The hardline Iranian newspaper Kayhan is closely tied to the government; its editor Hossein Shariatmadari is appointed by the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, and he remains an advisor to him. On December 6, Kayhan carried an editorial demanding that Iran not hesitate in striking Israel for its likely assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the nuclear scientist, and IRGC major general, who headed Iran’s nuclear program. That report on the Kayhan editorial is here: “Direct conflict with Israel ‘could make Iran regional superpower,’” by Neta Bar, Israel Hayom, December 6, 2020:
Hardline Iranian daily Kayhan on Sunday, Dec. 5, called on Tehran not to delay in exacting vengeance for the assassination of the country’s nuclear mastermind last month.
There are those in Iran’s government who disagree with the Kayhan editor. They think Iran should wait until the Biden administration comes in. They fear what might happen if such “vengeance” against Israel were launched while the unpredictable Trump, who has been Israel’s best friend, is still president. Would his presence in the White House not lead Jerusalem to think it could launch a devastating campaign against Iran, knowing America “had its back”? Would the American military take part in any reprisal Israel were to launch to answer an Iranian attack? There now seems to be some doubt as to whether Israel acted alone, or did the Iranian opposition group Mujahideen-e-Khalq also participate, and there is even speculation as to whether the Americans themselves had a hand in the assassination. If the Iranians did not at this point wish to risk an attack on Israel, Iran could announce that the assassins were all members of the Mujahideen-e-Khalq group, and “as of now we can find no evidence of Zionist participation.”
Were Iran’s response to be a limited attack, similar to the one Iran launched after the American assassination of Qassem Soleimani, when no American soldiers at the airbases attacked by Iran at Erbil and Ain al-Asad were killed — though nearly 100 suffered mild concussions (but soon returned to duty) – that would be one thing. Such an attack, for example, could be carried out by Hezbollah, instructed by Iran to lobby some missiles harmlessly into fields in the northern Galilee. Iran would then have Hezbollah claim it had done great damage, and that Iran considered that reprisal was enough. In such a case, Israel could choose to regard this attack-by-proxy as a tit-for-tat response, draw a line under it, and do nothing further. Or it could launch attacks either on Hezbollah in Lebanon or, as it has done many hundreds of times before, on Iranian targets in Syria, without itself suffering any losses. The Jewish state likely would take care not to bomb inside Iran, lest that set off a much greater conflagration — unless of course Israel is now ready for precisely that, with its three-tier missile defense complete; there are Israeli military men who want to deliver a fatal blow to the Tehran regime without further delay.
Iran immediately blamed Israel – long suspected of killing several Iranian nuclear scientists a decade ago – for Fakhrizadeh’s elimination.
In an editorial titled, “We cannot wait,” Kayhan, whose editor-in-chief is appointed by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, argued that there are “elements in Iran” that are interested in silencing the calls for reprisal over the assassination for fear that retaliation against Israel or its allies would trigger regional escalation that would also harm Iran.
The editorial urges the regime to ignore this possibility and strike not only Israeli targets but also US Army bases in the region.
These are chocolate soldiers, sitting in their desks at Kayhan, offering big – dangerous, self-defeating — plans for Iran’s possible reprisal. These journalists are completely disconnected from reality. If Iran were now to “strike not only Israeli targets but also US Army bases in the region,” the response of the U.S. and Israel would be devastating indeed. It might even provide the pretext that Washington (under Trump) needs to bomb – using bunker-busting bombs (Massive Ordnance Protectors) — the underground nuclear sites near Natanz.
“If Iran deals a blow to Israel, it means that US bases in the region are also not safe, and thus the regional balance [of power] could change in Iran’s favor,” the daily stated.
“If Iran deals a blow to Israel…” But Israel has dealt hundreds of blows to Iranian sites in Syria, without Iran managing to shoot down a single IAF plane, or striking Israel itself. Why should anyone believe that this time Iranian missiles and rockets could hit Israel, without being intercepted by the Iron Dome defense? The U.S. has chosen, up till now, not to strike inside Iran itself – it killed Qassem Soleimani at the Baghdad Airport — but if Iran were to deal a major blow either to Israel, or to American bases in the Middle East, both the Israeli and the American military would retaliate tenfold. Why do those Kayhan editors not recognize this? Have they been bewitched by the Islamic State’s own propaganda?
“The Zionist enemy knows that it has no military response to our ballistic missiles since all air defense systems against them, like the Patriot, have failed miserably,” the editorial contends, adding that a direct confrontation with Israel “could elevate Iran to the status of a regional superpower.”
The Patriot missiles have indeed “failed miserably,” and are expensive to boot. That is why the Americans have since early 2019 bought Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system, a system which has intercepted more than 1,000 incoming projectiles launched at Israel, to replace the Patriot. Apparently the editors at Kayhan are unaware of the Iron Dome’s spectacular record.
Nor have they heard of the even more important Arrow 2 and Arrow-3 interceptors, Israel’s defense against Iranian long-range ballistic missiles. Just this summer the Arrow 2 interceptor successfully passed flight tests:
Israel’s Defense Ministry said Thursday it conducted a successful test of the country’s advanced missile defense system against long-range ballistic attacks.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz said the successful flight test of the Arrow-2 interceptor was part of Israel’s technological effort that “ensures that we will always be one step ahead of our enemies.”
The test was conducted overnight in central Israel, jointly with the U.S. Missile Defense Agency.
Arrow-2 is part of the multi-layered system Israel has developed to defend against both short- and mid-range rockets fired from Gaza and Lebanon, as well as Iran’s long-range missiles. It includes Iron Dome, David’s Sling and the Arrow-3 system — capable of defending against threats from outside the atmosphere.
Israel and the United States jointly tested Arrow-3 successfully last year in Alaska. The system was developed by Israel Aerospace Industries and U.S. aviation giant Boeing and became operational in January 2017. The Arrow-2 has been in use even longer and has been deployed in recent years to counter Syrian missiles.
Israel’s multi-layered aerial defense systems were designed to cope with a future war in which it is assumed Israel will be targeted with massive missile fire toward all parts of the country. The Arrow rocket system is designed to intercept the longest-range missiles, including outside the atmosphere.
At Kayhan, it’s clear that military matters are not their strong suit.
Will the Supreme Leader listen to the editors of Kayhan? If Iran dares to retaliate for the killing of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, by attempting to strike Israeli targets and possibly American military bases in the Middle East as well, it must keep that response to a minimum. Iran’s response to the assassination of Qassem Soleimani should serve as a model; Iran had notified Iraq’s government ahead of time; Baghdad then informed the Americans, who could then take shelter; as a result, American soldiers suffered concussions, but no Americans were killed.
Iran cannot afford a serious conflict right now. Its economy is in free fall; the impoverished population is increasingly disaffected, chanting “No to Palestine! No to Lebanon!” as a way of protesting the money sent abroad by the government to Iran’s proxies and allies. If on top of this, Iran rashly attacks Israel, and calls down upon itself the wrath of the Israeli Air Force, it will be very sorry. Ashkenazi, Gantz, and Netanyahu have all warned Iran not to put Israel to the test. And if, even more heedlessly, Iran were to attack American military bases In the Middle East, as Kayhan demands must happen now, even with Trump in office, and the Americans were to use their bunker busters to destroy Iran’s nuclear facilities built inside a mountain at Natanz, the clerical regime could not survive the humiliation.
Which leaves one thinking that if the Supreme Leader decides to follow the advice of his friends at Kayhan, that will be just the decision that Jerusalem, and Washington, will now be able to use to their advantage. Go to it, Ayatollah Khamenei. The ghost of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh wants you to avenge his death. Don’t wait. Do something now. Make our day.