Why is Iran taking such risks and playing an endgame of Russian roulette?

“I am in no hurry, our Military is rebuilt, new, and ready to go, by far the best in the world," President Donald Trump tweeted.

President Donald Trump announced on June 22 that the US would impose “major” additional sanctions on Iran. (photo credit: REUTERS/CARLOS BARRIA)
President Donald Trump announced on June 22 that the US would impose “major” additional sanctions on Iran.
The question on the minds of Middle East leaders is: Why is Iran taking such risks and playing an endgame of Russian roulette?
On Thursday, June 20, President Donald Trump ordered a retaliatory attack on Iran for the downing of a US surveillance drone in the Strait of Hormuz. The order was rescinded just before it was due to be carried out. Why? The president had determined that the number of fatalities likely to have occurred would be too great.
Trump tweeted: “We were cocked & loaded to retaliate last night on 3 different sights when I asked, how many will die. 150 people, sir, was the answer from a General. 10 minutes before the strike... I stopped it.”
The president wrote that such a death toll was “not proportionate to shooting down an unmanned drone.” Trump added: “I am in no hurry, our Military is rebuilt, new, and ready to go, by far the best in the world. Sanctions are biting & more added last night. Iran can NEVER have Nuclear Weapons, not against the USA, and not against the WORLD!”
The consensus is that the US military is superior to that of Iran in every substantial fashion. The Iranian Air Force contains approximately 330 combat aircraft. These include old or archaic Russian and Chinese aircraft, and the US F-14s that were purchased by the shah of Iran prior to the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei bragged about his “3 Khordad” system ,reported by the Fars News Agency to have been used to shoot down the US military drone on Thursday. The Iranian Navy possesses about 130 combatant ships and three diesel submarines. Its military ground troops number over half a million. This includes about 350,000 soldiers in the army and another 150,000 in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, an entity which the Trump administration has just designated a terrorist organization.
Why has Iran’s leadership become so emboldened? Their rationale for baiting the US is certainly not calculated using the criteria of mutually assured destruction (MAD), as Iran is ruled by clerics on an apocalyptic mission to usher in the Mahdi, the twelfth descendant of Muhammad.
This event was certainly lauded by the former president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Following a speech at the UN General Assembly, he was touted as saying: “One of our group told me when I started to say, ‘In the name of God the Almighty, the Merciful,’ he saw a light around me, and I was placed inside this aura and I felt it myself. I felt the atmosphere suddenly change, and for those 27 or 28 minutes the leaders of the world did not blink. When I say they did not bat an eyelid, I am not exaggerating because I was looking at them.”
I had arranged an interview between Ahmadinejad and Fox News after he spoke at the UN in November 2005. Before the appearance, a number of mullahs were seated in a row, praying to Allah for the Mahdi to empower Ahmadinejad. He had told me earlier that Iranian people die 20 years before Zionists. When I asked him why he thought that was, he said the Zionists injected poison into rats and released them in Iran’s fields to infect their crops.
President Trump has been sorely tried by Iran this past year. Its leaders have sanctioned blowing up ships in the Gulf of Oman, using its proxies to fire missiles into Saudi Arabia, targeting one unmanned US drone and downing a second one, and releasing pictures and video of leaders showing off parts of the drone. Iran openly and unabashedly arms its proxies in Lebanon, Syria and Gaza, and its paramilitary units in Iraq. A rocket was aimed toward the US Embassy in Baghdad. Had the missile hit the building, the US would have been forced to take decisive action.
These offenses have thus far tested the patience of the Trump administration. Iran seems determined to see how far it can go before Trump is goaded into retaliating. Is Ali Khamenei using the same humiliating tactics that Ayatollah Khomeini employed against Jimmy Carter? The Iranian hostage crisis was certainly one cause of Mr. Carter’s downfall.
On September 23, 1980, I was invited to dinner at the home of then-Mossad director Isser Harel. Reuven Hecht, senior adviser to prime minister Menachem Begin, was there. I asked Harel: “Will terrorism come to America?” His response was, “Yes, they will strike your tallest building in New York City – the Empire State building.” (At that time, the World Trade Center had not been built.)
My second question was, “What is Anwar Sadat’s future?” Harel responded, “The Muslim Brotherhood will kill him. We have saved his life twice already.” My final question was, “Who do you think will be the next US president?” (Jimmy Carter was ahead of Ronald Reagan in the polls.) Harel’s reply was, “The Iranians will have something to say about that. When Reagan places his hand on the Bible to take the oath of office, the American hostages will be released.”
On the morning of the inauguration, my phone rang. It was Reuben Hecht. He shouted, “Harel is a prophet! Look at your television. The hostages are being released as Reagan is taking the oath of office.”
I learned later that Iran had refused to release the hostages in order to keep Carter from being reelected. Cyrus Vance was negotiating through the Algerians for the release of 52 American hostages that had been held for 444 days. The United States imposed a trade embargo against Iran and demanded that the hostages be freed. Iran demanded unblocking Iran’s frozen assets in the US ($24 billion) to release the hostages. Shortly after 4 a.m. on Inauguration Day, January 20, 1981, the Carter administration relinquished $7.98 billion to the Iranians. According to one source, the transfer required 14 banks and the participation of five nations acting concurrently.
The Carter administration had been complicit in the overthrow of the shah of Iran. The shah’s widow, Empress Farah Pahlavi, told me during an interview in 2008: “My husband said to me that if Jimmy Carter keeps this up [his apparent vendetta against the shah], ultimately Khomeini will come back, and with him will come an Islamic revolution. The Russians will invade Afghanistan, Iraq will go to war against Iran, and who knows what horror will come upon the world?”
In my interview with former French president, the late Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, I was told that Carter was a “bastard of conscience, a moralist who treated with total lightness the abandonment of an ally that we had supported in exchange for a cleric Carter thought would be better for human rights.”
Ayatollah Khomeini soon moved beyond the borders of Iran and unleashed countless terrorist proxies on the world. In 1983, a little past 6 a.m. in Beirut, I was standing on a beachhead along the beautiful Mediterranean, talking with a group of US marines. The troops, stationed at Beirut International Airport, were just beginning a new day. One marine sentry at the airport gate looked up to see a big yellow Mercedes truck barreling down on the compound’s security gate.
The truck carried explosives, later determined to equal six tons of TNT. The driver rammed into the lower floor of the barracks, discharging his deadly cargo. The four-story building pancaked floor by floor into a heap of rubble. Many of the 241 troops inside were not killed by the blast, but crushed beneath the cinder-block building as it fell.
The threat has not lessened with time. What action might President Trump be forced to take in order to keep the world safe from the mad mullahs – and an Ayatollah determined at all costs to keep a death grip on the country of Iran while exporting terrorism?