By Amos Gilboa
...it’s very possible that soon, the Supreme Leader Khamenei (him, and not the chatterbox Ahmadinejad) will face the need to take a strategic decision on the order of magnitude Khomeini took back then: “to drink the poison cup” or “make a dash” in the direction of nuclear weapons.
Translated by Viktoria Lymar
Edited by Steven Stenzler
6 August 2012
In the past, the Iranians agreed to a ceasefire with Iraq. Will Iran’s leader make the historic decision like Khomeini back at his time? You’d better not rely on that.
On 17 July 1988 the supreme religious leader of Iran [Ruhollah] Khomeini decided to agree to a ceasefire with Iraq after nearly eight years of war. On the occasion of the anniversary of making that decision, there was recently held an extensive media discourse in Iran, wherein took part even Khomeini’s successor, Ayatollah Khamenei, who justified the resolution of his predecessor. On the whole, the Iranian media discussion expressed a clear support for Khomeini’s historic decision of 24 years ago.
The Iran-Iraq War broke out in September 1980 at the initiative of Saddam Hussein. The West, and the United States at its head, backed Iraq. The war claimed over a million casualties from both sides. Khomeini and the whole Iranian top brass had sworn that they would not consent to any truce – not before they overthrew Saddam Hussein’s regime and conquered Bagdad. And here came Khomeini and announced, totally contradicting his previous oath, that he was ready for a ceasefire. It was a surprise of surprises for the American intelligence, for the Israeli intelligence and all the intelligence organizations whatsoever.
Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center has published a paper in the recent days about the Iranian polemics around the anniversary since Khomeini’s resolution. The Iranian media defined the Khomeini decision as “drinking a cup of poison.” But what’s amazing is the remarks voiced by Khamenei, the current leader. He said that Khomeini took the decision to accede to an armistice for domestic Iranian reasons – the economic problems. Making the decision foiled all the conspiracies of Iran’s enemies.
The U.S. Is the First to Be Surprised
Do we have here an analogy between the decision of Khomeini back at his time and the debate going on today in the Iranian leadership on the nuclear question? Does this mean that the leader of Iran is going to make a historic decision a la Khomeini’s one, and to drink, like him, a “cup of poison” in order to save the Iranian people suffering from the sanctions? The answer is negative.
In the current Iranian discourse, the comparison is made between Iran’s situation in 1988 and that of today – and according to it, Iran’s state of affairs today is way better, and the Iranian people can withstand the sanctions and continue its nuclear way and its struggle against the enemies of Islam.
However, it seems to me that the following significances should be paid attention to: first of all, in the Iranian top echelon, two approaches are prevalent today. One advocates concessions because it estimates the pressures on Iran, with the sanctions being their centerpiece, are affecting more and more the Iranian people and Iranian interests; the second one opposes any concession and believes in Iran’s abilities and resilience.
Second of all, it’s very possible that soon, the Supreme Leader Khamenei (him, and not the chatterbox Ahmadinejad) will face the need to take a [crucial] strategic decision on the order of magnitude of the one Khomeini took back then: “to drink the poison cup” or “make a dash” in the direction of nuclear weapons. When is it going to happen? Before the U.S. election? After them? In another year? Will we know about it? The problem is that almost any substantial shift in the strategy of any country comes as a grand surprise. The U.S. is a champion at being surprised, among other things, in all the turnarounds that occurred in Iran since the Shah’s downfall and Khomeini’s rise to power.
Original Hebrew article:
The author is Brigadier General (res.), adviser on intelligence affairs to the Israeli intelligence community and lecturer on intelligence. He has held several senior positions in the Intelligence Corps and in the Intelligence Department of the IDF General Staff, most recently as Head of the Research Division. He also served as Adviser to the Prime Minister on Arab Affairs and as Adviser to the Defense Minister.