Iranian Web Site Urges Pre-Emptive Strike Against Israel

Article Summary
A provocative article has appeared on an Iranian website that seems intended to warn the US and Israel not to attack Iran. Shaul Bakhash reports that the article calls on the government to launch military strikes to destroy Israel. The site isn't a normal conduit for government messages, but the threat of a pre-emptive strike was reiterated by the deputy head of the armed forces.

A website linked to a prominent Iranian parliamentarian has posted an article that calls on the government to launch military strikes to destroy Israel and to annihilate its population. 

The author, Alireza Forqani, says he is speaking for himself, not the government. However, the article, which first appeared Feb. 11, contains details on Iranian missile capabilities and Israeli targets, and aerial maps of Israel, that suggest the author has some access to official sources.

Iran, the article asserts, “could destroy Israel in less than nine minutes,” using its long-range Sejil, Ghadar, Ashoura and Shahab missiles.

Iran would first hit strategic targets in Israel, including its nuclear reactors, nuclear-weapons sites, missile launching pads, power plants, transportation and communication infrastructure, energy sources and similar facilities. In the second stage of the attack, Iran would target population centers “until the final annihilation of the Israeli people.”

The article could be read as a warning to the Israelis that Iran has the missile capability to do Israel immense damage if it were attacked; or that, since the U.S. and Israeli officials say “all options are on the table” in regard to Iran, Tehran too can launch a pre-emptive strike on Israel.

While the Alef website is not a normal conduit for indirect government and Revolutionary Guards messages to the outside world, the threat of a pre-emptive strike was reiterated1 by the deputy head of the Iranian armed forces on February 21. Without mentioning Israel, Mohammad Hejazi told the government’s Fars news agency that “our strategy now is that if we feel our enemies want to endanger Iran’s national interests, and want to decide to do that, we will act without waiting for their actions.”

The website article seems greatly to exaggerate Iran’s military capabilities, but it includes considerable technical detail (and photos) of the size, shape, range, capability and fuel of Iranian missiles. The website belongs to Ahmad Tavakoli, the head of the Research Center of the Iranian parliament, or Majlis, but it has no official connection to that body. Tavakoli, a strong critic of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, does not directly run the website, although he is a frequent presence in its interviews and reports. It is not clear if Tavakoli was involved in the decision to run the article, whose implicit threat against Israel now appears to have received official reiteration. 

Forqani urges an attack before the end of Ahmadinejad’s last term in office in the summer of next year, during what he describes as an opportune window available due to the “passivity” of the United States and the West and the conducive environment provided by the regional Islamic awakening.

In calling for the destruction of Israel’s people, Forqani notes that the country, with nearly six million Jewish inhabitants, “is the only majority Jewish country in the world.” He also mentions that nearly two million non-Jews -- Muslims, Christians, Druze — the largest number of them Arabs — account for the rest of the population, but he is silent on what their fate would be.

The author also argues that Israeli air-defense systems cannot intercept the Sejil missile due to its speed and altitude, and suggests that Iran could survive an Israeli counterattack and still destroy Israel due to the large number of missile silos the Iranian military possesses. Even if the Israelis detect Iranian missile sites after a first launch, he writes, “there would still be a large number of missiles in other silos ready to be fired.”

The article opens with religious justifications for the destruction of Israel. Describing an attack on Israel as a form of “defensive jihad,” or preventive war, Forqani cites a number of Shi’ite religious authorities in support of waging war against anyone who attacks, or intends to attack, Muslims or a Muslim country.

“All Muslims and all Muslim states are one body and defense of the territorial integrity of Muslims all over the world is incumbent on all Muslims,” Forqani writes. Israel, a “fabricated” state, occupies Muslim, Palestinian land; Israeli leaders have made no secret of their desire to extend their rule over neighboring Islamic countries, he writes, thus justifying an Iranian pre-emptive attack.

The article is accompanied by maps identifying Israel’s main population centers, military airports and nuclear facilities, and bearing such titles as “the destruction of Israel’s nuclear facilities,” “the destruction of Israel’s military bases,” and “some of the specifics of important Israeli targets that must be attacked.” One map shows distances between what are presumably missile launch pads in Iran and targets in Israel to underline that cities deep in Israel are within striking range of Iranian missiles.

The Alef website also posts readers’ comments on the article. A number support the author. But many treat his proposals as naïve and foolish. One reader notes that the author is, in effect, advocating genocide not just of the Jews but of Israel’s non-Jewish inhabitants.

Other readers adopt a lighter tone. “Instead of the destruction of Israel, if only you paid attention to the building up of Iran!” wrote one. Another reader commented: “Brother, go on Jihad yourself. Don’t involve us in another war.”

Forqani writes that this is only part one of his analysis and proposals. He promises the reader many more installments.

Shaul Bakhash is a professor of history at George Mason University and the author of a 1984 book on the Iranian revolution, “The Reign of the Ayatollahs.”


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