June 2, 2009

Why Tehran Seems to Be Inflexible?

The inflexible position of Iran’s government regarding the nuclear crisis has raised a simple question: doesn’t Ahmadinejad’s team really fear the reaction of the international community?

The inflexible position of Iran’s government regarding the nuclear crisis has raised a simple question: doesn’t Ahmadinejad’s team really fear the reaction of the international community?


Hossein Bastani

Why Tehran Seems to Be Inflexible?

The inflexible position of Iran’s government regarding the nuclear crisis has raised a simple question: doesn’t Ahmadinejad’s team really fear the reaction of the international community?

To reply to this question, one can refer to the comments and documents published by the Iranian neo-cons, the hard-liners who run Ahmadinejad’s government. According to numerous analyses published by military and security experts close to the Ahmadinejad administration, it appears that the uncompromising attitude of the Iranian neo-cons in the current nuclear crisis is linked to their understanding of the concept of “deterrence”. The hard-line strategists claim that the various pressures that the US and its allies apply to Iran over the nuclear issue, coupled with their ban on the export of advanced technology to Iran and the efforts to limit Iranian armed allies in the region, serve only one purpose – to prevent Iran from acquiring an effective deterrent capability to thwart a partial or full-scale military attack against it. These strategists constantly talk of the lessons of the “Iraq experience”. By that they mean the decades-old US policy of arms control in Iraq, leading to a situation where Iraq was deprived of any effective capability to withstand a US attack. And finally, when the Bush administration was convinced that Iraq had nothing to defend itself with, the US attacked Iraq and rooted out its already-contained military.
Iranian military and security strategists point out that exactly the same goals that were pursued in Iraq are now being pursued in Iran. They contend that even if Iran engaged at the highest level with Western countries to cooperate and to resolve their concerns about its nuclear programme, this would only speed up the alleviation of the Americans’ concerns about the possible costs of an attack on Iran. As soon as these concerns are addressed, the planning and execution of limited or full-scale military operations (depending on the choice of the battle strategy, ranging from the Iraqi model to the Yugoslavian one) will begin with the purpose of toppling the Islamic regime in Iran. They point out that regardless of the level and depth of Iran’s cooperation with the international community on its nuclear programme, the excuses or justifications to commence military operations can be similar to those used in Iraq. So, they believe that Iran must pursue the goal of achieving “real deterrence”, without getting distracted by cooperation with international organisations or Western governments.
Ahmadinejad’s outrageous and repeated comments about the Palestinian and Israeli issues are based on this deterrence concept. In other words, these comments and statements should be interpreted as a tactic to prepare the region for a possible confrontation with the US threat. One should not forget that in the Islamic world and the Middle East, in particular, the Palestinian cause is still a very powerful tool for the mobilisation of public opinion. This is precisely what Saddam Hussein thought when he launched missile attacks on Israel, while Iraq itself was under attack by the US.
So, when Ahmadinejad, as a spokesperson for the Iranian neo-cons, speaks in a confrontational manner on the Palestinian and Israeli issues, one reaches the obvious conclusion that this group believes – for unknown reasons – that it will soon need to mobilise and to utilise public opinion in the Islamic world to defend itself. From their perspective, the high price that he and others have paid for making such comments on these hot issues must be justified because they strongly believe in the probability of a military confrontation with the US, during which the Iranian government would need the support and backing of the Muslim community in the region.
One must not forget that Iran’s neo-con military planners regard their strategy of “asymmetrical defence” or “security without borders” as the foundation of Iran’s defence against a possible US attack. Iranian military strategists have repeatedly said that if the US attacked Iran, it would be the Islamic Republic of Iran that would decide where the decisive theatre of operations would be. The meaning of these explicit threats, which have been made by different officials in Tehran, is that if the US attacks Iran, the Iranian forces will fight the invaders not only inside the country, but also in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Palestine, the Persian Gulf countries (some of which have US military bases) and in other countries as well. Iranian hardliners believe that the Islamic Republic has some leverage because of the potential American “hostages”, who would come under threat, if the US attacked Iran. These hostages are American troops in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Persian Gulf region and, of course, Israel. In addition to Iran’s potential and active allies in the region and beyond, the instruments of inflicting damage on these hostages are Iran’s external military and security forces.
This strategy does not highlight the costs of a military confrontation with the US, but it assumes that the laying of a solid ideological foundation for retaliation by pro-Iranian groups and forces in the region – and in the world – can play an important role as a deterrent in any partial or full-scale military attack on Iran.
And despite the fact that the above strategies pose a danger to the national interests of Iran itself, they must be accepted as practical realities and be used in the assessment of the strategic balance in the region.

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