Iran has more to worry about than anyone else this year
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Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (Photo: AP)
The Iranian regime has far more to be worried about in 2013 than Israel does.
The EU has adopted to life without its oil, while China and Russia continue to be on President Obama’s side at the nuclear talks. The Khamenei government has tried before to create a split between China and Russia but to no avail. This is a far cry from the days of George Bush junior’s presidency, when China and Russia defended Iran at the UN.
There are also elections this year. Who will replace Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (pictured) as president will be decided by the Iranian supreme leader in consultation with the Revolutionary Guards. It is extremely unlikely the reformists to be allowed to run. This will hurt the regime’s legitimacy at home even more.
At the same time, the economic situation is deteriorating. Sanctions and regime mismanagement are hurting the economy like never before. To Ayatollah Khamenei’s disappointment, the sanctions have not motivated Iranians to rally around the flag. People are instead blaming his regime and the US.
Israel’s big challenge will be how to deal with Iran’s nuclear programme. The regime continues to enrich uranium at 20 per cent, despite UN resolutions calling for it to suspend enrichment. The question is: at what point have all other options have failed necessitating a resort to military action? Iran’s nuclear sites at Natanz and Fordow are under inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The IAEA checks the enrichment level and quantity of uranium produced. To make a bomb, Iran will need to enrich at 90 per cent and then to expel IAEA inspectors. It would be impossible to do this in secret and could provoke an attack by the US, at the least. It is therefore highly unlikely.
Khamenei is damned if he stops now because he could look weak, damned if he dashes for a bomb as it could cause a war, and damned by continuing with the status quo as it causes more sanctions. He has far more to worry about in 2013 than anyone else, including Israel.
Meir Javedanfar is an Iranian-Israeli Middle East analyst