Philip Giraldi is a former CIA officer whose activates majorly focus on counterespionage. Girladi has a record of 19 years of service outside the US and worked in Germany, Italy and Turkey. He is currently the Executive Director of the Council for the National Interest, which is a non-profit, non-partisan organization in the United States that works for “Middle East policies that serve the American national interest”. In an interview with Mr. Giraldi and given his background and relations he maintains with the CIA, a number of questions were asked and responded to on the nuclear case of Iran and Shahram Amiri, a nuclear scientist executed after being accused of spying, which you may read below.
AVA Diplomatic’s Exclusive Interview with Philip Giraldi,
A Former Central Intelligence Agency Officer and Counterterrorism Expert
Interview by Mohammadreza Nazari
On the anniversary of achieving the JCPOA, President Rouhani pointed out that the accord has kicked away the possibility of military attacks against Iran. How absolute do you think a military assault by the US or Israel against Iran was?
It is now clear that Israel was very close to attacking Iran in 2014-5 both to draw the United States into a war and to disrupt the nuclear negotiations. The United States had no plans to attack Iran as long as the talks were continuing and I doubt if carrying out a military attack was ever seriously considered because Washington was still suffering from the bad results that came out of the invasion of Iraq in 2003. President Obama has proven willing to use military force in limited situations but he has been reluctant to enter into any new open ended conflict.
US officials said at times that reaching the JCPOA prohibited Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, whereas you have mentioned in your interviews over the years that there was no evidence indicative of Iran’s building a nuclear weapon. How much are the claims of the US political officials based on their intelligence sources?
Since the National Intelligence Estimate of 2007 no White House has actually claimed that Iran was building a nuclear weapon but there have been suspicions that there might be a secret program that had escaped detection. Nevertheless, the intelligence community has been solid in its belief that there has been no that that would equate to a weapons program since 2003 or even earlier. Politicians do not always pay attention to what the intelligence is telling them, however, and many conservative congressmen prefer to believe that Iran is intending to build a nuclear weapon someday. There is, however, no evidence of that.
Following the passing of the JCPOA, we saw harsh statements from Netanyahu against Iran. Why have his polemics lessened over the last year?
Netanyahu now realizes that he can do nothing against the agreement until a new U.S. president arrives in January, so he is quiet for the moment. But you can assume that he will pressure the next administration to punish Iran over its ballistic missile program and regarding other issues. He will also produce fake intelligence suggesting that Iran is cheating. At the moment he is also much preoccupied with dealing with Palestinian issues, but you can count on his returning to Iran before too long.
Given that you had contacted the agents involved in Mr. Amiri’s case, how much of a key role do you believe he had in Iran’s nuclear activities?
He was a minor figure, a technician, but the U.S. intelligence believed that he corroborated other information that suggested that Iran had no nuclear weapon program.
Do you have any information about how Shahram Amiri cooperated with the intelligence services of Saudi Arabia or the US?
He traveled to Saudi Arabia and made contact with the Saudis and also the U.S. He had apparently tried to contact the U.S. prior to that, possibly in Turkey. He volunteered his services in exchange for money but then became disenchanted with his life in America and wanted to return home. It is not unusual that volunteers of intelligence information do that.
Some believe the info Shahram Amiri had helped the imposition of the 2010 sanctions by the UN Security Council against Iran. What is your take on this?
I have not heard that and I do not believe it is plausible. I have heard that he helped make the case that Iran did not have a weapons program.
Was the reason of Shahram Amiri’s return to Iran his change of heart or the continuation of his spying activity inside Iran? Was it possible for him to have been a double agent?
He definitely had a change of heart and then pretended that he had been kidnapped and had not cooperated with the U.S. That was not true. The U.S. did try to get him to help other Iranian nuclear scientists to defect to the West. There was no possibility that he would be able to spy after his return as he would be watched closely. He was not a double agent.
Did you ever face a similar case (like Amiri) when you worked for the CIA?
No, not personally. But there were several well-known Russian cases including Yuri Nosenko who defected and then tried to return home. As I noted, it is not that unusual.
In an interview, you stated that some Iranian scientists and engineers work for the intelligence services of the US or Saudi Arabia. Was that your speculation or there was evidence to it?
I am assuming that there is high probability that Iranian scientists would be approached when they travel to places like Dubai or Turkey. Some of them might have decided to cooperate but I do not know if any in fact did so. If they did so, it would be a top secret operation protected by the Saudis, Turks and the U.S.
There are lots of speculations about the premeditated assassinations of Iran’s former ambassador to Lebanon and some Iranian officials in the 2015 Mina Stampede by security services of Saudi Arabia and Israel. How seriously should such hunches be taken?
You have to take them seriously but I haven’t seen any convincing evidences that the Saudi and/or Israeli services were involved.
What is Saudi Arabia’s Intelligence Service seeking out of supporting the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (Mojahedin-e-Khalq)?
MEK provides access to inside Iran to carry out operations and collect intelligence. They are used extensively by Israel and to a lesser extent by Saudi Arabia and the United States. I believe that using organizations like MEK are counter-productive as they are mostly pursuing their own agendas. MEK has provided in the past information on Iranian nuclear developments that has turned out to be false, for example.
In the past, you had mentioned that Israel is after instigating Kurds in Turkey, Syria and Iran. Is Israel still following the same thing now?
Yes. Israel wants to weaken all of the its neighbors by having them break down into their various ethnic groups. It is its policy as outlined in the Yalon Plan and in the Clean Break document.
Why has destroying the IS taken so long if the superpowers can make it happen?
Because the major powers cannot agree and also because they have been obstructed by Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, all of whom have supported the terrorist groups at different times. I believe that it any event IS is now defeated and Mosul and Raqqa will soon fall. IS will then move to other areas where it still has a presence, including North Africa.
Has Turkey shifted its approach toward the IS after the foiled coup d’état?
Yes, it is now blaming IS for recent attacks but do not trust the Turks on this. They continue to view the Kurds as their main enemy and will collaborate with IS whenever necessary to attack the Kurds. They are using the excuse of attacking IS right now to serve as cover for an attack on the Kurds.
What is your analysis on the hidden aspects of the coup in Turkey? (Was that a real coup?)
It was a real coup but the Turkish government knew it was coming and had decided to benefit from it politically. When the plotters learned that they were about to be arrested they moved up the timing which complicated the government response but they had no chance of succeeding. The coup is now being exploited by Erdogan to eliminate all his political opponents. He had lists prepared in advance indicating who would be arrested, demonstrating that he was prepared to take advantage of the situation.
Is it possible for Iran and the US to have intelligence cooperation in fighting the IS in Iraq and Syria?
It is not only possible it is desirable but domestic politics in the United States driven by the Israel and Saudi lobbies will not allow that to happen.
Whose election in the upcoming presidential race in the US can be more advantageous for Israel’s national security doctrine and Netanyahu?
Hillary Clinton without a doubt. She has already indicated that she will work side by side with Netanyahu and will enhance the U.S.-Israel security relationship. Trump has said that he wants no more wars in the Middle East or nation building of Middle Eastern countries.