In an earlier essay, I discussed Israeli strategic culture and Israeli perceptions of the Iranian nuclear threat. In applying strategic culture theory, we tried to project Israeli threat perception and a possible Israeli response. In this essay, of which this is the first part, we will try to understand the factors governing the Iranian mind-set, their strategic culture and their possible response if attacked.As we know, strategic culture is "a collectivity of beliefs, norms, values and historical experiences of the dominant elite in a polity that influences their understanding and interpretation of security issues and environment, and shapes their responses" (according to Dr. Hassan Askari Rizvi, an independent political and defense analyst and former professor at the Punjab University in Lahore, Pakistan).
Iranian strategic culture is influenced by three factors: pride of the Iranian past, Shiaism and experiences of revolution. Now let us have a look at the lessons of history that shaped the mind-set of the Iranian strategic elite.Iran is a national state dominated by an Aryan race group, although Azaries, Arabs, Baluchi and others are also important ethnic groups. The state religion is Islam and a majority (89%) follows the Asna Ashari sect of Shia Islam. Others include Ismaili Shiites and Sunni (9%) as well as Baha'is, Mandeans, Hindus, Yezidis, Yarsanis, Zoroastrians, Jews and Christians.Iran is situated at a strategic location joining Euro-Asia with the Middle East. It has a nearly 4,000-year-long history, and due to its rich past, it has a well-developed culture and national pride. The era of Dara, Nosherwan, etc. is still a part of Iranian self-esteem.Iranians are one of the oldest people having a glorious history. Historically, they have stood up to outside challenges. Unlike their neighbors they have great pride for their past, and one can feel the reflection of this pride and depth when meeting any Iranian.Islam came to Iran in A.D. 633-656 with the fall of the Sassanids and the decline of the Zoroastrian religion. As mentioned earlier, Iranians follow the Asna Asheri sect of Shia Islam, which is also known as the 12 Imam Shia Islam and which is the second largest Muslim sect after the Sunni sect.
Shia hold fast to the teachings of the Prophet and, in contrast to other Muslims, believe that his family, including his descendants, known as Iimeh e Ahle Bait, have a special spiritual and political rule over the Muslims. They believe that after the Prophet, the era of Imamat started, and that the first imam was nominated by the Prophet in Ghadir e Khum when he declared Ali, his son-in-law, the future imam, and that this precedent was repeated by Ali, who before his death nominated Hassan, his son -- and so on. They believe in the Hadiths (sayings of the prophet) which says 12 rightly guided caliphs will come after the Prophet and according to their belief today is the time of the 12th caliph Imam -- Ghyab or Imam Mahdi (AS).Imam Mahdi will come as a savior of the Ummah and will fight the battle with the Jews and the Antichrist in which Mahdi will kill the Antichrist. Mahdi will be aided by the second coming of Christ. According to the Hadiths the Antichrist, or Dajjal, will be killed at the door of Ludd. (Presently, there is major Israeli Air Force base situated in Ludd.) The love of religion is in the blood of Shiites, and they can take any risk and go to any extent in the name of the Prophet and his Ahle Bait.The second historical event that formed the Iranian mind-set is the behavior of the United States and the West. In 1979, Iran underwent an Islamic revolution that was actually a reaction to the nepotism and corruption of the pro-American Shah regime. It was a direct result of the humiliation Iranians felt when their prime minister, Mohammed Mosaddeq, was ousted in 1953 and put under arrest for trying to nationalize the oil industry, which would hurt Anglo-American oil interests. The CIA created a counterrevolution against Mosaddeq's nationalist government and re-installed Muhammad Shah Pahlevi on the Iranian throne.The Iranian public took the re-installation of Pahlevi as a direct hit on their pride and honor. Every effort was made to oust Pahlevi. When they finally succeeded, the revolutionary regime took over.Instead of correcting their faults, American and Western governments acted like typical imperialists. They abetted in his attack on Iran in the 1980s. They equipped Saddam and even helped him acquire chemical weapons, which he used against Iranian soldiers and later on the Kurds.Americans also shot down an Iranian passenger plane and then claimed that it was an accident. That is why at present Iranians do not trust Americans.
Prevailing Economic Situation
In IranIran is one of the world's largest oil producers and exporters. It is blessed with the world's largest natural gas reserves. It is an irony of Iran that instead of realizing the feelings of Iranians, the world -- especially the West and the Americans -- tried to treat it as a colony. They tried to implement their will, which resulted in making the Iranian public reactionary.After the revolution, when Iran defied the Western will, the West bombarded it with sanctions and started supporting Iranian dissent groups. At present Iran has to import purified and refined oil from outside, which is expensive. This imported refined petroleum is used for domestic consumption, for heating and electricity production, etc.Due to prolonged sanctions, the economic condition is very hard in Iran. Inflation is on rise and cost of survival is high. People have to work two or three jobs to survive and retain their status of living.