Written by: Michael Kravshik.
For years the debate over the Iranian nuclear threat has raged, and for months the potential of an Israeli strike on these capabilities has enraged. Many on both sides of the political spectrum have made the decisions faced by the Israeli and American leaders seem obvious or easy. Such people are generally either naïve or more beholden to their political ideologies than to rational thinking. The complexities inherent in these decisions and the serious repercussions for both countries are immense. Simplifying the argument does not do it justice and, more importantly, it does not help the decision-makers who have a massive burden of responsibility to bear. I’m not in the business of pretending I know what the Obama or Netanyahu administrations intend to do, how sure they are about their intended course of action, or even what factors they perceive as being most important; however, I do think that this past week should change the wider debate substantially. Something of significant importance was acknowledged that, while entirely suspected for a long time and by many people, should alter the prevailing debate now that it has been said publicly.
For years Iranian leaders (most notably Ahmadinejad, but others as well) have spouted the familiar unabashed anti-Semitic hate and general threats towards Israel. We’ve heard holocaust denial, prophecies of Israel’s destruction at some non-descript future time and, most recently at the UN, the claim that a worldwide Jewish conspiracy is preventing the world media from freely reporting on ‘realities’ (whatever that means). Of course, this list is most certainly not exhaustive, but you get the idea. None of this is either new or surprising. None of this should influence the decision making any more than it already has over the years.
So what’s changed? Less than a week before Ahmadinejad’s UN speech, the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, General Mohammad Ali Jafari said something I believe to be of immense importance. It wasn’t well reported. I only happened across it in the middle of a CBC article filled with threats and pronouncements. The lack of media coverage surprised me. More specifically, I was surprised by the fact that no one seemed to give this statement any more than the cursory attention given to most of the usual garbage we hear from Iranian leaders. Perhaps somebody of Mr. Jafari’s stature has even said it before, I really can’t be sure considering the lack of attention it received this time around. That being said, now that it has come to my attention, it’s something I hope more people can become aware of.
Without any further adieu, I give you the words of Mohammad Ali Jafari… [War between Iran and Israel], “will eventually happen, but it is not certain where and when.” It isn’t shocking or outrageous. It isn’t crudely anti-Semitic or extraordinarily distasteful either. It’s something that I’ve heard quite often from pundits and experts, as well as from ideologues and the entirely ignorant. So, what makes this uniquely important? This came directly from one of the top military commanders involved in the crisis.
This is different from the usual hate-filled and strategically inconsequential rubbish with which anyone who reads the news is normally inundated. This is an insight into how the Iranians themselves are viewing the situation. Most importantly, how the man who would be in charge of such efforts is viewing the situation. A military man will naturally view it militarily, and it would be hard to imagine that his thoughts aren’t heavily focused on actual strategic goals and concerns. This statement isn’t only about the current debate regarding the potential of an Israeli strike. It’s a telling look into the psyche of Iranian military planning and strategy. Stating that “war will eventually happen” is announcing its inevitability. He didn’t say it was likely, or that it was inevitable unless ‘X, Y, or Z’. Whether it’s this year, or next year, or under this pretext, or due to that situation, he is proclaiming their unalterable intention for war. With that mindset, deterrence isn’t exactly an option. Unfortunately, unlike the tango, it only takes one to start a war. Therefore, if this statement is an accurate portrayal of the mindset of the Iranian war planners, then war will occur. There is no option. Who knows how, or when, but it will. The only thing left to debate is whether this was an accurate portrayal.
I think this is a real game changer in a world filled with those who, very righteously, are trying their best to avoid such a war. If accurate, it means that their focus must be shifted from trying to prevent a war (since it will “eventually happen”) to how to make the inevitable war as ‘least-bad’ as possible.
I note with extreme caution to all readers that I am not suggesting or supporting any particular course of action. This information does not make any of these decisions any less difficult, but it does change the discussion quite a bit. Washington and Jerusalem will need to decide what ‘least-bad’ means to each of them, both separately and together; a set of decisions that I am happy to not have the responsibility of making. The only conclusion I can draw is that, if war is inevitable, it should be undertaken when it is likely to cause the least amount of damage. If waiting means fighting a stronger enemy with more (and potentially nuclear) capabilities, than waiting means heavier casualties (civilian, military, and economic). This may seem to suggest that I condone a strike on Iran. But, for that to be the case, one would have to assume two things: firstly, that I am 100% sure that Mr. Jafari was communicating his true thoughts; secondly, that striking right now is the best way to make this ‘inevitable’ war the ‘least-bad’. In truth, I am certain of neither.
All I’d like to do is stress the significance of this statement and, more importantly, the necessity of an effort to determine how much truth it resembles. I believe that question has become the question of primary consequence for both Israel and the United States. Once that decision has been made, if the decision is to take Mr. Jafari at his word, then it would only be prudent to prepare accordingly. I truly hope that this important question becomes the topic of more debate and more media attention.
Note: This article does not focus on Ahmadinejad’s very obvious apocalyptic mindset, since that is well documented, and there is good reason to believe he will not be making whatever final decisions are to be made.
This is my opinion. What’s yours?
Special thanks to Dorothy Charach for her editing advice