Former Pentagon Analyst: Mixed Conciliatory-Threatening Messages From Tehran Indicate Regime Running Scared in Face of Trump Administration
All indications are that the powers-that-be in Tehran are running scared in the face of the new administration in Washington, an expert on Islamic culture and former Pentagon analyst, who was a student in Iran when the revolution began, told The Algemeiner on Monday.
Harold Rhode, a distinguished senior fellow at the New York-based think tank the Gatestone Institute, was responding to what he called “mixed messages emanating daily from the mullah-led regime – some threatening and others more conciliatory – since the lead-up to Donald Trump’s presidential inauguration earlier this month and in its aftermath.”
On one hand, Rhode said, Iranian officials continue to boast about their ballistic-missile capabilities and warn about the “consequences” of an American breach of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) — the nuclear deal it reached with world powers in July 2015. On the other, he noted, “regime-affiliated clerics used a more muted tone in relation to the US in last Friday’s sermons.”
This, he assessed, “appears to show that there is an internal struggle going on among the top echelons, all of whom are unsure about how best to deal with this new reality.”
Rhode said that the Iranian regime is in a “dilemma leading to a lose-lose situation.” He explained: “In Iranian culture, public threats are seen as an indication of anxiety. In the West, we say, ‘Hold me back or I’ll kill him;’ In the Middle East, it’s more like, ‘Hold me back or he’ll kill me.’ Words are not considered actions, but rather a substitute for actions. And the last thing the regime wants or can afford is for the Iranian people to perceive it as weak, because if the Iranian government appears weak in the eyes of the Iranian people — as history has repeatedly shown — they will take matters into their own hands and denounce their leaders.”
It is balancing act, Rhode said, between what the mullahs show the world and how they are perceived internally.
“They have to keep showing the people that they have both the will and the ability to keep themselves in power, while trying to figure out how best to stand up to Trump.”
Sunday’s Iranian ballistic missile test — which US officials told Fox News was in direct violation of UN Resolution 2231, which endorsed the JCPOA — is an example of the regime’s attempt to exhibit strength at home and abroad.
However, he added, “They know that if they provoke Trump and he escalates the situation, they’re in real trouble, because they’re no match for America.”
Rhode says this is why it is likely the regime — which remembers that former US President Barack Obama responded to the mass street demonstrations in Iran in 2009 (surrounding the rigged re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to the presidency) by doing nothing and allowing the protesters to be quashed — were hoping that Hillary Clinton would end up occupying the Oval Office.
“Tehran is not at all certain about Trump, who appears never to shy away from confrontation,” he said. “Which is why the Iranian people were probably rooting for his election – to put them out of their misery; to help rescue them from the oppressive and repressive grip of the ayatollahs.”
As The Algemeiner reported earlier this month — after Iran’s atomic energy chief claimed that if Trump were to cancel the JCPOA, Tehran’s nuclear program would “snap back” and be better off than it was before the deal was reached — two experts on the Islamic Republic said the statement reflected the regime’s “trepidation” in relation to the new administration in Washington.