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The five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany have now met with representatives of the Iranian government in Geneva, hopefully to determine the nature of the latter country's nuclear facilities and technology development. Is this finally the end game, at which we find the answer to a 20-year-old puzzle are the mullahs in Tehran developing nuclear weapons? And is it sufficient to find out the answers to only this one puzzle? Or is it something very different?
Before we can answer that question, and before we analyze the agreements that flowed from the meeting, it would be useful to, in the words of former Secretary of Defense Les Aspin, "review the bidding." First, what do we know? Second, what are reasonable inferences from what we know? Third, when combined with the historical record, how should we see what we know? And fourth, with this in mind, what then are our realistic choices going forward especially in light of the "deal" reached in Geneva?
First, what do we know? The Iranians are accelerating their production and development of ballistic missiles. The USAF specifically in a report in April says this includes long range intercontinental ballistic missiles. An analyst at MIT concurs. Uzi Rubin, the former director of ballistic missile defenses at the Israeli Ministry of Defense says the Iranian current rocket capability approaches 3,000 kilometers and can reasonably reach over 4,000 kilometers in the near future, which would put all of Europe under the shadow of Tehran's missiles. The longer-range rockets are now of the solid-fuel and multi-stage variety, which means they can be launched quickly and without the fueling process that has previously allowed us to discover potential launches through satellite observation.
We also know something about international assistance to Iran for their rocket programs. Bill Gertz, writing in the Washington Times, reveals that documents, the content of which were provided to him by an analyst at MIT, which in turn apparently were spirited out from some Iranian state-run industries, show widespread cooperation between Russia, China, North Korea and Iran in BOTH the development of ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons. Other recent reports detail the purchase of nuclear trigger technology by Iran. British intelligence says that Iran is building nuclear warheads and re-started such work in the past few years.
Now what about the state of our defenses? In 2006, the Bush administration and Congress agreed to emphasize the protection of Europe from Iranian short and medium range rockets as well as develop additional deployments to protect against what were seen as emerging longer-range rocket threats. Now, as of 2009, the current capability of U.S. ballistic missile defenses for the defense of Europe can intercept rockets with roughly a 2,000 kilometer range. Much beyond that and we have to develop a better system. We hope to have available by 2015 the capability to have a Navy-based Standard Missile with a speed of 4.5 kilometers per second, (k/sec) compared to its current capability just above 3 k/sec. The faster speed would enable ship-based interceptors based on Aegis cruisers in the Baltic, Mediterranean and the Black Sea to protect portions of Europe from Iranian missile threats.
Such a sea-based capability was being pursued by the previous administration and in fact has been a long supported development by very strong missile defense supporters, including working groups led by the Heritage Foundation, the Center for Security Policy, the Marshall Institute, High Frontier, the Claremont Institute and the Institute for Foreign Policy Analysis, and at least as far back as 1995. Other ground-based capabilities such as the PAC-3 and THAAD missile defense systems can protect smaller areas against shorter range rockets, and are currently being planned for deployment not only with U.S. military forces overseas but also hosted by Turkey, Germany, Poland and Denmark, to name but a few. As for long-range rockets from Iran, the U.S. is in part protected by our deployment of interceptors in California and Alaska, but more capability is urgently required.
Any reasonable person would conclude the Iranian are building an arsenal of ballistic missiles, some of which are designed to carry nuclear weapons, to further their murderous aims against Israel, NATO, the United States and our allies in the region. Why else build rockets that now reach at least to Warsaw and probably beyond? We also know that there is a consortium of criminal cartels from the oligarchs in Russia, to the ruling families in China, to the criminal regimes in Syria, North Korea and elsewhere, helping Iran with these military capabilities.
Michael Ledeen recently wrote of this organized opposition to the U.S. and its allies. This consists of a collective of regimes seeking monopoly control over resources, especially energy, free rein to build their empires, and the use of terror proxies combined with criminal cartels in pursuit of their aims. As part of this effort, they are using the tools of globalization to cross state lines, diminish the sovereignty of some governments, and escape both law and ethics. It is not altogether unreasonable to look at Iranian behavior in this light. So if Russia, China, North Korea and Syria are the very partners in Iranian "criminal" behavior, it would seem one very big stretch to see these same countries as seriously willing to "give us a hand" in reining in the terrorist ways of one of their "partner" states such as Iran.
How do these inferences stand up in light of the historical record? We know that the U.S. and its allies have been talking and negotiating with Iran for 30 years, the record of which was recently eloquently explained by Michael Ledeen in the Wall Street Journal. We also know that Iran has used these negotiations to hide their current nuclear technology facilities, design bureaus, and enrichment plants. We know the Mullahs have repeatedly lied and excel at the art of duplicity and concealment.
We also know Iran's constitution calls on the country to export its brand of murderous Islam, and this consists in part of supplying weapons, sanctuary and financing to terror groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah who are in turn making war against Lebanon and Israel. And we know many of these weapons are supplied originally by Russia, as well as by China and North Korea. We also know from U.S. military commanders and their testimony before the U.S. Congress that Iran is providing weapons, training and financing to terrorists killing Americans and their allies in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
We further know Iran has a long track record of murder from the Marine barracks in Beirut to our Embassy in Lebanon, to the Israeli facilities in Argentina, and to the destruction of the Pan Am flight over Lockerbie. We also know the Iranian regime has repeatedly attempted to conduct terrorist attacks against Morocco, Egypt and some of the Persian Gulf states. In this light, how realistic is that Iran will trade its revolutionary goals because it might be fearful of being "isolated?"
Now why is Iran terrorism's #1 practitioner? The notion remains firmly fixed in some quarters that much of this is due to the U.S. acting as some kind of "hyper-power," as once described by former French President Chirac, himself hip-deep in the Iraq food-for-palaces swindle and long time protector of Saddam Hussein. Some even go back to the 1950s and the U.S. support of a "coup" that stopped a communist stooge from taking power in Iran as justification for the continued "hostility" of the Iranian regime toward the U.S.
We have been told repeatedly: If the U.S. would simply stop acting "unilaterally," things would change. The "international community," upon seeing the "softer approach" of a new American administration, would finally conclude the U.S. "deserved" to be helped in its efforts to eliminate the Iranian nuclear weapons program and subsequently with that of North Korea as well.
The central assumption that animated this world view comes straight out of the "blame America first" crowd first identified by the late Jean J. Kirkpatrick, our Ambassador to the UN. It comes down to seeing America as a "bad actor" in the world. It was quite simply that our allies would not help us deal with Iran because of the perceived political problem of being associated with our fighting in Iraq, enforcing the Patriot Act provisions, waterboarding terror subjects or maintaining the prison in Guantanamo Bay.
An additional complaint is that there has been "two decades" of neglect with respect to "arms control" and reducing nuclear weapons stockpiles. The Moscow Treaty of 2002 was viewed as "not real arms control" even though United States and Russian deployed weapons were actually reduced by over 60 percent, the largest percent reductions in strategic nuclear weapons ever. The treaty was submitted to the Senate and became the law of the land. The U.S. and Russia actually trusted each other to keep their declared number of deployed nuclear weapons within the boundaries of the treaty. The START I agreement verification measures, still in effect, could provide some of the "verify" in President Reagan's famous dictum: "Trust, but verify."
It is true the Moscow Treaty of 2002 didn't contain the elaborate rules of the START or SALT treaties. It did not constrain the U.S., or the Russians for that matter, from deploying their respective nuclear forces consistent with their own view of their security and deterrent needs. It did, however, eliminate some 4,000 deployed strategic nuclear weapons as well as incidentally thousands of stockpiled weapons as well.
This flexibility in the treaty and the associated assumption that the treaty wasn't really the old fashioned "arms control" led to never-ending complaints that the U.S. lacked sufficient stature or moral credibility to insist that one Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) signatory Iran had to get rid of its nuclear weapons program or at the very least fully comply with the terms of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty when it, the United States, was "neglecting" arms control. The U.S. failure to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty during the Clinton administration also may have played a role in this view, but this was a common and pervasive complaint.
This was all viewed in the larger context of our bad polling numbers in Europe. President Bush was simply not liked. The U.S., in some polls, was viewed as a greater threat to world peace than either North Korea or Iran. This view was no doubt fueled by the cacophony of hatred and invective hurled at our 43rd President by his domestic political enemies. But it nonetheless gave many in Europe and elsewhere, we were told, a ready "excuse" not to help with our non-proliferation goals. And so while our European allies met repeatedly with Iran, little if any progress was achieved.
Similarly, at similar meetings designed to push forward the goals of the NPT, third world countries sided with Iran and refused to put counter proliferation high on the agenda as opposed to the responsibility of the permanent five to "rid the world of nuclear weapons" and "eliminate weapons in space." And in the absence of progress with Iran, many of our European allies, as well as China, Russia and Japan, expanded their trade and investment ties with the Tehran Mullahs, all the while preaching to the U.S. that we lacked sufficient morale stature to call down this element of the "evil empire."
So now the assumption seems to be we have regained our "moral stature." Former Secretary of State Albright is very pleased that our polling numbers are way up in Europe. She says "it is nice to be liked." It apparently had little effect when the administration asked earlier this year for a greater military commitment to the Afghanistan Theater from our NATO allies where supposedly the U.S. is so much more admired. Some nations sent a few more troops but they were withdrawn immediately after the recent elections.
But now there apparently is the belief that our arguments with Iran will have such moral power that the Mullahs will be bewildered and cave in to our demands. Our allies will finally will take our side and make some hard choices. Russia and China will insist on Iranian compliance with UN resolutions and the terms of the NPT. And once we all threaten to implement "severe sanctions," Iran will fold. Stay tuned.
The administration is pursuing a two-track Iranian policy that they hope will soon lead to the endgame in our ongoing chess match with Tehran. Either a deal will be made with the "international community" to make their nuclear program transparent or Iran will face "crippling" sanctions. Hopefully, we should know in the next few months whether or not we can declare "Checkmate" or whether a nuclear armed Iran will emerge. History does not appear to be on our side.
Let's first examine the "good" news. It is heartening that members of Congress, including Chairmen Dodd, Berman and Frank, have begun to move anti-Iranian legislation through Congress. One bill would protect states that have or wish to divest their public pension funds of any companies doing energy business with Iran. That bill passed the House with over 400 votes this past week.
Another bill requires firms doing business with the U.S. to refrain from selling to Iran any refined petroleum products, in light of Tehran's reliance upon imports for 40 percent of its petroleum supplies, or roughly 140,000 barrels a day of gasoline and diesel. However, given that the Chinese are blending gasoline and exporting it through Singapore destined for Iranian ports even as Venezuela is planning on sending 20,000 barrels a day of gasoline to Iran as well, implementing such restrictions will not be easy.
"The Peace Act," being proposed by Congressman Trent Franks, (R-AZ), a leading member of the House Armed Services Committee, moves sanctions legislation in the right direction. Among other things, it prohibits both the sale of refined petroleum products to Iran and requires any entity or persons doing business with America to stop doing business with Iran.
The Congressman explains that since the Iran Sanctions Act was signed into law in the late 1990s, dealing with investment in Iran's energy sector, the U.S. has not ever sanctioned non-U.S. entities or overseas subsidiaries of U.S. companies for investing in Iran. While some banking restrictions have been effective, the U.S. has generally been the sole country willing to use economic sanctions and restrictions in dealing with Iran. In short, a great deal more could be done.
Thus it is encouraging that a number of Treasury officials have recently testified before Congress about the wide ranging sanctions and financial restrictions that could be placed on Iran, including Stewart Levey who has been a modern-day Paul Reverse on going after terrorist and state terror sponsoring finances. The down-side is that reports are that Venezuela and its dictator Chavez have apparently offered Iran the use of its banking and financial system as a means of hiding Iranian transactions and getting around the potential establishment of stricter sanctions.
On the military side, the defense bill funds additional work on what are commonly termed "bunker busters" or 30,000 pound bombs capable of taking out deeply buried and hardened military facilities, the type of which Iran has built for its nuclear complex. Funds were originally approved in 2007 when $88 million was provided in the Iraq/Afghanistan war funding bill. Work was accelerated this year at the request of DOD Comptroller Robert Hale when he asked that $68 million more dollars be provided so the B2 bomber fleet could have four such weapons by 2010. At the beginning of this fiscal year, contracts were awarded and work started. Israel has purchased more than 100 Laser Joint Direct Air Munitions according to Investors Business Daily, complemented by additional purchases of Dolphin-class submarines capable of launching cruise missiles. .
On the diplomatic side, there has emerged discussion of actual deadlines for the Iranians to "come clean" and make a deal that would clear up any doubts as to the direction of its nuclear programs. Unfortunately, the deadlines as in the past have often been quite elastic. Iranian compliance with beginning discussions as of October 1st may lead to a loose requirement that there be an actual agreement by the end of the year, as proposed by the President of France.
The prospect of "serious" or "crippling" sanctions have repeatedly been portrayed as the key leverage of the "international community" to secure full Iranian compliance with its obligations under the NPT. But critical to this effort would be the full cooperation of China and Russia, key trading partners and allies of Iran. But it is apparent also that the Russians and Chinese are going to strongly resist being part of this effort.
A few weeks ago, the Russians hinted that perhaps serious sanctions should be discussed should Iran not "come clean." But just recently, the Russians backed away from truly credible efforts. They emphasized the need for continued "diplomacy," a perhaps not distinguishable policy from that being pushed by the Nobel Prize Committee with its emphasis on reliance on "multilateralism", "the attitudes of a majority of the world" or the UN "system." To date, neither multilateralism nor diplomacy has been successful in ending the Iranian nuclear program or for making it transparent. As Nicholas Kralev noted October 20th in the Washington Times, "its not easy to craft a new relationship with Russia...The Russians appear to be pocketing the US moves and giving little in return."
In the enthusiasm that greeted the prospects of talks with Iran on October 1st, there was what may well be a premature celebration when the Iranians agreed to UN and IAEA inspections of its recently revealed secret enrichment facility. But the Iranians in so doing artfully changed the subject of the initial round of diplomacy. Instead of being forced to stop or "freeze" the enrichment of uranium which the UN Security Council has repeatedly demanded be done, Iran succeeded in emphasizing its compliance with "international law."
By revealing the existence of a second enrichment facility, and being willing to call in IAEA inspectors, Iran made it appear that it was complying with the NPT requirements. Ignored, of course, were its continued flagrant violations of the NPT provisions requiring full transparency of its nuclear programs and its opposition to IAEA's protocol that would allow demand inspections.
Key members of Congress said on October 6th that they viewed the Iranian moves as simply "stalling tactics" in a bid to buy further time to acquire nuclear weapons. Senate Banking Committee Dodd spoke for many when he said: "There is a fear here....that the Iranian government is taking us to the cleaners and the end result will be to put us at great risk." His views were echoed by Committee member Evan Bayh.
Although the Committee understood the Administration strategy of raising the "economic cost" to the Iranian government of failing to "cooperate with the international community," the entire exchange during the October hearing highlighted the continued misperception by many that dealing with Iran was someone a negotiation during which if the right "sticks and carrots" were offered the issue of Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons can be "resolved" and a "deal" could be inked.
What is missing from the assessment of whether the Iranian leadership is "ready" for a "deal" is an appreciation of exactly who they are. The Mullahs and the Revolutionary Guard Corps are committed to exporting their revolution through violence and murder, as is commanded by their constitution. They wish to create a new empire of Islamic states under their rule, and are fanatic in their desire to see such an end state not only in the Middle East but the whole adjacent region and eventually the West as well. They see themselves as ruling a truly "Islamic" world, as opposed to the current one filled with apostate regimes, where Khomeini's totalitarian aims are cemented by rigid Sharia law.
As former Defense Department official Jed Babbin has eloquently written in his book on the subject, we can know their intentions and their aims by simply reading their own words. From his book, In Their own Words, we learn:
In this light, it is readily apparent that the question of whether we can coax Iran away from its terrorist ways through diplomacy may be the wrong one. The right question may very well be: "What can we do to change the regime in Iran and in the meantime, shut down its terrorist ways and its access to key technologies and the financing necessary to both build nuclear weapons and the ballistic missiles with which to deliver them?"
Our current strategy rotates between harsh rhetoric and mild sanctions. The threat of potential sanctions seems always "on the table" but is never put in place and always appears "premature" and can be put off until later. For example, on September 24th, the Wall Street Journal's Jay Solomon and Jonathan Weisman asserted that the administration was "gaining support" from the Russians for serious sanctions against Iran.
But their report also noted the U.S. and its allies, despite this supposed improvement in the Russian position, would only offer Iran a "double freeze" an offer of a freeze on additional sanctions in return for an Iranian freeze on uranium enrichment, a proposal already offered in June 2008 during the Bush administration. The proposal was then rebuffed, as it was again by the Iranians when they met with the U.S. and others October 1st in Geneva. Following the meeting, the focus of attention was not Iranian enrichment that apparently had fallen off the table.
The question of additional sanctions has now been declared "premature" by the Russians following meetings with the U.S. government just this past week. The issue of the day is now whether we would supply Iran with medically needed isotopes that required newly enriched uranium. A companion issue was the extent to which current supplies of such enriched uranium in Iran would be used in such a process. By moving a significant portion of such material out of Iran we could buy additional time to shutter the program. And sufficient material, we think, would not be available to build a bomb anytime soon. Although it was assumed an agreement had been reached in Geneva on such an arrangement, the Iranians continue to backtrack and double deal. It still remains unclear to what they have agreed.
Thus, despite the rhetorical bravado threatening "really tough sanctions" if Iran doesn't negotiate in good faith, the continued postponement of such action strengthens those who tend to dismiss the immediacy of the threat from Iran. It has become somewhat of a standard plank of the "conventional wisdom" platform to see the threat from Iran as limited, and while limited, largely an "unconventional one", limited to terrorist strikes largely against Israel, but of such a nature as to be "tolerated."
This view tends to see Iranian terrorism as small scale "mischief" and certainly not worth any concerted U.S. push for regime change or serious sanctions. This despite the warning this summer from one of the senior commanders of the Revolutionary Guards that Iran would "attack America with our suicide bombers and our ballistic missiles" (!) if sanctions were put in place or the cryptic comment last year of one of Iran's military chiefs that "we know where the major nodes are in your critical infrastructure." (Is there an Iranian EMP attack in our future?)
It is certainly true that the U.S. needs international support for the leverage needed for truly effective sanctions regime against Iran. This has been at heart the rationale for the U.S. "reset policy" with Russia, Venezuela, Syria and others to gain the necessary international support for U.S. initiatives by showing a "kindler, gentler" side of U.S, policy. Victor Davis Hanson has described this tactic as "America's new therapeutic foreign policy."
Former Secretary of State Albright said how happy she was "that countries now like us." Polling shows high approval rating for America across Europe. Brent Scowcroft, former National Security Adviser to two U.S. Presidents, was also happy with our new found popularity. But to what end? Despite these numbers, Syria continues to fund terrorists in Iraq and Lebanon; Russia continues to arm Iran; and Venezuela announces more arms deals with Moscow and new plans to acquire nuclear power.
Even in the face of the Administration's friendly outreach, says Hanson, the agenda of our adversaries "getting nukes, bullying neighbors, taking back disputed land, supporting terrorists, jacking up oil prices and stifling dissent" are simply not reconcilable with a free, democratic world.
The assumption that the more limited exercise of American power would lead to greater international cooperation is being severely tested. To many, American power was the indispensable glue of the post World War II regime that has allowed both prosperity and freedom to flourish to a historically unprecedented extent. R. James Woolsey observes that in the last half of the 20th century, the U.S. defeated five totalitarian empires in three wars, leading to a proliferation of democracies throughout the world. "In the course of the second half of the 20th century, the world went from approximately 20 democracies to approximately 120."
Thus we are back relying upon the "United Nations" system, the International Atomic Energy Administration, to coax Iran back into the confines of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty or the NPT. Following the October 1st meeting with the Iranians, it was agreed the Director-General of the IAEA, Muhamed El-Baradei, would travel to Iran to make arrangements for further "inspections," especially of the newly discovered Iranian enrichment facility.
But this again could simply repeat the failed inspections of the past. Throughout the last decade, Mohamed El-Baradei has sought to talk with non-existent "moderates" in Iran that were supposedly opposed to seeking nuclear weapons. When in mid-April 2008 the IAEA inspectors told him about the emerging dangers in Iran, especially that the Natanz enrichment facility contained uranium hexafluoride, a compound used to make nuclear weapons fuel, El-Baradei ignored the evidence and sought to make a deal that covered for Iranian bomb making.
He further eliminated any lingering doubt as to his lack of seriousness with a bumbling trifecta while on the October 19th visit to Tehran: he continued to insist that he had seen no evidence of an Iranian "nuclear weapons" program; he dismissed reports of a secret IAEA report confirming Iran's nuclear weapons work, despite portions having appeared in the public media;[the London Times reported that IAEA itself has warned in internal reports that Tehran "may already have tested a detonation system small enough to fit into the warhead of a medium range missile"]; and he asserted that the real threat to the Middle East were Israel nuclear weapons. This cemented El Baradei's reputation of always being ready to "blame the Jews" whenever he and his friends want to deflect attention from the failures of the IAEA.
Thus it is that after the October 1st discussions in Geneva between the Group of Six, (including the U.S.) and Iran, we actually ended up further from our goal of a nuclear free Iran. Instead of an agenda firmly focused on stopping the Iranian nuclear program, the agenda magically shifted to (1) providing Iran with 20 percent enriched uranium for medical nuclear isotopes and (2) calling on Israel to give up its nuclear weapons!
At the October meeting, Iran claimed its Tehran nuclear research reactor would not have the capability of producing such isotopes beyond 2010, so Russia proposed that Moscow would enrich fuel currently having been produced by Iran, and along with the French, produce nuclear medicine products. How convenient! And just for good measure, the Iranian government latched onto the administration long-term agenda of a nuclear weapons free world by basically saying of Israel and the United States, "You First!" (Disarmament enthusiasts in the U.S. had long claimed that it was the height of hypocrisy to claim that Iran didn't need nuclear weapons for its security but for the U.S. to support Israel's right to the very same weapons. Now their statements were, to coin a phrase, "coming home to roost"!)
It wasn't as if we couldn't have anticipated this Russian-Iranian chicanery. Documents cited recently by investigative reporter Bill Gertz of the Washington Times reveal that an MIT researcher had acquired internal Iranian documents showing widespread help from Russia and China to the Iranian ballistic missile program. The backing originated from governmental level entities. It clearly showed Iran developing "long range missiles" and looking to design "more advanced designed missiles in the future." The documents bore the stamp of Iranian state-run industries. This extensive covert assistance to Iran's missile programs began at least during the 1990s and has long been exposed.
Gary Kasporov, leader of the United Civil Front in Russia, explains that Moscow's interest is in prolonging the "Iranian crisis" in the Persian Gulf, as it keeps the U.S. occupied and oil prices high. He further notes of a change in Russian nuclear policy, which according to Nikolai Patrushev, the chief of the Presidential Security Council, will allow for "pre-emptive nuclear strikes" in local or regional conflicts, "against both small and large enemies," a policy revealed over a year ago by Mark Schneider of the National Institute of Public Policy. Iran is seen as a helpful partner in this strategy. Thus, to assume that Russia will help in disarming Iran runs counter to the entire thread in current Russian defense and foreign policy. It is a bridge too far.
It is obvious that if "international cooperation" will not include Russia and China, then "effective" sanctions will not be in the cards. We then are reduced to contemplating the use of military force to cripple Iran's nuclear complex or using a combination of fiscal, trade and military measures to assist pro-democracy elements within Iran and work for regime change.
It is often assumed Americans would not support such action. On October 19th, the day on which the chief of the IAEA and the President of Iran met, it was breathlessly revealed by the drive-by media that a new poll showed that eighty percent or more of Americans wanted to resolve the Iranian nuclear issue peacefully though diplomacy" with only 46 percent in favor of using military force. How convenient!
The Iranians, as they sit across the table from UN civil servants must feel a certain measure of security knowing the America's media is working full-time to ensure that no American leader will think of using military force against them given the supposed strong public sentiment against doing so. Just when Chamberlain flew into talks with Hitler in Munich in 1939, I am sure there were newspaper headlines ensuring the German leader that the British people "wanted peace" and believed "negotiations" were the preferred means of resolving "difficulties."
However, Americans may in fact be tougher than some imagine. On October 7th, Pew revealed that Americans by a broad majority 71 percent Republicans, 67% of Independents, and even 51 percent of Democrats supported taking military action to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons. Equal numbers supported both taking military action and supporting diplomacy, but only 22 percent believed diplomacy would work.
In addition, these poll questions as to whether we should use force or rely upon diplomacy reflect a rather infantile view among poll takers of the connection between diplomacy and force. As Dr. Henry Kissinger famously remarked, "A freestanding diplomacy is an ancient American illusion. History offers few examples of it. The attempt to separate diplomacy and power results in power lacking direction and diplomacy being deprived of incentives." Better yet was the formulation of former Senator Malcolm Wallop: "Diplomacy without the threat of force is but prayer," in his farewell Senate address, October 1994.
Even after 30 years of watching the Islamic Republic of Iran murder its way through Lebanon, the West Bank, Gaza, Southeastern Iraq, and parts of Afghanistan, and facing growing angst among key congressional members, we are still seeking to determine whether "Tehran is able to act with rational self-interest or whether it is on a trajectory to become a nuclear wildcard" as one administration official put it. But for thirty years, as Michael Ledeen explained September 30th in the Wall Street Journal, the United States has been talking to Iran and fooling itself that just the right amount of dialogue, concessions, sticks and carrots can bring about a normalization of relations with Tehran. However, each episode of negotiations, lifting of sanctions, provisions of arms, promises of aid, the unfreezing of assets, proposals to lift sanctions all end in Iranian perfidy. (See especially the recent BBC documentary, "Iran and the West.")
If we can come to the realization, as an editorial in the Washington Times noted, that Iran "seeks power not security," we can move beyond 30 years of "diplomatic rope-a-dope" with a regime of fanatics that have been at war with us the entire period. Iran seeks to be the regional hegemonic force in the Middle East with nuclear weapons providing the sledge hammer with which to bully and coerce any adversaries or enemies that get in the way of Tehran's Islamic revolution. Nuclear weapons would provide the critical top cover under which Iran would strike with its terrorist proxies. And without the threat of force, no amount of diplomatic wizardry will change the regime. Even if military force and very strong sanctions will only buy us time, it is time above everything else we need.
Paul Ingram of the British American Security Information Council explained recent Iranian behavior this way: "The Iranians are playing for time in a very complex game. It involves firing of missiles at inopportune times in order to be appear strong and then quietly trying to draw the sting from any significant move for sanctions." But then he falls into the trap of believing that "regional security and stability" are in the interests of both the U.S. and Iran. Our interests are totally at odds with Iran. Tehran seeks to foment a very high level of instability in Iraq in order to lessen U.S. influence, hasten our withdrawal, and confirm the establishment of radical elements linked to Tehran within the Iraqi government. Elsewhere, Iran seeks the destruction of states such as Israel and Lebanon, and the overthrow of governments in Morocco, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
Thus we are probably left with two choices as Eliot A. Cohen explained in the September 28th Wall Street Journal: "The choices now what they ever were: an American or Israeli strike...or living in a world with Iranian nuclear weapons..." The Iranians are not just seeking nuclear weapons. They are mastering the capability with which to deliver them throughout the Middle East and Persian Gulf, but also most of Europe. Their current inventory of ballistic missiles now can reach at least 2400 kilometers from Iran, or to the middle of Warsaw, Poland.
According to Uzi Rubin, the father of the Israel Arrow ballistic missile defense program, Iran has mastered the elements of rocketry involving multiple staged and solid fueled missiles. This will soon bring with it rockets with ranges of 3,000-4,000 kilometers, bringing all of Europe under the threat of missile attack. We also know Tehran's Mullahs have received considerable international assistance from Russia, North Korea and China for their ballistic missile programs and may be capable of reaching the United States with long-range ballistic missiles by 2015 according to a recent 2009 USAF intelligence assessment.
At the heart of the problem is the regime, a regime that has, since 1979, as vividly described by Eliot Cohen:
"...relentlessly waged war against the US and its allies. From Buenos Aires to Herat, from Beirut to Cairo, from Baghdad to, now, Caracas, Iranian agents have done their best to...kill...American servicemen and servicewomen. [Our] military cemeteries contain the bodies of hundreds, maybe thousands, of Americans slain by Iranian technology, Iranian tactics and...Iranian operatives...The brutality without is more than matched by the brutality within the rape, torture and summary execution of civilians by the tens of thousands..."
R. James Woolsey, the former Director of Central Intelligence said it best recently:
"We will not, however clever our diplomacy, be able to stop the Iranian nuclear program with Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in charge. The revolutionary guard is now effectively the governing organization in Iran, and they are theocratic, totalitarian, genocidal fanatics. It doesn't matter if there's a signed piece of paper promising this and that, and they have signing ceremonies and lots of celebrations. It won't mean a thing,"
Do we wish to wait until those cemeteries and morgues, both outside and inside Iran, to which Eliot Cohen referred, are filled not with hundreds but with hundreds of thousands or millions of dead and maimed, or do we act now, to "provide for the common defense" as our Constitution requires? For too long we have relied upon wishful thinking and concessional unilateralism to curry favor with the Mullahs. We do not need to find a "smoking gun" among the nuclear facilities in Natanz or Qom we already have it, in the very words of the Iranians themselves for the past thirty years. We ignore this at our peril.
Peter Huessy is President of GeoStrategic Analysis, a defense
consulting company in Potomac, Maryland.
Part I was published October 5, 2009 and Part II was published October 21, 2009, both in Family Security Matters (FSM). Part I is archived at
www.familysecuritymatters.org/publications/id.4437/pub_detail.asp and Part II at
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