We are on the brink.
Iran’s president on Saturday denounced Western nations threatening to refer his country to the U.N. Security Council for possible sanctions over its nuclear program, saying the international community has no legal basis for restricting Tehran’s right to research.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Iran’s president said his country has not violated the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, which allows signatories to enrich uranium and produce nuclear fuel.
“There is no evidence to prove Iran’s diversion (toward nuclear weapons),” Ahmadinejad said at a news conference.
His comments came a day after Iran threatened to end surprise inspections and other cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency if it is referred to the Security Council. Europe and the United States have been trying to build support for such a move, saying more two years of acrimonious negotiations have reached a dead end. But they faced resistance from China, which warned the move could only escalate the confrontation.
Iran insists its program is peaceful, intended only to produce electricity, but the U.S. and others believe it is seeking to develop atomic weapons…
Europe is dangerously squishy, as usual. The Wall Street Journal editorial board cuts to the chase:
What we are really witnessing is a demonstration of what happens when Iran’s provocations are dealt with in a manner that suits Europe’s feckless diplomatic “consensus.” After more than two years of nonstop diplomacy and appeasement, the world is no closer to resolving its nuclear stand-off with Iran. But Iran is considerably closer to acquiring the critical mass of technology and know-how needed to build a nuclear weapon.
Victor Davis Hanson lays out the options–from bad to worse:
When a supposedly unhinged Mr. Ahmadinejad threatens the destruction of Israel and then summarily proceeds to violate international protocols aimed at monitoring Iran’s nuclear industry, we all take note. Any country that burns off some of its natural gas at the wellhead while claiming that it needs nuclear power for domestic energy is simply lying. Terrorism, vast petroleum reserves, nuclear weapons, and boasts of wiping neighboring nations off the map are a bad combination.
So we all agree on the extent of the crisis, but not on the solutions, which can be summarized by four general options.
First is the ostrich strategy — see and hear no evil, if extending occasional peace feelers out to more reasonable mullahs. Hope that “moderates” in the Iranian government exercise a restraining influence on Mr. Ahmadinejad. Sigh that nuclear Iran may well become like Pakistan — dangerous and unpredictable, but still perhaps “manageable.” Talk as if George Bush and the Iranians both need to take a time out.
I doubt that many serious planners any longer entertain this passive fantasy, especially after the latest rantings of Ahmadinejad. Pakistan, after all, has some secular leaders, is checked by nuclear India, and has a recent past of cooperation with the United States. Most importantly, it is more than ever a lesson in past laxity, as the United States and Europe were proven criminally derelict in giving Dr. Khan and his nuclear-mart a pass — which may well come back to haunt us all yet.
Alternatively, we could step up further global condemnation. The West could press the U.N. more aggressively — repeatedly calling for more resolutions, and, ultimately, for sanctions, boycotts, and embargos, energizes our allies to cut all ties to Iran, and provides far more money to dissident groups inside Iran to rid the country of the Khomeinists. Ensuring that democracy works in Iraq would be subversive to the mullahs across the border. Some sort of peaceful regime change is the solution preferred by most — and, of course, can be pursued in a manner contemporaneous with, not exclusionary to, other strategies.
It is a long-term therapy and therefore suffers the obvious defect that Iran might become nuclear in the meantime. Then the regime’s resulting braggadocio might well deflate the dissident opposition, as the mullahs boast that they alone have restored Iranian national prestige with an Achaemenid bomb.
A third, and often unmentionable, course is to allow the most likely intended target of nuclear Iran, Israel, to take matters into its own hands. We know this scenario from the 1981 destruction of Saddam’s French-built Osirak nuclear reactor: the world immediately deplores such “unilateral” and “preemptory” recklessness, and then sighs relief that Israel, not it, put the bell on the fanged cat.
But 2006 is not 1981. We are in war with Islamic radicalism, at the moment largely near the Iranian border in Iraq and Afghanistan. The resulting furor over a “Zionist” strike on Shia Iran might galvanize Iraqi Shiites to break with us, rather than bring them relief that the Jewish state had eliminated a nearby nuclear threat and had humiliated an age-old rival nation and bitter former enemy. Thousands of Americans are in range of Iranian artillery and short-term missile salvoes, and, in theory, we could face in Iraq a conventional enemy at the front and a fifth column at the rear.
And Iran poses far greater risks than in the past for Israeli pilots flying in over the heart of the Muslim world, with 200-300 possible nuclear sites that are burrowed into mountains, bunkers and suburbs. Such a mission would require greater flight distances, messy refueling, careful intelligence, and the need to put Israeli forces on alert for an Iranian counterstrike or a terrorist move from Lebanon. Former Israeli friends like Turkey are now not so cordial, and the violation of Islamic airspace might in the short-term draw an ugly response, despite the eventual relief in Arab capitals at the elimination of the Iranian nuclear arsenal.
If the Israeli raids did not take out the entire structure, or if there were already plutonium present in undisclosed bunkers, then the Iranians might shift from their sickening rhetoric and provide terrorists in Syria and Lebanon with dirty bombs or nuclear devices to “avenge” the attack as part of a “defensive” war of “striking back” at “Israeli aggression”. Europeans might even shrug at any such hit, concluding that Israel had it coming by attacking first.
The fourth scenario is as increasingly dreaded as it is apparently inevitable — a U.S. air strike. Most hope that it can be delayed, since its one virtue — the elimination of the Iranian nuclear threat — must ipso facto outweigh the multifaceted disadvantages.
The Shiite allies in Iraq might go ballistic and start up a second front as in 2004. Muslim countries, the primary beneficiaries of a disarmed Iran, would still protest loudly that some of their territories, if only for purposes of intelligence and post-operative surveillance, were used in the strike. After Iraq, a hit on Iran would confirm to the Middle East Street a disturbing picture of American preemptory wars against Islamic nations.
Experts warn that we are not talking about a Clintonian one-day cruise-missile hit, or even something akin to General Zinni’s 1998 extended Operation Desert Fox campaign. Rather, the challenges call for something far more sustained and comprehensive — perhaps a week or two of bombing at every imaginable facility, many of them hidden in suburbs or populated areas. Commando raids might need to augment air sorties, especially for mountain redoubts deep in solid rock.
The political heat would mount hourly, as Russia, China, and Europe all would express shock and condemnation, and whine that their careful diplomatic dialogue had once again been ruined by the American outlaws. Soon the focus of the U.N. would not be on Iranian nuclear proliferation, or the role of Europe, Pakistan, China, and Russia in lending nuclear expertise to the theocracy, but instead on the mad bomber-cowboy George Bush. We remember that in 1981 the world did not blame the reckless and greedy French for their construction of a nuclear reactor for Saddam Hussein, but the sober Israelis for taking it out…
Dr. Sanity follows up:
Whatever way you think about it, the situation with Iran has brought the world to the brink of another war. The situation cannot be ignored; and yet,no matter how it is dealt with, it must inevitably lead to very unpleasant consequences in the world.
I have no great hopes for the UN Security Council and multilateral action. The world is far too dependent on the “alpha male” nations in the community to take care of these kind of problems so that the rest of them don’t have to dirty their hands; and can stand back and haughtily criticize any and all outcomes.
Even within the U.S. the idea of a bipartisan concensus to give the Iranian leaders a clear and unified message seems unlikely given the Democrats obseesion to return to power and their belief (false, I think) that the only way to do this is to oppose anything that George Bush would like to do–regardless of the national interest.
The international community mucked around with sanctions on a blowhard like Saddam for over a decade–and what did it get them? If we thought Saddam was a lying, immoral thug with delusions of grandeur and WMDs to act on them; we can multiply that assessment by a factor of ten when dealing with a Saddam-like clone whose delusions are even more extreme and with a religious foundation to boot. And this fanatic’s desire for WMD’s is not in question (yet, anyway; after he is thwarted, who knows what some people will convince themselves was the case?). Ahmadinejad can’t be deterred because it is his earnest desire to die gloriously and go to his maker– and he doesn’t care who he takes with him. Saddam didn’t mind killing others, but he always planned to save his own neck; and I’m sure he always intended that he would come out of any confrontation alive and triumphant.
Is it to be war then?
Daniel Pipes informs us of the “Mystical Menace of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad:”
Thanks to the president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a new word has entered the political vocabulary: mahdaviat.
Not surprisingly, it’s a technical religious term. Mahdaviat derives from mahdi, Arabic for “rightly-guided one,” a major figure in Islamic eschatology. He is, explains the Encyclopaedia of Islam, “the restorer of religion and justice who will rule before the end of the world.” The concept originated in the earliest years of Islam and, over time, became particularly identified with the Shi‘ite branch. Whereas “it never became an essential part of Sunni religious doctrine,” continues the encyclopedia, “Belief in the coming of the Mahdi of the Family of the Prophet became a central aspect of the faith in radical Shi‘ism,” where it is also known as the return of the Twelfth Imam.
Mahdaviat means “belief in and efforts to prepare for the Mahdi.”
In a fine piece of reporting, Scott Peterson of the Christian Science Monitor shows the centrality of mahdaviat in Mr. Ahmadinejad’s outlook and explores its implications for his policies.
As mayor of Tehran, for example, Mr. Ahmadinejad appears to have in 2004 secretly instructed the city council to build a grand avenue to prepare for the Mahdi. A year later, as president, he allocated $17 million for a blue-tiled mosque closely associated with mahdaviat in Jamkaran, south of the capital. He has instigated the building of a direct Tehran-Jamkaran railroad line. He had a list of his proposed cabinet members dropped into a well adjacent to the Jamkaran mosque, it is said, to benefit from its purported divine connection…
More background on Ahmadinejad’s fanatical agenda here.
I share Clayton Cramer’s thought:
I do wish that the left would get over their hatred of Bush, the Republican Party, and the United States long enough to notice that there is something a lot worse out there to be concerned about–people and ideas that make Jerry Falwell look like an ACLU member, and Pat Robertson look sensible.
Wretchard at The Belmont Club looks at intelligence and Iran and concludes:
…[D]iplomacy will continue, not because it has any prospect of success, but from want of an alternative. Iran knows better than anyone that Israeli lacks the ability and the US probably lacks the will to mount a regime change. In this context diplomacy acquires a different significance. It’s playing for time, hoping that the regime in Teheran will slip up somehow and provide an opportunity for effective action. That slip-up, if it occurs, can only be induced by taking Iran to the brink. The objective of diplomacy is probably to stress Iran to the max, such as by staging wargames on its margin, threatening to refer the matter to the UN Security Council (which means to the United States, which alone provides the teeth to the Security Council), etc, not in the expectation that Teheran will crack, but in the hope that exploitable fractures will occur.
The unknown factor in all of this is the extent to which US assets in Iraq have been useful in penetrating Iran. It is well known that Iran has been sending agents into Iraq; it is also well known that intelligence operations are two-way streets. I have long believed that the US went into Iraq hoping to find the key to Iran. We’ll find out when we try to turn the lock.
My simple question: Do Americans understand the gravity of the situtation? I fear not. Once again, we are ill-served by a short-sighted, narcissistic, Bush-deranged news media far more interested in playing “gotcha,” selling fish-wrap, and serving as Democrat Party adjuncts than keeping readers/viewers informed of the world’s biggest threats.
Ace of Spades wonders where “Southwest Asia,” the destination of the Fort Wayne-based 122nd Fighter Wing, is.
Jason Smith has a helpful compilation of Democrat statements on Iran.
Rusty Shackelford has a prediction: “In two years remember this: They were for harsh sanctions against Iran, before they were against them.”
Austin Bay advocates “internal regime change, fostered by overt and covert political and economic support. The mullahs fear their own people.” More on what Austin calls the “Uranium Mullahs” here and here.blog comments powered by Disqus
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