Almost exactly 20 years ago, on Aug. 14, 2002, Alireza Jafarzadeh, the deputy director of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI)-U.S. held a news conference at Washington, D.C.'s historic Wilard Hotel.
For the first time, details about Iran's clandestine nuclear weapons program were unveiled. Satellite photographs helped provide specific details about the Natanz enrichment site and the secret Arak heavy water production plant in the nation of Iran.
Over the coming months and years, other revelations about the Iranian nuclear program surfaced.
Fast forwarding to Aug. 17 of this year, Jafarzadeh headed another NCRI press conference, again at the Willard.
This meeting was moderated by Newsmax Sr. White House Correspondent James Rosen, and featured Dr. Olli Heinonen, senior adviser on science and nonproliferation at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and former IAEA deputy director-general; Fmr. National Security Adviser John Bolton, Fmr.-Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., Fmr-Amb. Robert Joseph; and Gen. (ret.) Chuck Wald.
Following introductory remarks by Jafarzadeh recalling the 2002 blockbuster presentation, Mr. Rosen asked panel members what the response to the NCRI's revelations had been 20 years ago.
Each panelist, recalling their own respective positions at the Departments of Defense and State as well as at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), remembered that the NCRI revelations about the Iranian nuclear weapons program had left them stunned.
Joe Lieberman described them as "jarring" and "riveting."
Everyone acknowledged that, though there was an understanding that the Iranian regime was working on a nuclear program, the specificity about sites at Natanz and Arak, discovered by the NCRI and its MEK (Mujahedeen-e Khalq) network inside Iran, went beyond what they had known at the time.
Fmr. United Nations Ambassador John Bolton spoke next about the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), or "Iran Nuclear Deal," which he characterized as a "huge strategic mistake," primarily because it allowed the Iranian regime to continue its program of uranium enrichment.
Understanding that Tehran has always been determined to achieve a deliverable nuclear weapon since Ayatollah Khomeini first ordered his Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) to "get the bomb" in 1988, Bolton noted that "time is always on the side of the proliferator."
The many concessions offered to the Iranian regime by the Obama administration during initial negotiations and by the Biden team in recent efforts to resuscitate the agreement "take a bad deal and make it worse," the ambassador added.
Fmr. United States Special Envoy for Nuclear Nonproliferation Robert Joseph agreed.
He pointed out, that as long as the current regime remains in power in Iran, its quest for deliverable nuclear weapons will continue.
He added that decoupling diplomatic efforts from credible threat of military action, as has been the policy of both the Obama and Biden administrations, only demonstrates "indecision and weakness" which embolden the Iranian regime.
Gen. Wald followed up on this point by noting that the U.S. "absolutely" has the capability to successfully attack Iranian nuclear facilities, potentially settng the program back by years; no matter how deeply it's buried below ground.
In agreement with Fmr. Amb. Joseph, he emphasized that the U.S. must use that threat of military action as leverage to make any progress on the diplomatic track.
Responding to a question from James Rosen, Fmr.- Sen. Lieberman echoed the core policy of the NCRI, which is that this is not a question of engagement versus isolation, but rather an understanding that only regime change will ensure that this Tehran regime will never be able to deploy a deliverable nuclear weapon.
Lieberman pointed out that the ongoing effort by Iran to assassinate senior U.S. officials, including Fmr. Amb. John Bolton, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and others, in fact is an act of war and must be treated that way.
That act of war can't just be dismissed as just a way to get the JCPOA revived.
Alireza Jafarzadeh emphasized that the NCRI does not call for providing weapons, or funding, or boots on the ground to the internal Iranian opposition movement.
The most important contribution the U.S. and others that support the struggle of the Iranian people to be free of this oppressive regime can provide, he said, is political in nature. U.S. leadership must call out and condemn the Tehran regime for its human rights abuses and horrific treatment of the Iranian people, especially when they are protesting peacefully for their rights.
In conclusion, Gen. Wald listed four key policy steps that would strengthen the Iranian people's opposition to their tyrannical regime: keep the IRGC on the Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTO) list, put discussion of ballistic missiles back on the negotiating table, ensure the military option remains a credible one, and continue to strengthen U.S. relationships with Mideast partners.
The Iranian regime has become ever more brazen in openly declaring its intention to "get the bomb," even as it attempts to pressure and deceive the P-5 +1 negotiators in Vienna. It is time to take them at their word and take the steps necessary to prevent an outcome that would threaten both regional and world security.