Dan Froomkin observes that Bernard Lewis “hinted in an Aug. 8, 2006, Wall Street Journal op-ed that Ahmadinejad might be planning a nuclear attack on Israel just two weeks later, on the date in the Islamic calendar when the Prophet Muhammad made his mystical journey to Jerusalem.” But so what? There’s a lot of garbage printed in the WSJ opinion pages.
Well, it just so happens that Vice President Dick Cheney went on Hugh Hewitt’s radio show last week and explained that this kind of forecasting is guiding his approach to Iran policy:
I mean, if I look at what [Ahmadenijad’s] beliefs supposedly are, the allegation that the return of the 12th Imam is something to be much desired, and that the best contribution that a man can make is to die a martyr facilitating that return, and all that goes with it, I always think of Bernard Lewis, who has said that mutual assured destruction during the Cold War between the U.S. and the Soviets meant peace and stability and deterrence. But mutual assured destruction in the hands of Ahmadinejad may just be an incentive.
Matt Duss notes that there are some other respects in which Lewis’ foreign policy advice seems to have gone awry, but at a minimum one would think that this particular prediction would have caused some to doubt the wisdom of relying on his forecasting of the role Shi’a mysticism plays in Iranian foreign policy. The specifics of Lewis aside, I always find it odd that hawks prefer to rely on this kind of a priori analysis of likely Iranian behavior when the regime in question came into being over two decades ago and has never previously shown any proclivity for deliberately seeking its own destruction.