbul.

AFP

SPIEGEL: Mr. General Secretary, to what extent is Iran threatened by foreign powers?

Jalili: Threatened? Are you serious? Iran is more stable than ever before. We have never been in a better political and economic position in the region. We now have more opportunities than ever.

SPIEGEL: We find this statement very surprising, in light of a number of attacks on Iranian nuclear scientists. Massoud Ali Mohammadi, a physicist, was murdered exactly a year ago. In late November, two bombs, which were meant to kill your nuclear experts Majid Shahriari and Fereidoun Abbasi, exploded almost simultaneously. All of this happened in the middle of Tehran. Hasn't a shadow war against Iran been underway for some time?

Jalili: When the enemy sees no other option, he resorts to the methods of terror. This is not a sign of strength, but of weakness.

SPIEGEL: The fact that such assassinations are even possible mainly reveals one thing, namely that the Iranian security apparatus is no longer capable of protecting the nuclear program's key experts.

Jalili: Terror exists all over the world. Only last year, we managed to destroy a group in the eastern part of the country where, with US support, it had committed bomb attacks with many civilian casualties. Compare that success with the situation of those who, for the last 10 years, have claimed to be fighting terrorism in Afghanistan. They have achieved nothing. We, on the other hand, dealt a serious blow against those enemies who killed our nuclear scientists -- we destroyed a network of Zionist spies.

SPIEGEL: Do you have any proof of this?

Jalili: Yes. We were able to arrest 10 people and we will put them on trial. We possess photos, videos and statements that prove their guilt. We have information about the locations where they were trained. All of this took place within the Zionist regime.

SPIEGEL: Are you claiming that the Israeli intelligence service Mossad recruited Iranians and trained them in Israel?

Jalili: They were trained there for the attacks. They then returned to Iran via a third country to conduct their cowardly operations. We also expect our neighboring countries to be vigilant to prevent this sort of thing. We have turned to international bodies and asked for their support. This state-sponsored terrorism must be condemned. The role of the United Nations Security Council also needs to be examined.

SPIEGEL: What do you mean by that?

Jalili: The UN's sanction lists include the names of many of our leading scientists …

SPIEGEL: … because they hold important positions in Iran's controversial nuclear program and are doing dangerous work …

Jalili: … who later became victims of terrorist attacks. What are these names doing on such lists? Fighting science in this perfidious manner is something from the Dark Ages. We feel that the publication (of these names) is reckless. It is an invitation to terrorists to implement the Security Council's sanctions in their own way, and it strongly reminds me of fascist methods.

SPIEGEL: We don't defend targeted killings, but we also don't understand your comparisons. This has nothing to do with the Dark Ages and fascism!

Jalili: I am taking the liberty of drawing these parallels. It is our experts who were killed. I'm sure that scientists all over the world, including those in Germany, condemn these assassinations of their fellow scientists and share my outrage.

SPIEGEL: Perhaps a few Iranian nuclear scientists don't feel comfortable in their roles, either. Intelligence agencies claim that some of them are prepared to defect to the enemy camp. Both former Deputy Defense Minister Ali-Reza Asgari and the leading nuclear expert Shahram Amiri are believed to have defected.

Jalili: These are propaganda reports by the Western media. If you were right, why are our scientists being terrorized? Asgari was kidnapped. We suspect that he was the victim of a terrorist operation by the Zionist regime. We have heard that he was arrested in Israel and died there. We are paying close attention to the case.

SPIEGEL: Did Amiri also not go to the West voluntarily, in your opinion?

Jalili: He was abducted during a foreign trip and spent one year abroad. Then he returned, and now we are questioning him to find out what happened to him.

SPIEGEL: There have been reports in the international press that Amiri was arrested. If he is a free man, we would like to speak with him.

Jalili: He gave a press conference in Tehran after his return. Instead of interviewing him again, it would be better if you looked into what happened during the year Amiri spent in the United States. And you should also look into a case of terrorism against our country that has its roots in your country.

SPIEGEL: You are referring to an official with the Iranian branch of the Kurdish party PJAK who is living in Cologne?

Jalili: This group kills innocent people in Iran. And this person locates himself in Germany and assumes responsibility for these acts. Why can such people move about freely in your country? I demand that Berlin take action against this man. Or does Germany consider this group's actions to be legitimate? Is terrorism not a crime in Germany?

SPIEGEL: The man hasn't committed any attacks in Germany. If you have evidence against this official, you should present it. If you do, there will certainly be an investigation in Germany, which is a state based on the rule of law.

Jalili: We have presented plenty of evidence. We call upon your judiciary to take our accusations seriously. This is an important touchstone for our relations with Germany.

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