'The Iranian people are not eager for another war'

Iran expert says Netanyahu's speech on Iranian nuclear program will have limited effect, Iran mired in Syria without support of its citizens

Shimon Cohen ,

display featuring missiles and a portrait of Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
display featuring missiles and a portrait of Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei

Roi Kahanovich an expert on Iran and the author of the book 'Iran and the Persian Gulf,' related to the regional implications of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's speech last night on the Iranian nuclear program.

"First of all, the material that was presented is not new - these are things that we knew about before," Kahanovich said. "But if this material was known, and the [Iran nuclear deal] was signed anyway, then the situation would be very problematic. But in any case these are documents whose existence was known and it is not a secret that the Iranians have been striving nuclear technology and weapons for many years. This is a country that sees itself as a regional power and that it should be treated accordingly."

As for the global reaction to the speech, Kahanovich said that Iran is perceived by many countries in Europe, the US, and by Israel as a threat, and certainly a threat when it seeks to acquire this weapon. It is not for nothing that the Prime Minister spoke in English. He sought to give an in-depth explanation to the European countries in order to try and drag them into a profound change in the nature of the agreement. With regard to Trump, one can assume that he will withdraw from the agreement, that he accepts what was presented yesterday, and that he thinks that there are deep problems with the agreement that was drawn up two and a half years ago. It should be remembered that the prime minister is trying, on the basis of what was presented yesterday, to reach as many European countries as possible so that they will go to a path that will weaken the agreement."

And what about the Iranian point of view? How concerned are Iran's leaders with the fact that the Israeli intelligence operation took over 100,000 documents right under their noses? Do they believe that European countries such as France and Germany are motivated by economic interests to maintain the nuclear deal so that they can continue to do business with Iran?

Kahanovich answered: "Iran is a country that is currently immersed in very deep economic problems, inflation, poverty, etc. And it is for that reason Hassan Rouhani was elected to a second term. There is no great excitement in the circles of the regime at this moment" They say that they will respond if Israel attacks, but at the moment we do not see a strong Iranian response because they have their own considerations. From the strategic standpoint it is difficult for them to attack Israel directly, their air force is outdated and cannot withstand Israel's. They are also mired in Syria without the support of the Iranian public, who do not understand why they should fight wars that are not in their interests and invest a so much. We are at the start of a process around the issue of the agreement. Will there be a new agreement and what will its nature be?"

As for the intelligence aspect, Kahanovich believes that Israeli success is supposed to keep the Iranian leadership up at night, but it is possible the Iranians had an interest in the. "We are living in a world where the dynamics change from minute to moment."