Repercussions far and wide

Attacking Iran is not the answer


Repercussions far and wide
by Karim Sadjadpour

As Israel contemplates military action to halt Iran's nuclear ambitions, it is essential to take a closer look at Iran's most powerful man - Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei - and his views toward the Jewish state. A clearer understanding of the precise challenge Iran poses should disabuse Israeli leaders of the idea that force is the best way to neutralize it.

Although Khamenei was an underwhelming compromise choice to be succeed Ayatollah Khomeini when he died in 1989, a confluence of factors has made him more confident and powerful now than ever. Externally, these include soaring oil prices, together with Iranian leverage in Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine. Internally, the country's most important institutions - the Revolutionary Guards, Guardian Council, presidency and parliament - are currently led by individuals who were either directly appointed by Khamenei or are unfailingly obsequious to him.

A careful study of Khamenei's writing and speeches may offer the most accurate reflection of Iranian domestic and foreign policy aims and actions over the past two decades. They depict a resolute leader with a remarkably consistent and coherent - though highly cynical and conspiratorial - worldview. Whether he is addressing foreign policy, agriculture or education, Khamenei rarely misses an opportunity to invoke the professed virtues of the 1979 revolution - justice, independence, self-sufficiency and Islam - and express his disdain for the ambitions of "global arrogance," the United States.

The issue that has featured most prominently in Khamenei's political discourse, however, is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He has long expressed an obsessive contempt for the Jewish state, articulating a two-pronged policy of armed resistance as the prelude to a political solution.

In explaining Iran's support for militant groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah, Khamenei reasons that, "The Zionists have not pulled out of even a single square meter of occupied territories as a result of negotiations and will never do so in the future." At the same time, however, he has made an effort to qualify President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's belligerent statements, stating consistently that Tehran's goal is not Israel's military destruction, but its dissolution via a "popular referendum."

Speaking to a group of Muslim clerics two years ago, Khamenei explained that, "We believe that neither throwing the Jews into the sea nor putting the Palestinian land on fire is logical and reasonable. We have suggested that all native Palestinians, whether they are Muslims, Christians or Jews, be allowed to take part in a general referendum before the eyes of the world and decide on a Palestinian government. Any government that is the result of this referendum will be a legitimate government."

While Israeli leaders are unlikely to feel reassured knowing that Iran doesn't want to bomb Israel, only referendum it out of existence, this assessment of Khamenei's strategy should compel Israeli officials to question the efficacy of the oft-mentioned military option.

Plainly put, a military attack on Iran - whether carried out by the U.S. or by Israel - would augment, not diminish, the threat posed by Tehran. For one, it would only enhance Iran's reputation as the Muslim world's lone, brave, anti-imperialist nation, which defies both the Great Satan and its little brother. Ahmadinejad's popularity would soar to even greater heights on the Arab street, increasing the likelihood that such groups as Hamas and Hezbollah would grow more powerful.

What's more, an attack would likely aid Iran's moribund economy. When Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz vowed last June to attack Iran, oil prices skyrocketed $11 in one day, the annual equivalent of $10 billion in additional revenue to Iranian coffers. This allows Iran the luxury to continue pouring money into a costly nuclear program and putting ideological interests ahead of national ones.

But the greatest repercussions of an Israeli attack would be its effect on Iran domestically. At the political level, a military attack would rehabilitate and entrench Tehran's most radical elements - such as Ahmadinejad - for years to come. Using the pretext of a national security emergency, debate and dissent would be crushed. While at the moment Iran's nuclear ambitions are ambiguous, in the wake of a military offensive, Tehran's hardliners may well make plain their need for a nuclear weapon deterrent.

Repercussions would also be felt on a popular level. Until now, there has been no inherent reason for Iranians to pay much attention to the government's focus on the Israeli- Palestinian conflict. Iran has no borders with Israel, no Palestinian refugee problem, a long history of contentious relations with the Arab world, and the largest Jewish community in the Middle East outside of Israel.

An Israeli attack would create a popular enmity toward the Jewish state that 29 years of Iranian government propaganda have failed to achieve. Even among the country's liberal elite, national pride will likely trump contempt for the government. Ahmad Batebi, a prominent student leader who recently escaped to the U.S. after spending most of the last decade imprisoned and tortured in Iran, declared that in the event of a military attack on Iran, he might well return to defend his country.

Ultimately, Israel's underlying problem with Iran is not its nuclear ambitions, but the nature of the Iranian regime. As long as the political status quo remains in Tehran, Israel will never be able to trust Iranian intentions, even if there is a nuclear agreement. For this reason, while Israel should do everything in its power to check Iran's nuclear ambitions peacefully, Israeli leaders should simultaneously champion U.S. and international policies that best expedite peaceful political reform in Tehran. While this may not provide a quick fix to the nuclear conundrum, by enhancing Iran's oil revenue, entrenching its most radical forces, alienating its population, and strengthening its regional support, an Israeli strike on Iran will only ensure that the Iranian government, and the Iranian people, will remain enemies of the Jewish state for years to come.

Karim Sadjadpour is an associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and director of its Iran Initiative. This article first appeared in



Oscar Agha

by Fatollah (not verified) on

'If they ever back up their pathetic threats with some kind of action they would running back to their bases in the PERSIAN gulf after a couple of weeks. '

Yes, they would, but after killing some 1 or 5 million Iranians ... Talks is cheap my friend!!!

by the way, nice picture of Samad B. :)



by sickofiri (not verified) on

shadooneh: Are you palestinian?? When did God give the deed to those lands to Palestinians???Palestinians should fight their own war with Israel and leave Iran and Iranians alone.

We are sick of both of you.


NHD, Barbra Streisand's role in "Yentl

by Faribors Maleknasri M.D. (not verified) on

Yentl was anice film. I am not sure if i would like to see the film with president Ahmadinejad. For me is the president a too natural and strait forward man to be able to play an artificial role. Now just a qestion: is it üpossible that the president plays that role AFTER Israel ....? Anyway Yentl was a realy nice Film. Greeting



by oscar on

If america ever built up the courage to invade iran i am sure they would be slaughtered by us.

Don't get me wrong i don't wish for us to go to war with them but if we did the odds would be in our favor and not theirs. In the last few years America has gone to war with Iraq ( a failed state with basically no military) and Afghanistan (the most bbackward country on earth). In both countries they have been routed by a bunch of terrorists armed only with Kalashnikovs. Israel couldn't even beat tiny Lebanon in 2006. Just imagine if they tried to invade Iran. The largest country in the region, the best military in the region, the largest population in the region, mountains in the north, dessert in the south and terrorist cells all over the world.

If they ever back up their pathetic threats with some kind of action they would running back to their bases in the PERSIAN gulf after a couple of weeks. 


There is no such thing such

by Kourosh Shahidi (not verified) on

There is no such thing such as peace loving nature when it comes to Israel or USA. These are terrorist countries. They havent attacked yet because they are afraid to.

Its simple as that.

hopefully well see a future without terror from the regime in israel and usa.

Iran should do everyting to strengthen the army further.

Kourosh Shahidi

AmirAshkan Pishroo

Strong political analyst

by AmirAshkan Pishroo on

Karim Sadjadpour is a strong political analyst, making us see things from a new angle.

Convinced or not, this is what political analysis ought to be doing, extending the range of imaginable political scenarios.


With "friends" like Sadjadpour who needs enemies?!

by Shadooneh (not verified) on

He seems to be begging the Zionistias in Israel and the US not to attack Iran, but bankrupt and starve the Iranians instead. Does anyone doubt what he REALLY means by "Israeli leaders should simultaneously champion U.S. and international policies that best expedite peaceful political reform in Tehran"? Why should Iran care whether the leaders of the Zionist state "trust Iranian intentions"? What have they done to build trust with anyone since they came, terrorized and started grabbing people's homes and their land claiming god was their real estate agent who gave them the deeds to those lands? Mr. Sadjadpour seems to be telling the Zionistas to go ahead and screw the Iranians but do it gently. This author's real harmful intentions towards Iran are revealed more by advising the Zionistas not to attack Iran because "This allows Iran the luxury to continue pouring money into a costly nuclear program and putting ideological interests ahead of national ones."! It is really rich for this character to talk about being illogical! Mr. Sadjadpour comes across as a closet war monger and a deceitful talking head? Is that what the Iran Initiative all about? Some of us still remember the song with a line that said, "killing me softly...". Now THAT's an initiative that we can all live with.


this is a ..

by Parthian on

This is a very well reasoned, and written article.


Israel and U.S. are too peace-loving to attack Iran

by Born elsewhere, raised in USA (not verified) on

To the Pahlavists, Rajavists, and other Iranians--what do you think has prevented the U.S. and/or Israel from attacking Iran (so far, at least)? Is it the peace-loving nature of the U.S. and Israeli governments or is it something else? I'm interested to hear Iranians' views.


americans, get lost!!

by Kourosh Shahidi (not verified) on

first the coup d etat against mossadegh, then the damned "revolution" and now a war?

i can imagine another 50 years of hatred against the bloody americans.

but again a war against iran is impossible. usa cant even do a shit in afghanistan.

israel can perhaps bomb a few targets, but then what?


I agree

by cyclicforward on

Attack on Iran is the wrong thing to do both in human terms and political but one point should not be forgotten, Mullahs are after the bomb and they won't rest until it happens. Faribors, stop promoting your IRI masters. Nobody is buying your nonsense on this website. I just hate the IRI people.


Repercussions far and wide, Attacking Iran is not the answer

by Faribors Maleknasri M.D. (not verified) on

I assum it is meant: not the APROPRIATE answer. Of course it is not. The West aims to bully nations seeking nuclear technology by creating obstacles to Iran's civilian nuclear program. these barking and grunting creatures do see that they will soon have lost their monopoly concerning Nuk-technology. And loosing this small part of the market is painfull for any capitalist. since 1978/79 they are loosing permanently by food supply, medical care and in a big number of technical know-how. One can be sure that the once greate satan lays now in his death bed snapping his last air drops. In addition to its loosing on parts of market it is suffering from its own jealoussy ove rso many achievements that the honorable Iranian nation has achieved in the last 30 years. Greeting

Kaveh Nouraee


by Kaveh Nouraee on

as in Not Happenin' Dude.

The rhetoric surrounding this mythical Israeli attack on Iran has served no useful purpose whatsoever.

Ahmadinejad will play Barbra Streisand's role in "Yentl" before Israel would attack Iran.