Many Iran hawks who claim to support Iran’s embattled opposition Green Movement say a military attack on Iran would spur the population there to overthrow the regime. Neoconservative Washington Post blogger Jennifer Rubin, who advocates for airstrikes, wrote that “an attack would serve as a tipping point rather than a rallying point.” Another neocon, Reuel Marc Gerecht of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, an admirer of the Iranian opposition, recommended Israel launch strikes against Iran in the Weekly Standard last year. He wrote:
Too much has been made in the West of the Iranian reflex to rally round the flag after an Israeli (or American) preventive strike… Neither the Israelis nor anyone else need fear for the Green Movement.
But there is a serious knowledge gap in Washington about what the Green Movement inside Iran is. Today at a forum with a close adviser of Green Movement leader and presidential candidate Mir Hossein Moussavi, a very different view — from someone from the actual Green Movement inside Iran — came to the fore.
Ardechir Amir Arjomand, an Iranian lawyer who’s now the secretary and spokesperson of a Green Coordinating Council, said an attack would likely hurt the Green Movement and help the cadre currently atop the Iranian government. Asked after the forum by ThinkProgress about keeping the “military option on the table” and drawing up attack plans, Arjomand said:
The regime would really like for someone to come drop two bombs on Natanz [an Iranian nuclear facility]. This would then increase nationalism and the regime would gather everyone and all the political parties around itself.
At a conference Tuesday convened by the Arms Control Association, an analyst from the RAND Corporation, Iran expert Alireza Nader, expressed an almost identical sentiment. After briefly introducing some of the current rifts in the Iranian polity — between the establishment and the Green Movement and even recently exposed rifts within various conservative factions in power — Nader said:
[T]hese internal divisions in Iran really blunt Iran’s ability to project power in the Middle East and it keeps the Iranian regime very preoccupied. It can’t focus its efforts outward.
And this potentially provides U.S. leverage in following more successful strategy toward Iran and pressuring Iran through sanctions, for example. But a military strike on Iran could reverse all of that.
What a military strike could do is unite all Iran’s various factions and personalities around the supreme leader.
If Iran hawks want to argue that Iran poses a security threat to U.S. allies in the region and an attack is necessary, they should do that. But they shouldn’t make disingenuous arguments that they’re doing it for the Green Movement.