The Islamic Republic Goes to the Polls

rabbani20130613090933707Iran elects a new president today to replace the outgoing, obstreperous, openly genocidal-toward-Israel Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Does that mean there’s hope someone more moderate will win and steer Iran away from its confrontational course with the West?

Not really. For one thing, none of the candidates—up to the finish line, there appeared to be six of them—has genuine moderate credentials. For another, even if a real moderate was elected, true power over Iran’s nuclear program and foreign policy is in the hands of the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who is himself an apocalyptic ideologue.

The two presidential candidates best known in the West are Iran’s current nuclear negotiatior Saeed Jalili, an unequivocal hardliner, and Hassan Rouhani, who was nuclear negotiator from 2003-2005 under reputedly moderate president Mohammad Khatami. During the election campaign Rouhani leveled harsh criticism at Jalili, claiming it was his aggressive negotiating approach that led to the Western sanctions and UN Security Council resolutions against Iran.

Rouhani’s criticism of Jalili, however, boils down to style. Rouhani proudly takes credit that, during his own, more restrained tenure as nuclear negotiator, “the groundwork was laid for developing the country’s nuclear capability quietly and secretly, far from the tumult of the international system.”

The West, meanwhile, has been taking a breather from the Iranian nuclear issue while awaiting the results of the elections—despite the fact that just about all knowledgeable Iran analysts agree that, beyond a possible change in style, the elections will have no real impact on that issue.

True, intensified U.S. sanctions, set to take effect July 1, are supposed to further ramp up the pressure on Iran’s economy. And last week Israeli defense analyst Alex Fishman reported that, in a move aimed at assuring America’s Middle Eastern allies that Washington is serious about stopping Iran’s nuclearization, the Pentagon has been running highly successful tests of bunker-busting bombs.

There is no sign, though, that Jerusalem is assured, with Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz sounding loud warnings that the situation is already critical.

This week Steinitz told reporters in Jerusalem that Tehran was “very close” to crossing the red line for making a bomb that Steinitz’s boss, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, specified before the UN last year, and that

Once they have 250 kilos [of enriched uranium], this is enough to make the final rush to 90 percent [enrichment]…the level of enrichment required for a nuclear warhead….

It is a matter of weeks or maybe two months to jump from 20 percent to 90 percent with so many centrifuges….

What they are doing now—instead of crossing the red line, they are widening and enlarging their capacity by putting in more centrifuges, faster centrifuges.

While asserting that Iran’s aim is not just to build a single bomb but a “nuclear industry” producing 30 bombs per year, Steinitz has been saying Western diplomacy could still work—but only if accompanied by an overt, credible military threat:

The Iranians feel very vulnerable, especially from American air operations. This is their main concern—that if the West, if NATO, if America decide to attack them, a few hours of accurate air raids might destroy their nuclear facilities.

Steinitz’s sense of urgency appears to contrast with remarks also made this week by Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

True, Dempsey said that

Iran is a threat to US national security in many ways, not simply their move towards the potential to develop a nuclear weapon…they are also active in cyber. They’ve got surrogates all over the region and all over the world. They proliferate arms. They are a disruptive influence globally. And so I do consider them a threat to our national security.

Yet on the nuclear issue itself, Dempsey had this to say:

the intelligence community has not yet come to a conclusion that they intend to build a nuclear weapon, but they’re certainly preserving and building on their options to do so, which should be of concern to all of us and is.

That sense of an imminent crisis animating Steinitz—who works closely with Netanyahu—appears to be lacking.

In any case, Friday’s Iranian elections remove the last fig leaf for what Israel sees as Western temporizing and—essentially, despite the sanctions—passivity toward Iranian nukes.

If in the coming months the West—and particularly the Obama administration—resumes its approach of making occasional blustery statements while persisting in pointless, toothless “diplomacy” that merely allows Tehran to buy time, it will be up to Israel to prove that it, too, is not just engaging in empty rhetoric.

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  • Mladen_Andrijasevic

    Well, we are back where we were 80 years ago. From the speech by Anthony Eden as FO undersecretary in Ramsay Mac Donald’s government in the House of Commons on March 23, 1933, taken from William Manchester’s The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill: Alone 1932-1940, page 98:

    How could anyone misinterpret the prime minister’s reply to the rising Nazis? It was certain, Eden earnestly told the House, to “secure for Europe that period of appeasement which is needed.” If appeased, Hitler’s anger would vanish; his fear of encirclement would disappear; the Nazis, freed from anguish and insecurity, would become sensible, stable neighbors in a Europe free of rancor. The House gave him a standing ovation – Churchill and those around him remained seated.

    Is Israel engaging in empty rhetoric? I do not think so. The PM is reading the right books, that we know.

    What is Bibi reading?

    • tic…tic…BOOM

      An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.
      Sir Winston Churchill

      To sit back hoping that someday, someway, someone will make things right is to go on feeding the crocodile, hoping he will eat you last–but eat you he will.
      Ronald Reagan

    • EarlyBird

      Mladen, what remedies should we have applied to Iran in the past five, ten, fifteen or twenty years?

      • Mladen_Andrijasevic

        Well I would have long ago convened a conference of scholars of Islam and specialists on Iran who would have asked Bernard Lewis to elaborate on his statement “In this context, the deterrent that worked so well during the Cold War, namely M.A.D. (Mutual Assured Destruction) , would have no meaning. At the End of Time, there will be general destruction anyway. What will matter is the final destination of the dead– hell for the infidels, and the delights of heaven for the believers. For people with this mindset, M.A.D. is not a constraint; it is an inducement.”

        Why are Bernard Lewis’s views on MAD ignored?

        The conference could, for instance, include Raphael Israeli

        From Arab Spring to Islamic Winter

        Matthias Kuntzel , Reza Kahlili , Timothy R. Furnish, Harold Rhode and others.

        At least the West would have started a discussion on the nature of the Iranian threat and then it would be clearer what needs to be done.

  • arishsahani

    No real iranians any more All I see are converts to islam and destroying own motherland. Any nation who gives up core culture of ancestors is lost nation and unless they give up alien culture they will not progress.

  • objectivefactsmatter

    We should strike Iran’s nuclear facilities and leave Assad be. As it is, it seems we’re laying the groundwork for a Sunni regional caliph in the middle east.

    • EarlyBird

      I think Israel should strike Iran’s nuclear facilities, if they can find them, and “we,” i.e., the United States, should wish Israel well. And leave Assad be.

  • tagalog

    That’s what the Middle East needs, an Iran churning out 30 nuclear bombs a year.

  • Walter Sieruk

    Whoever will be the next president of the Islamic “Republic” of Iran will not really change the basic cruel and ruthless nature of this Islamic regime. Fo rthe real powers in the tyranny are in the hands of the mullahs and Ayatollah Khamenei who oppress and come down hard on the human rights of the people of Iran. They do this through the brutal and vicious gang of thugs who are called the Revolutionary Guards. These “guards” are are as to Ayatollah Khamenie and the mullahs as the SS were to Hitler. Furthermore, such a heinous and oppresive dictatorship as this kind is descrined in the Bible. For in Proverbs 15:15 it teaches “All the days of the oppressed are wretched…” Likewise, Provebs 29:2 also explains :”When the wicked rule, the people groan.” [NIV]

  • Flowerknife_us

    Obama didn’t want the Iranian Spring. Making a point not to get involved in it. After almost 20 some years of hoping it would manifest itself as being the best solution to the problem.

    Obama supported and the press championed the Arab Spring that put our enemy in power.

    Obama will not support the Turkish Spring rising from the loss of Secular Rights. Festering for some 20 years.

    Obama is taking away our rights, mum on the injection of Islam in the Scools while reports come daily of the repression of Christian Values from School through society as a whole.

    Joe Biden threatened to impeach President Bush if he Attacked Iran when Iran was in no real position to defend itself. So we expect the same Joe Biden to support action now when it can do a much better job of defending itself?

    What shall we use after moth balling a Carrier Battle Group and plan to park some third of the Air force Fighter Wings.

    Obama Claims the Drones he IS buying can shoot at US if need be.

    Nobody told Obama that the IRS is free to do its own thing. to anybody it pleases, for what ever reason anybody wishes it to be. while nobody needs to know who said it was ok to do so.

    Nobody told Obama that his Justice Dept. seems to be filled and run by those Who pick and choose between what lawful laws they can ignore and what unlawful laws they can make up and enforce.

    No one told Obama that the FBI, who he wants to give all our Data to is , well, clueless.

    No one told Obama that his State Dept. was going to get Americans Killed while the rest of them were screwing around doing who knows what.

    So- in the end. No one will tell Obama that the new Man in Iran is a scam and then shizzam, kiblam, it’s the end of Man.

  • Flowerknife_us

    We will be told the new leadership is just wonderful. The Middle East will burn ever brighter. Then one day your cell phone won’t work, Your Living space is incredibly quiet, your car won’t start, and you used the last flush of your Toilet before you even have a clue.

  • EarlyBird

    As horrible as Iran is, and as bad as it could be with a nuclear weapon, there is no evidence to me that the government, the mullahs, are in the grip of the radical, apocalyptic suicidal mindset that could not be deterred by MAD.
    The ground troops of Hezbollah and the Revolutionary Guard are, but not the people actually running the show. I compare them to the people who ran Imperial Japan, i.e., conventional leaders with conventional goals, using kamikazes to carry out missions in service to those goals. You’ll notice that even Osama bin Laden never did a suicide mission, but instead sent out nutjobs to do them for him.
    I believe they will be very sober given the fact that they would be, and already are, facing down 200 Israeli nuclear missiles. I don’t mean to be sanguine about it, but I don’t want to engage in threat inflation, either. We could handle the Soviets for 50 years; we can handle this rump country.