As I have argued over decades in books and articles, Tehran’s regime possesses a much larger nuclear strategy than the simple acquisition of mass destruction weapons.
Over the last few years, the United States and its Western allies have been led to focus on the visible part of the Iranian buildup, missing the much greater construct undertaken over decades.
Since the so-called “Iran nuclear deal” was inked last fall, Washington acts as if it has somewhat halted (or at least slowed) the strategic program of Tehran and thus has been rewarding the Ayatollahs, but the reality flies in the face of this assumption. Iran’s regime is misleading the international community, particularly the U.S., in its campaign to irreversibly transform itself into a nuclear power.
The Iranian global construct can be perceived as a “Khomeinist Dome.” Iran’s strategy has been twofold — and sustained over decades, not simply implemented over the past few years. One is to create a defensive sphere over the forthcoming strategic weapon before it is unveiled, and two is to suppress any internal opposition to the regime’s policies.
The “dome” is a complex integration of Iranian foreign policy: Terrorism backing, using financial luring, exploiting Western weaknesses while at the same time expanding influence in the region so that by the time the greater shield is established, most U.S. and allied measures will be useless.
The regime knew all too well, years ago, that if they produced one atomic weapon (or even two) without being able to protect it, they would run into the almost certainty of military action by the West and/or by Israel to disable it. The issue for them was not about obtaining the nuclear weapon, but how to deter their enemies from destroying it.
Iran did not have the geopolitical or economic capacities, or the international stature of either India or Pakistan, to produce large-scale numbers of bombs and later announce them the way south Asia’s nuclear powers detonated their devices in 1999.
In 2003 the fear of being toppled by the West after Iraq’s invasion pushed Iran’s regime to hide its nuclear ambitions while awaiting the outcome of the regional evolution. By 2005, as the U.S. push came to a halt, the Iranian regime displayed its hardliner face with Ahmadinejad's full steam ahead.
On one track, Iran activated the production of nuclear material, making Bushehr and its sister sites the center of international focus. Washington responded with targeted sanctions aiming at pressuring Tehran to halt the project. The failure of the sanctions-only policies to exert a full strategic halt was caused by the inability of the West to support a strong and organized Iranian opposition inside the country with a significant presence in neighboring Iraq.
Sanctions to pressure, without a real resistance movement to push the regime into a corner, were doomed to fail and they did.
But the Iranian regime’s wider strategy was to create a shield for the nuclear weapons as they were produced. In fact, the Ayatollahs would unveil the weapon when it is protected. While the U.S. focused primarily on the fissile material, the fast track production of missiles was never stopped. The greater dome strategy includes missiles, anti-aircraft systems, geopolitical space and terrorism.
A missile force, targeting a wide spectrum of sites, has been under construction for years. In addition, the regime has been seeking to obtain advanced anti-aircraft missile systems to protect the potential offensive missiles. And when the two structures are fully ready it will be a greater challenge to eliminate the entire network as it would be armed with nukes and other WMDs while also surrounded with a vast AA system; all the while, the uranium production is moving forward.
In parallel, Tehran has been expanding its reach in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, the Arabian Peninsula, and parts of East Africa with its influence and through terror networks. Once the combination of all the above systems is in place, the bomb will come, but not before.
The Khomeinist dome is about preparing for the nukes before they are displayed and claimed. Once the greater system is asserted, there will not be a first indefensible bomb but a vast network of retaliation as deterrence will have been achieved. Unfortunately, Western posture toward Tehran has only helped in the building of the dome: Sanctions worked but were limited, all Iran’s other military systems were unchecked, and its interventions in the region unstopped. Worse, a nuclear deal with the U.S. injected time and energy into the regime’s veins.
At this point, the regime is out to complete the buildup of its strategic shield while offering to slow down its fissile material production. Once the dome is complete, the nuclear material production will speed up, and by the time the West realizes the maneuver, the Middle East will have changed forever.
Dr. Walid Phares is the author of "The Coming Revolution," which in 2010 predicted the Arab Spring revolution, and the forthcoming "The Lost Spring" (March 2014). He advises members of the US Congress on the Middle East. Read more reports from Walid Phares — Click Here Now.
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