Muhammad Hussein Fadlallah, the famous Shiite cleric, has an opinion about the US-Iranian confrontation in which he says he does not believe that Washington will attack Iran for fear of its interests in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan. He also believes that Iran is a major regional state capable of causing trouble for the Americans in the region.
Before trying my luck in discussing this assumption, it might be useful to recall the year preceding the invasion of Iraq and the toppling of Saddam’s regime. The year 2002 was full of openings that poured on the blockaded regime. Many parties opened up which wrongly concluded that Saddam was able to impose a new reality with his stubbornness. The regime thought it was the end of the crisis as it saw with its own eyes trade and unofficial political delegations come to the capital Baghdad from France, Italy, Britain, and the Gulf blessing, trading, and acting hypocritically. Large planes landed at the airport that had been deserted for 11 years in successive operations that broke the blockade and made ministers like Tariq Aziz, Taha Yasin Ramadan, and Naji al-Hadithi talk confidently about the collapse of the blockade and mock the tale of the potential invasion whose reports Washington was leaking.
Now we see that Saddam was the victim of his wrong interpretations, especially as he preferred to listen to those encouraging him to be stubborn and inflating his conceit that no one was able to overcome him. He personally kept reiterating that he would destroy the region and return thousands of Americans in shrouds if the United States attacked him.
Iran is larger than Iraq and the Islamic Republic’s regime is stronger than the Iraqi Baath one. The confrontation will be more difficult. All these are facts. But in politics, options are balanced and not looked at separately. The world has now come closer to a problem that has to be resolved and Iran has become very close to completing its installations to produce a nuclear weapon. In Europe and the United States, the statements that they will not allow this have become clear, that they are ready to offer reasonable incentives and concessions to stop the Iranian project, and that it would be war if Iran refused.
Fadlallah’s opinion is true that Iran is a major regional state and capable of harming Western interests, not only in the three countries he mentioned but more importantly in the oil-rich Gulf region. Here the comparison becomes between the fear of devastation and enabling Iran to have a destructive weapon whose effects are a thousand times greater than destruction by conventional weapons. The answer is probably the destructive war and not the appeasement of Iran.
Those who wish Iran well and safety for the region should not wager on the unconfirmed suppositions of peace. On the contrary, the signs of war are historically more and confirm that the use of force is usually the likely option. For many internationally, Iran is a chronic problem and they believe that smashing its regime is worth the dangers that the troubles and wars might bring.
Let us remember that Saddam did in fact defy the blockade. He stood fast and succeeded but brought on himself the war which he thought was impossible. He expressed this in the court when he made his famous remark to the Iraqi prosecutor who boasted of bringing down his regime. He told him: “Neither you nor those with you would have been able to overcome me had it not been for the Americans.”
I do not imagine Iran is capable of repulsing a major war, especially as it is suffering from a dangerous internal division. It must be said that war is not in the interest of all of us in the region, even for those wishing the disappearance of Ahmadinejad’s regime. We are all in the circle of fire but our opinion and fears are of no consequence in the big calculations.