WIN EXCLUSIVE: US making ‘fundamental error’ in talks with Iran, says Mideast expert

“We cannot rely purely on defenses – everyone knows this. The Iranians know this. No defense system is 100%, and with nuclear weapons, less than 100% is as good as nothing – especially with a country like Israel.”

By Atara Beck, World Israel News

Elliot Chodoff, a political and military analyst specializing in the Middle East and the global war on terrorism, led an Honest Reporting trip to the Syrian border recently, where he discussed, among other topics, the Iranian threat.

“You have to be incredibly naive or have an outstanding supply of hallucinogenic drugs to believe that the Iranians are not trying to get nuclear weapons. The question is, How do you stop them?” Chodoff said.

“We cannot rely purely on defenses – everyone knows this. The Iranians know this. No defense system is 100%, and with nuclear weapons, less than 100% is as good as nothing – especially with a country like Israel.”

The danger is great because Israel is such a small country, he said. “The Iranians have stated, ‘Israel is a one-bomb country.’ A nuclear weapon detonated over Tel Aviv is the end of Israel.”

Therefore, he said, prevention is critical.

“The strategy of war prevention is different and, in some cases, opposed to the strategy of war winning,” he added.

There are two types of deterrence, he explained – one through denial and the other through punishment. The former is denying the adversary the ability to reach his objectives, and when he realizes that he can’t win, he won’t start.

“Why doesn’t Iran attack us on a daily basis? Because at best they will lose.”

Deterrence by punishment “basically says that if you try, and if you succeed, I will punish you at a level that makes what you did not worth it.

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“Both are predicated on credibility. Denial only requires credibility on the level of capability. Punishment requires credibility of capability and intention.”

Chodoff then discussed U.S. policy regarding Iran and the “fundamental error” regarding negotiations over the nuclear deal.

“Somewhere along the way, the negotiations went from the objective of stopping the Iranian nuclear weapons program to coming to an agreement. In other words, part of the objective of the seller is convincing the buyer that he wants an agreement…

“The minute you transmit that you’re not willing to walk away, the price is going to go up and terms are going to go against you. And that’s what happened.”

‘The Iranians are playing it perfectly’

According to Chodoff, in 2021, “the Iranians are playing it perfectly correctly. They’re raising the ante. They’re raising tensions, and now they can be ‘moderate’ and go back to where they were,” before the Trump administration withdrew from the deal.

The Americans, under the Biden administration, “are saying we really really really really really want to talk to you. This is a bad opening move.

“The Americans are suggesting compromise; the Iranians are saying all or nothing….These are classic opening moves.

“Will the Americans fall for it or now? We’ll see. I hope not… It doesn’t have to work out badly, but so far I’m not seeing good indicators.”

‘What will be after is anyone’s guess’

Does Israel have the capability of taking out the Iranian program?

“We’re not talking about destroying their overall capability in a knockout. This will be much more surgical… there are many, many components,” Chodoff said.

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“One thing the Iranians apparently don’t have yet – we assume they don’t – is the triggering mechanism. You only need to eliminate one component of a system to make the system unusable…

“The Americans can do what they want, they can bomb repeatedly; Israel can’t. It would need to take out specific targets. It won’t be the end.

“What will be after is anyone’s guess, how badly it would hurt them, what their response would be… To answer the question of how would things play out, the answer is that would be charlatanism.”

As Iran comes closer to meeting its objective and the situation becomes more threatening, the political climate will likely change, he surmised. “There’s big debate as to whether Israel warned ahead of the attack,” he said, referring to the attack on Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility. “What’s interesting to me” is that there has been no outcry from the U.S. over it.

“It’s clear this administration isn’t where the Trump administration was,” but too soon to know if it’s where the Obama administration was. “There’s no question that the Obama administration sabotaged Israeli plans, which is a major concern.”

Uprising in Iran? ‘Very skeptical’

The discussion then moved on to the protests in Iran against the regime in recent years and the chances for an overthrow.

“As long as a Kohmeinistic-type regime is in power,” nothing will change, he said. “This is not about just one nut in town…

“We have this tendency in the West to focus on an individual, thinking that the problem will be solved if we take him out…but the premise that they’re all good people and the only problem is the leader is flawed.

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“The reason the person is the leader is because people are following him…A leader does not stay in power in a state for a long time without significant at-least-tacit support of the population.”

World Israel News reminded Chodoff of President George W. Bush’s appearance on TV during the invasion of Iraq in 2003, when he told the Iraqi people not to fear the Americans and that they were there to liberate them from Saddam. It appears they weren’t interested.

“Exactly,” Chodoff said. “It didn’t work out too well. If Saddam was in power for that many years, it’s because he had support.

“I’ll give you another rule of thumb: the Iron Law of uprisings. Uprisings work when the rebels have more people willing to die than the regime is willing to kill.”

There have been uprisings in Iran, but they weren’t widespread. However, “when Syria fell apart, the army had disintegrated…. In Iran they don’t have a critical mass that is willing to go out there and overthrow the regime.

“Let’s not confuse discontent with overthrow…

“I grew up in America in the Vietnam era, and if you looked at it from the outside the way we’re looking at Iran, it looked horrific. Students being shot on campus, buildings burning, mass protests. How threatened was the regime?  What brought Nixon down at the end? Watergate, not Vietnam…

“So I would be very, very cautious judging based on Youtube videos, Facebook posts…I don’t see that groundswell of even civil disobedience, let alone overthrow…

“I’m very, very, very skeptical” about an overthrow of the Iranian regime. However, “that said, it could happen tomorrow.”