Like President Barack Obama in Washington, Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is deep in calculations for a fateful decision: Should he prepare his country for negotiations on its nuclear program with the five permanent UN Security Council powers plus Germany in April or for a US and/or Israel attack?
His third option might be a preemptive strike on Israel and US regional assets.
To help him decide, Khamenei commissioned a detailed and authoritative balance sheet listing the prospects and the risks of the various options from three government agencies: the Supreme National Security Council, the Revolutionary Guards intelligence branch and the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence Services.
Khamenei’s personal intelligence bureau distilled the three reports and compiled a single, unified 32-page document which was presented to the Supreme Leader this week.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s Iranian and intelligence sources secured extensive passages of this document.
Its main conclusions, they report, are that the US will not risk attacking Iran until after the November presidential election – and only if Obama is returned for a second term. It will then be one of his first actions in early 2013.
The chances of a unilateral Israel attack are slim but cannot be ignored. The long-term effects of increased sanctions are cause for concern. But some of the conclusions are contradictory.
Surgical strikes followed by a long war of attrition
Tracing the history of US and international pressure to prevent Iran going nuclear, the document concludes that these efforts were never in earnest and betokened Western reluctance for military action rather than its resolve.
Another conclusion is that the US and Israel will not be satisfied with destroying Iran’s nuclear and military infrastructure but will seek to stir the Iranian people into rising up and overthrowing the Islamic regime.
Contrary to some opinions voiced in the US that a strike on Iran’s nuclear assets would unify the country behind the regime, the report presented to Khamenei stresses the risk of it triggering a popular uprising which would sweep up all the opposition factions and ethnic minorities.
While ruling out enemy ground operations on the heels of aerial bombardments, the three intelligence agencies predict a protracted war of attrition lasting six months to a year to weaken the regime and undermine its regional and international standing.
They also expect advance “softening up” operations to be mounted inside Iran to foment destabilizing upsets such as large-scale strikes and shutdowns in the electricity, fuel, water supply and transportation systems. Then, the military blow when it comes will find the regime too shaken up to survive.
The report’s authors expand on the possibility of the enemy confining itself to surgical strikes on Iran’s nuclear facilities and missile bases so as to diminish the risk of Iranian missile counter-strikes against US bases as well as Saudi Arabia and Israel and the explosion of a regional war.
Iran’s enemies expected to continue to stir up domestic dissent
The report put before Khamenei weighs the outcome of secret negotiations between Tehran and Moscow, which DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s Iranian sources reveal here for the first time, for a Russian nuclear and aerial protective shield much like the US umbrella provided for Saudi Arabia and Israel.
Failure of these negotiations, according to the Iranian intelligence experts, would exacerbate the chances of a regional war.
Even surgical strikes knocking out parts of Iran’s nuclear program would give Iran the right to openly continue its development as the victim of a “vicious attack.”
No more than six months to two years would be needed to restore Iran’s nuclear capabilities to their former state, in the view of Khamenei’s top intelligence advisers.
The reports authors trace at length US, Israeli and Saudi efforts to stir up Iran’s restive ethnic and religious minorities against the regime – the Baluchis in the south, the Kurds in the North, the Arabic-speakers in the southwest and the Turkmen in the northeast. Although all these efforts fell flat, the West is expected to keep on strengthening the regime’s political foes.
Still, they expect the March 2 elections for a new Majlis to go smoothly and enhance the fundamentalist regime’s grip on power.