by Alon Ben-Meir
The EU is in a unique position to prevent the outbreak of a war between Israel and Iran that could engulf the Middle East in a war that no one can win.
Accusing Iran of being a rogue country bent on acquiring nuclear weapons, supporting extremist groups and terrorism, persistently threatening Israel, and destabilizing the region in its relentless effort to become the dominant power may well all be justified. The question is, what would it take to stop Iran from its destabilizing activities and help make it a constructive member of the international community, and avoid military confrontation with either the US or Israel or both? The answer is not regime change, as Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and top American officials advocate, but a diplomatic solution. The EU, led by France, Germany, and the United Kingdom – who continue to adhere to the JCPOA – should initiate a behind-the-scenes dialogue and pave the way for US involvement in a negotiating process with Iran to find a peaceful solution and prevent a catastrophic military confrontation.
Evaluating US-Iran historic relations
The toppling of the democratically-elected Mosaddeq government in 1953 and the installing of the corrupt Shah as king of the country, coupled with the US’ treatment of Iran since the 1979 revolution, constitute a series of errors in judgment of successive American administrations over the past 40 years.
In the wake of the Iran-Iraq war in 1988, Iran’s President Rafsanjani made several attempts to improve relations with the US. He offered the American oil company Conoco a contract to develop one of Iran’s largest oil fields, but a deal was blocked by the US. Also, efforts made by moderates within the Shiite regime searching for common ground with the US after September 11 were rebuffed by the US, even though Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, known to be a reformer, was in power.
In 2002, President Bush shut down what was left of any opening with Iran by characterizing it, along with Iraq and North Korea, as the “axis of evil,” accusing them of being allied with terrorists “arming to threaten the peace of the world.”[i] Thus, instead of exploiting any opening to initiate a new dialogue, successive American administrations remained focused on containing Iran and never precluded the use of force to that end. Naturally, this played into the hands of radical Iranian officials, who viewed the US as the “Great Satan”, bent on undermining the regime and not to be trusted.
Feeling rejected and threatened by the US, Tehran decided to take advantage of the fragile American strategy to forge an Israeli-Palestinian peace by supporting several Palestinian radical groups opposed to Israel’s existence. Fear of an American invasion, especially following the Iraq War, Iran’s historic rivalry against Saudi Arabia, and its concerns over Israel’s undeclared nuclear weapons further strengthened its resolve to become the region’s ‘superpower.’ Tehran decided to pursue a weaponized nuclear program to prevent an American invasion and neutralize Israel’s nuclear arsenal.
Iran took full advantage of the Iraq War, which gave Iraq to Iran on a silver platter, and moved strategically to entrench itself in the predominantly Shiite country. It came quickly to the rescue of Assad’s regime in Syria with the intension of establishing a permanent presence and securing a corridor that links it to the Mediterranean through Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon, where it has already cemented its presence through Hezbollah.
Furthermore, Iran interjected itself into the civil war in Yemen by providing financial aid and arms to the Shiite-leaning Houthis with the intention of establishing a foothold in the Arabian Peninsula. All along, Iran vigorously pursued the development of ballistic missiles while providing Islamic jihadists and terror groups throughout the Middle East with training and military materials.
To be sure, Tehran had every incentive not only to undermine the Israeli-Palestinian peace process but to impede and frustrate America’s overall Middle East policy, which further reaffirmed the US’ belief that Iran is a regional menace that must be dealt with accordingly.
Unlike his predecessors, President Obama was determined to change the dynamic of the conflict with Iran by moving from confrontation to negotiation. Obama concluded that waging a war against Iran would at best set its effort to acquire nuclear weapons back for only two to three years, but would likely precipitate a disastrous regional war. Even though Iran could potentially suffer tremendous losses and destruction of its nuclear facilities, it would recover and become even more determined to resume its nuclear weapons program.
Consequently, Obama decided to defuse the tension with Iran by first focusing on preventing it from acquiring nuclear weapons, which was the most disconcerting issue for US and its allies in the region, especially Israel. The 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) was also seen as a prerequisite to improve relations and nurture trust, as EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said in Brussels: “the deal was put in place exactly because there was no trust between the parties…”[ii]
The idea was to create an atmosphere conducive to reducing tensions by gradually lifting the sanctions parallel to Iran’s compliance with all the provisions of the deal. This would have allowed the nurturing of trust and opened the door for negotiations to settle other conflicting issues. After two years of intense negotiations, the JCPOA was struck with the full support of the UNSC permanent members plus Germany, as well as the EU, which Israel vehemently opposed and rallied against.
Convinced of Iran’s mischiefs and eager to fulfill his campaign promise, Trump withdrew from the deal in May 2018 and re-imposed severe sanctions on Iran, deeply disturbing European allies and heightening anew tensions with Iran, making the US a part of the problem not of the solution which brings us to the present impasse.
Considering the psychological and emotional dispositions
The search for a lasting solution must factor in the psychological, emotional, and political disposition and national interests of the main players, namely Iran, Israel, and the US.
Iran takes special pride in its continuing history of over 2,500 years. The last time it was conquered by an entity that dominated the Persian culture was in the 4th century BCE by Alexander the Great, whose Hellenic state lasted for a short period of time. Iran enjoys immense cultural riches, an abundance of natural resources, and a pivotal geostrategic location. It is the heart of Shiite Islam with a population of over 74 million, which is larger than the combined Sunni population of the Gulf states by more than 30 million.
Given its history, resourcefulness, and ability to project its power, Iran is a proud nation that seeks respect and rejects bullying. Iran is resilient; it can be defeated time and again, but it will rise in defiance of any circumstances, ready and willing to sacrifice whatever it takes, and not allow itself to be humiliated. These characteristics reflect who the Iranians really are, and why they feel that being the region’s hegemon is only natural. Both Israel and the US must keep this in mind, and carefully consider it before either or both contemplates any attack on major Iranian targets.
Israel is extraordinarily sensitive on matters of national security, and from its perspective, any country or countries that pose an existential threat would do so at their peril. The Jews were subject to extermination less than 75 years ago, when six million were murdered by the Nazis. For Israelis, the phrase ‘never again’ is not a slogan. It represents the core of their very being not to ever compromise on any issue that might have adverse national security implications.
Israel takes the Iranian existential threat with the utmost seriousness, and would resort to any means at its disposal to obliterate the source of such threat. Iran must bear this in mind as well. Once Israel perceives the Iranian threat to be a clear and present danger, it would act and inflict an unacceptable level of damage to safeguard its national security, with or without the support of the US.
The US: President Trump came to power predisposed to undo Obama’s deal, embracing the policies of prior administrations that believed in confrontation rather than negotiation with Iran. Trump’s unilateral withdrawal of the US from the JCPOA, partly at the urging of Netanyahu, and the re-imposition of severe sanctions reaffirmed in the mindset of the Iranian clergy that the US is determined to effect regime change, which they fear the most.
Although pursuing regime change is not the official policy of the US, it is clear that this is the intent of the current administration. Prior to his appointment as National Security Advisor, John Bolton stated in July 2017, “The declared policy of the United States of America should be the overthrow of the mullahs’ regime in Tehran. The behavior and the objectives of the regime are not going to change and, therefore, the only solution is to change the regime itself.”[iii]
Furthermore, Bolton has begun to restructure the National Security Council, filling it with friendly hawks, overseen by Richard Goldberg, who was a fierce advocate of regime change in Iran during his tenure at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. The same sentiment has been repeatedly echoed by Rudy Giuliani—Trump’s personal attorney—who openly calls for regime change, which has only affirmed the administration’s ultimate intentions.
Four perilous scenarios
Should the Trump administration remain adamant on regime change, it is more than likely that one of the following scenarios will unfold, which could lead to a catastrophic development.
Bellicose narrative leads to violence: The threats and counterthreats between Iran and Israel could lead to miscalculation, resulting in an unintended outbreak of a catastrophic war that neither side wants nor can win. As it continues to escalate, such narratives also create a public perception both in Israel and Iran that military confrontation may well be inevitable. As a result, both countries would become entrapped by their bellicose narrative against one another, in which any incident perceived to threaten the national security of either side could trigger a devastating military confrontation.
Rhetoric like the statements by a senior Revolutionary Guard commander, stating that “if they [the United States] attack us, we will raze Tel Aviv and Haifa to the ground”[iv], and Netanyahu’s response that if Iran attempts such an attack, it will fail and “…this would be the last anniversary of the revolution that they celebrate”[v], should be avoided at all costs, and the Trump administration must refrain from adding fuel to the fiery narrative.
Attacks in Syria spark further conflict: Israel’s continuing attacks on Iranian military installations in Syria, from which Iran has sustained heavy losses, could pressure Iran to retaliate as it will no longer allow itself to be humiliated now that these attacks are in the open. Iran’s tendency to overly exaggerate its military prowess, which it has come to believe in, and Israel’s psychologically rooted fear of existential threats, narrows the space of reasonable discourse.
The problem here is that Israel’s determination not to allow Iran to establish permanent military bases in Syria, and conversely Tehran’s determination not to cut its losses and leave, shortens the time before an outright military confrontation could occur. These conditions are further aggravated by Trump’s support of Netanyahu’s military campaign against Iran in Syria, bringing Israel and Iran ever closer to the precipice of war.
One of the potentially explosive conflicts that must be defused immediately with the help of Russia is Iran’s determination to maintain a military presence in Syria. Iran is unlikely to leave Syria voluntarily, nor will Israel be able to dislodge it by force. Iran understands that it cannot threaten Israel from Syrian territory and continue to supply Hezbollah and Hamas with military equipment, including rockets, challenging Israel from three fronts with impunity. Iran will be wise to remove all its military encampments eastward to the Iraqi border to persuade Israel that it has no designs against it. Otherwise, Israeli attacks on Iranian military installations in Syria will continue, and it could to escalate into a full-blown war.
Effecting regime change in Iran: Trump’s desire to effect regime change – by imposing sanctions to dislocate the Iranian economy and instigate public unrest, while trying to isolate Iran internationally – could create chaotic conditions in the country, but it does not guarantee that regime change will in fact be realized. Unlike the US’ successful attempt in 1953 by toppling the then-Mosaddeq government, in today’s Iran the clergy is far more entrenched in every aspect of life.
Although Iranians are suffering and ordinary people take a serious personal risk by demonstrating against the government and demanding change, this public pressure is not enough to unseat the government, as the Trump administration is hoping for. It does, however, compel the government to search for new avenues to alleviate the worsening economic conditions.
The mullahs have shown an inordinate capacity to ruthlessly quell any public unrest, and it can count on the powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) to safeguard the survival of the clergy, because in protecting the mullahs, the Guard protects its own elite position. This mutuality of interests and dependency explains why the clergy allocates a significant portion of Iran’s national budget to the Guard, regardless of the overall economic hardship from which the public is suffering.
Individuals affiliated with the IRGC lobbied the government to spend no less than 5 percent of the total budget on the military, which was approved in 2016. Since 2014, the military budget has increased 53 percent in real terms.[vi] While the official budget currently allocates only 7.5 percent to the military, vast sums of money are funneled to the Guard through other means.[vii] To be sure, regime change precipitated by American sanctions and intimidation could lead to widespread bloodshed in the country, but with little if any prospect of success.
Waging a premeditated war against Iran: This is the worst option of all, as there is simply no way to predict the ultimate outcome. To suggest, as some Israelis do, that a surgical attack of Iran’s nuclear facilities carried out jointly by the US and Israel will not necessarily evolve into a regional war displays a clear lack of understanding of the Iranian psychological and political disposition. Regardless of cost in blood and treasure, Iran will retaliate, which could plunge the Middle East into a devastating war from which no one will escape unscathed.
Given the fact that no war could obliterate Iran, and Israel’s low threshold of casualties, any Iranian attack on Israel in the course of a war that results in the death of thousands of Israelis while inflicting massive destruction may well force Israel to resort to the use of WMDs. This option becomes even more realistic should Israel believe that Iran is posing an imminent existential threat. For this reason, no sane Israeli or American should even contemplate a premeditated war and must stop short of nothing to prevent an accidental one.
Trump is dangerous. He may go to war with Iran only to distract the attention of the American people from his ever-growing personal troubles. Senators Tom Udall (D-NM) and Richard J. Durbin (D-IL) are absolutely on target, writing in the Washington Post that “The Trump administration’s Iran policy, built on the ashes of the failed Iraq strategy, is pushing us to take military action aimed at regime change in Tehran.”[viii] The senators must accelerate their proposed drafting of “legislation by a bipartisan group of senators that would restrict any funds from being spent on an unconstitutional attack against Iran.”
That said, however, there are certain conditions under which resorting to war would be less consequential than doing nothing. While a war of choice is truly the worst option, a just war in which the consequences of engaging in battle vastly outweigh the consequences of doing nothing, may be the only option. Ultimately, all parties to the conflict must do everything in their power not to allow the current situation to deteriorate to a point where even a just war becomes the only viable option.
Iran’s concerns and fears
Iran’s threat perception originates from its sense of encirclement, fearing not only the US and Israel but also Pakistan and India as nuclear powers, which compels it to pursue a defensive policy. Iran’s Foreign Minister Zarif stated that “we will neither outsource our security nor will we renegotiate or add onto a deal we have already implemented in good faith.”[ix] As a result, Iran feels that it has every justification to accelerate its ballistic missile program, which poses a greater danger not only to Israel but to the US’ allies throughout the region. In addition, Iran feels that it would further benefit by increasing its financial support to extremist groups to destabilize the region, which it has and will continue to exploit.
Iran faces three major concerns of the Iranian moderates (led by Rouhani and Zarif), who strongly feel that Iran should lower the volume of its bellicose rhetoric and be pragmatic in addressing the urgent issues the country is facing.
Economic hardship: Ayatollah Yazdi, who spoke to conservative Iranian students on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the revolution, claimed that “In these 40 years, 400 years’ worth of service has been rendered to this country and we have had 400 years’ worth of growth and progress…”[x] Notwithstanding his boasting about the progress Iran made since the revolution, the mullahs know better than that. According to World Bank data from 2018, per capita GDP in Iran has fallen approximately 30 percent since 1976, meaning the average Iranian citizen has become 30 percent poorer.[xi]
President Rouhani is painfully aware of the need to alleviate economic hardship, which he sees as central to Iran’s long-term stability more so than focusing on developing more advanced missiles. In January 2015, the conflict between Rouhani and the IRGC over the JCPOA became extremely heated. During these intense discussions between the two sides, Rouhani asked, “Are we strong because we have all kind of weapons, but we depend on others to supply us with wheat, meat, oil and sugar?”, adding that “some of us think that because we have missiles, we are strong…We cannot grow when we are isolated…Our ideology does not rely on [nuclear] centrifuges.”[xii]
Although this encounter happened over three years ago, little has changed since. Rouhani, with Khamenei’s blessing, refused to accept Zarif’s resignation, who has earned respect among EU member states, strengthening the hands of the moderate camp over the extremist Guard. Rouhani wants his country to continue to adhere to the JCPOA, and do not want to risk losing the continued European support of the deal.
Iran’s fear of an Israeli or US attack: Iran is fearful of a pre-emptive Israeli or American attack on its nuclear facilities, military installations, and many other targets of value, especially now under Trump and following the seizure of Iran’s nuclear archives by Israel. The uncovered materials reveal that Iran has violated its longstanding nuclear non-proliferation commitment. Although Iran’s active pursuit of nuclear weapons ended in 2003, it continued its intellectual pursuit, hiding those documents after the JCPOA was signed in 2015. Without the deal, Iran would likely be in a position to produce such weapons within two years, which would certainly invite an American onslaught.
Russia’s dominant role in Syria: Notwithstanding Russia’s and Iran’s marriage of convenience in Syria, Tehran knows that Russia does not want it to entrench itself deeply in Syria, as this would infringe on Moscow’s dominant role in the country. Moreover, Russia is more concerned about Israel’s security, in particular due to the over one million Russian citizens living in Israel and their long-standing collaborative relationship.
Russia has turned a blind eye to the constant Israeli attacks on Iranian military installations in Syria with the understanding that Israel will not attack Syrian targets. Iran wants to get something in return for its heavy investment, militarily and financially, in Syria throughout the civil war, but it finds itself in retreat because of the Russian position and Assad’s greater confidence in Russia’s commitment to securing his position.
Regardless of its continued military buildup and its boasting about its ability to project its military power, Iran feels vulnerable and increasingly more isolated. The Iranian moderates, led by Rouhani with the support of the clergy, know that they must compromise and be open to a new dialogue to ease the country’s economic hardship and ensure its political security, as long as they do not lose face.
European sources transacting with Iran suggest that Tehran will be open to further negotiations if it is assured that regime change is not the ultimate objective of the US. Thus, the US and its allies must focus on a diplomatic solution that can change, over time, Iran’s behavior. Indeed, the Iranian government wants to normalize relations with its neighbors and Western powers, which is central to its political stability, economic progress, and ultimately its survival.
The role of the EU
The EU is in a perfect position to play a significant role to initiate dialogue in order to defuse tensions and start a new negotiating process to deal with all the conflicting issues, from which Iran can benefit. The three individual Western signatories to the JCPOA continue to adhere to it and have workable relations with Iran, while maintaining a fairly good relationship with the Trump administration.
The EU must initiate behind the scene negotiations with Iran, if it hasn’t already, and along with the US, develop and agree upon a joint cohesive strategic plan to mitigate the conflict with Iran based on the carrot-and-stick approach.
The Warsaw conference revealed disunity and disagreement between the US and its allies in addressing the Iran problem. Although the conference was ostensibly convened to address the crises sweeping the Middle East, the focus quickly shifted to Iran, which was the intention of the US in the first place. The Trump administration wanted to rally the international community behind its confrontational policy toward Iran, to which the European countries object, as was manifested by the low-level delegations they sent to the conference.
For Iran, this display of disunity provided it the opportunity to take full advantage of the Western alliance’s discord and trade with many other countries to compensate for American sanctions. That said, the EU must make it clear to Tehran that it cannot count on the discord between the EU and the US particularly in connection with the JCPOA to last indefinitely, because the current development of events is perilously explosive.
Germany, France, and the UK ought to persuade the US that its confrontational approach will not work, at least not before Iran is given the opportunity to assess the cost and benefit from its belligerent activity and conclude that the cost would by far outweigh the benefit. Secretary of State Pompeo’s unabashed statement that “you can’t achieve stability in the Middle East without confronting Iran. It’s just not possible”[xiii], a position that Netanyahu reiterated the day after, will in fact lead nowhere except to military confrontation.
Engaging in interest-based negotiations
The new talks with Iran, led by Germany, France, and the UK, should not be limited to the details of the current deal. If the EU wants to launch a useful initiative, it should enlarge the scope of its demands and call for a multi-layered negotiation, dealing with several relevant issues related to the security of the whole region. The talks should address the need for Iran to stop its continuing support of extremist groups, its encouragement of terrorism and subversion, deployment of missiles to Hezbollah, Hamas, and the Houthis, and use of Shiite militias to fight its proxy wars Syria and Yemen. The negotiators should also engage in a discussion about the future of the JCPOA.
In addition, Iran should be required to provide a full account of its nuclear weapon history and present all information pertaining to its nuclear facilities and equipment, as was uncovered by the archives, along with the technology and materials that it has hidden from the international monitors. In particular, notwithstanding Gen. Ali Hajizadeh’s (the head of Iran’s missile program) vow that the program will never stop “under any circumstances”[xiv], the new talks should fully address Iran’s ballistic missile program, as it represents a threat to Israel and Saudi Arabia.
Pierre Vimont, senior fellow at Carnegie Europe, observes that “These different challenges all boil down to the issue of a regional security arrangement for the whole region. Highly ambitious indeed, but the response to the current mistrust between Iran and its neighbors can only come from a clear perspective of where this whole region should be heading to ensure a sustainable stability.”[xv]
The 2018 leak of materials from Iran’s archive shows that Iran made the deal in bad faith, hiding details such as the extent of its weapons program from the negotiators, which would have affected the outcome – a point at which the P5+1 would have legitimate reasons from withdrawing from the deal.
Consistent with the three resolutions by the UNSC that required Iran to end its ballistic missile program, the EU must make it clear that its continued adherence to the JCPOA and future cooperation will be directly linked to Iran’s adherence to these resolutions. Otherwise, it would join with the US to impose crippling sanctions, which would cause an immeasurable economic crisis from which the country will suffer.
The new negotiations should be based on quid pro quo without any preconditions, aiming to achieve a comprehensive deal in stages to enhance mutual credibility and build trust. Every conflicting issue must be placed on the table and a solution to any such issue, for example, an agreement on freezing Iran’s research and development of ballistic missiles, is reciprocated by lifting a specific set of sanctions from which Iran can derive immediate benefit. To be sure, Western powers should offer Iran a path for normalization of relations, removing sanctions, and assurances that the West will not seek regime change.
Both sides need to agree on a specific time frame to end the negotiations with a mutually satisfactory agreement to prevent Iran from dragging out the negotiations for a hidden sinister agenda. Given, however, the complexity of these negotiations, both sides must also demonstrate some flexibility time-wise, as long as there is clear progress and both sides are negotiating convincingly in good faith, allowing both sides to develop a vested interest in continuing the negotiating process. In addition, the countries in the region, especially the Gulf states and Israel, which might be affected by any new deal, should be informed about the nature of the negotiations and make every effort to mitigate any old or new concerns they might raise. Indeed, getting these countries on board and in support of a new deal is central to regional stability—which all the states in the region, including Iran, want to maintain.
I do not share the view of the first President of the Islamic Republic, Abolhassan Banisadr, who believes that “The collapse of the Islamic republic is not a possibility, it is inevitable, it will definitely happen… The people of Iran and Islam itself have fallen victim to a ‘mulltaria’ (mullah+military) and a renewed dictatorship.”[xvi]
Iran under the Ayatollahs has survived for 40 years, and there is nothing on the horizon to suggest that it is about to be toppled because of domestic or foreign pressure under the current circumstances. Sanctions in and of themselves, however crippling, will not precipitate regime change, and attacking Iran would have unpredictably terrifying consequences that have the potential of plunging the Middle East into a war that no country in the region wants.
Moreover, as seen by Vimont, “The confrontation with America is forcing Iran to move East due to the sanctions regime (and the need to shift the Iranian trade patterns to new partners) and the uncertainty over a possible peace process in Afghanistan. China’s presence in Pakistan and its efforts to open new maritime roads and harbors are becoming an important feature in Iran’s strategic thinking. The US administration would be wise to take into consideration these developments to avoid a perilous loss of influence in this whole region.”[xvii]
Iran must understand that it cannot continue on its current path with impunity. Iran is arming itself to the teeth, including developing ballistic missiles that can reach Israel, openly supporting militarily radical groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah, who are sworn to Israel’s destruction, and establishing military bases in Syria from which it can attack Israel’s heartland. Iran should not be foolish enough to expect Israel not to react militarily by any means at its disposal.
Iran needs to also be aware that attacking Israel directly or by proxy (or both) is akin to suicide, as Israel will take no chances when it comes to its national security. Likewise, Iran should not expect the EU and the US to continue to tolerate its destructive activities in the Middle East by meddling in the affairs of other states, threatening their allies, and destabilizing the region while undermining their geostrategic interest, not to speak of its paused clandestine nuclear weapons program.
Historically, the relationship between the Jews and the Persian people was one of amity and mutual respect, which has lasted throughout the 2,500-year Persian history. The Iranian people continue to have positive relations with Jews, especially within Iran’s own borders; their conflict with Israel is purely political, not religious. This relationship cannot be restored however under the current circumstances, but it cannot be ruled out in the future, especially if Israel and the Palestinians reach a peace agreement and elect new leaders not wedded to old and tired narratives.
To be sure, there is nothing in the current crises with Iran that cannot be resolved through negotiations, as long as they carefully assess the potentially catastrophic cost against a limited short-lived benefit. A war must be avoided, but the continuing threats and counter threats will gain increasing traction and make the risk of waging a war preferable to the consequences of allowing Iran to continue its destructive behavior.
[i] George W. Bush, “State of the Union Address” (Washington, DC, January 29, 2002).
[ii] Federica Mogherini, “Response by HR/VP Mogherini regarding Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s presentation on Iran” (Brussels, Belgium, April 30, 2018).
[iii] John Bolton (presentation, National Council of Resistance of Iran “Free Iran Gathering”, Paris, France, July 1, 2017) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hTMh24qlyQA&feature=youtu.be&t=4m17s.
[iv] “Iranian commander threatens to ‘raze Tel Aviv and Haifa’ if US attacks”, The Times of Israel, February 11, 2019, https://www.timesofisrael.com/iranian-commander-threatens-to-raze-tel-aviv-and-haifa-if-us-attacks/.
[v] Noa Landau and Reuters, “Netanyahu Fires Back at Iran: Attack Tel Aviv and ‘It’ll Be the Last Anniversary You Celebrate’”, Haaretz, February 13, 2019, https://www.haaretz.com/middle-east-news/netanyahu-fires-back-at-iran-attack-tel-aviv-and-it-ll-be-the-last-anniversary-you-celebrate-1.6931595.
[vi] Jennifer Chandler, “Decoding Iran’s defence spending: pitfalls and new pointers”, International Institute for Strategic Studies, November 13, 2018, https://www.iiss.org/blogs/military-balance/2018/11/decode-iran-defence-spending.
[vii] “Less Budget For Iran’s Defense Ministry, More For IRGC”, Radio Farda, December 27, 2018, https://en.radiofarda.com/a/iran-defense-ministry-budget-declines-irgc-more-funding/29679511.html.
[viii] Tom Udall and Richard J. Durbin, “Trump is barreling toward war with Iran. Congress must act to stop him.”, Washington Post, March 5, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2019/03/05/trump-is-barreling-toward-war-with-iran-congress-must-act-stop-him/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.9c1700b29aa0.
[ix] “Iran’s foreign minister warns no renegotiating nuclear deal as Trump decision looms”, NBC News, May 3, 2018, https://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/iran-s-foreign-minister-warns-no-renegotiating-nuclear-deal-trump-n871001.
[x] “Iran ‘Has Had 400 Years’ Worth Of Progress Since Revolution’ Says Senior Ayatollah”, Radio Farda, January 3, 2019, https://en.radiofarda.com/a/iran-ayatollah-yazdi-says-400-years-progress-since-revolution/29690206.html.
[xi] “Iranians 30 Percent Poorer in Four Decades of Clerical Rule”, Radio Farda, July 15, 2018, https://en.radiofarda.com/a/iran-economic-decline-gdp-poverty/29365724.html.
[xii] Zvi Bar’el, “The Plot Against Zarif – and How Iran’s Hardliners Failed”, Haaretz, March 3, 2019, https://www.haaretz.com/middle-east-news/iran/.premium-the-plot-against-zarif-and-how-iran-s-hardliners-failed-1.6983634.
[xiii] Noa Landau, “Pompeo to Netanyahu: Confronting Iran Key to Mideast Stability, Peace”, Haaretz, February 14, 2019, https://www.haaretz.com/middle-east-news/pompeo-impossible-to-achieve-mideast-stability-peace-without-confronting-iran-1.6936439.
[xiv] Carol Morello, “Iran vows to keep firing ballistic missiles”, Washington Post, March 10, 2016, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/iran-vows-to-keep-firing-ballistic-missiles/2016/03/10/77a3edac-e708-11e5-bc08-3e03a5b41910_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.728981d0f56a.
[xv] Pierre Vimont in discussion with the author, March 9, 2019.
[xvi] “Former President Says Collapse Of Islamic Republic ‘Inevitable’”, Radio Farda, February 7, 2019, https://en.radiofarda.com/a/former-iran-president-banisadr-speaks-about-revolution-khomeini/29757230.html.
Alon Ben-Meir (PhD, Oxford University) is Professor and Senior Fellow at New York University’s Center for Global Affairs, and Senior Fellow and Middle Eastern Studies Project Director at the World Policy Institute. He has authored seven books related to the Middle East, and is currently working on a new book about countering violent extremism.