Alex Fishman
Alex Fishman
Photo: Ynet
The uranium enrichment facility in Natanz, Iran

The danger of Iranian despair

Opinion: Tehran has been taking one blow after the other, both financially and militarily, but as the Mullah regime feels the earth shaking under its feet, it becomes more impulsive and unpredictable

Alex Fishman |
Published: 06.13.22, 00:05
Meir Dagan, the late former head of the Mossad intelligence agency, defined Israel's strategy against nuclear Iran as a series of small blows against many seemingly unrelated targets, hoping that all together, all the hits will compound to a change in the Iranian regime or its nuclear plans.
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  • This strategy, which has so far proven to be relatively successful, has been in place for decades, with the only variable being the intensity with which Israel and the West apply pressure on Tehran to undermine its regime. Over the past few months, that pressure has been very intense, and this time the West may just have a chance at succeeding.
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    Natanz uranium enrichment facility in Iran
    Natanz uranium enrichment facility in Iran
    The uranium enrichment facility in Natanz, Iran
    (Photo: AP)
    Iran's announcement last Thursday it was shutting off surveillance cameras at some nuclear sites across the country, as a means to pressure the West as it seeks to censure Tehran at a meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency, epitomizes a regime in distress.
    Ebrahim Raisi, Iran's president since August 2021, is facing domestic challenges in the form of the Islamic Republic's financial woes and harsh criticism from conservative leaders, including some of his closest confidants. The regime is facing threats on all fronts — domestic and international. Hence, Iran has become much more unexpected in its conduct, and thus, way more dangerous.
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    Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi addressing the UN General Assembly remotely last week
    Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi addressing the UN General Assembly remotely last week
    Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi addressing the UN General Assembly
    (Photo: Screenshot)
    The recent spate of attacks against Iranian targets over the last few weeks, which have been tied back to Israel — from the killings of Iranian officials to the raid that struck the Damascus International Airport — while done in an attempt to impede the country's nuclear advancement, have likely only pushed Iran closer to the edge.
    In addition, just as Iran thought it could take a breather when it comes to its financial standing, the war in Ukraine came along and offset all the energy profits from earlier this year. All of Iran's imported products became substantially more expensive, the Russians began to mark down gas prices, and political motives pushed countries like China to buy oil from Russia instead.
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    נזקי התקיפה שיוחסה לישראל בשדה התעופה הבינלאומי בדמשק
    נזקי התקיפה שיוחסה לישראל בשדה התעופה הבינלאומי בדמשק
    Aerial view of damage done to the Damascus International Airport
    (Photo: ImageSat International - ISI)
    But the hardest blow was the halt of nuclear fuel flow.
    Some 30% of Iran's nuclear fuel supply came from Ukraine and Russia. On top of this, Iran was plagued by a year-long drought leading to meager harvests, and Raisi and his conservative acolytes watched as their dream of an independent Iranian market drifted farther and farther away. All of Raisi's promises to improve Iran's financial state became void, and on May 9, he announced that basic food product subsidies would be decreased by $100 billion, as well as an increase in bread prices.
    As a result, these are no longer political protests rocking the Iranian street. These are protests over shortage and deficiency, spreading even to the large cities.
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    מצעד צבאי באיראן
    מצעד צבאי באיראן
    Military parade in Tehran
    (Photo: EPA)
    On May 23, a building collapsed in the southwestern city of Abadan, claiming at least 41 lives. Just last Wednesday, a passenger train derailed in eastern Iran, killing 13 and injuring dozens. In addition, the Iranian public's hostility toward its regime is reinforced by the killings of five Iranian nuclear experts, hacking of the international airport's computing systems, seizing of an Iranian oil tanker in Greek waters at the U.S.'s request, and reports of Israeli military exercises preparing to strike in Iran.
    For this information to enter the conscious of the average Iranian citizen and create the intended effect, it had to have been echoed globally. Therefore, it is fair to assume that Prime Minister Naftali Bennett's remarks hinting at Israeli involvement in the aforementioned operations were no slip of the tongue.
    In war, the public needs to be notified, yet the Iranian side is trying to hide information from its people or downplay its significance. The accumulation of reports of this sort, nibbling at the national morale, could severely hinder the Iranian public's trust in its leadership.
    This psychological offensive has already yielded one outcome: the nuclear deal with world powers seems to be falling apart. Raisi's Iran cannot come crawling back asking for the generous offer the Americans made several months ago.
    On the other hand, a regime in distress could do something extreme to demonstrate its power and scale the diplomatic ladder. This is why Tehran has been making a great effort to harm Israeli nationals abroad. Out of despair, the Iranian regime may be capable of going even further.
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