The Iranian President isn’t worried:
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said here Tuesday that the United States was “absolutely incapable of inflicting serious damage on the Islamic Republic of Iran.”
His confidence has obviously been bolstered by Democrats and a handful of spineless Republicans:
Asked if a military strike by the US against Iran could be one such mistake, the chief executive replied: No. They are not in a position to make such a decision. I think, there are wise people in America who would not let this happen. They are incapable. The pressure is more psychological.”
One interesting theory, floated by Dariush Zahedi and Omid Memarian, is that Ahmadinejad views a U.S. attack (almost certainly limited to airstrikes) as a viable way to counter increasing internal dis-ease:
Viewing himself as a man of God, Ahmadinejad is no doubt praying that the US will not be satisfied with Iran’s diplomatic and economic isolation and will launch military strikes against the Islamic Republic’s nuclear installations.
Such action may or may not set back Iran’s nuclear ambitions. But it would surely give new life to Ahmadinejad’s militant faction, enabling him to rally the masses behind the flag, compel his conservative critics to close ranks behind him and crush the remnants of Iran’s liberal civil society and democratic movement.
Iranians, even some of those opposing the current regime, are almost certain to rally ’round the flag if we strike. If the stikes are limited Ahmadinejad probably does benefit in the long run. However, a comprehensive and intentionally destabilizing array of strikes, a full scale air war, could leave the regime without the infrastructure and assets needed to maintain control. Recent reports seem to indicate that this plan could be on the table:
Talking to the Middle East Policy Council, a Washington-based think tank, Wayne White, a top Middle East analyst for the State Department’s bureau of intelligence and research until March 2005, said: “I have seen some of the planning . . . You’re not talking about a surgical strike . . . You’re talking about a war against Iran.”
He went on to say that “(w)e’re not talking about just surgical strikes against an array of targets inside Iran. We’re talking about clearing a path to the targets” by taking out much of the Iranian Air Force, Kilo submarines, anti-ship missiles that could target commerce or US warships in the Gulf, and maybe even Iran’s ballistic missile capability.
Though not mentioned I’d like to think that those war plans include the facilities of organizations used by the regime to enforce internal security. With careful planning we might be able to clear the way for an emerging opposition and allow Iranians to free themselves.