Interview with Ferhad M. Hassan

Weekly Gulan Magazine

Erbil, Kurdistan Region, Iraq

In your opinion the Iranian attack on Erbil was primarily driven by what?

The Iranian regime is quite weak and vulnerable at home. It's first priority is to hold on to power in the face of an increasingly explosive and restless society. At the same time, it has suffered several major blows in the region, with the death of a key Hezbollah commander in Lebanon, its top Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) general in Syria, a senior commander of its Iraqi proxies in Baghdad and, of course, the US and UK attacks on the Houthis in Yemen. So, it desperately needed to make a hollow show of power. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Ebrahim Raisi and the IRGC top brass have always boasted of a tough response. But they are very risk-averse and want to avoid direct conflict with the US because they know they would not stand a chance. That is why they targeted a house in Erbil that has no tactical or strategic value.

How do you asses Iraqi government reaction? and what could and should have done differently? 

Since the US invasion of Iraq, successive governments in that country, with the exception of Iyad Allawi's government, have been subservient to the mullahs. So, the fact that this time the Iraqi government condemned the attack on Erbil and took the issue to the UN Security Council was unexpected and, if anything, signals that even the Iraqis realise that the regime in Tehran is very weak and desperate to project power. Of course, the Iraqi army is not in a position to retaliate as the Pakistanis did. But clearly the mullahs did not expect Iraq to react as it did.

Obviously, the attacks were widely condemned at the international level, but do you believe that the international community can prevent Iran from conducting such attacks in the future? 

I doubt it. Mere words of condemnation have not deterred the regime from its malign activities in the region. Nor have they led to a halt in flagrant human rights abuses, including a dramatic increase in executions inside the country. A more robust policy with concrete punitive measures is needed to demonstrate to the regime that the West means business. Existing sanctions must be implemented, the IRGC must be designated as a terrorist organisation by the EU and the UK and further sanctions must be imposed. The international community must also recognise the right of the Iranian people to confront the regime's repressive apparatus with all available means. With the blood of innocents dripping from their hands, the mullahs should remember the apt words of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy who said: “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible, make violent revolution inevitable.”

Do you believe that Iran is the main beneficiary of the current situation in the Middle East?  

Tactically, yes. But strategically it will be a loser. The situation will not continue as we have seen. Sooner or later the West will have to make a decision about its approach to Tehran. Certainly, engagement and reconciliation have not worked. The Arab population is also turning against the regime because the mullahs' slogans are empty and their policies have been detrimental to the Palestinian cause.

Do you expect any kind of direct confrontation between USA and Iran if the situation heads towards more escalation?

Khamenei wants to avoid direct conflict with the US at all costs. He has said so many times, mainly because his regime would not stand a chance. The future course of events depends not so much on the regime's actions as on whether the West, including the US, is prepared to take a firm stand against Tehran's transgressions. The best policy would be for the US to stand with the Iranian people and recognise the organised opposition to the regime, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), which seeks a democratic and secular republic.