There isn’t any real chance of thwarting Iran’s nuclear program through escalated sanctions or negotiated compromise, an Iranian expert told Haaretz, days after the International Atomic Energy Agency published a report indicating that Tehran was seeking to develop nuclear weapons.
Mehdi Khalaji, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said that the Iranian regime considered its nuclear program as the utmost tool to preserve its survival, meaning that pressure by the West could not sway Tehran away from further advances.
Khalaji is considered one of Iran’s premier scholars, also because of his own personal background. He was born and raised in the city of Qom, Iran’s largest center for Shi’ite Muslim scholarship.
He studied theology and Shi’ite legislation for 14 years in one of the largest religious seminaries in Qom, a city which still serves as the home for Khalaji’s father, a chief Shi’ite clergyman, or Ayatollah.
In 2000, Khalaji left Iran for France, later moving to the United States.
Speaking with Haaretz, the chief researcher said that Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei believes that the West is trying to depose Tehran’s Islamic regime, going as far as considering U.S. President Barack Obama’s offer for compromise to be a scam.
However, he added, Iran’s leadership was equally distrustful of other nations for working to undermine their regime, including Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Pakistan, and even China and Russia.
He said Iran was very isolated, leading its rulers to believe that a nuclear program was the only way to forestall a future attack. That mistrust, Khalaji said, is not due to go away any time soon, which spells doom to any attempt for compromise.
When asked if Iran would use a nuclear weapon against Israel once it develops one, Khalaji said he didn’t feel anyone in Iran is thinking of using a nuclear bomb, and that the regime’s only goal was to achieve regional supremacy.
Moreover, the Iranian researcher said that the use of nuclear weapons would be a suicidal move by the Islamic Republic.
Referring to a possible Israeli strike, Khalaji said the Iranian regime did not consider that to be a viable option, adding that Tehran knows that the potential price of such a move deters anyone who would be involved from undertaking it.
He added that the fact that the subject was so extensively discussed in the media indicated that neither Israel nor any one of its potential partners were actually considering such a move.
When asked of Iran’s reaction to a possible strike, Khalaji estimated that a strike would unite Iran’s citizens around the regime, but adding that the direct consequences of a military strike were hard to predict.
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This story "Little Chance of Iran Backing Down: Scholar" was written by Haaretz.