Centcom commander: Sanctions not working. Believes Iran can be dissuaded. But not considering role Shia eschatology playing in Tehran’s calculus.

James Mattis (photo credit: CC-BY U.S. Naval War College/Flickr, Times of Israel)

James Mattis (photo credit: CC-BY U.S. Naval War College/Flickr, Times of Israel)

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General James Mattis, the commander of Centcom, told Congress today that sanctions on Iran are not working and said the U.S. needed to “have other options ready.” He also said Iran could be convinced to give up its pursuit of nuclear weapons by “a purely cost-benefit ratio.”

Short version: I agree sanctions are not working. I do not agree the current Iranian leadership can be dissuaded by a “purely cost-benefit ratio.”

I have deep respect for General Mattis as a military leader. Thus, I would encourage him to consider the role eschatology is playing in Tehran’s calculus. Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei and President Ahmadinejad and their inner circle of advisors are not being driven by normal geopolitical and economic calculus, but rather by a Shia Islamic End Times theology. They believe the End of Days is at hand. They believe their messiah known as the Twelfth Imam or the “Mahdi” is coming soon. They believe that the way to hasten the coming of the Mahdi is to annihilate Israel (which they call the “Little Satan”) and America (which they call the “Great Satan.”) I wrote about this in detail in my non-fiction book, Inside The Revolution. And I factor this thinking into my current novel series, including The Twelfth Imam, The Tehran Initiative, and Damascus Countdown to consider how it could play out in real life. Such eschatology requires Iran’s leaders to acquire nuclear weaponry and the means to deliver it in order to please Allah and their coming messiah and king. As a result, the international is unlikely to convince them to disobey their most-deeply held religious beliefs through diplomacy or sanctions. A credible military threat might work, but we’re nearly out of time. Actual military action may soon be the only option. No one wants a war. I don’t. But we don’t want to have a genocidal cult to obtain and use nuclear weapons.

“Sanctions are not preventing Iran’s nuclear progress, the US Army commander in the Middle East told Congress on Tuesday,” reports the Times of Israel. “A simple ‘No, sir’ was General James Mattis’s response when asked whether ‘the current diplomatic and economic efforts to stop Iran from obtaining nuclear capability’ were working. ‘I think we have to continue sanctions, but have other options ready,’ said Mattis, of the Central Command, to the Armed Services Committee during an official hearing.”

“Mattis said Iran could be convinced to alter its course by ‘a purely cost-benefit ratio,’ but at the moment, he noted, the ‘nuclear industry continues’ apace, despite sanctions,” reports the Times. “‘Between economic sanctions, diplomatic isolation, and encouragement of behavior that does not cost them such a degree of political support that they end up losing power, there may yet be a way to bring them to their senses,’ the general stated. Such means to bring Iran ‘to its knees,’ Mattis commented in response to another question, did not necessarily entail ‘open conflict,’ but a military operation is ‘one of the options that I have to have prepared for the president.’ Mattis’s statements came in the wake of a fresh effort on the part of the West to curb Iran’s nuclear program via diplomatic means, and echoed comments made by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday.”