Iran is not a rational enemy

The Islamic Republic is engaged in a version of the Game of Thrones in which the iron throne is Mecca and Medina.

Iran protests 2 520 (photo credit: AP)
Iran protests 2 520
(photo credit: AP)
Iran has been at war with the West since the Islamic Revolution of 1979, but the West has refused to acknowledge it. Over the intervening years, as Iran has become more dangerous, the West did not much more than to try to appease it. President Barack Obama’s Iran nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), was perhaps the worst example of that.
The turbulent Muslim world just happens to be sitting over most of the world’s oil supply. The West needs to keep importing Mideast oil without interruption, but the West is afraid of war. The West decided that the best way to deal with the situation is to pay off the Arabs and Iranians to keep them compliant. The policy of appeasing Iran has now brought us to the brink of war.
Iran is intent on dominating the Muslim World with its Shi’a form of Islam and controlling the holy cities of Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia. Think of it as a version of the Game of Thrones in which the iron throne is Mecca and Medina. But Iran also believes it has to destroy Israel first.
Concerning Iran, the central mistake of the West is to repeat the mantra that Iran is rational. By “rational,” they mean two different things. The first meaning is a veiled, but toothless threat intended primarily for Western public consumption. Here they say that Iran is at risk of military retaliation and that Iran will be reasonable because it wants to maintain its existence and the persistence of the Islamic Revolution. The implication is that the West is willing to use its military might to defend its interests. The second meaning is what the West actually believes that Iran will be “reasonable” and that the West can buy off Iran without having to go to war. They think they just haven’t yet found Iran’s price. But the West is not really willing to use its military might to defend its interests. (The West tried to buy off the Arab world by giving them Israel, but Israel refused to go along with it, and now Israel is no longer available.)
Iran is not rational by either Western meaning of the term; it is not intimidated, and it is not for sale. Iran is engaged in a religious fanatical war with Israel, the US, and Western culture, but the West is in denial about the depths of that religious fanaticism. The mantra of Iran being “rational” blinds the West to the reality that Iran is taking highly irrational risks. Iran can’t afford the war it started with Israel. Iran puts expensive hardware in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon, and Israel destroys what Iran puts there, piece by piece. Although Iran’s buildup is faster than Israel’s attempts at destroying it, Israel is making Iran pay an extraordinarily high financial and moral price. Meanwhile, the Iranian economy is collapsing, and the Iranian people are rioting in the streets, screaming in rage at the Ayatollahs.
IRAN IS PLAYING a dangerous game. Consider the context in which Iran is carrying on this war against Israel.
– The Arab world doesn’t trust Iran because it’s not Arab; Persians and Arabs have mistrusted each other throughout history. And, the Arab world is mainly Sunni.
– The other major powers in the region – the US, Russia, Turkey – don’t trust Iran.
– Israel can protect itself from the worst that Iran can do to it and return an even deadlier response.
US President Donald Trump laid down very clear red lines in the Mideast. He said he doesn’t want the US army to stay there to protect other people’s interests. If allies try to protect their interests, the US will help them. However, if US interests or citizens are attacked, Trump said he would protect those interests in full force. That means the US will help Israel, but Israel has to defend itself, and that also means that Israel has to be allowed to defend itself.
Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu made it very clear that they do not want a war with Iran. Israel has been adroitly harassing Iran’s Iraq-Syria-Lebanon military buildup just short of provoking a hot war, too slowly for Iran to feel that it must respond with full-scale war. As long as Israel and the US can continue to degrade Iran’s military threat without going to war, then that is what they want to do. If there will be a war, it won’t be because Trump or Netanyahu are reckless warmongers.
If Iran wants a war, it will be short and bloody, and Iran will lose, but there will be a significant loss of life and destruction in Israel, in the Iranian satellites around Israel, and in Iran itself. (Think of the death and destruction that the similarly fanatic regimes of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan were able to inflict even after it was certain they would lose World War II.)
The elimination of Qasem Soleimani was a significant blow to Iran and was long overdue. Iran retaliated by firing more than a dozen ballistic missiles directly from Iran at two US facilities in Iraq, but the damage done was reportedly minimal.
Iran is especially dangerous now. It’s in a use it or lose it situation. It can’t eat its weapons; it has to use them. But Iran is also in a bind. If Iran doesn’t carry out its retaliatory threats against the US, it may lose its place as the indisputable leader of the radical Islamist crusade against Israel. If Iran does carry out its retaliatory threats against the US, it will lose everything.
Confrontation with Iran in some form or another is inevitable. Hopefully, Iran will collapse under its own weight before it tries to start firing the more than 150,000 missiles and rockets it has scattered among the homes and backyards of Lebanon’s Shi’a civilians, aimed at Israeli civilians – before Israel is forced to defend itself with a full-blown military campaign.
The writer made aliyah at the end of 2009 and is passionately interested in Israel and its relations.