Amid growing concerns over an Israeli military strike on Iran, The Iranian government is threatening retaliatory strikes against Israel. President Ahmadinejad and his administration are using the renewed talks of war as their best hope to ride out the country’s worsening economic crisis and win a second term during the upcoming presidential elections, scheduled for June 2009.
On Israeli strike, Haaritz and Jerusalem Post are reporting today that Israel’s National Security Council has recommended making contingency plans to attack Iran. The recommendation was part of INSC’s annual situation assessment report.
The document, predicting a possible rapprochement between Iran and the incoming Obama administration, warns if Iran’s nuclear facilities are not attacked in the next two months, Israel may find itself facing a nuclear Iran virtually alone.
The Iranians were quick to respond with their own threats to retaliate against Israel. Fars News Agency quoted Brig. Gen. Mohammad Hejazi, IRGC Chief of Staff, as saying that Iran had drawn plans to “take retaliatory measures” against aggressors.
The talks of war are being broadcast against a background of a growing economic crisis in Iran. The dwindling oil revenues and the on-going economic sanctions has not made the last months of Ahmadinejad’s presidency easy for him and for the country. On Thursday, Tehran daily Aftab Yazd summed up the challenges facing the government in the oil sector, Iran’s premier industry.
“The breakdown of the Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) Pipeline agreement, constant drop in oil prices, policy differences with Qatar over export of gas [from shared fields], suspension of Crescent contract to export of gas to UAE, elimination from the new Baku pipeline, backing-off of Qatar and Russia from the proposed gas consortium, non-conclusive negotiations with Turkmenistan over price of imported gas, inability to gauge average price per barrel of oil for the next budget, shortfall in the budget for import of gasoline, problems with providing adequate fuel for power generation, pull-out from petroleum projects by large multinationals, increased cost of all energy sources are part of the economic woes facing Iran, which is heavily dependent on its oil exports.”
The rapid rise in inflation and unemployment completes the picture. The possibility of war with Israel is being used by Ahmadinejad to solidify its relations with the armed forces and to rally the public behind the government. On 10 November, the administration formed a new “joint workgoup” with the armed forces, strengthening IRGC and Basij support of Ahmadinejad’s reelection campaign. The two powerful groups were instrumental in Ahmadinejad’s election in 2005. He is hoping for déjà vu.