In order to grasp the nature of Iran’s nuclear program it is essential to grasp the ideology of the Ayatollah regime. It is true that normative Islam rejects any accommodation of Jewish sovereignty in the Holy Land. However, Islamic fundamentalism alone does not explain why Islamist Sunni movements in Syria avoid attacking Israel while the Shiite Hezbollah militia permanently seeks to do so.
Now that Israel has achieved so much in all fields of human labor, Iranians know that and resent no longer being superior in the Middle East.
The destruction of Zionism is essential for the prestige of Shia Islam. If a Shiite Iran were able to erase Israel from the pages of history, it would succeed there where all Sunni efforts have failed. Since even pragmatic Muslim would not be unhappy if Zionism ceased to exist, the Ayatollahs see the erasure of Israel as the most promising path to prove the truth of their ideology.
If Iran delivered a victory over Zionism for the Ummah, millions of Sunni Muslims would feel drawn to the teachings of the Ayatollahs. The missionary ambition behind Iranian-Hezbollah hatred of Israel is one of the unstated reasons Sunni Arab leaders have begun to recognize Israel. A nuclear Iran could destabilize their states, not just militarily, but also politically and religiously.
Another reason the stakes of destroying Israel are so high for the Iranian leadership are more sinister. Iranians take pride in being Indo-Europeans. The name Iran was adopted in 1935 to highlight the Aryan origins of its population. In other words, there is also a deep strain of ethnic pride in Iranian hatred of Israel. This hatred is fueled by insecurity: The intellectual and cultural sophistication of Iran were long a source of pride for all Iranians. Now that Israel has achieved so much in all fields of human labor, Iranians know that and resent no longer being superior in the Middle East.
This superiority complex conceals an even deep inferiority complex. Namely, the humiliation of revering an Arab prophet whose armies obliterated Persian power for centuries. This shame is amplified by rumors in the Sunni street that Shiism was orchestrated by Jewish converts to Islam.
it is therefore highly likely that Iran will actively seek to leverage its nuclear capabilities to terrorize the Jewish state and reassert its Islamic credentials and Indo-European pride.
In this scenario, the role of the Biden administration also needs to be understood. Most arbiters of American foreign policy in the coming four years served in the Obama Administration. During eight years, those staff members were perennially outsmarted and outfoxed by the Israeli leadership, which took advantage of its closeness to the Republican Party and its majority in Congress to frustrate Obama’s strategy toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
There is already now no love lost between Biden’s foreign policy team and the current Israeli government. The fact that the next Secretary of State is Jewish does not help. It is possible that Antony Blinken will bend backward to deter charges that his policy toward Iran and Israel is influenced by his background. This might even be the reason Blinken advised Biden to state that America will rejoin the current JCPOA. This bodes ill for Israel’s success in stopping Iran’s nuclear juggernaut.
In this situation, the only thing Israel can do is make common cause with America’s Sunni allies. This on its own will not be enough. For one thing the European Union is one of Iran’s major trading partners. Therefore, securing European buy-in for stricter sanctions on Iran is essential to sabotage Iranian nuclear ambitions.
European indifference toward a second Holocaust is compounded by European affinity towards Iran.
Vis-à-vis Europe, Israel has limited options within an arsenal of conventional diplomatic strategies. Europe has shown time and again that it will easily sacrifice Jewish lives. In fact, it is even possible that some European leaders subconsciously hope that the erasure of Israel from the pages of history will help erase historical memories of the Holocaust, of which the Jewish state is a living witness. If a Jewish genocide took place in the Middle East, Europeans would have finally found a partner in crime.
European indifference toward a second Holocaust is compounded by European affinity towards Iran. The sophisticated and exquisitely well-mannered Iranian diplomats are able to charm European interlocutors in a way that is hard for Israelis to do. In this case, the intellectual prowess of Jews meets its match in Iranians, while Persian refinement cannot be emulated by sabras.
Israel can only leverage one instrument against European appeasement: security blackmail. In other words, Israel needs to warn that European nations complicit with Iran's nuclear development program will no longer be provided by the Jewish state with intelligence about security threats originating from the Middle East. There is no reason for Germany, France and the United Kingdom to assume they can second Iran's genocidal designs while remaining unscathed. This has been tried against Israel when the Palestinian Authority has used threats that it will stop cooperating with Israeli security services to try to advance its own interests.
An understanding of these factors is essential to see that behind the calculated steps of Iranian policymakers lurk dangerous passions. And that Western appeasement of Iran conceals more than just pusillanimity.
Israel should therefore avoid relying on the good faith of its allies and the rationalism of its foes. Israel needs to be ready to leverage all strategies in order to thwart the Ayatollahs’ nuclear ambitions.