Elijah J. Magnier
Supreme Leader of Iran Ali Khamenei and the new Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi-
The Islamic Republic of Iran reached the level of “empowerment” (Tamkeen) with the arrival of Ibrahim Raisi to the presidency, the highest executive authority of the pyramid in harmony with the supreme leader, Wali al-Faqih Khamenei, and with the legislative authority headed by the chairman of the Shura Council, Muhammad Baqir Qalibaf. The formation of the harmonious trio in power is unprecedented in the history of the Islamic revolution in Iran since 1979: to this must be added Iran’s advanced nuclear research and technology, its advanced missile program and military capabilities, and the high capabilities of its allies in the Middle East and West Asia. Iran has reached a point in history where it offers the Western world two options, both of which are difficult from a Western perspective.
In 1980, al-Hassan Bani Sadr was elected at the polls the first president of the Republic. The Wali al-Faqih and leader of the Revolution, Imam Khomeini, disapproved of Bani Sadr without necessarily announcing his position or acting in accordance with his opinion and will. At that time, Iran was suffering from the first US “sanctions” followed by Saddam Hussein’s war imposed on the Islamic Republic. Many Arab and Western countries were on Saddam’s side and supported the war against Iran.
During the first few years, Iran could hardly stand up to Saddam Hussein, who enjoyed broad international and regional support. Saddam Hussein was armed and authorized to use chemical weapons, which were apparently not prohibited as long as they were used against the Iranians, who rejected U.S. hegemony and called him the “Great Satan”. The lack of the simplest weapons caused this thirst for defensive and offensive arsenal during the Iran-Iraq war: at the front, convoys of young men waited for the martyrdom of their comrades to take their weapons. Elderly volunteers walked through minefields to make way for the young men who attacked and advanced to recapture the territory occupied by Saddam’s forces. Proof of this are the planes that the U.S. envoy, Robert McFarlane, took to Iran in exchange for the release of Western hostages held in Lebanon in 1985, which became known at the time as the “hostage crisis” and the “Iran Contra” scandal.
Iran builds its defensive-offensive capability.
Iran could not stand on its own feet for many years, even after the war, due to the “sanctions” imposed by the United States. Iranian domestic military industrialization then began, which started through technology imported from Russia, China and Korea. Over the years, Iran has developed its missile capability, after recognizing that it cannot compete and build an air force that represents an adequate deterrent weapon capable of confronting the U.S. air force or the air power of U.S. allies; Iran accepted that air superiority is its own. Nevertheless, it managed to build tactical and strategic missiles and thus has been able to defend itself and its allies.
Indeed, Israel’s war against Lebanon in 2006 demonstrated the lessons imposed by one of Iran’s strongest allies, Hezbollah. surface-to-surface missile attacks versus Israeli air strikes created a balance of deterrence. In 2011, Iran’s electronic warfare specialists severed the communications link and captured one of the most advanced CIARQ-170 Sentinel spy drones, and its experts cloned it. In 2018, Iran fired its long-range, all-weather precision subsonic subsonic cruise missiles from Iran against ISIS positions in Syria and Iraq. In addition, during the decade-long Syrian war, Iran and its allies used several new types of missiles (Burkan), the specification of which depended on the nature of the battle, the scenario and the topography.
Drones and missiles were further developed to suit the needs of the Iranian military and its allies, each according to the nature of the geography and theater of operations in which it operates. Thus, Palestinian groups in Gaza-who received Iran’s missile know-how and technology-were able to impose deterrence on Israel during its latest battles. Israel was forced to stop bombing when Palestinian rockets and missile attacks hit targets in northern and southern Israel, previously unimaginable, and they continue to fall daily no matter how much the Israeli air force destroys military and civilian targets in the city.
In 2020, Iran attacked Iraq’s most important US base, Ayn al-Assad, with 16 precision-guided ballistic missiles. U.S. CENTCOM commander General Kenneth Mackenzie admitted that Iran could have caused more than a hundred deaths if it had not informed in advance the time of its attack and the targets it wanted to destroy. Mackenzie revealed the accuracy of Iran’s 1,000-pound precision missiles, the first such missiles since World War II.
Iran, a nuclear power
What has dramatically increased and tipped the balance dramatically in Iran’s favor is the nuclear project. Iranian atomic technology has reached the stage of domestic production such that many centrifuges enrich uranium at a faster rate and production is 60% enriched uranium. Thus, all nuclear obstacles have collapsed and the level of knowledge, experience and expertise required to manufacture military grade nuclear material has been reached. The only reason Iran is not producing a nuclear bomb is the banning fatwa (a binding Islamic religious opinion, pronounced by the highest theological level of Muslim clergy) of the guardian of the jurists (Wali al-Faqih) Sayyed Ali Khamenei. However, a fatwa is not permanent and, in fact, is somewhat flexible depending on the magnitude of the risks facing Iran’s national security or existence. The conclusion is simple: it is no longer impossible, or even difficult, for Iran to arm and equip itself with all the military power necessary to defend itself. It is in a position to showcase its capabilities and persuade other countries that they should avoid a direct war against the Islamic Republic.
Iran’s allies are part of its national security.
In addition, Iran has established relations with many peoples and organizations in the Middle East. Iran managed to establish a solid wall against its enemies by winning the hearts and minds of Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Palestine, Iraqi factions and brigades within the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) groups in Syria, Afghanistan and with the Houthis in Yemen. Iran’s allies are an integral part of its national security and, these allies also consider Iran as a source of loyal support. Iran’s enemies cannot ignore all the elements of power that allies represent, and must take them into account before declaring war on the Islamic Republic.
Iran has reached a crossroads with the West.
Iran’s long-standing policy of slow and gradual empowerment has transformed it from a weak, isolated and powerless country in the 1980s into a strong regional and even international power. Iran’s strength allows it to expand beyond the Middle East, sailing the seas to deliver aid to its allies in Venezuela, challenging the United States in its backyard. It has certainly established deterrence, affecting U.S. willingness and resolve to recognize the potential damage Iran can inflict in the event of war. Iran’s new capabilities are enough to convince its enemies not to act against it in a state-to-state war, but to think about the “nuisance alternatives” (sabotage, assassinations, drone strikes, intelligence strikes, cyberwarfare).
Iran achieves al-Tamkeen (empowerment).
The importance of the recent presidential elections is highlighted in these circumstances, because they complete Iran’s cycle of power and achieve the ultimate goal Iran set out to achieve, i.e., to fortify and unify the internal front. During the decades since the 1979 revolution, the Wali al-Faqih realized that the younger generation could look at the West positively and with great acceptance. The new generation is vulnerable because it did not exist during the days of the revolution and has not lived to memorize the damage the U.S. inflicted on Iran in the attempt to bend its will. Many young Iranians want to imitate the West with its temptations and characteristics, the most important being “democracy,” with technology, innovations and all the tools that distinguish a slowly growing Middle East from a rapidly modernizing West.
However, the young generation does not realize that democracy, as practiced in the West, provides neither power nor protection. Freedom of speech does exist in Western countries, but is forbidden to others. Recently, the United States has seized thirty-six Iranian and allied websites and those of Sayyid Ali al-Sistani. However, in most European countries there are free elections, and voting is even compulsory in some countries such as Belgium.
However, laws and international law, long judged to be the backbone of the Western constitutional system, have now become a burden for decision-makers. When the President of the United States (Donald Trump) threatens Germany with preventing the entry of its imports if it does not abide by his will, he is using the law of the jungle of the mightiest against the weakest, disregarding all international legality.
When the United Nations Security Council issues 187 resolutions in favor of Palestine, and against the Israeli apartheid regime that prevents the return of the indigenous people, confiscates their property, rejects the simplest means of humanity and jeopardizes their livelihood in the eyes of the world, international laws become mere ink on paper. The simplest example is the nuclear agreement signed by President Obama, revoked by President Trump. Europe felt irresistibly powerless and unable to enforce its commitment, now renegotiated by President Biden. The modern West also views with impotence its submission to the hegemon.
President Donald Trump has inadvertently contributed to rekindling the revolutionary spirit in Iranian society by assassinating, minutes after arriving in Baghdad, Brigadier General Qassem Soleimani, a prominent military chief much loved in Iran and the Middle East.
Khamenei realized the magnitude of the threat against the country and the need to take Iran to another, much higher level of preparedness to confront “sanctions”, U.S. hegemony and protect Iran’s sovereignty. First, he fortified the military forces to hand over the management of these forces to military leaders loyal to the line of Imam Khomeini and the doctrine of wilayat e-faqih. This move has allowed Iran to open the doors of politics without restructuring or the need to impose its will on domestic politics. The so-called reformists had repeated opportunities after al-Hassan Bani Sadr, Mir Hossein Mousavi, Hashemi Rafsanjani, Muhammad Khatami, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Hassan Rouhani.
The Wali al-Faqih has never imposed his will on the President of the Republic, except as permitted by the Iranian constitution in matters of foreign policy and national security. He has the constitutional authority to make important decisions and assume his responsibilities. Before taking office, the Iranian president pledges to respect the Constitution. Since the time of Imam Khomeini, the leader of the revolution left room for the president and his ministers to make decisions, as long as they do not conflict with the strategic security of the state, especially the foreign relationship.
As for foreign policy, Wali al-Faqih has supreme power, and no president can challenge his decision. Imam Khomeini sent a direct message to the leader of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev; Sayyed Khomeini accepted the end of the war with Iraq and asked the government to reform the relationship with Saudi Arabia after the Mecca incident in which hundreds of Iranian pilgrims were killed. After the appointment of Sayyid Ali Khamenei as successor to Imam Khomeini, he led the country towards scientific, nuclear and ballistic development. He agreed to negotiate with the United States the lifting of “sanctions” in exchange for not developing nuclear weapons.
Today, with President Ibrahim Raisi (who has said he does not want to meet with President Biden) at the head of the executive branch, Iran has completed its military and political empowerment, with the president of the Shura Council, Muhammad Qalibaf – a colleague of Qassem Soleimani – at the top of the legislative pyramid. No country can declare war on Iran and get away with minor damage. Deterrence has prevailed; the home front is more powerful than ever.
Iran has reached a crossroads with the West. Thanks to its total empowerment, the Islamic Republic has been able to present the world with two options. The main one is to lift the “sanctions” and allow Iran to regain its economic strength, restore its purchasing and financial capacity, develop the process of economic self-sufficiency, increase its preparedness and with it one of its allies. Consequently, it allows Iran to increase its financial power with hundreds of billions annually to enrich its coffers with oil and non-oil revenues. In addition, Iran will recover more than $110 billion frozen in various countries. Iran will be more vital than ever to its allies. The other option for Iran is to achieve full-cycle nuclear power and enriched uranium, which is already approaching 90%, the level needed for nuclear military capability.