Thursday, September 01, 2016


In Iran, Talk Of Military Strikes From Above Raises Fears Below

Many Iranians suggest that any military attack on their territory would rally the public behind Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei -- or at least stifle the harshest criticism.
Many Iranians suggest that any military attack on their territory would rally the public behind Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei -- or at least stifle the harshest criticism.
By Golnaz Esfandiari
As the international community digests the UN watchdog's assertion of "possible military dimensions to Iran's nuclear program" the specter of armed conflict is very much a reality to Iranians, leaving ordinary citizens in fear of dark days to come.

Fears arose following media reports suggesting that an Israeli attack on Iran's nuclear sites was imminent. They will be fueled by the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) publication on November 8 of a report concluding that Iran has pursued the development of nuclear weapons. Iran's leadership has responded with a vow not to "budge an iota."

Iran fought a bloody eight-year war with Iraq in the 1980s in which 1 million people are thought to have been killed.
Iranians have expressed concern about the return of such hardship in telephone and other conversations with RFE/RL. In most cases, these Iranians have withheld their identities to protect themselves from possible government retaliation.

One man in Isfahan says he is worried that ordinary people will become the victims of any military action. "People are the victims of the sanctions; Iran's leaders are not suffering," he tells RFE/RL by telephone. "People will bear the brunt of war."

"I cannot sleep out of worry," says a 56-year-old woman in the capital, Tehran. She says she thinks military action against the Islamic republic would benefit the clerical establishment and negatively affect the people.

Question Of Unity

"A war will unite the regime, and it will also force many to unite behind a regime they don't even support," she says during a phone interview before asking: "What else should we do, [cheer] for Israel, which would kill our countrymen working in the nuclear sites?"

Like many others in Iran, she suggests that strikes on Iran's nuclear facilities by Israel or the United States aimed at halting or slowing Iran's nuclear progress would prompt a full-fledged war. That belief has been strengthened by promises by Iranian officials of retaliation for any such act against the country.

Outside the country, concerns are also running high amid reports that Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has sought support from his government for such attacks. Some analysts have suggested that war rhetoric from Israeli officials is part of that country's strategy to bring greater international pressure to bear on Iran.

The United States has not ruled out any options, but officials have said they remain committed to a diplomatic solution to resolve the crisis.

That has not convinced Mohammad, a man from the Iranian city of Mashhad who provided only his first name in a message to RFE/RL's Radio Farda. In it, he accuses U.S. President Barack Obama of preparing an attack on Iran. And if an attack comes, he predicts, millions of Iranians will be spurred to fight for their country.

"Inside Iran all people are supportive of [Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali] Khamenei," Mohammad says. "They support their government. There are millions who are [one] with their government. They will all defend the establishment."

Iran, he warns, will become "a cemetery" for U.S. soldiers in the event of an attack.

A 2005 file photo of the Natanz nuclear-enrichment plant in central Iran.
A 2005 file photo of the Natanz nuclear-enrichment plant in central Iran.

A number of Iranian observers and activists have suggested during years of mounting Western concern over Tehran's nuclear activities that an attack on Iran would serve to rally deeply nationalistic Iranians behind the country's theocratic establishment. Military action, they have predicted, could also make the regime more repressive and worsen Iran's already poor human rights record.

Blow To Opposition?

Hossein Ghazian, a prominent Iranian sociologist who was jailed in Iran, shares that assessment. He tells RFE/RL that military action would be good news for the Iranian establishment and bad news for democracy in Iran.

"This establishment [would] have enough legitimacy, excuses, and reasons to repress those opposed to it, particularly when it is being attacked by a foreign enemy," Ghazian says. "The political culture of the Iranian people is such that it [would] lead them to mobilize against any foreign intervention. The Iranian establishment [would] be able to use the public's mobilization, not the opposition."

Ghazian, who is currently a visiting scholar at Syracuse University, says that in the event of an attack it the Iranian opposition would feel obliged to mute distinctions between its own positions and those of Iran's ruling establishment.

"In addition, if some of the country's infrastructure is being damaged, time would be needed to rebuild," Ghazian says. "That could mean that democracy-building would be off the agenda of social and political forces for some time."

A Tehran-based journalist who sympathizes with the opposition Green Movement writes that many are taking a wait-and-see approach in the hope that talk of an impending attack subsides, as has happened in the past.

"[Iranian] society will not welcome any country that attacks its soil," he says in a message exchange. "But that doesn't mean that all the people will stand behind the establishment. [Some] will probably only watch the confrontation."

A computer analyst who works for a major Iranian bank expresses concern that any military action against Iran could lead to the rise of extremism in Iranian society.

In a reference to government forces' response to widespread protests following the disputed 2009 presidential election, he suggests that "If until now we were being killed by batons, from now on we should be ready to be killed by bombs and perhaps suicide attacks."

Iranians Abroad

Among the Iranian diaspora abroad, talk of military action against Iran has led some to say they would risk returning to their home country to be with their families.

Recently, more than 100 Iranian activists and intellectuals based in the United States, Europe, and Canada signed a letter condemning both the Iranian state's repression of its people and the prospect of outside military action against the country.

Well-known Iranian journalist and writer Akbar Ganji, who is among the letter's signatories, says Western countries should refrain from attacking Iran and that Iranian officials should take steps to remove ambiguities regarding the country's nuclear activities.

"We don't want a war that will destroy our country and our people, so we believe both sides are responsible," Ganji says. "Israel and Western government don't have the right to attack Iran under any condition. On the other hand, in the event of an attack, not only they are to blame but so are Iran's leaders -- namely, [Supreme Leader Khamenei], for pushing the country in that direction."
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Comment Sorting
by: JC Vaughan from: Washington, DC
November 09, 2011 20:18
As much as I despise the Mullahs for what they have done (lynching Makwan Moloudzadeh; lynching Ayaz Marhoni & Mahmoud Asgari; lynching Mokhtar N. & Ali A.; torturing and raping young boys & girls from the Green movement; shooting Neda; God alone knows what other crimes against humanity), a U.S. led attack make matters even worse, just like in Iraq. The change for military action was lost by the cowards of the Reagan administration. All of these bad problems are due to the U.S. interference in Iranian affairs back in 1953.
In Response

by: Alidad from: Spain
November 10, 2011 11:23
I quite agree, the vile regime is one thing, quite another is the "right" of one state, in this case Israel which seems to give itself every right, to bomb countries to remove threats. Should the Middle East become a graveyard so the Jews can live in peace and security? Certainly they should have acted earlier, through sanctions, instead of intermittently trying to cosy up to the regime. Why go back to 1953 or blame Reagan even? Had Reagan been elected earlier or if Gerald Ford had been re-elected instead of Carter - surely the worst US president of the past 100 years? - they would have told the Shah to stand his ground. Why should Iranians have to die now for the West's mistakes? To those Iranians living abroad who urge the bombing of "sites" inside Iran (because it's going to be so clean, right?), I take it is OK to bomb because they have no parents or relatives there.

by: RD
November 10, 2011 00:45
Iran's regime may be evil and oppressive, but it is not stupid. It knows any hostilities against Israel will spell the end of the regime. The accusations against Iran are baseless. Any allegations against Iran are an excuse for Israel to push forward its own self interests of being the dominant force in the Middle East. Iran's regime cares little about the Palestinians, whether Israel lives or dies. All it cares about is to remain in power and plunder the country. A military strike against Iran will be the most puerile move by the Israeli government next to their war in Lebanon where more than 1000 innocent civilians were butchered by Israel.

by: Ali from: Maryland
November 10, 2011 01:08
My family members in Iran are worried. Why should innocent people pay the price of the actions of the Iranian government?!
In Response

by: JC Vaughan from: Washington
November 10, 2011 17:29
Short answer: they should not have to do so. What disturbs me so much about the Mullah and IRI regime is that they seem to despise their own Iranian people and to care only for how much power they can get. I absolutely cannot understand this at all, it make no sense to me (of course, America has its own set of problems, just as bad, but different).

by: Arash from: UK
November 10, 2011 06:04
Western governments have gone out of their way to find accommodation with the regime who in response has resorted to the murder of thousands of British, American and other nationals through proxy terrorist groupuscules in Lebanon, Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere and speeding up of its military nuclear efforts. This diplomatic approach has failed drastically and now the best way forward is two-pronged. First, stifling oil, gas and petroleum boycott of the regime; and second, the co-operation of the civilized world with the democratic opposition forces who have been campaigning relentlessly for democracy in Iran.

Should it be proven that the Iranian regime is not far from acquiring the bomb before being toppled, the only alternative to avoid the nightmare of a tyrannical terrorist regime becoming nuclear armed would be the bombardment of the nuclear arms centres and military barracks belonging to the terrorist Pasdaran as well as the headquarters of the regime's terrorist leaders.

by: Reza from: Amsterdam
November 10, 2011 13:26
Israel nor US and it's Western allies will attack Iran. This is just another intensified PR and media campaign directed at Western public opinion (preluded by the alleged Iranian terror complot against Saudi amb. in US).These all aim to raise the pressure on Iran and implement even stricter sanctions on Iran, against Iranian Central Bank and oil industry mailny, to choke the oil export from Iran to much lower levels and all together wishfully. This in turn will raise the oil and gas prices in the world energy markets to much higher levels, on top of the US and Euro economic crises. So, the general public in the Western countries and Joe the Plumber in US are being scared to hell out of their minds by this campaigns in order to accept these sacrifices on a patriotic mood and mindset.
In Response

by: JC Vaughan from: Washington
November 10, 2011 17:37
Disturbingly, I remember reading, about a year ago, how the international banking/financial crisis would cause the Federal Reserve (and other Big Banks) to do everything they could to save themselves, and when they began to fail, then the government would go to war. A shocking prediction actually coming true?

by: David from: Quebec
November 10, 2011 15:13

Israel ought to strike now and strike hard. Israel must drag the United States into this war. The US will follow. Obama cannot stand up to the Jewish lobby in this election year.

For 2000 years Jews have been the perfect victims. Abiding in silence.

That must end. And It will end when tiny Israel crushes the oldest, proudest nation in the Middle East.

All nations in the Middle East owe Israel a blood debt. It must be collected, one war at a time.
In Response

by: eli from: freedonia
November 10, 2011 15:29
With friends like you, Israel needs no enemies.
In Response

by: RD
November 10, 2011 16:33
Here is another product of western propaganda. Yes, Israel is an innocent nation without the blood of innocent Lebanese, Palestinians on its hands. Congratulations for American and Israeli propaganda machines. They seem to be working in convincing the un-educated that Israel is an angel and the rest of the Middle East is out to destroy them. What will destroy Israel is its policies. Not the Arabs.
In Response

by: e.c from: london england
November 12, 2011 09:31
if iran is not developing nuclear capability,then it must.that would create parity between her and the wests guilt necklace(israel ) nobody needsto destroy israel. a natural collapse is on the prediction was made in early seventies.(100 years before the end of israel)70 odd years left.would you bet on it?.
In Response

by: J.C. Vaughan from: Washington
November 10, 2011 17:42
I hate to completely burst your bubble, but in the world today, the "Perfect Victims" have problem to be the LGBT crowd (Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, Transgenders).
The seem to be the major victims of violence and murder thoughout the Middle East (aside from political opponents, dope smugglers, and Sunnis in Iran). As for Israel, please "Pardon My French", but "Never Again" my damn ass - you have allowed it to occur over and over again continuously.
In Response

by: Cyrus Behnam from: California
November 17, 2011 10:47
Either you have short term memory, or you are a backstabber. If it weren't for Iran and Cyrus the Great, Jews would no longer exist my friend. Why don't you keep in mind that it is impolite to bite the hand that fed you. Unless you are being sarcastic?!?

If not, as far as blood debts are concerned, perhaps you should look towards Europe...after all they killed 6 millions Jews during the Holocaust. Of course I can just see the silly look on your face, when you also happen to realize that the second largest Jewish community in the Middle East is in Iran.

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