Yossi Melman (a well-known Israeli intelligence expert) and Meir Javedanfar (an Iranian-born insider) are the authors of the new book, The Nuclear Sphinx: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the State of Iran . Melman and Javedanfar remove at least part of the veil that has covered Mahmoud Ahmadinejad--but not all of it. Little is revealed, for instance, about the Iranian president's involvement in the Iranian hostage crisis. Nonetheless, Melman and Javedanfer provide some well-reasoned predictions and recommendations for the way ahead in dealing with Tehran's nuclear ambitions....
In analyzing the issues surrounding Iran's nuclear program and its president, the following point about Iran's politics, economy and nuclear policies should not be ignored:
-The country has been in a deep economic crisis for two decades and it is not going to end soon.
-Iran's oil industry, the main source of its livlihood, is facing severe difficulties. Iran's oil companies are calling for tens of billions of dollars in investments to replace old, crumbling equipment. Estimates projects that if Iran does not invest soon in its oil industry, its oil exports may disappear within a decade.
-Despite its one-party system and the ayatollahs' tight grip on the reins of power, Iran has a lively political system. Dissenting voices find a way to express themselves despite the authoritarian nature of the regime. Ahmadinejad's policies are constantly being challenged domestically.
-Sanctions, especially tough economic sanctions such as an oil embargo, may work. However unlikely they are, they would put Iran's leadership under tremendous pressure. But sanctions can backfire, as the events of the 1950s showed.
-Iran's nuclear facilities are spread in dozens of hidden sites, some of which are located in residential areas or inside hardened bunkers. A military strike in these areas might increase hatred of the West and rally the Iranian people.
-Iran will retaliate if it is attacked and it has the ability to cause extensive damage to countries in the region and to U.S forces stationed in neighboring countries, and to launch terrorist attacks against Israeli, Jewish, U.S., and European targets.
-Regime change is a long process that, based on the Iraqi precedent, seems beyond the ability of an American administration for some time to come.
-Even if Iran possesses nuclear weapons, it may not necessarily use them. Furthermore, the liklihood that Iran would hand over nuclear weapons to terrorists is even slimmer. On the surface, Iran's leaders show no mercy and have no inhibitions, but they have occasionally proved to be responsible and even restrained.
-Even if Iran has nuclear weapons, sanctions and regime change can still take place.