The Dark Side

Categories: International

John Radsan, former assistant general counsel to the CIA, discusses Iran

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The timing for John Radsan's lunchtime talk at Solera today was more than a bit awkward. The speech, sponsored by the conservative thinktank the Center of the American Experiment, was billed as a call for America to "go over to the dark side" in its dealings with Iran. But this saber rattling seemed a bit misplaced following the revelation this week that the U.S. now believes Iran suspended its nuclear weapons program in 2003.


Although born in the U.S., Radsan is of Iranian descent. He was formerly president of the Iranian-American Bar Association and a consultant with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's American-Iranian Council. Radsan is also a former federal prosecutor and served as assistant counsel to the CIA from 2002 to 2004. He's now a professor at William Mitchell College of Law.

Despite the recent re-appraisal of Iran's nuclear ambitions, Radsan was unambiguous in characterizing the menace that he believes the Islamic nation poses. "It's been said that Al-Qaeda is our number one threat," he stated at the beginning of the talk. "If we take terrorism to be a problem for our interests, our security, I'm here to tell you that Al-Qaeda is the minor leagues compared to the Islamic republic."

Despite that ominous assessment, Radsan didn't endorse attacking Iran. "We will unify the country by any military action," he noted. And he criticized the Bush administration for lumping the country into the "axis of evil" with Syria and North Korea. "By coming too openly against Iran, we made it difficult for any of the dissidents within that country to work against the regime," he said. "The regime is unpopular, but the regime is firmly in control of the levers of power."

What Radsan proposed instead was a "smorgasbord" of covert operations intended to destabilize and alter the Islamic regime. He suggested ratcheting up propaganda programs, such as newspapers and television programs, aimed at Iraqi citizens. Radsan also argued that the U.S. should increase support for dissident groups within the country, such as Kurds working to create an independent state. In addition, he suggested the U.S. should covertly work to sabotage the Iranian economy. "It can hurt them because the Iranian economy is a state-run economy," he said. "If you go after some government ministries or their central bank, they'll know somebody's messing with them."

Most importantly, in Radsan's view, the U.S. must act with credibility. "If we're going to draw a line, we should all be confident that it's a line that we can hold," he told the audience. "Sometimes its better to do tough things without talking."


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