70 percent of Israelis say they will stay even if Iran gets the bomb

November 30, 2006

* Iranian government paper: Great war to wipe out Israel coming
* Tehran Times claims the Mossad killed Pierre Gemayel
* Iran continues to rearm Hizbullah
* Russia defends missile sale to Iran
* Iran forms suicide army
* Ha’aretz: Arafat agreed to house secret Iranian base inside PA



1. 70 percent of Israelis will stay even if Iran gets the bomb
2. Israelis prepare nuclear bunkers
3. Iranian paper: Great war to wipe out Israel coming
4. Ahmadinejad: Israel will soon disappear
5. Iran displays “defensive strength”
6. Iran ready to equip other states to fight the “Zionist regime”
7. Six Arab countries developing nuclear programs
8. India carries out successful missile defense capability test
9. Russia defends missile sale to Iran
10. Iran to cover its entire airspace with aerial warfare facilities
11. Iran forms suicide army
12. Arafat agreed to house secret Iranian base inside PA
13. Tehran Times: The Mossad killed Pierre Gemayel
14. Ahmadinejad: Iran will stand by its “brother” Iraq
15. U.S. claims Hizbullah is training Iraqi Shi’ite fighters
16. Time magazine: Iran & Syria rearming Hizbullah
17. Iran also funding “Jihad reconstruction” in Lebanon
18. “Mere possession of such a device would have devastating consequences”
19. “Bomb Iran” (Los Angeles Times, Nov. 19, 2006)
20. “Iran despises weakness” (By Henry Kissinger, Sunday Times, Nov. 19, 2006)
21. “Awaiting the Iranian messiah” (Yediot Ahronot, Nov. 12, 2006)

[Note by Tom Gross]

This dispatch, the second of two on Iran, deals with military-related issues. The first dispatch, which concerned human rights abuses and related matters and was titled “Girl With a Pearl Earring” and “Da Vinci code” banned in Iran. Is Google next? can be read here.


According to a poll carried out for the Israeli newspaper Ma’ariv this week, 70 percent of Israelis questioned said that even if Iran attains nuclear capability they would not leave the country under any circumstances. 20 percent of those asked said they would consider leaving but that they would probably stay.

Of those polled, 44 percent said they thought Israel alone could stop the Iranian nuclear plans with force whilst 66 percent felt that if Iran gets the bomb it will use it in order to try and destroy Israel.

The following questions were also answered as follows:

* If it turns out that all the international diplomatic efforts fail, should Israel attack the Iranian nuclear facilities even alone and without international support?
Yes: 49 % No: 46 %

* Should Israel attack Iran even if it expects an Iranian response that will cost dearly in losses, and the resulting postponement in the Iranian nuclear program will be for only a short period?
Attack 45% Don’t 49%

* Do you count on the USA and on the Europeans to succeed in stopping the nuclear program of Iran by peaceful means and via UN Security Council resolutions?
Yes 24% No 75%

* To what extent can each of the following people best handle the Iranian threat (graded 1 to 10): Netanyahu 6.1, Lieberman 5.8, Barak 4.5, Olmert 4.3, Peretz 3


A number of wealthy Israelis are preparing underground nuclear shelters for their homes. The shelters, which cost at least $100,000, comprise bedrooms, kitchens and bathrooms built to withstand radioactive fallout. They include fortified walls and doors and generate their own electricity and non-contaminated air.

Shari Arison, Israel’s richest woman, has already built two sophisticated underground structures, one in her home in Tel Aviv, the other at her vacation house in Bnei Zion village.

A nuclear shelter is also being constructed at a reported cost of $500 million in the Jerusalem Hills for use by the Israeli war cabinet in the event of a nuclear emergency.


To celebrate “Quds” day, an Iranian “holiday” calling for the “liberation” of Jerusalem and the destruction of Israel, a number of Iranian newspapers urged Muslims around the world to prepare for a “great war.”

The conservative newspaper Keyhan declared that “Hizbullah destroyed at least half of Israel in the Lebanon war... Now only half the path (to its destruction) remains… it is likely that in the next battle, the second half will also collapse.”

In an editorial titled “Preparations for the Great War” the Resalat newspaper declared that “The great war is ahead of us, (and will break out) perhaps tomorrow, or in another few days, or in a few months, or even in a few years... Israel must collapse.”

The editorial continued: “For the first time in the 60 years of its disgraceful life, the Zionist regime – the West’s beloved in the Middle East – tasted the taste of defeat, and the citizens of this regime trembled at the menace of Hizbullah’s missiles… The nation of Muslims must prepare for the great war, so as to completely wipe out the Zionist regime, and remove this cancerous growth. Like the Imam (Ayatollah) Khomeini said: ‘Israel must collapse.’”


Perhaps because Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad threatens Israel so often, his words are often ignored by much of the mainstream western media. In a recent council meeting with Iranian ministers, Ahmadinejad declared Israel was destined to “disappearance and destruction.”

Ironically, Iran has complained to the UN over “repeated Israeli threats.” Iran’s ambassador to the UN, Javad Zarif, said the threats were “matters of extreme gravity” and they should “cease and desist immediately from the threat of the use of force against members of the United Nations.”

Ahmadinejad infamously threatened last year to “wipe Israel off the map,” for more see Israel receives surprisingly strong international support over Ahmadinejad comments (Nov. 1, 2005).


If and when it acquires nuclear weapons, Iran is also expected to threaten its Arab neighbors in the Gulf. In maneuvers dubbed “The Greatest Prophet,” Iran earlier this month displayed its “defensive strength” through drills in the Gulf and Sea of Oman.

Iran’s main state television channel reported that “Dozens of missiles were fired, including Shahab 2 and Shahab 3 missiles. The missiles had ranges from 300 km (190 miles) up to 2,000 km (1,240 miles).”

According to some military sources, the most successful part of the war games was the first test-fire of the Shahab 3 with a cluster of tens of small bomblets. State TV said the cluster warheads could carry 1,400 bombs. This new addition may have been purchased from China. The Shahab 3 has a maximum range of 2,000 km, making them capable of hitting Israel, U.S. military bases in the Gulf as well as Turkey.

Other reports have suggested that Teheran is developing a new solid-state fuel ballistic missile with a range of approximately 2,000 km. By using solid-state fuel, missiles can be launched quicker with relatively shorter exposure to air attack whilst being launched.


During “The Greatest Prophet” maneuvers, Yahya Rahim Safavi, the commander-in-chief of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, said on Iranian TV, “We are able to give our missile systems to friendly and neighboring countries” for use in battle with the “Zionist regime” of Israel. His comments were thought to be directly aimed at Lebanon.

The Iranian Ambassador to Lebanon, Mohammad-Reza Sheybani, told the Lebanese military commander General Michel Nuhad Sulayman that Iran is ready to equip the Lebanese army with advanced aerial defense.

In spite of this, Robert Gates, the former CIA director who has taken over as U.S. defense secretary from Donald Rumsfeld, retains a reputation for appeasing the Iranian regime. In a 100-page report for the Council on Foreign Relations, entitled Iran: Time for a New Approach, written in 2004, he argued that isolating Teheran was “manifestly harmful to Washington’s interests.”

Iran’s most powerful leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, called U.S. President George W. Bush’s defeat in the congressional elections an “obvious victory” for the Iranian nation.


A recent assessment by U.S. intelligence suggests Iran is well on the way to acquiring nuclear weapons. Partly in reaction to this, at least six Arab countries are developing domestic nuclear power programs. Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Morocco and Algeria have all shown interest in developing nuclear power primarily for water desalination. The United Arab Emirates and Tunisia have also shown interest in nuclear power, but their plans are at an infant stage according to the Middle East Economic Digest.

After Iran, Egypt’s nuclear program is the Arab world’s most advanced, followed by Algeria.


On Iran’s eastern flank, there is also alarm at Teheran’s ambitions. According to Indian media, India on Monday successfully tested two surface-to-surface nuclear-capable Prithvi missiles against each other from separate military ranges on its eastern coast to evaluate their air defense capability.

The “Prithvi” (meaning “earth” in Hindi) missile is India’s first indigenously built ballistic missile. They will provide air defense cover for India’s nuclear installations as well as cities including New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai.


Russia has begun delivering the Tor-M1 air defense missile systems to Iran despite U.S. criticism of the arms deal. Moscow refused to cancel the $700 million contract that was signed last December. The rockets are to be deployed around Iranian nuclear sites including the still incomplete, Russian-built atomic power station at Bushehr.

The Russian defense minister, Sergei Ivanov, defended the sale of the missiles, claiming “I wish to underline that these systems cannot be used in offensive operations.”

Earlier this month, Russia said it would not back a draft U.N. sanctions resolution against Iran.


The Iranian Arabic-language daily al-Vefagh reported yesterday that at the opening of the Third Persian Gulf Aerial Exhibition, Nour Allah Rezaee Nyaraki, the head of the Civil Aviation Organization, announced that Iran plans to cover its entire airspace with radar systems and aerial warfare facilities.

He added that prior to the Islamic revolution in Iran only 18 organizations were involved in this project, but currently there are 148 organizations working on securing the skies above Iran.

The information from al-Vefagh has been specially translated for this email list/website and can be read in full in Arabic here.


Iranian officials have said that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps has recruited thousands of people and trained them for suicide missions. According to officials the recruits were taught how to blow themselves up in front of oncoming enemy tanks and how to cross minefields.

Gen. Yahya Safavi, an Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps commander said “The Revolutionary Guards does not only depend on its technological might because it has thousands of martyrdom seekers and they are ready for martyrdom-seeking operations on a large scale.”

In a television interview Safavi called the suicide troops “trained professionals.”


Yossi Melman, who is Ha’aretz’s correspondent specializing in intelligence matters (and is also a long-time subscriber to this email list) reported yesterday in Ha’aretz that Iran and the Palestinian Authority (which was then headed by Yasser Arafat) reached a secret agreement in 2002 to establish Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps bases in the West Bank and Gaza in exchange for military aid to the Palestinian Authority.

As part of the deal, Iran supplied the PA with 50 tons of military equipment, which was intercepted by the Israel Defense Forces on the ship “Karine A” in 2002.

The former Israeli defense minister, Shaul Mofaz, told Ha’aretz that he believes that as a result of this affair and the revelation of the budding relationship between Arafat and Iran, U.S. President George Bush changed his attitude and began working towards the removal of Arafat from the Palestinian leadership.

In fact, Arafat has long enjoyed a close relationship with the Mullahs. See for example these photos of Arafat and the Ayatollah Khomeini.


Continuing in the recent Iranian government tradition of blaming Israel and /or the Jews for everything, the Tehran Times has accused Israel of carrying out the assassination of the anti-Syrian Lebanese cabinet minister, Pierre Gemayel. Hassan Hanizadeh, in an opinion column, claimed that the “Mossad hit” was “meant to spark civil war in Lebanon.”

Hanizadeh says that the assassination was an attempt by “the United States and the Zionist regime… to destabilize Lebanon.” (Here is the English-language version.)

Gemayel’s murder was in fact almost certainly the work of Syria, as acknowledged by virtually everyone in Lebanon – but not by some BBC correspondents who have in recent days treated anti-Israeli conspiracy theories as if they might be true.

This email list/website previously documented the absurd claims that Israel killed Lebanon’s former prime minister, Rafik Hariri. For more, see “Israel killed Hariri”: Latest Arab and Iranian conspiracy theory (Feb. 15, 2005).

Separately, according to the Italian daily La Repubblica, the Mossad have in recent days been assisting Italian and Vatican security and intelligence sources in Turkey to help secure the Pope’s four-day visit to Turkey.


During Iraqi President Jalal Talabani’s visit to Iran on Monday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad promised to do “whatever he could to help provide security in Iraq.”

According to the Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA), Ahmadinejad said “The Iranian nation and government will definitely stand beside their brother, Iraq, and any help the government and nation of Iran can give to strengthen security in Iraq will be given.”

Talabani, commented that “Iraq needs the comprehensive assistance of Iran to fight terrorism and create stability.”

With James Baker’s help, Iran is seeking to take de facto control over large parts of Iraq.

The two neighbors fought an eight-year war in the 1980s that left over a million dead.


The Bush administration has alleged that Hizbullah is training fighters for Moktada Al-Sadr’s “Mahdi Army” militia in Iraq. According to the New York Times, as many as 2,000 Iraqi Shia have undergone training in Lebanon by Hizbullah with the co-operation of Syrian officials. A smaller number of Hizbullah commanders are in Iraq to help with the training of Shia death squads and bomb-making crews there.

The intelligence official who spoke to the New York Times said Iran had facilitated the link between Hizbullah and the Shia militias in Iraq. The American intelligence on Hizbullah was based on human sources, electronic means and interviews with detainees captured in Iraq, according to the Times.

A commander in the Mahdi army has also claimed that during last summer’s war between Israel and Hizbullah, 300 of its troops fought alongside Hizbullah.

Gen. Michael V. Hayden, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, told Congress this month that “the Iranian hand is stoking violence” in Iraq.


Time magazine reports (Nov. 24, 2006 edition) that Iran is smuggling weapons through Syria in a major attempt to rearm Hizbullah under the noses of the Lebanese army and the United Nations forces. It is estimated that Hizbullah now has 20,000 short-range missiles, more than it had before this summer’s war. It fired thousands of such missiles at civilian populations throughout northern Israel during the summer, causing widespread death and destruction.

The magazine quoted “a knowledgeable Saudi source” who said that Iranian Revolutionary Guard officers have been operating from a military base just outside Damascus. From this secret base, weapons have been shipped by truck into Lebanon.

While the newly revamped French and Italian-led UN force is doing next to nothing about it, the Saudis, as well as the Israelis, are alarmed at Iran’s spreading influence in Lebanon. Nawaf Obaid, a Saudi security advisor, told Time that “a huge stream of trucks” has been crossing the border from Syria into Lebanon, ferrying thinly disguised shipments of arms.

According to Obaid the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) are using the Iranian embassies in Damascus and Beirut as command and control centers. Officially, Syria and Iran deny that they’re supplying weapons to Hizbullah.


Kassam Allaik, the head of Hizbullah’s construction arm, “Jihad Construction,” has told BBC correspondents (with whom he has close ties) that Iran is providing funds to reconstruct parts of Lebanon.

Allaik said that Iran also has its own groups in Lebanon, rebuilding bridges, roads and mosques. The Lebanese government has so far failed to persuade Iran to finance the relief effort through the government.

As a result, many people in southern Beirut and in the south of Lebanon have credited Hizbullah for the reconstruction efforts.


Attached below are three articles. The first, by Joshua Muravchik, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, urges the immediate bombing of the Iranian nuclear program.

Muravchik writes: “Even if Iran did not drop a bomb on Israel or hand one to terrorists, its mere possession of such a device would have devastating consequences. Coming on top of North Korea’s nuclear test, it would spell finis to the entire nonproliferation system… It is now clear that neither Moscow nor Beijing will ever agree to tough sanctions.”

Drawing on historical comparisons, he adds that: “Russia was poor and weak in 1917 when Lenin took power, as was Germany in 1933 when Hitler came in. Neither, in the end, was able to defeat the United States, but each of them unleashed unimaginable suffering before they succumbed. And despite its weakness, Iran commands an asset that neither of them had: a natural advantage in appealing to the world’s billion-plus Muslims.

“After the Bolshevik takeover of Russia in 1917, a single member of Britain’s Cabinet, Winston Churchill, appealed for robust military intervention to crush the new regime. His colleagues weighed the costs – the loss of soldiers, international derision, revenge by Lenin – and rejected the idea.

“The costs were avoided, and instead the world was subjected to the greatest man-made calamities ever. Communism itself was to claim perhaps 100 million lives, and it also gave rise to fascism and Nazism, leading to World War II. Ahmadinejad wants to be the new Lenin. Force is the only thing that can stop him.”

In the second article, Henry Kissinger argues that “There are only two incentives for Iran to negotiate: the emergence of a regional structure that makes imperialist policies unattractive, or the concern that, if matters are pushed too far, America might yet strike.”

In the third article, Yaakov Lappin (also a subscriber to this list) explains why the rest of the world should be worried about Ahmadinejad’s belief to the twelfth Imam, “the awaited messiah who will establish the rule of Islam around the world – following a massive war during which Islam’s enemies are expected to be decimated.” Ahmadinejad referred to the twelfth Imam during his United Nations speech in September, and Iran’s official state websites are filled with information about the Islamic Republic’s messiah.

-- Tom Gross



Bomb Iran
Diplomacy is doing nothing to stop the Iranian nuclear threat; a show of force is the only answer
By Joshua Muravchik
The Los Angeles Times
November 19, 2006


We must bomb Iran.

It has been four years since that country’s secret nuclear program was brought to light, and the path of diplomacy and sanctions has led nowhere.

First, we agreed to our allies’ requests that we offer Tehran a string of concessions, which it spurned. Then, Britain, France and Germany wanted to impose a batch of extremely weak sanctions. For instance, Iranians known to be involved in nuclear activities would have been barred from foreign travel – except for humanitarian or religious reasons – and outside countries would have been required to refrain from aiding some, but not all, Iranian nuclear projects.

But even this was too much for the U.N. Security Council. Russia promptly announced that these sanctions were much too strong. “We cannot support measures … aimed at isolating Iran,” declared Foreign Minister Sergei V. Lavrov.

It is now clear that neither Moscow nor Beijing will ever agree to tough sanctions. What’s more, even if they were to do so, it would not stop Iran, which is a country on a mission. As President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad put it: “Thanks to the blood of the martyrs, a new Islamic revolution has arisen.... The era of oppression, hegemonic regimes and tyranny and injustice has reached its end.... The wave of the Islamic revolution will soon reach the entire world.” There is simply no possibility that Iran’s clerical rulers will trade this ecstatic vision for a mess of Western pottage in the form of economic bribes or penalties.

So if sanctions won’t work, what’s left? The overthrow of the current Iranian regime might offer a silver bullet, but with hard-liners firmly in the saddle in Tehran, any such prospect seems even more remote today than it did a decade ago, when students were demonstrating and reformers were ascendant. Meanwhile, the completion of Iran’s bomb grows nearer every day.

Our options therefore are narrowed to two: We can prepare to live with a nuclear-armed Iran, or we can use force to prevent it. Former ABC newsman Ted Koppel argues for the former, saying that “if Iran is bound and determined to have nuclear weapons, let it.” We should rely, he says, on the threat of retaliation to keep Iran from using its bomb. Similarly, Newsweek International Editor Fareed Zakaria points out that we have succeeded in deterring other hostile nuclear states, such as the Soviet Union and China.

And in these pages, William Langewiesche summed up the what-me-worry attitude when he wrote that “the spread of nuclear weapons is, and always has been, inevitable,” and that the important thing is “learning how to live with it after it occurs.”

But that’s whistling past the graveyard. The reality is that we cannot live safely with a nuclear-armed Iran. One reason is terrorism, of which Iran has long been the world’s premier state sponsor, through groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah. Now, according to a report last week in London’s Daily Telegraph, Iran is trying to take over Al Qaeda by positioning its own man, Saif Adel, to become the successor to the ailing Osama bin Laden. How could we possibly trust Iran not to slip nuclear material to terrorists?

Koppel says that we could prevent this by issuing a blanket warning that if a nuclear device is detonated anywhere in the United States, we will assume Iran is responsible. But would any U.S. president really order a retaliatory nuclear strike based on an assumption?

Another reason is that an Iranian bomb would constitute a dire threat to Israel’s 6 million-plus citizens. Sure, Israel could strike back, but Hashemi Rafsanjani, the former president who was Ahmadinejad’s “moderate” electoral opponent, once pointed out smugly that “the use of an atomic bomb against Israel would totally destroy Israel, while [the same] against the Islamic world would only cause damage. Such a scenario is not inconceivable.” If that is the voice of pragmatism in Iran, would you trust deterrence against the messianic Ahmadinejad?

Even if Iran did not drop a bomb on Israel or hand one to terrorists, its mere possession of such a device would have devastating consequences. Coming on top of North Korea’s nuclear test, it would spell finis to the entire nonproliferation system.

And then there is a consequence that seems to have been thought about much less but could be the most harmful of all: Tehran could achieve its goal of regional supremacy. Jordan’s King Abdullah II, for instance, has warned of an emerging Shiite “crescent.” But Abdullah’s comment understates the danger. If Iran’s reach were limited to Shiites, it would be constrained by their minority status in the Muslim world as well as by the divisions between Persians and Arabs.

But such ethnic-based analysis fails to take into account Iran’s charisma as the archenemy of the United States and Israel and the leverage it achieves as the patron of radicals and rejectionists. Given that, the old assumptions about Shiites and Sunnis may not hold any longer. Iran’s closest ally today is Syria, which is mostly Sunni. The link between Tehran and Damascus is ideological, not theological. Similarly, Iran supports the Palestinian groups Islamic Jihad and Hamas, which are overwhelmingly Sunni (and as a result, Iran has grown popular in the eyes of Palestinians).

During the Lebanon war this summer, we saw how readily Muslims closed ranks across the Sunni-Shiite divide against a common foe (even as the two groups continued killing each other in Iraq). In Sunni Egypt, newborns were named “Hezbollah” after the Lebanese Shiite organization and “Nasrallah” after its leader. As Muslim scholar Vali Nasr put it: “A flurry of anti-Hezbollah [i.e., anti-Shiite] fatwas by radical Sunni clerics have not diverted the admiring gaze of Arabs everywhere toward Hezbollah.”

In short, Tehran can build influence on a mix of ethnicity and ideology, underwritten by the region’s largest economy. Nuclear weapons would bring regional hegemony within its reach by intimidating neighbors and rivals and stirring the admiration of many other Muslims.

This would thrust us into a new global struggle akin to the one we waged so painfully with the Soviet Union for 40-odd years. It would be the “clash of civilizations” that has been so much talked about but so little defined.

Iran might seem little match for the United States, but that is not how Ahmadinejad sees it. He and his fellow jihadists believe that the Muslim world has already defeated one infidel superpower (the Soviet Union) and will in time defeat the other.

Russia was poor and weak in 1917 when Lenin took power, as was Germany in 1933 when Hitler came in. Neither, in the end, was able to defeat the United States, but each of them unleashed unimaginable suffering before they succumbed. And despite its weakness, Iran commands an asset that neither of them had: a natural advantage in appealing to the world’s billion-plus Muslims.

If Tehran establishes dominance in the region, then the battlefield might move to Southeast Asia or Africa or even parts of Europe, as the mullahs would try to extend their sway over other Muslim peoples. In the end, we would no doubt win, but how long this contest might last and what toll it might take are anyone’s guess.

The only way to forestall these frightening developments is by the use of force. Not by invading Iran as we did Iraq, but by an air campaign against Tehran’s nuclear facilities. We have considerable information about these facilities; by some estimates they comprise about 1,500 targets. If we hit a large fraction of them in a bombing campaign that might last from a few days to a couple of weeks, we would inflict severe damage. This would not end Iran’s weapons program, but it would certainly delay it.

What should be the timing of such an attack? If we did it next year, that would give time for U.N. diplomacy to further reveal its bankruptcy yet would come before Iran will have a bomb in hand (and also before our own presidential campaign). In time, if Tehran persisted, we might have to do it again.

Can President Bush take such action after being humiliated in the congressional elections and with the Iraq war having grown so unpopular? Bush has said that history’s judgment on his conduct of the war against terror is more important than the polls. If Ahmadinejad gets his finger on a nuclear trigger, everything Bush has done will be rendered hollow. We will be a lot less safe than we were when Bush took office.

Finally, wouldn’t such a U.S. air attack on Iran inflame global anti-Americanism? Wouldn’t Iran retaliate in Iraq or by terrorism? Yes, probably. That is the price we would pay. But the alternative is worse.

After the Bolshevik takeover of Russia in 1917, a single member of Britain’s Cabinet, Winston Churchill, appealed for robust military intervention to crush the new regime. His colleagues weighed the costs – the loss of soldiers, international derision, revenge by Lenin – and rejected the idea.

The costs were avoided, and instead the world was subjected to the greatest man-made calamities ever. Communism itself was to claim perhaps 100 million lives, and it also gave rise to fascism and Nazism, leading to World War II. Ahmadinejad wants to be the new Lenin. Force is the only thing that can stop him.



Iran despises weakness
By Henry Kissinger
The Sunday Times (of London)
November 19, 2006


Iran’s nuclear programme and considerable resources enable it to strive for strategic dominance in its region. With the impetus of a radical Shi’ite ideology and the symbolism of defiance of the United Nations security council’s resolution, Iran challenges the established order in the Middle East and perhaps wherever Islamic populations face dominant, non-Islamic majorities.

The five permanent members of the security council plus Germany – known as the “Six” – have submitted a package of incentives to Tehran to end enrichment of uranium as a key step towards putting an end to the weapons programme. They have threatened sanctions if their proposal is rejected. Iran has insisted on its “right” to proceed with enrichment. Reluctant to negotiate directly with a member of the “axis of evil”, America has not participated in the talks.

Recently Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, has announced a reversal of policy. The United States – and she herself – would join the nuclear talks, provided Iran suspends its enrichment programme. But Tehran has so far shown no interest in negotiating with the United States, either in the multilateral forum or separately.

Tehran sees no compelling national interest to give up its claim to being a nuclear power and strong domestic political reasons to persist. Pursuing the nuclear weapons programme is a way of appealing to national pride and shores up an otherwise shaky domestic support.

The nuclear negotiations are moving towards an inconclusive outcome. The Six eventually will have to choose between effective sanctions or the consequences of an Iranian military nuclear capability and the world of proliferation it implies. Military action by the United States is extremely improbable in the final two years of a presidency facing a hostile Congress. But Tehran surely cannot ignore the possibility of a unilateral Israeli strike.

The argument has become widespread that Iran (and Syria) should be drawn into a negotiating process, hopefully to bring about a change of their attitudes, as happened, for example, in the opening to China a generation ago.

A diplomacy that excludes adversaries is clearly a contradiction in terms. But the argument on behalf of negotiating too often focuses on the opening of talks rather than their substance. The opening to China was facilitated by Soviet military pressures on China’s northern borders; rapprochement between the United States and China implemented an existing common interest in preventing Soviet hegemony. But if, at the end of such a diplomacy, stands an Iranian nuclear capability and a political vacuum being filled by Iran, the impact on order in the Middle East will be catastrophic.

Understanding the way Tehran views the world is crucial. The school of thought represented by President Ahmadinejad may well see Iranian prospects as more promising than they have been in centuries. Iraq has collapsed as a counterweight; within Iraq, Shi’ite forces are led by men who had been trained in Tehran.

Democratic institutions in Iraq favour dominance by the majority Shi’ite groups. In Lebanon, Hezbollah, trained and guided by Iran, is the strongest military force. In the face of this looming Shi’ite belt and its appeal to the Shi’ite population in northeast Saudi Arabia and along the Gulf, attitudes in the Sunni states – Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia – and the Gulf states range from unease to incipient panic. This may explain Ahmadinejad’s insolent behaviour on the occasion of his visit to New York. His theme seemed to be: “Don’t talk to me about your world order, whose rules we did not participate in making and which we disdain. From now on, jihad will define the rules.”

The self-confident Iranian leaders may facilitate a local American retreat in Iraq, but only for the purpose of turning it into a long-term rout. The argument that Iran has an interest in negotiating over Iraq to avoid chaos along its borders is valid only as long as the United States retains a capacity to help control the chaos.

There are only two incentives for Iran to negotiate: the emergence of a regional structure that makes imperialist policies unattractive, or the concern that, if matters are pushed too far, America might yet strike.

So long as Iran views itself as a crusade rather than a nation, a common interest will not emerge from negotiations. To evoke a more balanced view should be an important goal for US diplomacy. Iran may come to understand that it is still a poor country not in a position to challenge the entire world order.

Today the Sunni states of the region are terrified by the Shi’ite wave. Negotiations between Iran and the United States could generate a stampede towards pre-emptive concessions, unless preceded or at least accompanied by a significant effort to rally those states. In such a policy, Iran must find a respected, but not dominant, place. A restarted Palestinian peace process should play a significant role, which presupposes close co-operation among the United States, Europe and the moderate Arab states.

Iran needs to be encouraged to act as a nation, not a cause. It has no incentive to appear as a deus ex machina to enable America to escape its embarrassments, unless the United States retains an ability to fill the vacuum or at least be a factor in filling it. America will need to reposition its strategic deployments, but if such actions are viewed as the prelude to an exit from the region, a collapse of existing structures is probable.

A purposeful diplomacy towards Iran is important for building a more promising region – but only if Iran does not, in the process, come to believe that it is able to shape the future on its own, or if the potential building blocks of a new order disintegrate while America sorts out its purposes.



Awaiting the Iranian messiah
A glimpse into the apocalyptic ideology gripping the Iranian government
By Yaakov Lappin
Yediot Ahronot
November 12, 2006


He challenges the largest superpower on earth, threatens a regional superpower with annihilation, and mocks international efforts to keep tabs on his nuclear program. Where does the unswerving confidence of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad come from?

To whom did Ahmadinejad refer to when he told the United Nations in September: “I emphatically declare that today’s world, more than ever before, longs for… the perfect righteous human being and real savior who has been promised to all peoples and who will establish justice, peace and brotherhood on the planet. Almighty God… make us among his followers and among those who strive for his return and his cause.”

According to Shiite Islam, the twelfth Imam, named Mahdi, is the awaited messiah who will establish the rule of Islam around the world – following a massive war during which Islam’s enemies are expected to be decimated. Iran’s official state websites are filled with information about the Islamic Republic’s messiah.

“Imam Mahdi was unseen from the eyes of common people and nobody could see him except special group of Shiites... After the martyrdom of his father he was appointed as the next Imam. Then he was hidden by God’s command and he was just observable by the special deputies of his own,” the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting website declares.


Iran’s state broadcasting website also contains a special hadith (tradition) prayer, to be recited on the birthday of the Mahdi: “Today is Friday, a day you are expected to come; the faithful will be free of cares and troubles when you shall arrive, and with one strike shall put an end to the intrigues of the infidels.”

Speaking to Ynetnews, Professor Raymond Tanter, one of the authors of the forthcoming book ‘What Makes Iran Tick,’ which explores the Shiite Islamist ideology of Iran, said there was no questioning the belief of Iran’s leaders in the coming of the Mahdi.

Tanter, President of the Iran Policy Committee, a Washington-based organization comprised of former officials from the White House, State Department, Pentagon, and intelligence services, said: “The Iranian leadership, particularly Ahmadinejad, welcome the apocalyptic vision of the return of the hidden Imam. And all the strains of Islam believe in the eventual return of the Mahdi, also known as the twelfth Imam, or the Shiite messiah. After a period of great destruction, once the forces of evil are defeated, the so-called twelfth Imam is supposed to reign over a period of great prosperity.”

“When Ahmadinejad was mayor of Tehran, he set up an urban renewal program that would make it easier to facilitate the Mahdi’s return. He created passageways and roadways that would allow the Mahdi to return triumphantly. He operationalized this concept,” Tanter added. The Iranian president did not view himself as the Shiite messiah though, according to Tanter.


“Ahmadinejad was called the man of a thousand bullets. Because he would give the last bullet for someone who has been tortured, and primarily executed by firing squad. Ahmadinejad’s role was to put the last bullet in, in case the person was still squirming. After a thousand people had been killed, supposedly he said, he had it with that particular job,” Tanter said.

Tanter noted Ahmadinejad’s comments after a speech to the UN General Assembly in 2005, which he also concluded with a call for the Mahdi to return. After the speech, Ahmadinejad said that “the hand of God had held all of them” in a hypnotized-like state, and had “opened their eyes and ears.”

“Before the return of the Mahdi, there must be a suitable representative to govern in the Mahdi’s place,” Tanter explained.

“They are ruling until the Mahdi comes. That is the justification for Khamenei to rule,” he added.

Tanter said that “most of the ayatollahs in Iran don’t buy this, that you can facilitate the return of the messiah,” adding that Hizbullah chief Hassan Nasrallah probably “doesn’t take it that seriously.”

“Ahmadinejad is taking steps well beyond the rest of Islam,” he said.


“There is a link between Iran’s nuclear weapons program on one hand, and its ideology of trying to facilitate a cataclysmic event to hasten the return of the Mahdi. As a result, no conceivable positive or negative incentives will influence the leadership of the clerics and the revolutionary guards from acquiring nuclear weapons. They need nuclear weapons in order to facilitate the ideological precepts of the return of the Mahdi,” said Tanter.

“The process of diplomacy as far as Ahmadinejad and Khamenei are concerned is to prevent sanctions that would constrain the nuclear weapons progress, and to that extent Iran has done well to drag out this process,” he added.

Citing realist arguments that Iran needs nuclear weapons “to deter neighbors in a tough neighborhood,” Tanter said such views were misguided. “These nuclear weapons are tied to the return of the Mahdi, and no one says this,” he says.

An excerpt from ‘What Makes Iran Tick’ left no doubts over the authors view of Iran’s intentions: “Just as it is in the nature of the scorpion to sting, so it is in the nature of the ayatollahs ruling Iran to establish an Islamic empire and destroy Israel.”

It continued: “Toward these ends, the regime pursues nuclear weapons, subverts Iraq, and supplies money and arms to Islamist terrorist groups like Hizbullah, Hamas, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad… The deliberate initiation of war with Israel in July 2006 by Hizbullah, most probably at the direction of the Iranian regime, confirmed the worst fears about Ahmadinejad… a nuclear-armed Iran the single greatest security threat to the international community in general, and to the United States and Israel in particular.”

All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.