Up to a point, intimidating unarmed civilans is like taking candy from a baby...until enraged kids grow bigger and Big Daddy more feeble. Using the same sort of intimidation on well-armed foreigners is foolhardy.
Politically and strategically Obama cannot afford to play "Chamberlain at Munich" now or he would encourage further threats down the road. Khamenei's threats also send an unintended message, "An oil boycott would kill us." The world must call Sayyed's bluff. In that case, he will have only two choices--Bad and Worse.
The Bad Choice: Enjoy the boycott while taking no military action to counter it
An oil boycott is trouble considering Khamenei's present problems ( the currency crisis, other economic grievances, deep popular disgust with the regime's police state crimes). If his bluff is called and he backs down, the regime will be weakened and jeered at both home and abroad. Under this scenario, the Islamic Republic of Iran may or may not survive a while longer though not indefinitely.
The Worse Choice: Respond with a "Pearl Harbor" and Hope for a Better Outcome
Likely consequences: Certain war with the USA andWestern Europe, Iran's unconditonal surrender as the only peace terms available having started things, alienation of China and India, a total shutoff of Iranian and Iraqi gulf shipments and finally, the complete removal of the regime and all influential elements, especially IRCG generals, Basilj officers and Hebollah thugs followed by trials for crimes at home and abroad.
Any military response, once begun, will not stop halfway and leave the regime intact. Western forces will leave ground action to the Iranian people, offer protection to a newly formed resistance government and concentrate on eliminating security forces and officials, air defense, armor, artillery,
aircraft (fixed wing and copters), military bases and HQs, etc.
Under any scenario, I don't see ground forces involved other than special forces and advisors. In that case, I think Iranians are more likely to take the oportunity to remove the hated mullah occupiers than rally around them. I suspect most rank-and-file forces would defect for a number of reasons--a shared hatred of the regime, a disgust with being ordered by scumbag officers to kill the Good Guys (friends, family neighbors), being on the winning side rather than suffering air attacks for obvious losers.
WOULD IRANIANS SEIZE A HEAVEN-SENT OPPORTUNITY TO GET RID OF A HATED REGIME QUICKLY
During World War II Joseph Stalin's appeal to nationalism worked only once Nazi plans for a
Greater Germany in which Slavs were suited only for animal labor" became
clear. Originally many people welcomed the Germans as liberators. In the above scenario the regime will surely ask Iranians
to rally around it. They must ask themselves two questions. First, "Are we not
already occupied by brutal rulers, much like the French in World War II?" Secondly, "Suppose we rallied around the regime and it survived. Wouldn't we be far worse off than we are now?" I'd expect a major purge of trained resistance fighters afterwards, just as Stalin did after WW II.
A ruler who created death squads will no more allow democratization, human rights or civilized justice than a ruler who created gulags. Nor will Khamenei go without force in one form or another. For the average Iranian, eliminating the IRI as a result of the above scenario beats the near certain alternative, civil war. Unlike Egyptians, Iranians would not face the problem of powerful security force generals who, having switched sides, are willing to commit the same old crimes in order to retain their economic and political power. A civil war would surely last longer and inflict far more casualties and property damage, especially on the Good Guys. Expect Khamenei tol intentionally target civilian and their homes since intimidation has always been standard procedure for his regime. By contrast, outside air forces will seek to avoid such casualties to the extent possible in war though it cannot succeed entirely.
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