Could Iran Checkmate America?

They are raising the stakes to the limit and daring us to take them on, apparently believing that we will blink first. What do we do now and how big a price can we afford to pay?

Rachel Neuwirth

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On March 29, 2005 the London Arabic daily Al-Hayat published a report on Iran's current preparedness for an American or Israeli attack. The report was translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI). MEMRI introduced the report as follows:

"In recent months, commanders of Iran's Revolutionary Guards and armed forces have announced their complete preparedness for a possible military attack on Iran's nuclear installations and other sensitive sites. Iranian spokesmen have declared that Iran's response would be formidable."

The interview indicates the hostility, confidence, determination and intractability of the Iranian leadership. Following are excerpts from that article:

"Iranian military sources say that the armed forces and the Revolutionary Guards have made all the field preparations for handling a surprise attack on targets within Iran. [These preparations] are not limited to the nuclear installations, which are dispersed among the cities and various locations - Bushehr, Isfahan, Arak, Natanz, Tehran, Yazd, and others - but also include military and industrial plants and dams.

"...Iran's military command has taken into account the possibility of a disruption of [communications] between military posts and the central command... As a precautionary measure, the command has ordered all military and Revolutionary Guards sectors to respond swiftly - within no more than an hour and without waiting for orders - against pre-selected targets, [in light of anticipated] international political pressures that might force Iran to not respond.

"The objective is to deliver a harsh blow to the US and its ally Israel at the outset, and then to expand the arena, in light of international efforts to contain the crisis and limit its scope and intensity, so as to ignite the whole region [
emphasis added]. This way Iran will assure its right to respond.

"...All the countries that host US military forces - particularly Iraq, CENTCOM [U.S. Central Command] in Al-Siliya [Qatar], the Al-'Odeid base in Qatar, and the Fifth Fleet command in Bahrain - are among the sites Iran might consider as targets. However, the biggest fish of all is Israel, which is likely to suffer 'hellfire' - particularly when the Iranian response 'will use [varied] weapons and reach other targets that the aggressors are not expecting them [to reach].'
"These sources added that although Iran anticipates a devastating attack that will destroy a significant part of its economic and industrial achievements of the past 26 years, it is now pondering an issue that seems to it to be justified: Can the Bush administration grasp that it will have to send home at least five [dead] American soldiers per day? And how will the administration respond to the [American] people, who will question the benefit of the attack on Iran..."

According to Al-Hayat, Iranian military sources had reported that during a meeting between a French diplomat and Expediency Council Chairman Rafsanjani, the diplomat asked Rafsanjani whether Iran would relinquish its nuclear program, and was answered with an unequivocal "no." When the diplomat said that the US had selected 325 targets within Iran as the first targets in any possible American attack, Rafsanjani explained to his guest that the Iranian counter-attack would be just as powerful and devastating.

The report continued,

"When the Western diplomat asked, 'What if the place in which you are convening (the Marble Palace, a few dozen meters from the Islamic Republic's Presidential Building and the residence of Iranian Leader Ali Khamenei) is also among the targets?' Rafsanjani answered succinctly, 'Even if I am the target, [Iran will not relinquish its nuclear program].'"

The above interview represents the public posture of Iran's leadership, which is determined to freely enrich uranium, and appears immune from any bribe or any threat.

They are raising the stakes to the limit and daring us to take them on, apparently believing that we will blink first. What do we do now and how big a price can we afford to pay?

The following describes a hypothetical threat to American security based on plausible possibilities. The 9/11 Commission cited "a failure of imagination" by our government for our being unprepared for the 9/11 attack. Some may say the following hypothetical scenario is far-fetched, but in the wake of 9/11, this scenario appears a lot less unlikely than before.

Imagine that a sealed, top-secret message were received in the White House from clandestine sources in the Middle East, to be read only by the president and vice president. The message would read as follows:

"This message represents the government of Iran in brotherly alliance with Al-Qaeda and other revolutionary Islamic organizations based in many countries. This is payback time for what America did to us in the past. As you now prepare to deny us our right to develop nuclear power, we now tell you that we have already triumphed over you. It is checkmate and we now give you our ultimatum, because you are now under our power and we are not anymore under your power.

"We remember your past crimes against Iran. Your CIA forced our elected leader, Dr. Mohammed Mossadegh, from power and installed your agent, the hated Shah. You armed and supported Saddam Hussein even after he attacked Iran.

"When the Ayatollah Khomeini came to power, we tested you by holding your diplomats hostage for 444 days under Jimmy Carter while you, the great superpower, remained helpless and humiliated. When 241 US Marines were blown up in Beirut in 1983, Ronald Reagan turned tail and ran away. We observed how Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter made a deal with North Korea that any child could see was meant to be broken. Now that they have announced they violated that agreement and have nuclear weapons and missiles, we observe your confusion and helplessness.

"You claim to be a super power but your foreign policy is amateurish and your society is weak because your values are corrupt. You lack resolve and you cannot bear the pain of real sacrifice. After we understood your weakness, we began our long-term program to become stronger than you.

"We have learned from the Soviet experience during the Cold War. Over the years, we have implanted many sleeper cells all over your country. Your internal security and border control are weak and allow millions to illegally enter your country and to vanish from sight. If you cannot block massive amounts of drugs from flowing into your country, you certainly cannot block WMD components, which occupy far less volume. Today, our agents are multi-ethnic, men and women, and various ages, so that they resemble ordinary Americans and are nearly invisible. Your country is easy to penetrate and easy to hide out in for long periods.

"We now have developed the ability to inflict any degree of damage on your country that we choose. We can strike anywhere, and in the process, multiply the effects by also paralyzing your population through terror. We can do it anonymously, so you will not know for certain against whom to retaliate because you have so many enemies. Sleeper agents eliminate our need to depend on long-range missiles that also reveal their country of origin when fired.

"We have a variety of WMD in position and are constantly increasing their lethality, along with improved battle tactics. We will retain power in reserve so that you will never know just how much additional damage we could inflict, and any attack on Muslims anywhere will bring additional retaliation on your soil. We have enough power in place now to quickly reduce America to Third World status. The same technology infrastructure that allows you to project power abroad becomes your great internal vulnerability. We have long analyzed your entire internal infrastructure, from your economic vulnerabilities to the psychology of terror, and we know very well how to exploit them all to our advantage.

"Any attempt on your part to root out our sleeper cells would fail because they are so well hidden and also because it might trigger painful retaliation. This means that we can hurt you far more than you can hurt us. Even if you kill millions of us, it will not save you from a devastating response by our sleeper cells on your people. We also have the capability in an extreme situation to simultaneously attack your troops and bases throughout the Middle East while creating havoc inside your country.

"How many millions of Americans are you willing to sacrifice in a war with us? This is our version of the mutual assured destruction policy of the Cold War, but with a big difference. Unlike the Soviets, we do not fear death, while you are terrified over incurring small loses. Even exterminating Iran still leaves over 1.2 billion enraged Muslims in the world seeking vengeance, plus a devastating cutoff in your oil imports.

"Despite your great offensive power, including nuclear weapons, you are actually more vulnerable than we are, and this is now going to cost you dearly. You have foolishly waited too long to confront us and now it is too late for you to safely do so.

"Our ultimatum: First, you will keep this message secret to prevent your own embarrassment, avoid creating public panic and to avoid helping your political opponents. You will invent a pretext to cease interfering with our nuclear development in any way. You will begin to withdraw all of your forces from the Middle East. You will remain passive as we create a two-tier international oil market. One tier for America and another for everyone else who cooperates with us.

"America will face external imposed rationing of oil imports combined with higher prices. All of our friends will get preferred treatment regarding allotment and price. We will be working with other oil exporting countries to shift their exports away from America and to the huge and growing markets of Asia, including China and India. We will be influencing Canada, Mexico and Venezuela to shift their oil exports away from America and towards Asia.

"It will be interesting to see how many of your so-called friends and allies will choose to stick by your side if it requires them to sacrifice on your behalf. We will punish them if we find them transshipping the oil we sold them to you. We will continue to isolate you so you will be standing alone and friendless.

"You will stave off internal destruction only as long as you comply with our ultimatum. In the long run, your power will be greatly diminished and Iran will emerge as the dominant power in the Middle East. In the longer run, America will continue to weaken internally while Islamic influence increases inside your own society.

"We of the Islamic revolution represent the wave of the future and you Americans are a declining power. The best you can hope for is to avoid attack while your society gradually becomes Islamic."

After reading the Iranian message, the president and vice president might ponder whether the message was authentic and whether the threat was credible. And suppose Iran were to actually send such a secret message to the president. Could we be certain that they are only bluffing? There is no certain answer because our intelligence on internal developments inside Iran is very poor. Deciding on a proper response presents a grave dilemma. We need wise leadership, and time may be running out.

Likely? It's hard to tell, but given the public remarks by Iranian officials, perhaps it ought to be considered.

According to Breaking News on, US intelligence has identified a new possible threat from Iran. This makes the above hypothetical scenario more plausible.