Checkmate Iran

Speculations abound about the exact origins of Chess, where one is Persia known today as Iran. One move to victory in Chess is Checkmate, or in Persian Shah-Mat, the Shah or King is Dead. Indeed Chess is also known in Hebrew as Shah-Mat. Iran is now playing Chess, one of the greatest games to prepare the mind for war. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanhayu is one of the few world leaders to be skeptical of President-elect Hasan Rohani of Iran, and rightly so. Let me detail some moves of the Chess game where Iran is playing as Black and what Israel should do playing as White.

First move of Black. Black Pawn Forward to meet White Pawn: A stalemate. The Black King (Ayatollah) feels more secure with The Black Pawn (Rohani) up front. Rohani has been touted as a moderate reformist. No doubt in the Ayatollah’s view the Arab Spring is now less likely to rise up in Iran, because any of the disgruntled could barely hope for more. Rohani was fairly elected with a popular majority and has offered the population a better life. The ghost of the irregularities in the 2009 Presidential election have now also been put to rest. No-one is suggesting that Rohani was not fair and squarely elected and the Ayatollah has been quick to declare that the electoral system has been cleaned up.

A subsequent Black move. Black King and Black Rook Castle. Iran has within 24 hours of the election received world applause of the President elect; and in doing so the Ayatollah has moved himself further away from the media placing Rohani up front. The leaders of the P5+1 countries negotiating Iranian nuclear capability all made public statements to the effect that this is a person that they can speak to and do business with. Only Prime Minister Binyamin Netanhayu has remained as one of the few world leaders who saw through the smoke and mirrors. The Ayatollah is the true power wielder in Iran and Iran will continue its nuclear ambitions.

White Knight (Netanyahu) Challenges Black King (Ayatollah). Even though there is now a screen in front of the Black King (Ayatollah), a Knight is unique in being able to project power over the heads of other pieces while they are still in place on the board. White is Israel which should reveal who the real Rohani is. Let me assist, after the 1979 revolution, Rohani served in the Iranian Parliament staying for five successive mandates until 2000, when he became the vice-president of the Parliament and Chair of the Defense and External Policy Committees. From 1992 to 2000, he was spokesperson of the Parliament.

However this does not reveal his true colors. It was during the Iran-Iraq war, that Rohani held positions as a member of the High Defense Committee, as Head of Air Defense and as Vice-Commander-in-Chief of the Iranian Armed Forces. Until the election victory this week Rohani was the representative of the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in the National Security Council; and a Member of the Discernment Council and the Assembly of Experts. This shows that President elect Rohani is very close to the hard-line Ayatollah and that he has a proven record as a war-monger with blood in his hands.

So where does the notion arise that Rohani is a moderate reformist ? Prior to joining the revolution 1979 Rohani was educated as a lawyer both in Iran and in the United Kingdom where he learnt how to twist the judge and jury around his little finger. He is soft spoken, polite, smiles frequently and speaks Farsi, Arabic and English fluently. In short he portrays the character of someone who you could trust to defend you. However personality and character are insufficient to be declared a moderate reformist. It is statements. Herein the outgoing President Ahmadi-Nejád was defined as radical and bellicose. Rohani has been defined as a moderate reformist because he built his campaign around promises to ease Iran’s tensions with the West, end international sanctions, allow greater freedom of the press and reduce government interference in private lives.

A suggested move for White (Israel) is to remove the Black Pawn (Rohani) from being in front of the Black King (Ayatollah). The removal of the Pawn is analogous to an effective strategic communications campaign  to reveal the truth about Rohani. Such a campaign should be based on showing that actions speak louder than words. President Rohani is a wolf in sheep’s clothing and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanhayu was correct in challenging him and the true power in Iran, the Ayatollah. If Iran is truly on the path to reform and moderation then the first step is to demonstrate to the P5+1 that the Iranian nuclear program would never have any form of military capability. As a former nuclear negotiator Rohani knows how to say the right words but has yet to take the appropriate steps. To be sure in his first press conference he stated “ I will work to win back the trust of world powers and ease international sanctions.” However he also insisted that Iran’s uranium enrichment activities would not be suspended.

I have no doubt that The Black King (Ayatollah) will eventually place itself in a position of being Checkmated by White (Israel) because despite all the smoke and mirrors it is clear that President elect Rohani will not be able to enact nuclear reforms while still ensuring that he has the support of Iran’s supreme leader. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is the ultimate decision maker who has adopted a consistently hard line on the nuclear issue. Israel can Checkmate Iran through accurate information and diplomacy. However it may also need to remove many Black pieces from the board in order to do so, analogous to limited military actions.

Dr Glen Segell, FRGS, is Researcher at The Institute for National Security Studies Tel Aviv, Lecturer at Bar-Ilan University and Senior Researcher for the Ariel Research Center for Defense and Communication

About the Author
Dr Glen Segell is Fellow at the Ezri Center for Iran & Persian Gulf Studies, University of Haifa.