It is becoming increasingly likely that the Islamic Republic will begin producing nuclear weapons unless either Israel or the U.S. physically destroys the tools it needs to build them. With that in mind, Reuel Marc Gerecht and Ray Takeyh consider the possible results of an attack on the country’s nuclear infrastructure:
If the Israelis, whom the regime asperses as Zionists ready for extinction, can badly damage the nuclear program, the regime will lose face. Iranian VIPs, especially within the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), have said repeatedly that the Israelis wouldn’t dare strike the nation’s atomic sites. This confidence has surely diminished since Israel started assassinating scientists and officials, including IRGC personnel, and periodically sabotaging nuclear-related equipment. If the Israelis do dare and succeed, it will be a stunning blow. It’s one thing to have the “Great Satan,” a superpower, lay waste your program; it’s another thing entirely to have the “Little Satan” do it.
While there is no guarantee that an Israeli or American raid would cause sufficient shock to produce a convulsive—let alone fatal—internal backlash against Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and the Guards, there is a chance it would start a process that might. Nothing else on the horizon offers Israel or America better odds of creating considerable turbulence quickly within the system.
A scenario of rapidly increasing protests after a bombing raid isn’t probable, given the ruthlessness of the Iranian police state, but such an eventuality shouldn’t be ruled out. The regime is, however, most unlikely to see the reverse: an American or Israeli raid reinforcing popular support for the theocracy. Resentment toward the mullahs is simply too entrenched.