Nobel Laureate Shirin Ebadi, according to a piece by Nazila Fathi at Foreign Policy, has been perpetually harassed by the Iranian regime, which hates her political activism and dissent. She now lives a life in exile, still fighting to expose Tehran's human rights abuses. But now she says a more troubling problem has arisen:
War with Israel, she says, may rescue the Iranian regime at a time when it is extremely unpopular at home and is clinging to power with an iron fist. "It is the only thing that can save the regime," she said. "A war will stir nationalistic feelings and rally the people behind the government to defend the country. It will be catastrophic for the [Iranian] people, the country, and the region, but it will save Iran's rulers."
Official sources in Washington have repeatedly cited this as just one reason, among many, to refrain from bombing Iran for a nuclear weapons program it doesn't have. Demonstrated in part by what went on during the 1980s Iran-Iraq war, US officials (most of them, believe it or not, oppose military attack on Iran) note that however unhappy the Iranian populace is with the regime in Tehran, an attack from the outside would rally Iranian behind their government. Like the lies we heard about being greeted as liberators in Iraq, Iranians would not lie back and capitulate. They would retaliate.
A recent report by former government officials, national security experts and retired military officers released earlier this month found that "US and/or Israeli strikes are more likely to unify the population behind the government than to generate resistance," as the neoconservatives believe they can generate. The assessment also found that to achieve anything more than a temporary setback in Iran's nuclear program would require a full scale military invasion, occupation, and regime change. And "given Iran's large size and population, and the strength of Iranian nationalism, we estimate that the occupation of Iran would require a commitment of resources and personnel greater than what the US has expended over the last 10 years in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined."
The report's warnings didn't end there. A US and/or Israeli strike which the Obama administration as virtually ruled out but which could very well occur in a Romney administration would also trigger an uncontrollable region wide war fought with both conventional means and unconventional, guerrilla warfare retaliation throughout the region, prompting huge increases in the recruitment capabilities of terrorist groups like al-Qaeda. Finally, such an attack would incentivize Iran to kick out international inspectors and to reconstitute their defunct nuclear weapons program.