Iran's MAD Strategy Has a Strategic Rationale

Monday, 07 Nov 2011 12:22 PM

By Walid Phares

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My first book, "The Iranian Islamic Revolution," published way back in 1986, dealt with the historicity of the 1979 Khomeinist Revolution in Iran. In it, I exposed the Khomeinist regime’s long-term ambitions and revisionist account of events that led to the Shah’s overthrow and Ayatollah Khomeini’s ascent to power in the alleged Islamic “Republic” of Iran.

From my observatory in Beirut where Hezbollah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard (IRG) were growing into a force to be reckoned with in the region and beyond, I absorbed and digested the thinking and logic of Tehran’s strategists.

Boiled down, that strategy involved sending as many mixed signals in as many directions as possible so as to confuse opposing forces and make them tentative. This would allow the Khomeinists to pursue their global ambitions with minimal opposition.

First, Tehran formed an alliance with the Assad regime in Syria. Next, Hezbollah was established in Lebanon and later, in 2003, penetrated Iraq’s Shia communities. Now, Tehran is about to achieve its most important goal since the inception of the Islamist regime — a strategic intercontinental ballistic missile arsenal capable of delivering nuclear and other lethal warheads.

Military historians will undoubtedly debate the ins and outs of the Iran’s long trek to join the nuclear club. What they will find is a Western world that was fooled for decades. It remains to be seen whether the West’s current leaders will be able to stop this final phase in Iran’s jihadist strategy.

The 2003 U.S. National Intelligence Estimate asserted that Tehran had frozen its nuclear program. This led many analysts in Washington to suggest that an opening might exist to engage the Iranian regime.

The Bush administration’s approach to Tehran was cautious but the Obama administration has been far more aggressive in its diplomacy.

U.S. dealings with Tehran peaked in June 2009 when it abandoned principle by ignoring the developing “Iranian Spring” to garner favor with the ayatollahs. The official position in Washington was “we won’t meddle in Iran’s internal affairs.” This posture allowed the Revolutionary Guard to take back the streets of Iran using force with little or no restraint.

Meanwhile, the U.S. was preoccupied with the regime’s progress toward manufacture of a nuclear bomb and the realization of “Iranium.”

Sanctions attempted to delay Tehran’s nuclear program while policy negotiations took place behind closed doors, but did nothing to deter the Iranian regime which continued its strategic quest, with nuclear weapons representing only one element in that strategy.

In 2007, I published an article in which I argued that the mullahs intended to develop its missile systems at the same time they were developing nuclear weapons. I predicted that the U.S. and its Western allies would be preoccupied with fissile material while the Iranian regime would be focused on delivery systems.

Each subsequent year, the world has witnessed new Iranian missiles with longer ranges unveiled in military exercises. The reach of Iranian missiles has increased dramatically while the international debate was mired in nuclear material.

To lend credibility to this obfuscatory maneuver, Tehran’s leaders even pretended to engage in stressful back-and-forth negotiations, leveraging the assistance of friends like Turkey’s AKP Government and Brazil, to mediate unusual “solutions” to fissile material “issues.”

During this charade, Iran’s real focus was on building the most sophisticated missile systems possible and protecting them with antiaircraft batteries. More importantly, the Khomeinists have extended Iran’s launch radius far from mainland Iran.

Hezbollah in Lebanon, the increasingly pro-Iranian Iraqi government and, at least for now, the Assad regime in Syria offer potential launch sites. The Iranians have a presence in Eritrea and Sudan, and they even have allies in South America (Chavez’s Venezuela).

And, last but not least, Iran’s commanders boasted about their ability to deploy ships off the coast of the United States en route to refueling in Venezuela and other possible Latin American safe havens.

Experts rushed to respond asserting that the “Iranian navy” was no match for an American naval superpower. True, but the ayatollahs are not seeking a battle on the high seas but to display their ability to strike the U.S. at least once, possibly with nuclear weapons.

Basically, the Iranian regime is seeking the stalemate of mutually assured destruction (MAD). Iran wants to stockpile delivery systems that can be rapidly outfitted with nuclear warheads, so that the U.S. and its Western allies will not be able to destroy them before it is too late.

The stakes would be too high to attack if Iran has both the bomb and the ability to use it anywhere.

Dr. Walid Phares is the author of "The Confrontation: Winning the War against Future Jihad," and "The Coming Revolution: Struggle for Freedom in the Middle East." He advises members of Congress and the European parliament.






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