Iran: its goals and strategy

By Ted Belman

A week ago, I posted a number of articles dealing with Georgia, Russia and Iran, all of which differed. So I was thankful that Meir Javedanfar offered to make himself available for an interview. His company MEEPAS (Middle East Economic and Political Analysis) web site gives his bio. Meir has also started a new blog called Middle East Analyst

    Meir Javedanfar is an Iranian born and Iranian and British educated Middle East Analyst based in Tel Aviv. Meir has a Masters in International Relations and Strategic Studies from Lancaster University , as well as extensive experience in the analysis of Middle Eastern economic and political issues.

    Mr. Javedanfar is multilingual. He speaks Farsi, English, Spanish and Portuguese. He has been consulted in all of the aforementioned languages by numerous media organizations including CNN, FOX News, BBC, The New York Times and others. He has also lectured at numerous universities and conferences, such as George Washington University, Foreign Affairs Symposium of University of Baltimore, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv University and conferences in Brazil, Nigeria, Spain and Italy.


Obviously I jumped at the chance. I had met him a couple of weeks ago when he gave a talk to a group of international journalists.

US and Iran
To start off, I was interested in the relationship between the US and Iran. He pointed out that Iran has many grievances against the US including,

    1. The 1953 Iranian coup d’état deposed the elected government of Prime Minister Mohammed Mosaddeq and his cabinet, it was effected by MI6 and CIA spies working with anti-Communist civilians and army officers.
    2. The US support for Sadaam Hussien during his eight year war against Iran even thought he used chemical weapons against them.
    3. The US Vincennes shot an Iranian civilian airliner known as IR655 on July 3, 1988, over the Strait of Hormuz, toward the end of the Iran-Iraq War. It took eight years before the US agreed to pay $68 million in damages but wouldn’t admit wrongdoing. Wikepedia suggests “Vincennes was traversing the Straits of Hormuz, inside Iranian territorial waters, at the time of the attack and IR655 was within Iranian airspace.”

But he said that Iran was not adverse to working with the US when it was in its interest to do so and cited that Iran permitted over-flights to facilitate the US war against the Taliban and Al Qaeda and Iran along with the US supported the KLA and influenced the creation of Kosovo. Thus Iran extended its influence into Europe.

Iranians
Iranians, he said, like the American people but don’t trust the US government. They side with the Palestinians because they are Muslim and because they are the underdog. They are conservative in nature but dislike the government imposing itself on them. They want more freedom. But their biggest complaint with the government is that it is very corrupt and has failed on the economic front. But when push comes to shove, they are loyal citizens and will defend their country.

Iran’s goals
Iran wants to be the super power in the Middle East.

Strategy
Make friends in the region.

Iran does this by championing the cause of the Palestinians which all Arabs support. In fact she outdoes all Arab countries in so doing so that, though Iranians are Persian, they have won the loyalty of the Arabs. She also spends liberally to buy their friendship in places such as Lebanon and Gaza. She has no interest in occupying another country, because it can be counter productive and make lots of enemies for the country. It is much more efficient to attract local allies and let them do it. Iran does not want to make the same mistake that the US has in Iraq

In his article Iran’s National Defense Strategy written in April of this year illustrates the policy.

    Ahmadinejad’s current visit to Pakistan, India, and Sri Lanka has the clear goal of solidifying Iran’s energy security policy — a way of thinking that evolved as part of the lessons learned in Iranian military circles, following the end of the country’s eight-year war against Iraq. During that war, Iran watched its neighbours side with Iraq, because they did not rely on Iran for anything. After the war, Tehran decided to prevent this from happening again, by making regional economies as reliant on Iran as possible.

    This policy rests on getting key countries hooked on Iranian gas; in some cases it is sold at below market prices. By doing so, Tehran aims to deter energy-hungry neighbors, many of whom are going through an economic boom, from backing strong economic sanctions against Tehran. It also aims to prevent them from allowing their territory to be used by the U.S., if Washington decides to pursue a military attack against their country.

    So far, Iran has Kuwait, Oman, and Turkey on its client list. It is also in negotiations with the United Arab Emirates. The pipeline has already been built; the only outstanding issue is the price, which is being negotiated. These countries are important US allies, whose support will be absolutely crucial if the UN hopes to impose any meaningful economic sanctions against the administration in Tehran.

Iran wants to keep the US tied down in Iraq at least until she has acquired nuclear weapons, reasoning that the US is fighting its enemy Al Qaeda which is a good thing and is thus preoccupied and not able to prevent Iran from getting the bomb.

Caucasus
He disagreed with my analysis in The US is in free fall. Iran and Russia have long competed over influence in the Caucasus but there is no way either alone or in concert can they call it their own. He suggested that neither the US nor the Chinese would permit it. The US will protect their pipeline in Georgia thus giving them access to the Oil in the Caucasus. China has been making very significant investments in the ‘stans and is now a player there. China intends to build a pipeline connecting itself to the ‘stans.

Israel
He thought it would be a big mistake for Israel to attack Iran, without trying diplomacy first. He said it would a mistake to attack Iran, if such an attack would only set back Iran’s nuclear program by one, two, ir even five years.The results would be limited but the enmity would skyrocket. America would suffer many casualties in the aftermath whether they supported Israel or not, and as a result, the American people would blame Israel. There already is a growing belief in the US think tanks that the US should distance itself from Israel. Such an attack would lend impetus to this growth, and this what Iran wants. He also said that in this conflict, Israel’s position could rise or fall, by the quality of its intelligence.

Peace process
He thought Israel should make peace as quickly as it could but first terror would have to stop. He considered Arabs as nice people who had horrible leaders. Israel, he thought, shouldn’t be treating them so disgracefully, and by this he meant road blocks and imposing fuel blockade against Gazans. I made the case for Israel and was quite surprised he disagreed with me, as he is a supporter of the peace camp in Israel.. He worried about the huge demographic threat that would destroy Israel in another 15 years. He was quite surprised to learn there was no demographic threat. He suggested if I had grown up among Muslims I would have a very positive opinion of them.

He argued that we have no right to expect the Arabs to leave. He staunchly defended their right to the land and a state, next to Israel. I argued that it wasn’t their land but to no avail. On this we had a huge difference of opinion and the discussion got heated.

When we parted, I returned to write this up and he went off to be interviewed by al Jazeera.

Comment by Ted Belman
Meir seemed to have an affinity for Persians and Muslims. He had no harsh words for Iran and focussed on our need to be nice. It seemed to me that this mentality permeates his opinions. Iasked him to comment on the hanging of gays and stoning of women. At one time he said there is not sharia in Iran but some laws are like it. I wondered what he meant. Hope I find out.

August 24, 2008 | 9 Comments »

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9 Comments / 9 Comments

  1. Hi, Peskin.

    The US and the French have 5 naval task forces in or heading for the Middle East; and the Russians have a carrier group there as well. The Iranians, for their part, are feverishly working on developing weapons of mass destruction and delivery systems, and the Arabs and Iranians are pouring missles and other armaments into Lebanon and Gaza. Soon, the main “logistical problem” will be trying to keep all these forces from bumping into each other. The Russians have not helped matters, by pouring tanks and troops into Georgia; and the political uncertainty in Pakistan is not making the situation less volatile. Barring a change of attitude and government in Iran, I don’t see any other option for us or them, other than war. The timing is up in the air, on all sides.

  2. What is ignored in all the speculation re Israel attacking Iran is that by Israel’s repeated threats all element of surprise and stealth has been removed. Osirik was successful because it was unexpected. Same for recent Syrian alleged reactor bombing. The purpose of a threat is to cause enough fear to change the behavior of the opponent. Whether that would work with Iran is very much in doubt.
    Other reasons for not attacking involve America’s fragile situation in Iraq and Afghanistan, endangering the world economic order,potential retaliation and very important, the very practical logistic problems involving bombing many sites in protected locations. Success is far from being assured.

  3. Ted, you failed to mention the millenia-old belief of the Iranians that they will produce the Messiah and rule the world. Of course, we all know about the days when Persia was the greatest empire on earth (The book of Esther talks about this time). In those days of Iranian glory, during the time of the prophet Daniel, the Iranian Zoroastrians plagerized much of Daniel’s messianic prophecies, substituting an Iranian messiah for a Jewish one. It’s hard to find websites about this that aren’t completely whacko, but one might check out this one:

    http://www.adishakti.org/prophecies/19_saoshyant_has_pronounced_final_judgment.htm

    The Zoroastrians, of course, were defeated by the Moslems. Shortly thereafter, though, the Iranians broke from the mainstream of Islam and embraced the Shi’a sect — which, not surprisingly, revolves heavily around messianic expectations of a coming “Madhi” who, of course, will be a Shiite.

    The bottom line is that Iran does not want to become the greatest power “in the Middle East”. They want to rule the world.

  4. Apart from Javedanfar’s pro-Palestinian/Arab/Muslim bias, he is on side with a great many American, EU and Israeli leaders, liberals and various peace movements that call for diplomcacy before Israel or America square off with Iran in an effort to set back or destroy their nuclear agenda.

    The three things that Javedanfar and these pro-diplomacy advocates fail to do, is:

    1. admit that diplomacy has been and continues to be tried without success;

    2. Explain what kind of diplomatic efforts they are speaking of that hold more promise then all the failed diplomatic efforts to date;

    3. Explain where the red line is that separates hope in diplomacy from salvation through war or for that matter whether they are prepared to acknowledge such red line must be drawn.

  5. What would Huntington say today re: his clash of civilizations with a reinvigorated and reconstituted Russian menace? He asserted that similar cultures are unlikely to clash. To that proposition, he offered a number of tests, including Russia-Ukraine and Russia-Georgia. Another Genius bites the dust!!! There is also a lesson about friends. America heavily provoked Georgia against Russia, but didn’t supply it with meaningful arms to repel the invaders. The US Administration would protest Russia’s drastic moves but not the continuous carping at Georgia. American guarantees are worthless, especially the implicit ones. Russia has a better record for standing up for its clients, and its weapons are cheaper; Israelis should think of that.

    Russia, has returned to its beloved and inexpensive policy of making troubles for everyone in order to get respect. Georgia, Central Asia, Ukraine suffer Russian meddling (not that they lack the American one). Angola, Algiers, Venezuela, Korea, Iran, Syria, Egypt, China, India enjoy Russian weapons so that their neighbors suffer. The only way to stop Russia is firm opposition to every Russian move: arms sales to Chechnya, more support to opposition parties, ABM systems in Eastern Europe, diplomatic vacuum around Russia, and isolating its clients so that they understand that dealing with Russia is unprofitable. Any attempts at appeasing Putin’s regime are counterproductive. Like Hezbollah, he takes lack of a blow for encouragement.

    The next time you see a liberal, laugh at him. The Wild West world of power politics is alive and bad.

  6. What would we do without experts like this, with lots of impressive credentials?

    Start thinking for ourselves, that’s what.

  7. She also spends liberally to buy their friendship in places such as Lebanon and Gaza. She has no interest in occupying another country, because it can be counter productive and make lots of enemies for the country. It is much more efficient to attract local allies and let them do it. Iran does not want to make the same mistake that the US has in Iraq.

    This is of course, a very shrewd strategy that super powers pursue as well but it is much easier achieved when the purchased party shares the same basic values as the purchaser, i.e., Islam (Hizbullah); anti-Americanism (Venezuela).

    And for those who harp on that Ahmadinejad is a loose cannon, this from JPost today:

    Earlier on Sunday, Khamenei was quoted as praising Ahmadinejad for “standing up to” the West in a dispute over the country’s nuclear program, amid growing domestic criticism of the president’s management.

    Khamenei offered unusually glowing praise of Ahmadinejad, who upon his election in 2005 sparked a confrontation with the West by resuming uranium enrichment and also prompted worldwide condemnation for denouncing Israel. The country’s spiritual leader has rarely, if ever, expressed such support for any other Iranian politician.

    Ahmadinejad’s government has helped “revive” the values of the 1979 Islamic revolution that transformed Iran into a strict theocracy, state TV quoted Khamenei as saying at a cabinet meeting Saturday.

    “Some bullying and brazen countries and their worthless followers wanted to impose their will on the Iranian nation, but … the president and the government have stood up to their excessive demands and moved forward,” he said.

    Had Ahmadinejad not been toeing the party line, he would have been worm chow long ago.

    Anyone who advocates anything other than a military attack on Iran to prevent it from acquiring nuclear weapons is someone who wants Iran to have these weapons. They know there is no other way to stop them. And like I said, destroy Iran before it destroys Israel.

    Go fiery spirited Zionist go.

  8. Iranians
    Iranians, he said, like the American people but don’t trust the US government. They side with the Palestinians because they are Muslim and because they are the underdog. They are conservative in nature but dislike the government imposing itself on them. They want more freedom. But their biggest complaint with the government is that it is very corrupt and has failed on the economic front. But when push comes to shove, they are loyal citizens and will defend their country.

    Fuck ’em. I hate Iranians just as I hate any other muslims. This country needs to be nuked before they have the chance to acquire nukes, because they will use them and the Iranian people themselves will cheer on the annihilation of Israel.

    He thought it would be a big mistake for Israel to attack Iran, without trying diplomacy first. He said it would a mistake to attack Iran, if such an attack would only set back Iran’s nuclear program by one, two, ir even five years.The results would be limited but the enmity would skyrocket. America would suffer many casualties in the aftermath whether they supported Israel or not, and as a result, the American people would blame Israel. There already is a growing belief in the US think tanks that the US should distance itself from Israel. Such an attack would lend impetus to this growth, and this what Iran wants. He also said that in this conflict, Israel’s position could rise or fall, by the quality of its intelligence.

    He’s trying to scare America or Israel from doing what is necessary, militarily taking out Iran’s nuclear facilities. Anyone who advocates anything other than a military attack on Iran to prevent it from acquiring nuclear weapons is someone who wants Iran to have these weapons. They know there is no other way to stop them. And like I said, destroy Iran before it destroys Israel. I would have no qualms about the deaths of Iranians as they would have no qualms about the deaths of massive numbers of Israelis.

    He thought Israel should make peace as quickly as it could but first terror would have to stop. He considered Arabs as nice people who had horrible leaders.

    No, Arabs have horrible leaders precisely because they are horrible people with a horrible oppressive, misogynistic culture which breeds these types of leaders.

    He argued that we have no right to expect the Arabs to leave. He staunchly defended their right to the land and a state, next to Israel. I argued that it wasn’t their land but to no avail. On this we had a huge difference of opinion and the discussion got heated.

    Such a statement reveals that Meir Javedanfar is an enemy of Israel. I loathe him. Let him go back to Iran and stay there.

  9. An applause to Ted Belman. All the while that we are being distracted by Obama=Nation politics and being distracted by Russian invasion of Georgia, Iran is growing stronger and you can be certain that Russia is most likely arming Iran to the teeth right about now.

    Perhaps Bush can derail the election by invading Iran now and getting one more year in office to finish the war against Iran! Wishful thinking.

    Thanks Ted for bringing us into the realities currently and futuristically! It’s kind of fun camping out here on Belman’s site for awhile! Ted is one of God’s children for sure!