Israel Underestimates Iranian Threat

Israel has a track record of underestimating the nefariousness of Iran’s intentions. Israeli intelligence until recently believed that Tehran was interested in a nuclear agreement with the United States. Until recently did senior Israeli military experts believe that Iran would not order Hezbollah to launch a frontal attack against Israeli cities with 150 000 rockets and missiles – some of them fitted with chemical warheads, after Israel and the US destroy the Iranian nuclear weapons program. The Israeli military still does not believe that Iran under normal circumstances would use nuclear weapons against Israel if it attained such capability.

Rather the fear is that if the regime were to be in danger of falling from power would the regime bring down Israel along with it by nuking Israel. This severely underestimates the malevolence of Iranian intentions. When the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and other senior Iranian officials say that Iran will “annihilate Israel”, they literally mean it. There are 84 million Iranians and the totalitarian regime would not mind “sacrificing” a few million Iranians who would die from Israeli nuclear retaliation if that is the price for implementing a long hoped for Second Holocaust. 

Iran believes that were it to give a nuclear briefcase bomb to a Jihadist terrorist organization such as Hezbollah and explode it in central Tel Aviv would Israel not retaliate against Iran for fear of Iran launching missiles with nuclear warheads which would undoubtedly murder millions more Israeli Jews. In other words MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) does not work as a future mutual nuclear deterrence doctrine between Israel and Iran, since Israel as a state would not survive nuclear warfare while Iran certainly would and Israel would never nuke Tehran due to the 8 000 strong rabbinically Jewish minority living there in addition to unknown numbers of Yarsanis and other Median Jews.

Israel suffers from a conceptzia (Hebrew term for a major strategic military blunder) in that Israeli intelligence analysts consistently underestimate the lunacy and malevolence of the Khomeinist totalitarian regime. Israeli analysts never mention how particular Islamist versions of Anti-Semitic conspiracy theories influence and guide Iranian policy towards the Jewish state and towards the United States, a.k.a. the “Great Satan” which Islamist Anti-Semitic conspiracy theorists like Ebrahim Raisi believe is the center of the global “Jewish conspiracy”. The consistent pattern of Israeli intelligence underestimating Iran indicates that very severe and dangerous miscalculations are at play in projectively relying on the regime to behave rationally. 

This suggests that a combination of Iranian intelligence feeding agents of Israel with false and misleading information and a reliance on stereotypical game theory is to blame for very serious and systemic failings of Israeli intelligence in estimating Iran’s intentions towards Israel. While Israel outsmarts Iran when it comes to sabotaging the Iranian nuclear weapons program, there is no question that Iranian intelligence has been hugely successful in feeding intelligence services of Israel and the other great powers with disinformation regarding Iran’s strategic intentions. Israeli intelligence analysts specializing on Iran need to shift paradigm in recognizing the truly dangerous and malevolent intentions of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

The mix of extreme rationalism and utter lunacy such as making global rule of the Hidden Imam a geostrategic goal and being ready to use chemical weapons against countries around the world in order to trigger the return of the Hidden Imam may be difficult to make sense of. When is Iran rational and when is it not? This may be difficult to determine but here is a sample:

Tehran is highly rational in deeming that a nuclear deal with the United States is not in the interest of the Khomeinist regime as that would bring marginal economic benefits to Iran since investors and export/import firms would stay away from Iran considering that it would only be a matter of time until a Republican president takes back the White House and reimposes comprehensive economic sanctions against Iran. At the same time is Iran irrational, indeed lunatic to the point of being almost suicidal in not recognizing that opposing any nuclear deal with the United States will lead to the emerging international coalition imposing a no-fly zone over Iran that will provide air support to armed rebellions throughout the country, something which is very likely to cause the downfall of the regime. If Iran was an entirely rational entity whose behaviors could be anticipated through mathematical calculations of conventional game theory, then the Iranian regime would choose survival and conclude a nuclear agreement with the United States. 

This example illustrates the complexity of Iran’s strategic calculations which include both extreme rationalism and utterly lunatic conclusions derived from theological apocalyptic and Anti-Semitically conspiratorial considerations. Analyzing Iran is therefore no easy matter and it is essential to be cognizant from where each stage in Iranian decision-making is derived from. There are essentially four forms of Khomeinist conclusions:

  1. Purely rational calculations.
  2. Conclusions derived from Anti-Semism in general and Islamist and other Anti-Semitic conspiracy theory in particular.
  3. Decisions made from irrational attitudes of Middle Eastern political culture as seen in multiple other historical and present political actors in the Middle East.
  4. Considerations derived from Khomeinist versions of Jafari theology in general and apocalyptic beliefs in particular. 

It must be emphasized that all four modes are considered rational by the Iranian regime according to the Khomeinist Weltanschauung (comprehensive worldview). While it sounds bizarre, Khomeinists are completely unaware of the totally irrational nature of modes 2, 3 and 4. Another example:

It is entirely rational for Iran to attempt to defeat and neutralize its main strategic rivals, namely America, Israel and Saudi Arabia which are the three major obstacles to Iranian hegemony in Islamdom and the world. This is rational as a geostrategy. However, the regime also believes that the US is controlled by a Jewish deep state which runs the world. Israel is merely one of the tentacles of the American-Jewish “octopus”. Islamist Anti-Semitic conspiracy theorists believe that the House of Saud are secret Jews who are thus part of the global “Jewish conspiracy”. 

This illustrates again how Khomeinism is a mixture of rationalistic totalitarianism and considerations that belong in an asylum. Understanding how the four modes interact in Iranian decision-making requires using intelligence analysts with extreme sense of empathy (including female ones) who are able to follow the Khomeinist Weltanschauung in reconstructing the complex interaction of the four modes in Khomeinist strategic thought. At every step, one must determine which one of the four modes is active at any particular stage of Iranian determination of reality, analysis and decision-making. Furthermore, the results must be deconstructed many times so as to identify potential errors in thinking on the part of the empathetic analysts.

Published by Daniella Bartfeld

Daniella Bartfeld is the founding director of the Aliyah Organization.

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