Iranian military leaders are competing to describe the war that will take place, bypassing the Iranians’ panting of a currency that is swiftly collapsing, and the skyrocketing commodities’ prices that became beyond their reach. While the middle class can no longer afford the price of meat, the poor are now dreaming about a glass of milk. As for the “Revolutionary Guard” (IRGC) commanders, they – remarkably all enjoying good health as well as the leaders of the regime’s army – are talking about the “inevitable” war against Israel.
There are two scenarios that would instigate this war according to them: In the first one, Israel would attack Iran and its nuclear facilities; and in the second, Israel and other international forces would attack Syria. They emphasized that if hostilities break out with the current regime in Syria, the armed forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran will take part in the war to support the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Last year, the International Monetary Fund estimated Iran's foreign-currency reserves at $80 billion, but the market turmoil in Iran is likely a sign that the regime has spent that down and the reserves have dropped by 50 percent or more. According to Gary Hufbauer, a trade expert at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, the collapsing exchange rate and shortages could be countered by using some of the hard currency. He added that the government in Iran does not want to let go its reserve money, which means that it does not want to let go what is left on hand.
Two weeks ago, on Wednesday, demonstrations in Tehran erupted, but the Iranian leadership was preparing itself months ago for such events. It established new “Basij” troops for cities and villages and these troops are waiting for the zero hour. This is why the military commanders have started to “describe” their preparations for war. The preparations were confirmed by the statement of Commander-in-chief of the Jerusalem Brigade in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, Mohammad Ali Jaafari, about the presence of the guards in both Lebanon and Syria. In his interview with the weekly “Dey,” Cleric Ali Shirazi, representative of Iran's Jerusalem Force for Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and responsible for missions outside the country, implicitly confirmed the presence of the Guards in Syria and Lebanon and said that “if a war does break out, it will not be a long one and the result will be to the benefit of the Islamic nation” adding “[w]hen the commanders (of the revolutionary Guards) make such statements, it is because they know that Israel will eventually make a stupid move.”
As for Ayatollah Mohammad Taqi Mesbah Yazdi, he confirmed the presence of “Revolutionary Guards” in Syria and Lebanon through implicit statements last week saying: “At this stage, we do not see the need to intervene in Syria’s issues as we are actually doing in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip. The Syrian army is in good condition today and we do not see the need for an extensive military presence to decide to send troops to provide open support for Bashar al-Assad. Our moral and consultative support is enough for the moment.”
Ramadan Sharif, the spokesman for the “Revolutionary Guards” toned down the remarks of his commanders saying that “the Islamic republic of Iran has military attaches in other countries in the framework of international principles and norms.” He added, “currently about 15 countries including Lebanon and Syria, have military attaches from the “Revolutionary Guards” while a number of other countries had military attaches from the regular armed forces.”
But criticizing these “wars’ remarks” and revealing the presence of “Revolutionary Guards” outside Iran did not instigate reactions from outside Iran only. Mohammad Reza Tabash, a member of the Shura Council, said that such remarks can damage the “country’s national interest and would harm the people of Iran.” He added: “Lebanon refuted these remarks which would certainly exacerbate the economic disarray inside the country, and speed up the transfer of human and material assets from the country.”
In his statement about the preparation for the war with Israel that is “inevitable”, Major General Mohammed al-Jafari said “We should be prepared for this war which will be - characteristically - different from the eight-year war with Iraq. We must benefit from our gained experience from the (divine defense), in reference to the war with Iraq (an expression that calls to mind the “divine victory” expression used by the Secretary General of Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hassan Nasrallah).
Iranian leaders insist on talking about the inevitability of war because they believe that this will lead to a third world war. This is what they think, but several close and former friends of the Supreme Leader implicitly warned him against the war with Israel or the United States.
For instance, Hossein Alaei, the first commander of the IRGC naval forces, wrote about the lessons learned from the Iraqi-Iranian war and its results, and about the fate of Saddam Hussein and his sons. He said: “When we look at the results of that war, we see that Saddam Hussein did not just fail to achieve its goals, but he also lost his life, as well as his two children while promoting for the war. The dictatorial and aggressive nature of Saddam made him spend all his political life waging wars against Iran, Kuwait and the United States. In the end he lost his regime, ended the political life of the (Baath Party) and stopped Iraq's development. He also led hostile forces to flow to the Gulf and allowed the US policies to get involved in the Gulf regional matters.”
As soon as Alaei published his article, the supporters of the supreme leader revolted against him and the Basij gathered in front of his house.
Another person who has counseled Ayatollah Khamenei to be careful about the country slipping into a state of war is Dr. Ahmad Sadr Haj Sayyed Javadi, the Minister of justice of the post-revolution government of Mehdi Bazargan.
Sayyed Javadi was an attorney during the Shah’s reign and one of his clients was no other than Ali Khamenei, the current supreme leader of Iran. In a letter addressed to Khamenei about the wrong foreign policies of the country and to Iran’s international position that he wrote in the summer of 2011, Javadi said “drawing a graph on the activities and goals of Mr. Ahmadinejad and his allies and supporters in the domestic and international sphere, and also noting the volume of wealth and financial benefits that have directly gone into his pockets through the sale of oil and uncontrolled imports into the country… we can see that his real objectives go beyond the stated goals of launching a peaceful nuclear program and the provision of electricity for people. They are in fact in the direction of creating an international terrorist movement similar to al-Qaeda, but of course with a Shiite ideology. If this movement is not stopped in time, there are fears that the people of the world will witness in the not too distant future a repeat of the threats and atrocities of a world war.”
Among the criticizing letters, a commander of the IRGC also had written an anonymous letter to Khamenei warning him about the possibility of a “NATO” and an American strike at Iran. He said: “Do you believe that American or NATO’s warplanes are run by impotents?! Who do you trust in the IRGC when you make such threats?! What about the military?! All the generals in the army have turned into cab-drivers who spend their evenings and nights driving a “Peykan” car to escape starvation. Do you trust the IRGC? There is nothing there. Those who are supposed to plan and manage the war are busy exchanging shares at the stock market, or are in the business of buying and selling underwear and cosmetics.” The body of the IRGC has realized that they will not be fooled.
Mohammad Nourizad who used to be a close friend but turned into a regular critic of Ayatollah Khamenei, has talked with “Rooz” website about the reasons for the possibility of war. He said: “We are concerned that as a way to get out of its current crisis, the rulers of the country may resort to war and the military option. When the country is in the hands of such a group, opponents are imprisoned and thieves are put in places of power, war therefore becomes the best course of action.”
Will there be a war? Is stirring the Syrian- Turkish front part of the Iranian scenario that Iranian leaders aspire? The West is still waiting for Iran's response to the proposal about the uranium enrichment. Will the leaders of the “Revolutionary Guards” think about saving their money and wealth, or will they decide to get on the sinking Syrian ship estimating that “third world war” is inevitable? Will the Iranian people accept to be taken to a collective suicide? What is happening to the Syrian people is a lesson and the peoples of the region should avoid it!
The writer is a columnist for Asharq al-Awsat where this article was first published on Oct. 11, 2012.