Is Iran an "extra-regional" power?
Babak Yektafar is the Editor-in-Chief of WashingtonPrism.org. He is a graduate of Farleigh Dickinson University with a B.A. in Communications. From 1999 to 2005, Babak was a producer with C-SPAN network’s national live morning program, Washington Journal.
PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR: There’s also been a flurry of activity, of pundit activity and analytical activity, predicting an American strike could, for example, hit ten thousand targets in a matter of hours; that if there is an American attack, it won’t be surgical: it’ll take out the economic and the military infrastructure of Iran. I mean, there’s a lot of this talk swirling around. Do the Iranian military think this is coming or not?
BABAK YEKTAFAR, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, WASHINGTONPRISM.ORG: You know, I think deep down they think that it’s very likely that it will happen. Deep down, I think, they believe that before President Bush leaves office it’s very likely that something like that would happen. I’m not convinced that they think that there’ll be any kind of invasion. I don’t think anybody thinks that. And the concentration on this whole issue of, you know, hitting whatever, how many thousands of sites or targets it may be, for it to have any kind of effect, they realize that they basically have to destroy the Iranian infrastructure. And by doing that, then they’re taking away a great source of energy, they’re endangering the Strait of Hormuz, which, of course, as it’s a major route of taking some of these oil tankers in and out of the region, and essentially creating a situation that’s going to engulf Iraq as well as Afghanistan, and it’s going to have some major implications. So, again, on the surface of it and when they do discuss sometimes, they think it’s really unlikely and it’s insanity for the United States to do that, again, because for it to be effective it really has to be a major, major – even if it’s just a bombing campaign – a major bombing campaign that essentially is going to destroy the country’s infrastructure.
JAY: There’s a great psychological war going on here. Clearly the Americans want the Iranians to believe the worst is coming. It gives them leverage. And then they also fire back. I’ll give you another quote from the general. He says,
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“We have designed arms and equipment suitable for extra-regional warfare … we have named this strategy comprehensive defense.”
– Tehran Times
Now, extra-regional means—I don’t know what else it can mean—it means beyond the Middle East, beyond Pakistan, Afghanistan, it means what? I don’t know. This may just be part of their propaganda battle, but what does extra-regional warfare mean?
YEKTAFAR: Well, some of that is that they want to make sure that the United States is fully aware that some of the talk that even U.S. officials have made in regards to their connections with certain cells may be true, that Iran may actually have some sleeper cells in the U.S. or in Europe that they may activate. But also there was a reference to some of their conventional weapons. The ballistic missiles that they have could basically reach eastern Europe if they wanted to. As I mentioned earlier, they had just unveiled their new fighter jet that can actually fly and maybe deliver some weapons beyond the region, depending on whatever route they take. So they’re just kind of indicating that they’re not going to be sitting there and defending the way everybody expects them to. They’re not going to be sitting there and defending the way everybody expects them to. They’re not just going to sit there and wait for any kind of a bombing campaign and just not do anything about it. And that they do have the capability to be able, and this is part of what you said about changing the doctrine of defending the country, and maybe even, not to the extent of preemptive, but nonetheless not just sitting there and taking it and just defending and be happy with it. If they do have capabilities of striking beyond the region with these various tools and equipment [crosstalk]
JAY: The generals seem to be his main point, is that the United States simply has to accept that this government, this regime, is a regional and extra-regional power, and then just deal with that. Can the U.S. do that? Will the U.S. just accept that there is such a thing as a regional power with an Islamic revolutionary regime?
YEKTAFAR: No. I’m personally in a camp of people who think that the problems in the region, particularly, let’s say, one between Iran and Israel, it’s less of an idealogical and more of a geopolitical power struggle. And I don’t think United States, given the current regime in Iran, will be happy to see this current regime assume any kind of a power status. And in other scenarios, we have to realize that this declaring Iran as an emerging power also plays to some of the things that the U.S. may want to do. It makes it easier for them to sell millions and millions of weaponry to countries such as Israel, such as Saudi Arabia (and they just made a deal recently), and other countries around. And it may also lull Iran into believing that it is actually a power, and without really having that substance, that real infrastructure to support that, because, I mean, let’s face it, Iran has never been tested militarily other than the Iran-Iraq war, which was in the 80s, and it ends up in a draw. And in terms of its military might, it’s all down to paper, but they really haven’t been tested in any shape or form. But more importantly, economically Iran is performing below the little city-nation of Dubai, for example. Economically they’re in shambles. They’re hard-pressed to find good friends around, and their best friends in the world are the likes of Belarus and Venezuela and Syria. And that’s where Mr. Ahmadinejad keeps traveling to. So, I mean, in terms of what really a superpower is or a major power may be, I’m not convinced that Iran is there. But the talk of it helps present Iran as this big, great danger of the region, which allows arming the neighborhood, but also allows them to be threatened, and maybe somehow they take a wrong step, which then would allow maybe the neighbors in the region or the U.S. with allies and so on and so forth to take certain action.