One day, Iran may finally realize that it is high time it becomes a peaceful state that strives to achieve progress and serve its people. It may finally come to the conviction that it must forsake its military project that threatens this region of the world and become a friendly neighbor.
Unfortunately, though, this prospect is the most improbable. In fact, Iran is a few steps away from becoming a military nuclear power. It is enlarging its ballistic arsenal and expanding its regional influence. This is the mindset of a country that intends and plans to wage bigger and more dangerous wars.
For this and other reasons, I believe our region will be forced to go to a direct war with Iran, and we must think about defense in preparation for that day. I did not come to this conclusion based on a personal impression, but rather on a summary of current developments. Iran’s continued enrichment of uranium and its insistence on maintaining its military operations abroad despite the repercussions it must shoulder cannot possibly end without a military confrontation. Iran’s adoption of this militarization policy stems not from fear nor from conflicts imposed on Tehran, but rather from its well-defined project of using force to control our region and states - surely not to confront America or Israel as it claims, as proven by the wars it is waging in three different Arab states.
There is always hope that a political solution will be reached with Iran and wars will be avoided and peace will be restored in the region. But such rose-colored glasses are unreliable. Tehran’s military project and behavior force us to read developments with a more realistic approach.
What chances are there that Iran will wage a direct military attack? Previously, the chances were very slim. Most observers believed Tehran would prefer using its proxies in the region over engaging in direct battle (this has been Iran’s strategy since the end of its destructive war with Iraq, which taught it a harsh lesson). As such, the policies of regional states have so far only focused on confronting Iran’s proxies.
There are many reasons why Iran has refrained from engaging in direct wars, such as the existence of a hostile superpower that can annihilate it before its nuclear program is completed, and its inability to confront states like Israel and Gulf states.
Recent developments have obsoleted this approach though, in my opinion. Iran’s power and regional ambitions have grown significantly: it has now expanded its influence from the Mediterranean city of Tartus all the way to Bab El Mandeb Strait south of the Red Sea.
However, by investing its resources in its foreign military project, Iran has pushed its economy on the brink of collapse. Uprisings against the regime continue in Iran and are no longer restricted to separatist forces. Rather, they’ve infiltrated the regime and reached its cohorts in Qum and Tehran. Naturally, the regime believes victory abroad is its only savior in its crisis with its people, and the internal danger it is facing is its greatest threat to its existence today. The appointment of Ebrahim Raissi as president only goes to show that economic reform is not a priority for the regime; only war is.
As Tehran’s hostile approach grows, we have yet to see efforts that counter it in the region, such as the formation of a counter military coalition that could fill in the inevitable void that will emerge, or the enactment of policies that could deter Iran from launching wars. To be continued…
This article was originally published in, and translated from, the pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat.