David Patrikarakos describes witnessing a recently conducted war game “designed to explore the likely outcome of an Israeli pre-emptive attack on Iran.” All participants were Israelis and their conclusion was that Israel would accomplish its goal — almost total destruction of Iran’s nuclear facilities — and that the global response would effectively focus on preventing military escalation. Simply put, Israel would win and Iran would lose.
I had seen Israel’s perspective on a possible attack and now wanted an Iranian view, so I caught a flight to Istanbul to put the game’s results to Hossein Mousavian, a former member of Iran’s nuclear negotiating team. He believed the game was deeply flawed.
Dismissing the limited nature of Iran’s response, Mousavian argued that in reality Iran would respond ‘by all means’, employing the total power of its armed forces to draw Israel into a long-term war. Perhaps, more importantly, Mousavian argued that Iran would see the US as complicit.
Iranians, he said, are convinced that Israel is too small to attack Iran unilaterally Iran. “They see Israeli as just a baby,” he said. “One that would never act without US assistance.”
The attack would also have huge regional consequences, he continued. Most obviously, Iran would use its status as the symbol of resistance against Israel in the Middle East to stoke the high levels of anti-Americanism that already exist there. Even groups like Al Qaeda, he argued, who are Iran’s enemies, would use “inflamed Muslim sentiment to launch attacks at American citizens across the world and on US soldiers on the many American bases in the region.”
At the end of our interview, he leaned forward, took my arm and looked me right in the eyes. He recalled the Israeli strikes on an Iraqi nuclear reactor in 1981 and a Syrian reactor in 2007.
“This is the big mistake that people make,” he told me. “To think if Israel attacks Iran, like it attacked Iraq and Syria, the Iranians would not retaliate.
“The nation is one hundred percent different. The whole region would be engulfed.”