Melanie Phillips

25 January 2012

Why Iran will not ‘come to its senses’

Published in: Daily Mail

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War with Iran is a truly fearsome prospect.

Its likely consequences would include attacks on US air bases from thousands of Iranian missiles, the unleashing of terrorist attacks within the US and Europe, the rocketing of Israeli towns from the tens of thousands of missiles trained on Israel from Lebanon,  the closing of the Straits of Hormuz thus paralysing western oil supplies, and doubtless other horrors.

But however fearsome this prospect, that of a nuclear-armed Iran is worse. The consequences are simply insupportable.

A regime which has seen itself at war with the west ever since it came to power in 1979, and which has been involved in arguably every major terrorist atrocity against it, will be equipped with nuclear weapons to bring the west to its knees. Working as it does through puppet rogue regimes and terror organisations, it could perpetrate acts of nuclear terrorism – or threaten to do so.

It could mount its long-threatened attempt to wipe Israel off the map, thus provoking a nuclear response to prevent a second genocide of the Jews. Last but by no means least, it will spark a nuclear arms race throughout the region, thus ensuring that nuclear weapons come under the control of some of the most unstable and belligerent regimes on earth. To all these threats and more, the west will be paralysed by Iran’s nuclear capacity, just as it is currently paralysed over North Korea.

This is a nightmare to which the west seems to have woken up only very recently, with the hands on Iran’s nuclear clock fast approaching midnight. Now it has sprung into action. The EU has imposed tough sanctions, including a freeze on the assets of the Iranian central bank within the EU, hitting Iranian oil exports for the first time. With the rial falling on the stock market, Iran threatened to close the Straits of Hormuz. The US responded by sailing two aircraft carriers through the Straits. Iran did not close them. The US said Iran had blinked first. Iran said the same of the US.

Now what? The war drums are beating – but is this all just bluff and bluster by the west?

Some think its belated show of strength is just sabre-rattling in a US presidential year. This is unlikely. What’s much more likely is that the west is putting on a show of strength to show Iran that the west ‘really, really means it’ in order to get Iran to ‘come to its senses’.

To which there are three points to make. First, this is all far, far too late. Tough sanctions that would really hurt Iran were being urged years ago, when some of us started warning that Iran’s nuclear programme simply had to be stopped before the situation became dangerously out of control – and were derided as ‘neo-con war-mongers’ for our efforts.

Nothing was done; the UK and EU vaguely wrung their hands and shook the occasional fist; while for his part, Obama advertised US weakness by extending his hand in friendship to the Iranian regime which at the time was busy blowing up American and coalition soldiers in Iraq. Obama’s catastrophic strategy gave the Iranian regime the one thing it needed above all else – time to bring its infernal nuclear programme to fruition. And now we read – surprise, surprise – that the regime has built at Fordow a secret nuclear plant inside a mountain where it is presumed to be impervious to bombing raids.

Second, even these tougher sanctions are likely to be ineffective as they will be circumnavigated by Russia, China and others. And in any event, what exactly is the outcome the west hopes that sanctions will bring about? That Iran shuts down its centrifuges, locks the doors on its nuclear plants and promises it won’t open them ever again and that the IAEA inspectors can set up monitoring stations at Fordow, Natanz and all the other secret nuclear locations which it will now make available for international inspection? Does anyone seriously believe that’s a realistic proposition? And if not that, then what, precisely?

But third, the deeper problem is the west’s assumption that the Iranian regime is capable of ‘coming to its senses’ – its assumption that these are rational actors who ultimately will act in their own interest. Few in the west understand that, on the contrary, the Iranian regime is impervious to reason. Educated, intelligent and cunning they may be – but they are religious fanatics driven by an entirely different set of considerations. That’s what makes this situation so terrifying.

As I have written over and over again, from the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamanei downwards the Iranian regime is dominated by people (adherents of a sect called the ‘Twelvers’) who believe that the Shia messiah, the Mahdi, will return to earth either as result of or to bring about the apocalyptic end of days. It is that apocalypse that they are intent upon facilitating. That is why the argument that ‘they wouldn’t dare launch a nuclear attack because they know half of Iran would be obliterated as a result’ is so fatuous. They would be happy if that were to occur.

Reza Kahlili (a pseudonym) is reportedly a former CIA spy within the Revolutionary Guards. As he has written:

‘Khamenei has been heard to say that the coming of the last Islamic Messiah, the Shiites’ 12th Imam Mahdi, is near and that specific actions need to be taken to protect the Islamic regime for upcoming events. Mahdi, according to Shiite belief, will reappear at the time of Armageddon... Many in the Guards and Basij have been told that the 12th Imam is on earth, facilitated the victory of Hezbollah over Israel in the 2006 war and soon will announce publicly his presence after the needed environment is created.

'... Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi, an influential cleric and a radical Twelver, previously had stated that Khamenei ascends to the sky every year to take direction from Imam Mahdi, and sources close to the cleric have disclosed that Khamenei has been ordered by Imam Mahdi to continue with the nuclear program despite worldwide objection as it will facilitate his coming.’

Last December, Kahlili warned that the previous May Khamenei had ordered the Revolutionary Guards to speed up the nuclear-bomb program and arm Iran’s missiles with nuclear warheads. Now, he wrote, Khamenei had ordered the guards to prepare for war:

‘Though the Islamic regime never should have been allowed to continue with its suppression of its people, its terrorist activities worldwide and its continuation of its missile and nuclear programs despite U.N. sanctions, one cannot imagine a world with nuclear arms in the hands of the jihadists in Iran.

‘With officials from both Israel and the U.S. calling a nuclear-armed Iran a red line, leaving the possibility of a military option on the table, we must realize that the only possible solution to this dilemma is a regime change in Iran, which a majority of Iranians support. The price we pay today to save world peace and security will be minuscule to what the world will pay in the not-so-distant future.’

What really threatens to bring the west to its knees is its own cultural hubris. Refracting everything in the world through the prism of its unshakeable faith in universal reason, it is incapable of recognising or understanding religious fanaticism – and insists instead upon treating the fanatic as a rational actor.  Ironically, it is this belief in reason which has led the west to behave so irrationally in refusing to acknowledge the evidence of the mortal threat to itself posed by Iran -- and that there is no alternative to force if it is to be stopped. And now, alas, we’re about to discover the consequences.

About Melanie

Melanie Phillips is a British journalist and author. She is best known for her controversial column about political and social issues which currently appears in the Daily Mail. Awarded the Orwell Prize for journalism in 1996, she is the author of All Must Have Prizes, an acclaimed study of Britain's educational and moral crisis, which provoked the fury of educationists and the delight and relief of parents.

Read full biography

Books

  • The World Turned Upside Down
  • Londonistan
  • The Ascent of Woman
  • America's Social Revolution

Contact Melanie

Melanie Phillips
Daily Mail
Northcliffe House
2 Derry Street
London W8 5TT

Contact Melanie