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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Analysis: Confession Time in Iran

Council on Foreign Relations

July 30, 2007
Prepared by: Robert McMahon

Haleh Esfandiari of the Woodrow Wilson Center describes herself as a link in a chain of civil society groups intended to “shake the system” in Iran. Kian Tajbakhsh, an urban planning consultant for the Open Society Institute, talks about his role in creating a “rift between the rulers and the people” in Iran. Academic Ramin Jahanbaglou says straightaway his activities “served the interests of Iran’s enemies.” The three civil society activists were featured in an Iranian TV program on July 18 and 19. Their taped “confessions”—Esfandiari and Tajbakhsh remain held incommunicado—mark a new phase in the Iranian regime’s offensive to weaken internal voices for change and to make a case for a further crackdown on allegedly treasonous behavior.

Though some Iranian moderates criticized the TV broadcasts, authorities expressed satisfaction they had revealed U.S. intentions to overturn the government (RFE/RL). The move against reformists comes amid what the Economist calls a “white” coup. The magazine says Iran’s unelected power centers, like bodies affiliated with the military, are steadily rolling back reforms and reacting against Western influences that have helped make the country’s civil society one of the most robust in the region.

It is also a time of retrenchment against international pressure to suspend Iran’s uranium enrichment, seen in the West as a cover for an atomic weapons program. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on July 25 repeated vows that Iran will never give up pursuit of a nuclear energy program, adding: “Acceptance of Iran’s legal rights is an inevitable end (IRNA)” to Iran’s nuclear case.

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Copyright 2007 by the Council on Foreign Relations. This material is republished on with specific permission from the Reprint and republication queries for this article should be directed to

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