Haggai Carmon: Attorney and Author

Iran: To Bomb Or Not To Bomb, That Is The Question

To bomb or not to bomb Iran’s nuclear installations, that is the question asked by many world leaders following the UN International Atomic Energy Agency report which provided the smoking gun: Iran is developing nuclear weapons.

Inevitably President Ahmadinejad immediately rejected the report. The summary of his response is: defiance defiance defiance.

Immediately after the UN report was published there were calls for more sanctions against Iran. Ahmadinejad vowed that his country will not be deterred by sanctions. He is perhaps telling the truth on this matter for the first time.

It is unknown whether before rushing to reject the report, Ahmadinejad asked himself, “To defy or not to defy?”

Approximately four hundred years ago William Shakespeare wrote Hamlet; the question Prince of Denmark asks himself has become frighteningly relevant. Hamlet is tormented as to whether he should commit suicide and says,

To be, or not to be, that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them? To die, to sleep,
No more;

On the 21st century real world stage, the players’ positions are clear. Iran says its nuclear program is intended solely for peaceful civilian purposes. World leaders and now a UN agency as well, say that the Iranian program has military ends.

Iran is a country whose values are underpinned by fervent Shiite Islamic beliefs and the pursuit of honor and respect from others. Therefore, if anyone believes that Iran will yield to sanctions and discontinue its military nuclear plans, then he would be a likely buyer of the moon when offered at a bargain price, if shipping and handling are included.

A nuclear Iran is just another step in their national effort to “export the Islamic revolution” and crown themselves as the Muslim worlds’ leader. Conceding and acknowledging that it was overpowered by the West, would be a deadly blow to a regime that sanctifies honor and self-esteem. That will never happen. Iran like Iran, soon after hastily rejecting the report, said that they are now open to negotiations provided that the sanctions are lifted. With this, the Iranian adopted a new tone which the world has already heard ad nauseam, delay delay delay.

If Iran is unlikely to give up its nuclear plans, then why impose sanctions? Because there is no other way to express the world’s concern over the Iranians becoming a nuclear power. And to an even darker picture, it is clear that even with the strong rhetoric of the US, the UK, France, and Germany, any newly imposed sanctions will not include Iranian oil exports. Any curtailing of these exports through sanctions and definitely if oil installations are sabotaged or bombed, will send world’s oil prices to new heights. That will be a highly undesirable consequence for the US with its struggling economy, or for Europe with its own monetary problems.

Would these gloomy predictions regarding the inability of the sanctions, present and future, to stop Iranian nuclear plans, increase the likelihood of a military strike? The odds are against an attack. Bombing Iran would result in a regional war, seriously risking both US and European interests. Iranian subsidiary terror organizations such as the Islamic Jihad in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon would shell Israeli civilian cities indiscriminately with thousands of rockets which Israel could not effectively stop. Obviously, in an effort to stop the shelling, Israel could opt to send Gaza and Lebanon smoking back to the Stone Age, but that too will not happen. Israel has always aimed to spare uninvolved enemy civilians even when its enemies intentionally targeted Israeli civilians. Thousands of remaining US soldiers in Iraq would also become targets of the Iranian Kuds Forces which are already spread in Shiite populated Southern Iraq. Other US favored countries such as Saudi Arabia and Jordan would also become Iranian targets.

Even with the escalating war of words by the West on one hand, and the religious fervency and defiance of Iran’s leaders on the other hand, the chances it would turn into live fire are unknown. The Iranians probably hope that they will cause the world to grind its teeth, but not to attack. They are apparently right. The West would have to tacitly accept nuclear Iran, continue with clandestine operations within Iran, infect nuclear installations with immobilizing computer worms and help Iranian opposition cause a regime change. That could be the reason why most of the sanctions are carefully designed not to devastate the Iranian people.

Is the projection that there will be no military hostilities certain? Definitely not, and far from it. During the 1962 missile crisis in Cuba, the Soviet Union blinked realizing that mutual US-Soviet nuclear destruction was not worth deploying their missiles in Cuba. The US kept its part of the bargain and the fear of a nuclear threat was removed.

These realistic principles do not apply to present-day Iran. Their leaders do not fear a doomsday scenario. In fact, some of them are looking forward to it. The Iranian Constitution in Article 11 exhorts the government to achieve unity with other Islamic countries to establish an Islamic world order founded on “solidarity,” a buzz word for Iranian hegemony as the head of “the Islamic Ummah” — Nation of Islam, which according to Iran will include the worlds’ more than one billion Muslims. That explains why, Iranian scholars describe the current regime as taking the “ideological approach based on the governance of supreme jurisprudence — Velayat-e Faqih — in which all power is solely derived from God.

Thus, the importance of the material and temporal has been downplayed and Western norms and values which have been held as defining the international system, are challenged.” In plain language it means that Iranian official policy puts the word of God ahead of all other considerations, and who is better — according to Iran — to bring up the wish of God than its Shiite clergy, the Ayatollahs?

It was during the 1980s Iraq-Iran war that Ayatollah Khomeini, the forefather of the Iranian Islamic Revolution that said that it is better to die then to compromise with those challenging the Shiite interpretation of Islam, meaning the Sunni Iraqis. Little doubt that these words could be extended to apply to Christians, Jews and others.

Ayatollah Khomeini’s teaching are followed by Ayatollah Mazbah Yazdi, a spiritual advisor of Ahmadinejad who was publicly recruiting would be suicide bombers to enlist with the “Lovers of Martyrdom Garrison.” Yazdi and his student Ahmadinejad are preparing for the Islamic equivalent of Armageddon that would bring back the messianic Islamic Mahdi who is regarded as the 12th Imam, or righteous descendant of the Prophet Mohammad. Mahdi is said to have gone into “occlusion” in the ninth century, at the age of five. His return will be preceded by cosmic chaos, war and bloodshed. After a cataclysmic confrontation with evil and darkness, Shiites believe that the Mahdi will lead the world to an era of universal peace. Ahmadinejad seems to accept that belief. In his debut speech to the United Nations he said, “I emphatically declare that today’s world, more than ever before, longs for just and righteous people with love for all humanity; and above all longs for the perfect righteous human being and the real savior who has been promised to all peoples and who will establish justice, peace and brotherhood on the planet.”

Will the world be safe with messianic Ahmadinejad’s fingers on the nuclear trigger while his other hand controls the spigots of 30% of the world’s oil supply? Will reason direct his actions or will his messianic doomsday beliefs prevail?

At the end of the play, Hamlet does not commit suicide, but dies by the sword in a duel.

Therefore the question is where do the present-day similarities with Hamlet’s question and fate end?

To bomb or not to bomb? We shall soon find out.