Articles > > Tehran’s conviction
Articles - Addostour - Date: 2019-05-19
The Tehran authorities have made no secret of their conviction that Washington will not wage war on their country because it is neither able nor willing to do so.
At least that is what the supreme leader [Ayatollah Khamenei] proclaims, and the political and military command repeats whatever he may say. Yet they also never cease to assert that they would welcome a war and are prepared for it, and that they would teach Washington a lesson unlike anything it has witnessed before in Afghanistan or Iraq. But from where do they get all this certainty and confidence? Is it genuine confidence or just a form of obstinacy and stubbornness?
We should take into account the fact that even if a country – any country – is on the verge of collapse, it will always resist acknowledging this, and Iran is no different from anyone else. Yet, anyone closely following Iran's stance would be aware that this not a matter of mere obstinacy, and that Tehran has two sets of reasons, each sufficient for consolidating its sense of certainty on its own:
The first has to do with Washington. The Trump administration does not want a war and is unprepared for one. The presidential elections year is knocking at the door, and repeated reports have discussed the U.S. army's unpreparedness to wage a new war. A war against Iran in particular would require a broad international coalition that Washington seems unable to put together in light of the lack of any international appetite for war, not to mention the fact that many of the leading international centers remain unconvinced of the U.S.'s  unilateral decision to withdraw from the nuclear deal, impose new sanctions on Iran, and ultimately go to war if the decision were taken to do so.
Furthermore, Iran has influence in a number of countries across the region and its environs that may turn any war on it into a broader regional conflict, which makes it more difficult to control its progression and safeguard the interests of Washington's allies in the region. For all these reasons, Tehran seems to be assured that a war is unlikely, at least for the foreseeable future.
The second set of reasons has to do with Tehran itself. The state has succeeded in developing a military arsenal whose efficiency and effectiveness is difficult to deny. Iran also has allies, partners, and loyal followers in many countries. The state is in self-defense mode, and is prepared to fight a battle on its own ground, rather than through proxies as it has over the past few decades. Most importantly, this could be the Islamic Republic's last battle that marks the central Shiite state's final stand. Politics in Tehran may be relatively independent from religious ideology, but the key word here is 'relatively.' The regime is theocratic above all, and a complete turnabout in its positions is no easy matter, least of all overnight. We only need to recall that a single fatwa issued from a single supreme Shiite authority [Iraqi Ayatollah Sistani] about 'a communal injunction to jihad' in Iraq was sufficient for the [largely Shiite] PMU [Popular Mobilization Forces] to emerge with over 150,000 highly trained and armed fighters. What would happen in Iran and Iraq all the way to Lebanon, Yemen, and other countries if all the supreme religious authorities arrived at a consensus about 'an individual injunction to jihad', which would make it obligatory upon every single one of their followers?
I do not know whether or not the Trump administration fully comprehends such complications, but it is certain that Trump will wait a long time before his phone rings. He left his number with the Swiss president hoping to hear word from Tehran asking to sit at the negotiating table. I do not believe that this will happen with the Trump administration, at least not in its first term.
If he ends up returning to the White House for a second term, we might see a shift in stances and priorities, but only time will tell.