T Nation

Tehran Hoping for War?

Tons of speculation in this, however the scenarios are very interesting.

by Amir Taheri
New York Post
September 19, 2005

September 19, 2005 – INCREDIBLE though it may sound, there are signs that Tehran may be preparing for a military confrontation with the United States ? and has convinced itself that it can win.

The first sign came last June, with the election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as president of the Islamic Republic, an event that completed the conquest of all levers of power by the most radical elements of the establishment.

Since then, the revolutionary factions have conducted a little-publicized purge of the military, the security apparatus, the civil service and state-owned corporations and media.

Among those replaced: the defense minister, the commander-in-chief of the regular army and his four deputies, 11 senior commanders of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and five commanders of the paramilitary Mobilization of the Dispossessed ? plus the intelligence and security minister and the interior minister (who controls the police and the gendarmerie). Also noteworthy is the appointment of military officers to posts normally held by civilians, such as governors, mayors and directors of major public corporations.

But perhaps the surest sign is the military buildup under way in the five provinces bordering Iraq. The region, with a population of 20 million, has been put under the control of the IRGC, which has also taken over units of the regular army (including the 88th Division) and the border police. Iran is estimated to have 250,000 troops in the area, its biggest military buildup since the 1988 end of the Iran-Iraq war.

One of the first acts of the new Ahmadinejad-led Cabinet was to approve a $700 million “emergency” fund to be spent at the discretion of “Supreme Guide” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei for “sacred defense purposes.”

The new administration is also speeding up defense spending. The five-year plan approved by Khamenei last year aimed at doubling the military budget by 2010 ? but, thanks to rising oil revenues, most of it could now be done by 2008.

In recent weeks, top regime figures ? including Khamenei and Ahmadinejad ? have made a series of unscheduled visits to Mashad, Iran’s second-largest city. One curious fact revealed in these visits is that a bunker-like structure to house the “supreme guide” is being finished near the holy shrine of Reza, the Eighth Imam. The complex could also house the top echelon of government, including the president, the Cabinet and members of parliament.

Mashad is 600 miles from Tehran and as far as possible from U.S. firepower in Iraq and the Persian Gulf. America is also expected to shrink from attacks against the Mashad bunker for fear of collateral damage to the “holy shrine” of the imam a few hundred yards away.

One may guess the outline of Tehran’s scenario for what it believes is an inevitable clash with the United States.

Suppose that the tussle over Iran’s nuclear plans goes to the Security Council ? which fails to take a decision, thanks to Russian and Chinese vetoes, and America (after much huffing and puffing) launches airstrikes against Iran’s nuclear installations.

Iran’s retaliation could begin with orders to the forces it controls inside Iraq to attack U.S. and British troops. The Lebanese branch of Hezbollah would launch massive rocket attacks against Israel, while Hamas and Islamic Jihad (whose leaders spent the past month in Tehran, meeting Khamenei and his aides) would begin suicide operations against Israel from Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Iran-allied Hazara Shiites might begin strikes against Kabul, the Afghan capital, from the west, while Pushtun warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and the remnants of the Taliban attack across all of Afghanistan.

U.S./U.K. forces might answer with a conventional attack out of Iraq. But the Iranians could retreat to the Zagross mountain range, the first line of Iran’s natural defences. The IRGC is now building several new bases to bolster this line. The bases would assure supplies for a quarter of a million troops, and provide shelter for half a million refugees from the border.

The Americans could attempt to “decapitate” Iran with cruise missiles against “regime targets” in Tehran. But the regime would already be in Mashad, protected by the Eighth Imam.

Meanwhile, Iran could close the Strait of Hormuz ? thereby choking off the world supply of oil, which would surely top $100 a barrel, plunging the global economy into a crisis.

The U.N. Security Council would surely meet in emergency, perhaps forcing the U.S. to veto a vote for a ceasefire. Global TV networks would air images of “indiscriminate carnage” and “wanton destruction” in Iranian cities, while marches in Washington and dozens of other cities would feature Hollywood celebrities and others calling for impeachment.

At this point, the Iranian strategy/fantasy would expect the U.S. media and Congress to revolt against President Bush and his “pre-emptive” strategy ? obliging Bush to accept a U.N.-brokered cease-fire and withdraw his forces, and the Americans to leave Iraq and Afghanistan.

The victory would bring the Islamic Republic new domestic legitimacy, allowing it proceed to crush its internal opponents as “enemies of the nation and of Islam.” It could also speed up its nuclear-weapons and long-range missile programs without being harassed by Washington.

At the next stage of what Ahmadinejad sees as “a clash of civilizations,” Iran would become “the core power” of a new “Islamic pole” in a multipolar system with China, the European Union and Latin America (under the leadership of Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez) emerging as other “poles.”

The Islamic Republic would then be free to proceed to address what Khamenei has described as its “greatest historic task”: the destruction of Israel.

Sounds outlandish? Well, it is. The Islamic Republic is a fragile structure in a zone of political earthquakes. Logically, the last thing it should want is war.

Nevertheless, former President Muhammad Khatami has warned that Tehran may be boxing itself into a position in which it will either have to surrender or fight.

Iranian author Amir Taheri is a member of Benador Associates.

I always heard the Iran’s student population was very pro-western at least in the culture perspective. I have been wondering since the Iran elections why we have not heard about the opposing parties in Iran.

The only thing I would question about the author’s scenario is the Russia veto. While the Russians don’t exacly considers us commardes they are starting to develop a greater paranoia and hatred for Islam. Iran in on the geographic block…just a few houses down and good be a good friend with Chechina (sorry for the spelling)

While I consider myself a “hawk” I still think the number one focus of this country needs to find alternative fuel source. If we don’t buy oil from these areas within 50 years they will once again be in the dark ages. Instead of war let them destroy themselves but unfortunately we are not there yet.

Some thoughts.

I don’t think the US would reasonably shirk from blasting the crap out of the leadership if they were hiding out as described.

I think it makes sense for a country to beef up it’s “defenses” when an “aggressor” is sitting right next door and doing lots of saber rattling. This is from their point of view.

At the very least, if you make the cost of an attack high enough, then alternatives might be sought (if there are any).

[quote]vroom wrote:
At the very least, if you make the cost of an attack high enough, then alternatives might be sought (if there are any).[/quote]

Insightful, vroom.

But we have to remember that Iran’s only hope for becoming a solid and permanent player is to acquire nuclear weapons. They are going to what they can do to buy them time, such as what vroom suggests as a delaying tactic to fend off an American military strike.

My guess is that they are still a ways off from enriching enough uranium to make a decent weapon, so they will not want to concede to a nuclear treaty and, Allah forbid, allow inspectors from the UN into the Bushehr reactor and related sites.

They need more time. Make the weapon, then get the concessions… the proof is in the North Korean pudding. The world will have to take them seriously when they have nuclear capability.