Iran-The Gathering Storm Clouds

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By Sarah N. Stern and Kyle Shideler

It seems like all the elements are coming together for a perfect storm coming out of Iran. Here in the United States, we are exhausted after two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and weary of any further military intervention.  We, at EMET, are on Capitol Hill constantly, and, unfortunately, have encountered an atmosphere of fatalism and defeatism which has infected far too many of our policy makers.  This is precisely the wrong emotion at absolutely the wrong moment in history.

The civilized world as we know it is being confronted by a brutal, maniacal theocracy with hegemonic ambitions which does not value the sanctity of human life.  Hashemi Rafsanjani (often regarded as one of the “saner” regime leaders) has already said that he is willing to sacrifice fifteen million of his own civilians in an attack on Israel. The Iranians have proved their disregard for human life, during of the Iran-Iraq war, when they had their own children and adolescents clear the mine fields.  They were willing to sacrifice 700,000 of them, urging children forward on a promise of the “72 black-eyed virgins”, equipped only with little plastic keys to open the gates of paradise.

This is a regime cares not a whit for human life. If they are willing to sacrifice their own children like that, how can many in the west continue to believe that the Iranian regime will make rational choices once they cross over the nuclear threshold?

That is why, despite what some pundits inside the beltway have been arguing, Mutually Assured Destruction, (MAD), which worked against the former Soviet Union will never work with the Iranians. The Judeo-Christian value of the sanctity of human life holds not sway in the regime’s thinking. They are playing out a fourteen century old religious struggle as to who will be the rightful heirs of the throne of Islam and usher in the reappearance of the Mahdi. As Middle East Doyen Bernard Lewis has said, for religious zealots MAD is not a deterrent, it is an inducement.

Last week Iran conducted a series of terror attacks, targeting Israeli embassies in Azerbaijan, New Delhi and Thailand. They were largely foiled; with no one killed and only a handful injured, thanks to a mixture of bumbling by Iran’s would be assassins, and good intelligence. Additionally Iranian officials have spent the past three months issuing a wide variety of bellicose threats, from targeting U.S. military bases in the region to threatening to close the vital Strait of Hormuz. Iran recently upped their rhetoric threatening preemptive action against the western powers.  “Our strategy now is that if we feel our enemies want to endanger Iran’s national interests, and want to decide to do that, we will act without waiting for their actions,” said deputy head of the armed forces Mohammad Hejazi.

Meanwhile Iran loaded its first home-made uranium fuel rod into its reactor at Tehran, unveiling publicly for the first time a fuel rod enriched to the critical 20% mark, and has installed new equipment in its mountain bunker nuclear complex at Fordo which will enable it can rapidly increase its capability to produced highly enriched uranium with only a minor conversion.

Like most abusers, Iran follows up its violent and unacceptable outbursts and behaviors with offers to talk, to be reasonable. The Islamic regime has proposed to restart talks on its nuclear program with the western community.  And like many of the serially battered, the Western powers seem prepared to accept that this time things will be different. Indeed, we continue to make excuses for the behavior of the Iranians, and urge our friends and allies to tolerate Iranian behavior just a little while longer. We maintain the fiction that the Iranian leadership hasn’t officially decided to make a nuclear weapon, when even the IAEA, not an organization known for institutional hawkishness, has said that much of the Iranian program makes little sense outside of use in a weapons program.

Iran’s policy makes sense if you understand their underlying motivations, The Obama administration’s does not.

Yes, sanctions are having an effect on the Iranian economy, with an effort to cut Iran off from SWIFT, Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication being the most recent and effective sanction currently under discussion. This is an option that should have been used, ten years ago.  Moreover, we know that Russia, Red China and North Korea are not going to abide by any crippling sanctions. In order for sanctions to be truly effective, they have to be universally adhered to and universally enforced.

For Iran, the primary question becomes whether they can buy enough time to reach the stage of no return on their nuclear weapons program, before the Israelis or the Americans or some combination thereof, decide to act. That’s the logic behind Iran’s small-scale terror attacks along with the blood-curdling threats (which also help by driving up oil prices), mixed with offers of talks. It’s a shotgun approach aimed at doing anything possible to delay further action, and survive sanctions long enough to acquire the bomb.

But why has the Obama administration played along?  Despite that officials concede that sanctions are doomed to failure and military action is probably inevitable, the administration’s public statements have been primarily focused on deterring not Iran, but Israel.  A Wall Street Journal editorial makes that assertion, backed by statements from the public appearances of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Martin Dempsey and Elliot Abrams in the Weekly Standard reading of the congressional testimony of Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, and head of the Defense Intelligence Agency Gen. Ron Burgess concurs.  In all cases, the representatives of the White House seem anxious to reassure the public and the Congress, that Iran is a rational actor which had not yet made a final decision on nuclear weapons.

The administration refuses to take a hard line with Iran, despite repeated threats to wipe Israel off the map, bomb U.S. bases and disrupt global trade. It refuses, despite attacks against American soldiers in Iraq or Afghanistan, an indisputable nuclear weapons program, and terror attacks plotted in Washington D.C., Buenos Aires, Baku, New Delhi and Bangkok. The same administration which now pleads for time for sanctions to work repeatedly attempted to water down and delay implementation of the sanctions prior to their passage.

We are confronting one of the most critical moments in history. Once Iran crosses the nuclear threshold, we will not be looking at the same world. They can then act with total impunity.  They can give a wink and a nod to Sheik Hassan Nasrallah of Hezbollah to activate their many terror cells throughout Europe, Central America and within the United States, and launch attacks throughout the Western world.

Aside from that, both the Department of Defense and Israeli Intelligence Agencies agree that it is only a matter of two to three more years before Iran has the ballistic missile capability to reach the East Coast of the United States, so that they can attack “The Great Satan”, the major target of their hatred.

Even though America is war-weary and fatigued, this situation will not go away by sweeping it under the rug—or focusing our foreign policy on another subject, like the Far East. This is not some reality show that we do not like, and can just change the channel.

This is reality. The question is: Is this generation of Americans adult enough to be able to confront realities we do not like? Or are we a far cry from “The Great Generation” of our parents, who saw the menace arising in Europe and ultimately did the right thing.

As Winston Churchill once said, “The Americans always do the right thing—-once they have exhausted every other possibility.”

The question then remains:  Will the Americans do the right thing in time to stop the Iranians from crossing over the nuclear threshold?

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About the Author

Sarah Stern
Sarah Stern is founder and president of the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET).

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