The air in Teheran seems to be charged with euphoria. Despite recent reports in Russian and foreign media predicting U.S. air strikes against Iran on April 6, the attack did not happen. Therefore, the Iranians were quick to arrive at the conclusion: “The Americans had to chicken out.” The public sentiment is built around the premise that Iran has already won the war. Newspapers are idly speculating on what might happen when the “Islamic warriors” crush the dominance of “Big Satan,” – a disparaging tag attached by official Iranian propaganda to the United States.
The Iranian nuclear research center is located in the city of Esfahan. A year ago the residents of the “problem city” were busy packing their belongings. They were bound for the provinces. These days nobody is leaving the town. The people do not even bother to pack their clothes. “We’re pretty used to being at war. We waged war against Iraq for the eight long years. The whole thing will last a week or two weeks at the most. Then Americans will throw in the towel,” said Farida, an Esfahan resident.
“If they only dare drop the bombs”
“What on earth can the U.S. do to Iran?” an Iranian ministry official asked me rather rhetorically during one of the meetings in Teheran. “The Americans provided the Israelis with tons of money last year. Yet Israel’s best soldiers couldn’t defeat the Hezbollah guerillas, and those guys from Hezbollah were trained by us. We produce lots of crude. U.S. retail prices of the cheapest gasoline will shoot up to $3 per liter within a week should a war break out. The next month will see the gas prices rising to $10. In other words, the U.S. economy will be tumbling down in no time,” the official said.
Iran is still getting a lot of pleasure from the recent humiliation of Britain following the capture of 15 British sailors who “crossed Iran’s sea border.” The Britons were forced to condemn the “aggressive policies of the British government” and extend their “profound gratitude” to the Iranian regime for hospitality in their confessions aired by state-controlled Iranian TV. The British sailors were released after a two weeks’ captivity.
“The circumstances surrounding the capture of those Navy personnel are still unclear,” said Ervin Chering, a British political scientist. “We can only speculate whether they really crossed the border. Tehran took full advantage of the incident. The Iranian used it for spreading the message far and wide: Britain and the U.S. are simply helpless. Those pictures speak volumes – I mean the TV broadcasts of the British soldiers shown humbly giving thanks to the Iranian president for setting them free. In fact, it’s the second time when the British military were taken captive by the Iranians. The Iranians staged a phony execution three years ago. They put the captured British sailors up against the wall and fired blanks into their heads,” Chering said.
In the meantime, prospects for Iran do not look as bright as they seem at a glance. For instance, U.S. aircraft carrier Nimitz set sail for the Persian Gulf about a week after the British sailors were detained by the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards. According to official reports, the Nimitz was supposed to relieve the Dwight Eisenhower, a U.S. aircraft carrier on duty in the Gulf. The Iranians eventually freed the captives yet both the Dwight Eisenhower and the Nimitz are still in the Gulf. Tens of warships and hundreds of military aircraft are currently positioned in the region. In view of the above, even the most cautious experts suggest that U.S. Armed Forces has completed preparations for delivering air strikes against Iranian nuclear facilities. A pretext is the only thing required for launching the attack.
“A pretext is not a problem,” said Shahpur Kaberi, the Iranian opposition politician based in Paris. “It’s obvious the British sailors had been given specific orders to cross Iran’s sea border to gauge the reaction of the Iranians. That’s why the fifteen well-trained and armed members of the British Royal Navy didn’t put up any resistance at the time of their capture. Consequently, the whole world could see that Iran was hell-bent on playing with fire without giving slightest consideration to possible consequences. The Iranians are acting on the premise that they’ve already won the war. Perhaps the sailors will be given orders to use their weapons when they’re out on a similar mission next time. In times like these, a drop of blood shed in another accident would be more than enough for sending the bombers,” Kaberi said.
“The war will break out – that’s the only thing I can tell you”
In actuality, a military operation against Iran could be modeled on methods used by the U.S. for paving the way for invading Iraq four years ago. Prior to going to war against Iraq, the U.S. launched an all-out propaganda campaign to instill the inevitability of war in the international community. Newspapers repeatedly announced D-day only to correct it over and over again. In the end, everybody got used to the idea of an upcoming war against Iraq. In short, the hostilities were widely anticipated. Now it seems like history repeating. The tension has been building up for a year now. As a result, Iran grew weary from waiting for America to launch an attack. Therefore, Iran could be taken aback much easier. The public opinion around the globe seems quite conditioned to accepting the war because the international community has been scared by reports on Iran’s nuclear ambitions, which are likely to turn into an A-bomb for the mullahs.
The recent incident with the British sailors appears to be yet another link in the war game. The British operate in a sensitive area close to the Iranian sea border. The Iranians apprehend them on the spot. But the British do not send a distress signal. Moreover, there is HMS Cornwall lying in close proximity to the location of the incident, but the warship refrains from intervening. A conductor’s baton will probably go dancing in the air soon: yet another craft will be intercepted by the Iranians in their border area. But this time it is going to be a U.S. Navy patrol boat whose crewmembers will fire at the enemy in line with the rules of engagement. The U.S. will certainly set the ball in motion and launch an attack against Iran if any of U.S. servicemen gets killed during the incident.
“We can only benefit from U.S. air strikes, by and large,” said a government official during an interview in Tehran. “They won’t do any harm to our nuclear program since Iran’s nuclear research facilities are hidden deep underground in 25 locations. We’ll be able to recover our financial losses pretty fast because the oil prices will surely shoot up to $150-200 per barrel. The point is that there’ll be no land invasion, and the air strikes will mostly hit the civil population. The dead bodies of Iranian women and children strewn across the debris will be on TV across the world. Once the air strikes are over, Iran will emerge as a new leader of the Islamic world. It’s fair enough; I mean President Bush needs to a small victorious war to keep Hillary Clinton from winning the next presidential election. We might as well need that war too,” said the Iranian government official.
There are a couple of lines in The Good Soldier Svejk, a famous novel by Jaroslav Hasek. The quotation is good enough for summing up the story.
“The war will break out – that’s the only thing I can tell you.”
“Well, you don’t have to say anything else.”
Translated by Guerman Grachev