A military assault on Iran will have other disastrous effects: it would lead to more human-rights violations, worsen the situation for Iran’s middle class, push Iran further towards dictatorship, and end any prospect of a more democratic country in the near future. For the Iranian leadership, there are many positives in this scenario; the elite has prepared for it for a long time and knows how to make the best of it. In this sense those who support the option of military attack against Iran in Washington and Tel Aviv are Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s hidden allies.
The United States has fewer options. But by removing the threat of a military attack, Washington would make the job of Tehran’s hardliners more difficult, and encourage fragmentation among the top layers of the political elite. In the present circumstances, the end of the military option would create space for those in Iran seeking to hold the hardliners in check, and offer an opening to Iranian democracy and the Iranian people.