Analysis: Would Ahmadinejad’s assassination help Israel?

While the Iranian leader is one of our fiercest enemies, it’s not a given his successor would be any better.

ahmadinejad 311 (photo credit: Amir Kholousi\AP)
ahmadinejad 311
(photo credit: Amir Kholousi\AP)
Since his rise to power in 2005, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has to some extent served Israel’s interests. His denial of the Holocaust and persistent calls to destroy Israel have drawn the world’s attention to Iran’s covert military nuclear program, which led this past June to a new round of sanctions.
For the same reason, ahead of last summer’s rigged presidential elections, some Israeli officials privately expressed hope that Ahmadinejad would win, and not his contender, reformist candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi.
While a candidate like Mousavi would likely not change anything in Iran’s race to become a nuclear power, and would continue to build the bomb, his more moderate appearance and rhetoric would assist the Islamic Republic in “laundering” the program. As a result, the international community would likely be more reluctant to pass tough sanctions and engage Iran in tough diplomacy. Ahmadinejad’s continued tenure helps ensure the pressure on Iran is kept up.
All of which is relevant given the reports on Wednesday – officially denied by Iran – that Ahmadinejad had been the target of a failed assassination attempt, and the inevitable raising of eyebrows in Israel’s direction. From the Israeli perspective, it would seem, it is the regime that matters, not its public, presidential face.
It is not certain, furthermore, that someone like Mousavi would succeed Ahmadinejad were he to, by fair means or foul, vacate the stage. Israel learned the hard way in 1992 that assassinating leaders of terrorist organizations is not always beneficial, and the same could apply to Iran. In February of that year, Israel assassinated Abbas al- Musawi, the leader of Hizbullah.
His replacement was Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, who Israeli intelligence analysts readily admit is far more conniving and treacherous. Nasrallah has built Hizbullah up to what it is today; the party makes up almost half of the Lebanese government and is a formidable military force.
The truth is that there are plenty of groups within Iran that would like to get rid of Ahmadinejad for reasons other than his nuclear policies.
First, there is the Green Movement, and while little has been heard from the Greens since the anti-regime demonstrations died down after last year’s elections, it is believed to still be alive, albeit below the surface.
There is also the People’s Mujahedin of Iran, an opponent of the regime that has been responsible for a number of attacks in recent years against the Revolutionary Guard Corps.
It is likely that Iran officially denied that Ahmadinejad had been the target of an assassination attempt Wednesday in order to give the appearance that the country is united and the regime has no enemies.
The truth is rather different.