Friday, April 28, 2006
We have a problem with Iran. What exactly should we do about it?
Here's a dose of reality: there are few options available, and none of them is pretty..simply because the West has let this fester far too long. We now have to pay the price for a number of years of kick-the-can neglect.
One stream of thought out in the ozone opts for diplomacy, or if not actual diplomacy, just a simple acknowledgement that Iran is now part of the `nuclear club' and we will simply have to live with it.
Except we can't afford to.
`Living with it' would be akin to learning to live with a live rattler in the house...except Iran would be more dangerous. For one thing, there's the distinct possibility- I'd say it's almost a certainty - that Iran would provide nukes down line, to the terrorist groups it sponsors and is closely allied with for use against the West. It has said so, as recently as today. Such attacks could be very hard to trace back to Iran. By then, it might be too late anyway..and if the fingerprints were the least bit uncertain, would a future US president have the will to do so in the face of massive political opposition and street theater from the Angry Left?
Even worse, in some ways, is the idea that Iran might not use the bomb...but instead would use it as a threat to coerce `respect' from the West, pump up the price of oil and gas and beef up its leadership of the Islamist bloc while fomenting conventional terrorism and Iran based Islamist takeovers. Think the Cartoon Jihad was bad? Wait.
And don't believe the nonsense that Iran is `years away from the bomb'. I give it three years max..provided Iran doesn't already have nukes to play with.
The Manhattan Project,using much less sophisticated technology only took 4 years.
What lots of people who think a simple diplomatic solution is possible don't consider is that Iran may actually be seeking a confrontation with the West as a 'divine mission'. Notice I said Iran, not Ahmadinejad...important to remember that he's merely a hired hand of the Supreme Council of Guardians and Khameini.
To fully understand what we’re dealing with here, we need to throw out the notion that we’re dealing with a Western mindset, and examine Iran’s theological and psychological makeup.
All streams of Islam believe in a divine saviour, known as the Mahdi, who will appear at the End of Days. Several Islamic demagogues have raised vast armies and taken territory by utilizing this belief through history.
Iran's dominant Shia "Twelver" sect believes this will be Mohammed ibn Hasan, regarded as the 12th Imam, or righteous descendant of the Prophet Mohammad.
He is said to have gone into "seclusion" in the ninth century, at the age of five. His return will be preceded by chaos, war and bloodshed. After a cataclysmic battle with evil and darkness, the Mahdi will lead the world to an era of universal Dar Islam..domination of the world by Islam and Sharia law.
By all accounts Ahmadinejad and the Supreme Council are consumed with devotion to this Hidden Imam, and the belief that Iran's government must prepare the way for his return. Ahmadinejad and the Council appear to be acting on the throes of a religious fervor, a sense of divine mission.
Just take a look at Ahmadinejad's international debut, a speech to the United Nations.
The UN delegates were expecting Ahmadinejad to make nice and take a step towards defusing the nuclear crisis after Teheran restarted its nuclear program in August.
Hoo, were they surprised!
Instead, they heard Ahmadinejad speaking in apocalyptic terms of Iran and Islam struggling against an evil West and ending with the messianic appeal to Allah to "hasten the emergence of your last repository, the Promised One, that perfect and pure human being, the one that will fill this world with justice and peace".
And bring on that wonderful period of Dar-Islam, submission to Islam.Batta bang, batta-bing!
In a video released all over Iran last November, Ahmadinejad is shown telling one of Iran's clerical rulers that he had `felt the hand of God entrancing world leaders' when he spoke to the UN General Assembly. He talked about how the other members of the Iranian delegation had seen an aura of light around him while he spoke to the UN.
"I felt it myself too," Ahmadinejad says in the movie. "I felt that all of a sudden the atmosphere changed there. And for 27-28 minutes all the leaders did not blink…it's not an exaggeration, because I was looking."
"They were astonished, as if a hand held them there and made them sit. It had opened their eyes and ears for the message of the Islamic Republic."
Maybe, after a few minutes of Ahmadinejad, the UN delegates might have been using a skill of mine that never failed to amaze my friends in high school... the art of sleeping with their eyes open. Or perhaps they were shocked into rapt attention...kind of like people watching an approaching train wreck or one of those slo-mo violence scenes Hollywood loves to serve up.
Ahamdinejad followed this performance up with a stream of statements like the ones about Israel being wiped off the map that startled Westerners but are perfectly in tune with the Qu'rannic vision of the return of the Mahdi and the Last Days. In the Qu'ran, on the Day of Judgement the very rocks and trees will call out to Muslims to kill the Jews hiding behind them.
These were not casual references.
Are Ahmadinejad and the Supreme council now pushing for a clash with the West because they feel safe in the belief of the imminent return of the Hidden Imam?
And are they trying to speed up things in the hope of hastening his reappearance?
Let’s look at Iran's recent history and Ahmadinejad’s to get a few more clues, shall we?
During the Iran-Iraq War, the Ayatollah Khomeini imported 500,000 small plastic keys from Taiwan. After Iraq invaded Iran in September 1980 and the Iranians initially suffered military reverses, Khomeini recruited Iranian children, some as young as twelve years old, and sent them to the front. There, they marched across minefields toward the enemy lines in human waves, clearing a path with their bodies. Every one of them had one of those Taiwanese keys hung around his neck…and the children were told that these were their Keys to open Paradise.
These children who ran to their deaths in suicide attacks were part of the Basiji, a mass movement created by Khomeini after the Revolution in 1979 and put on the front lines after the war began. The Basij Mostazafan--or "mobilization of the oppressed"--was a volunteer militia, most of whose members hadn't even turned 18 yet. They went by the thousands, willing martyrs for Khomeini and the regime.
Today the slaughter of the Basiji is a source of Iranian legend and national pride...believe it or not. Since the end of the Iraq war in 1988, the Basiji have vastly increased both in numbers and influence, as a cadre of loyal heroes of the Islamic Republic. They’ve been used mostly as religious police to enforce Sharia in Iran, and as Allah's own storm troopers against dissidents. And Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran’s president, served as a Basij instructor during the Iran-Iraq War…and is now the poster boy for the movement. Recruited from the more conservative and impoverished parts of the population (the exact social class Hitler used for the SA), the Basiji swear absolute loyalty to the Supreme Leader Ali Khameini, Khomeini's successor. During Ahmadinejad's run for the presidency in 2005, the millions of Basiji all over Iran got solidly behind Ahmadinejad in every Iranian town, neighborhood, and mosque and pushed his presidency. He was their guy..and the regime's.
Re-examine that little bit of information for a second…the man who trained children to blow themselves up for Allah at the Mullah’s behest is now the country’s president.
Turn it over in your mind.
The inmates have definitely taken over the Persian asylum. And this suicide martyr complex is deeply engraved in the Iranian/Shia psyche.
After all, why be afraid when the Hidden Imam is on his way?
Something else to turn over in your mind is Iran’s perception of how America and the West has reacted to any confrontation or provocation.
In 1979, the Iranians got away with something no other country has ever done, even in wartime. They seized a US embassy and held diplomats hostage for over a year...and the Carter Administration did nothing about it.
This perception has been reinforced since then by our retreats from Beirut after a Hezbollah suicide attack, our failure to deal decisively with Saddam after defeating him in the first Gulf War and continuing through our retreat from Somalia...not to mention our `nuanced' and indecisive response to having 3,000 of our fellow citizens slaughtered while a significant portion of the adherants of the Religion of peace celebrated it as one happening victory for the Great Jihad. And why wouldn't the mullahs feel that way? Until very recently our leaders couldn't even bring themselves to call the enemy by its right name.
Iran sees us a power in retreat…eager to recoil after any forceful response by the Islamic world. And Iran considers itself the rightful standard bearer of a resurgent Caliphate Islam.
As Amir Taheri has written, the mullahs see Bush as an aberration to the usual Western pattern – a president who can be waited out, while Iran consolidates and upgrades its military, its alliances and its nuclear weaponry.
Diplomacy only works when you are dealing with people that perceive they have something to lose. Although, as I wrote a few months back I wouldn't be surprised to see the Mullahs toy with the diplomacy game for as long as they can, even anounce some sort of token `joint enrichment' scam with Russia as part of that effort to wait Bush out.
Sanctions and multilateral diplomacy has been and will remain a waste of time.
Aside from the fact that Russia, China and certain members of the EU are unlikely to abide by them, the black market is alive and well, especially when you have oil and gas to sell.
So where's that leave us?
The key to solving this little dilemma is to remember that we're not only dealing with Iran's nukes. We are dealing with Iran as the leader of jihad and the Islamist movement - which is exactly how Iran sees itself.
President Bush touched on this when he compared `Militant Islam' with the communist menace of the Cold War. Except that the mullahs and their pals have a very different mindset in some ways. The communists actually cared about staying alive.
Are we prepared to be half as ruthless and thorough as the mullahs are towards us to preserve our lives and freedom?
`A quick surgical air strike' on Iran's nuclear facilities is possible, but only solves half the problem at best and just postpones things, even if we do manage to destroy most of the hidden, protected and dispersed sites our Russian `friends' have so thoughtfully built for Iran.
And anyone who seriously talks about a land invasion and occupation of Iran is likewise not exactly living in reality. While the US military, perhaps with assists from the Ozzies, the Brits(I haven't totally counted them out just yet, Blair's remarks notwithstanding) and others are more than capable of handling the job, the casualties, money and effort involved would be horrendous...not to mention the political fallout from certain quarters. Remember, we are talking about people that consider `martyrdom' a virtue. And why bother, when we don't need to?
While going after Iran's nukes is definitely important, even more important is attacking the means of their obtaining nukes and financing terrorism in the future, as well as sending a message that jihad against the West is no longer a painless option. Aside from military targets, the most effective strike would be at Iran's ports, navy, pipelines, infrastructure and especially at its oil and gas fields. And we will need to do this in an absolutely thorough and even ruthless fashion.
In short, we need to deal with Iran the way we once dealt with Qadaffi and Libya...but on a larger and much more complete scale.
Once that happens, once the regime is effectively decapitated and its fangs drawn, we can isolate the mullahs and their regime until the whole rotten structure collapses and more moderate forces take control. Or not. That's up to the Iranians.
Not only will we have actually eliminated the nuclear threat by eliminating Iran's cash flow, but we will have struck perhaps a fatal blow at the Great Jihad and Islamic terrorism...and shown its proponents that there is a huge price to pay for attacking the West.
Will it be costly? You bet. We can count on the mullahs seeking revenge and retaliation using whatever's left of Iran's surrogates in Iraq, Europe and throughout the Middle East and Central Asia, so we will have to deploy our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan accordingly and allocate the necessary firepower available to deal with that problem. And we might experience a domestic rise in oil prices, or even rationing until our domestic production ramps up.
But an unchecked Iran results in those scenarios or worse anyway, sooner or later. And less ability to change the situation than we have now. No pain, no gain.
Thanks to our neglect and failure to act decisively for the last 27 odd years, we face a choice between bad and worse options, and the cost of dealing with Iran will increase every year it's postponed. How we deal with Iran and jihad is the challenge we face, just as the west has had to face it before. This is a threshhold moment.
Time to do the mullah dance.