Iran's about to go nuclear and possibly proliferate. Is war inevitable?
Depends. As is well known:
For almost half a century, the world's most powerful nuclear states have been locked in a military stalemate known as mutual assured destruction (MAD).But could MAD deter those who believe that jihad and bloodshed are prerequisites for the return of the Mahdi and Islam's final victory? Seemingly not in the case of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, apparently committed to the Persian "rapture."
Yet, does Iran’s supposedly austere Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei actually believe that stuff? Maybe not, based on the inside look at Khamenei offered by a defector from the Supreme Leader's private guard, reported in a recent Daily Telegraph (U.K.). The defector -- supposedly hiding in France -- claims Khamenei:
has a voracious appetite for trout and caviar; is an avid hoarder of collectables from bejewelled pipes to fine horses; and that he suffers regular bouts of depression which are treated in part by audiences with a mid-ranking mullah who tells vulgar jokes.Of course, having a thing for caviar, bejewelled pipes and palaces doesn't prove Khamenei -- like Westerners -- prefers life: whatever Bin Laden's former lifestyle, Al Qaeda purports to love death. Still, Khamenei sounds like a man with lots to lose.
Khamenei is said to be a keen collector with a prized assembly of antique walking sticks said to number 170. The Supreme Leader was once a fanatical equestrian enthusiast and his extensive stables reportedly include more than 100 of the country's leading horses. His cloaks are said to be woven from hair of specially bred camels.
Ayatollah Khamenei is claimed to have accumulated a sprawling private court that stretches across six palaces, including Naviran, the former resident of the Shah in Tehran. Two of the palaces -- Naviran and Valikabad -- are equipped with deep, reinforced concrete nuclear bunkers said to be capable of withstanding nuclear attack. A fully functioning hospital is overseen by a former health minister.
Yet, even were Realpolitik operative in Iran, MAD depends on a credible deterrent. Would the Supreme Leader believe any threat coming from a feckless and flaccid Obama administration?