Middle East expert Zimmt: “World could live with Iranian bomb, but not Israel”

13 mins read
Middle East expert Zimmt "World could live with Iranian bomb, but not Israel"

translated source of the news: https://www.n-tv.de

During his visit to the Middle East, U.S. President Biden threatens the military option to stop Iran’s nuclear ambitions. In an interview with n-tv.de, Middle East expert Dr. Raz Zimmt of the Institute for National Security Studies and the “Alliance Center” for Iranian Studies at Tel Aviv University explains the precarious situation.

During his first official visit to the Middle East, U.S. President Joe Biden threatened the military option as a last resort to stop Iran’s nuclear ambitions. In an interview with n-tv.de, Middle East expert Dr. Raz Zimmt of the Institute for National Security Studies and the “Alliance Center” for Iranian Studies at Tel Aviv University explains the precarious situation.

ntv.de: U.S. President Joe Biden recently declared “that an Iran with nuclear weapons would be the only thing worse than the Iran we have now.” Was his trip to the region a warning to the leadership in Tehran?

Raz Zimmt: No, because there are still misunderstandings between Israel and the U.S. about where the red line is on Iran’s nuclear program. As long as the mullah state cannot actually develop nuclear weapons for military purposes – even with 90 percent uranium enrichment – there is still time for Washington to act. Israel thinks differently: Tehran should not cross the point of no return. So after Biden’s visit, the divergent positions remain. While the U.S. is not yet ready for a military option, the Jewish state wants a joint strategy for an attack on the nuclear facilities.

But didn’t Kamal Kharazi – the head of the Strategic Council for Foreign Relations – and advisor to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, say just recently that Iran is capable of building a nuclear bomb?

He made it very clear that Tehran has not yet made a decision on when they will declare themselves a nuclear power. Mohammad-Javad Larijani-another advisor to the Ayatollah-mentioned Iran’s commitment to Khamenei’s “nuclear fatwa.” But should the regime decide to produce nuclear weapons, no one will be able to stop them. Ultimately, we face a worrisome status quo that Iran is on the verge of becoming a threshold state.

Is there any way to revive the nuclear agreement (JCPOA) with Iran?

It might have been possible a few months ago. But Khamenei does not want the JCPOA to return. Indeed, Iran believes that it would be better for its economic problems to neutralize the sanctions, not lift them. That is, they want to figure out how to adjust to be less vulnerable. With China’s help and diversification of the economy, they have taken some steps to do that.

What’s different from 2015?

Tehran believes that the JCPOA has not given them any economic benefits. Former U.S. President Donald Trump’s termination of the agreement was further evidence of a breach of trust for them. But even if the deal is renewed, they know that most European companies will not do business with them. Moreover, no one can guarantee them that in two years, Republicans won’t be ruling the U.S. again. For Khamenei, therefore, reversing the nuclear progress made since 2019 in favor of a temporary lifting of sanctions is a risk.

What role should the international community play, such as the European Union?

Except economic pressure, not much. The many sanctions have worsened the economic situation in Iran since 2018, but it did not lead to the political goal. Tehran was not forced to make further concessions. On the contrary, it has strengthened its uncompromising position. The EU found no solution to deal with the situation. Brussels and Washington could impose further tough measures, but it has not worked in the past and will not work in the future.

Could China and Russia put pressure on Iran?

In principle, yes, but they don’t want to. Moscow is working to even increase its cooperation with Tehran on the military level by buying drones to use in Ukraine. Beijing has reduced its economic ties with the mullah state since the agreement, but helped it circumvent sanctions in the oil deal. Thus, for the moment, there will be no cooperation on the Russian-Chinese side with the United States against Iran. Unless the latter are on the verge of becoming a nuclear power. Neither Russia nor China wants that.

But can this alliance – experts call it the five kings – Tehran, Moscow, Ankara, Beijing and radical Sunni Islamism – that wants to undermine Western civilization become a new threat to the free world?

Iran believes that the U.S. and the West are in decline and that it itself is part of the emerging world order led by former empires. These are strategic allies where there is room for coordination and cooperation on issues such as oil, economics, and military. But they are also rivals in the same areas, such as Syria. So it’s more of a partnership than a coalition against the West.

A verse from the Quran says that a believing Muslim should “spread fear in the hearts of the enemies of Allah.” Will Tehran secretly produce nuclear warheads despite pressure from world powers?

U.S. and Israeli intelligence agencies will make it difficult for them to secretly enrich 90 percent uranium. Iran never actually wanted to have nuclear weapons, but only to become a nuclear state so that they would be in a position to produce them if needed. That means if their country’s security were threatened and they needed the nuclear deterrent against their enemies, they would want to be able to make the bomb in a very short time.

How much do the Iranian people support the ayatollahs and their nuclear program?

You have to distinguish between Iranians who are against the regime and those who are willing to go against it. The majority of the population hates the mullahs. They are fed up with the corruption and the economic problems, especially the younger generation, which is not ready to accept the same ideology of the Islamic revolution.

Could Iran’s internal turmoil – as it did in 1979 – lead to an overthrow?

This is pure utopia. This has to do not only with the repressive capabilities of the regime, but also because Iranians do not know what the alternative will be after a change of power. Unlike the 2009 protests-which came from Tehran’s educated young middle class, which is much more politically oriented-the current demonstrations come from the lower social classes. So the difference between the internal unrest of the late 1970s and today is that there is no coalition between different political and social groups.

Do they think that the shadow war between Israel and Iran, which has been going on for more than two decades now, for example by liquidating nuclear researchers and officers, can influence the nuclear program of the Mullah regime?

Some covert activities can certainly delay this process. The problem with Iran is that their nuclear researchers already have the knowledge. You can’t take that away from them. This gives them the ability to develop UAVs, ballistic missiles, and under the possible circumstances, weapons of mass destruction. Israel can damage their nuclear power plants, liquidate people, like the important physicist Mohsen Fachrisadeh , but in the end it is only a matter of time when they will replace all that.

Biden spoke of the military option as a last resort to stop Iran before it develops a nuclear bomb. Would this really end Tehran’s nuclear ambitions or likewise just delay them for years?

A successful attack by Israel or the United States would also only result in a delay of a few years. The only real solution to the Iranian threat would be regime change and democratization of the country. But this would have to come from within the population, not from outside pressure.

The military option would mean a multi-front war for Israel. Would the U.S. militarily assist the Jewish state in a threatened attack by Iran and its proxies?

Most certainly, especially if the U.S. gave Israel the “green light” for a military option against Iran. The crucial question, however, is not only how the mullah state and its proxies would respond, but what such an attack on nuclear facilities would mean. If such a preemptive strike were to delay Tehran’s nuclear program for five or ten years, then perhaps Israel could risk a confrontation with the Lebanese terrorist militia Hezbollah, which is armed to the teeth.

The risk of a conflagration is very great. Will the world therefore have to live with an Iranian bomb, just as it learned to accept a Pakistani one?

The world could live with an Iranian bomb, but not the Jewish state, since it sees it as an existential threat. Also, their successful nuclear ambitions could have a domino effect on the entire region.

Wouldn’t this scenario then be a “stalemate” as in the Cold War era?

From Israel’s point of view, there are two problems that militate against this: These would be, first, the Iranian state doctrine – which includes the annihilation of the Jewish state – and, second, that unlike the Cold War, there are no “open channels” such as the famous “red phone.”

Will Israel then reactivate the Begin Doctrine?

The preemptive strike, designed to prevent Israel’s enemies from producing weapons of mass destruction, has been used successfully twice so far: against Iraq in 1981 and in Syria in 2007. If Iran were to rise to nuclear power, Jerusalem could most likely use this doctrine. But such an attack would only delay Tehran’s ambitions.

translated source of the news: https://www.n-tv.de

Salih Demir

Salih Demir lives in Germany. He is interested in politics and economy. Germany editor of -ancient idea- fikrikadim.com