Ex-CIA spy: Iran's miscalculation over war

Leading Iranians are criticizing the regime, including its war-like provocation and the foreign sanctions aimed at its nuclear program. One Revolutionary Guard commander calls Iran's war threats 'the same stupidity' and miscalculation that preceded the Iran-Iraq war.

Mehdi Ghasemi/Iranian Students News Agency/AP
Beside a poster of Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei January 13, mourners carry the coffin of Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, a chemistry expert and a director of the Natanz uranium enrichment facility in central Iran. The scientist was assassinated this month and Iranians suspect the US and Israel.

Iran’s religious and military leaders are making a major miscalculation in their confrontation with the United States that could destroy Iran and the current regime.

By refusing to address the concerns of the international community over its nuclear program, and by threatening to close the critical maritime Strait of Hormuz, Tehran is playing with fire.

In his State of the Union address, President Obama again said that he will “take no options off the table” in stopping Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, while Israeli officials have stated the same, meaning a military strike is possible.

The American media are full of commentary warning against a military conflict – provoked by Iran blocking the strait or by crossing a nuclear red line. Now significant figures in Iran are sounding the same alarm, worried that the leaders of the Islamic regime do not understand the realities of such conflict.

If only Tehran would take these warnings seriously.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader who recently ordered the armed forces of the regime to prepare for war, is adamant about obtaining nuclear weapons – although Iran claims its nuclear program is for peaceful energy use only.

Khamenei and the clerical establishment believe nuclear weapons are part of their mission to glorify Islam. This horrifies some within the Iranian military who fear doom as tension grows between the West and Iran over its suspected nuclear-bomb program.

Sources within Iran indicate that the Iranian people, fearing a destructive war, are stocking up on necessities while voicing their concerns. Shockingly, some senior Revolutionary Guard commanders who fought during the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s are now speaking out against the direction of the current leadership. They risk their lives in doing so.

Former senior Revolutionary Guard commander Hossein Alaei, in a recent op-ed in a state-owned newspaper, openly criticized the Islamic leadership for suppressing the people and not allowing criticism of the supreme leader. He came immediately under attack by Mr. Khamenei’s supporters, the piece was pulled from the paper’s website, and radicals attacked his home.

Another long-time ally of the regime, Asadollah Asgar-Oladi, a wealthy businessman, recently warned the country’s leadership in a state-owned newspaper that if international sanctions are not removed, Iran could face serious inflation and shortages in six months.

Most revealing, though, is the warning of one Revolutionary Guard commander, in an anonymous letter to the opposition group Green Experts of Iran. The letter, posted on the group’s web site, says that the current commanders of the various armed forces appointed by Khamenei are delusional about their capabilities and have no clue as to the consequences of a war with America.

The dissident commander cites a disastrous miscalculation made by religious and military leaders leading to the Iran-Iraq War. Revealing the cause of the war, the commander says that Iraq’s Saddam Hussein repeatedly demanded of the Iranian ambassador to Baghdad that Iran recognize Iraq’s sovereignty and cease encouraging the Iraqi Army to revolt against Iraqi leadership.

Iranian leaders dismissed these warnings as mere psychological warfare and continued to openly berate the Mr. Hussein despite reports from Iranian intelligence and friendly countries that Iran was miscalculating Hussein’s power. The denial of the possibility of a real war led the leaders to mislead their own people.

At the time, I was serving in the Revolutionary Guard but as a CIA spy. I saw firsthand how the faithful were incited to believe that victory over Iraq was a given and that the destruction of Israel would be next. I saw up close how children as young as 10 to 12 years old were given machine guns and sent to the front.

Like the founder of the regime, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, today's Ayatollah Khamenei believes that Allah is on his side and final victory over the nonbelievers is just a matter of time.

More than half a million Iranians lost their lives in the Iran-Iraq War, millions had to leave their homes, and the cost of the destruction was in the hundreds of billions of dollars. Many within Iran now believe that a conflict with America would have a much more devastating effect.

“Now, as a full-fledged commander with several honors during the [Iran-Iraq] war, which for security reasons I cannot divulge,” the dissident commander tells Green Experts, “I perceive the comments made by the high-ranking commanders of the Iranian military, especially regarding the issues surrounding the threat of blocking the Hormuz Strait and prohibiting American and NATO fleets from entering, [as] exactly the same stupidity that lingers from the period just before the beginning of the Iran-Iraq War. I envision the US invasion of Iraq, and it makes me shudder.”

The commander cites another appalling miscalculation of the Iran-Iraq War: the decision to send two Iranian gunboats against US warships in the Persian Gulf that were there to keep oil flowing. The Iranian speedboats fired on a helicopter from the USS Vincennes, putting the ship’s captain on heightened alert. When an Iran Air civilian plane later took off for Dubai, the Vincennes mistook it for an Iranian warplane and shot it down, killing all 290 aboard.

The commander warns the Iranian leadership that a war with the United States is not like a war with an Arab nation – Iraq: “You will not survive...”

Osama bin Laden in his miscalculation caused the death of nearly 3,000 innocent Americans and foreigners on 9/11, believing Islam was calling on him to glorify Allah. What transpired afterward changed the world, causing more death and destruction.

Similarly, Khamenei is misjudging. If he stubbornly plows ahead with the development of nuclear weapons, Iran will suffer severe consequences, and millions of lives could well be lost.
Reza Kahlili is a pseudonym for a former CIA operative in Iran’s Revolutionary Guard and the author of the award winning book, “A Time to Betray.” He is a senior fellow with EMPact America and teaches at the US Department of Defense’s Joint Counterintelligence Training Academy (JCITA).

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