Monday, May 4, 2009

Waiting For The Iranian Shoe To Drop (Updated)

Of the major foreign policy issues facing Obama, Iran ranks at least equal to Pakistan in near term criticality. As Obama gives signals of weakness and acquiesnce, Iran is significantly increasing its deadly operational tempo throughout the Middle East. And that in addition to a nuclear weapons program that threatens to lead to nuclear proliferation on a nightmare scale. Obama's response is to seek more talks - now unconditional - with even the threat of force apparently off the table. It is the stuff of deadly fantasy.

Iran's government is a hyper-aggressive theocracy whose goals are to spread the Khomeinist Islamic revolution throughout the Middle East and the world, to destroy Israel, and to drive the U.S. out of the Middle East. Those goals are non-negotiable and Iran's mad mullahs have proven utterly beyond any civilized limits in their pursit of these goals. In the history of Iran's theocracy, the only things which have ever caused the mad mullahs to alter their deadly trajectory have been the actual or threatended use of force.

As Sec. Def. Robert Gates summed up the nature of the theocracy a year ago, "everywhere you turn, it is the policy of Iran to foment instability and chaos, no matter the strategic value or cost in the blood of innocents - Christians, Jews and Muslims alike." The Treasury Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence has testified that Iran is the "central banker" for terrorism throughout the world. I have blogged on Iran repeatedly and itemized many of the terrorist acts by the Iranian regime. The list is as valid today as it was when I wrote it - with the exception that Iran has now become even more aggessive in its deadly pursuits with the ascension of Obama to the post of U.S. President. Amir Taheri, writing at the WSJ today, explains:

Convinced that the Obama administration is preparing to retreat from the Middle East, Iran's Khomeinist regime is intensifying its goal of regional domination. It has targeted six close allies of the U.S.: Egypt, Lebanon, Bahrain, Morocco, Kuwait and Jordan, all of which are experiencing economic and/or political crises.

Iranian strategists believe that Egypt is heading for a major crisis once President Hosni Mubarak, 81, departs from the political scene. . . .

Last month, Egypt announced it had crushed a major Iranian plot and arrested 68 people. According to Egyptian media, four are members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), Tehran's principal vehicle for exporting its revolution.

Seven were Palestinians linked to the radical Islamist movement Hamas; one was a Lebanese identified as "a political agent from Hezbollah" by the Egyptian Interior Ministry. Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of the Lebanese Hezbollah, claimed these men were shipping arms to Hamas in Gaza.

The arrests reportedly took place last December, during a crackdown against groups trying to convert Egyptians to Shiism. The Egyptian Interior Ministry claims this proselytizing has been going on for years. Thirty years ago, Egyptian Shiites numbered a few hundred. Various estimates put the number now at close to a million, but they are said to practice taqiyah (dissimulation), to hide their new faith.

But in its campaign for regional hegemony, Tehran expects Lebanon as its first prize. Iran is spending massive amounts of cash on June's general election. It supports a coalition led by Hezbollah, and including the Christian ex-general Michel Aoun. Lebanon, now in the column of pro-U.S. countries, would shift to the pro-Iran column.

In Bahrain, Tehran hopes to see its allies sweep to power through mass demonstrations and terrorist operations. Bahrain's ruling clan has arrested scores of pro-Iran militants but appears more vulnerable than ever. King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa has contacted Arab heads of states to appeal for "urgent support in the face of naked threats," according to the Bahraini media.

The threats became sensationally public in March. In a speech at Masshad, Iran's principal "holy city," Ali Akbar Nateq-Nuri, a senior aide to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, described Bahrain as "part of Iran." . . .

Iran-controlled groups have also been uncovered in Kuwait and Jordan. According to Kuwaiti media, more than 1,000 alleged Iranian agents were arrested and shipped back home last winter. According to the Tehran media, Kuwait is believed vulnerable because of chronic parliamentary disputes that have led to governmental paralysis.

As for Jordan, Iranian strategists believe the kingdom, where Palestinians are two-thirds of the population, is a colonial creation and should disappear from the map -- opening the way for a single state covering the whole of Palestine. . . .

Arab states are especially concerned because Tehran has succeeded in transcending sectarian and ideological divides to create a coalition that includes Sunni movements such as Hamas, the Islamic Jihad, sections of the Muslim Brotherhood, and even Marxist-Leninist and other leftist outfits that share Iran's anti-Americanism.

. . . Tehran plays a patient game. Wherever possible, it is determined to pursue its goals through open political means, including elections. With pro-American and other democratic groups disheartened by the perceived weakness of the Obama administration, Tehran hopes its allies will win all the elections planned for this year in Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories.

"There is this perception that the new U.S. administration is not interested in the democratization strategy," a senior Lebanese political leader told me. That perception only grows as President Obama calls for an "exit strategy" from Afghanistan and Iraq. Power abhors a vacuum, which the Islamic Republic of Iran is only too happy to fill. . . .

But that is hardly the end of it. Iran is also resuming operations in Iraq, a country Iran has long sought to turn into another Lebanon, with Shia militias controlling the country and under the control of Iran. In Iraq, with the U.S. having announced an imminent withdrawal and moving out of the cities, you may recall a series of suicide bombings last week aimed at Shia civilians. Those bombings had all the hallmarks of a resurgent al Qaeda - except it now seems clear that these bombings were carried out at the direction of the Iranian Qods Force. This from the Long War Journal:

[Three] suicide bombers targeted Iranian pilgrims in Baghdad and Diyala. Three suicide attacks resulted in scores of dead Iranians as the bombers detonated near Shia religious shrines. The Iranian government blamed the US and Israeli intelligence for the attacks.

. . . But the US has found evidence of Iranian-backed Mahdi Army leaders conducting attacks that were designed to mimic al Qaeda suicide bombings.

. . . US military officers believe that Iran is ramping up its operations inside Iraq after its surrogates suffered a major defeat at the hands of the Iraqi military during the spring and summer of 2008.

. . . The US and Iraqi military believe the Special Groups are preparing to re-initiate fighting as their leaders and operatives are beginning to filter back into Iraq from Iran. On Feb. 4, Lieutenant General Lloyd Austin, the deputy commander of Multinational Forces Iraq, said that Iran continues to arm, fund, and train the Special Groups, and that munitions traced back to Iran continue to be uncovered in Iraq. Recent intelligence and the finds of new Iranian caches "lead us to believe that Iranian support activity is still ongoing," Austin warned.

Read the entire article. None of this should come as a surprise since the deeply repressive Iran is mortally threatened by an Iraq on its borders that operates with an open democracy and adherence to the apolitical "quietest" school of Shia'ism.

Dwarfing all of this is the problem of Iran's determined drive towards the creation of a nuclear arsenal. It is significantly destabilizing the Middle East and, as I wrote previously:

. . . [It] has already initiated what promises to be a nightmare of nuclear proliferation. "Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait, the UAE, Yemen, Morocco, Libya, Jordan and Egypt have indicated an interest in developing nuclear programs, with Israeli officials saying that if these countries did not want the programs now for nuclear capabilities, they wanted the technology in place to keep "other options open" if Iran developed a bomb." According to a recent study initiated by Senator Lugar, "the future Middle East landscape may include a number of nuclear-armed or nuclear weapons-capable states vying for influence in a notoriously unstable region."

And then of course is the threat that a nuclear armed Iran intrinsically poses. According to Bernard Lewis, the West’s premier Orientalist, Iran's theocracy operates outside the constraints of Western logic. The concept of Mutually Assured Destruction (MADD) that worked against the Soviet Union and with other nuclear armed nations is not assured of working with a theocracy whose messianic rulers welcome the carnage that will presage the coming of the hidden Imam. And to add to that is the threat that Iran could well provide nuclear materials to terrorist groups in order to conduct attacks, such as dirty bombs, that could not necessarily be traced back to Iran. Such a scenario would be completely in keeping with the historical activities of Iran's theocracy.

Obama and the left did their level best to insure that President Bush refrained from even the threat of force against Iran. This is Obama's problem now. Unfortunately for us, Obama's only answer is to embrace soft-power pacifism as the only American option. Highlighting this was Sec. of Def. Gates testifying before Congress the other day to the effect that the military option is off the table as likely ineffective and that the strategy the Obama administration intends to pursue are sanctions and talks to convince the mad mullahs that their nuclear program will "spark an arms race that would leave the Islamic republic less secure." As Michael Ledeen comments:

Gates’ other two statements–first, that sanctions are a better bet, and second, that we have to “convince” the mullahs that nukes are actually bad for them–are even sillier. I don’t think sanctions have ever deterred an enemy from actions they deemed valuable, and I don’t know a single serious person who believes that we’re going to talk the Iranians into abandoning their quest for the bomb.

Ledeen suspects, based on some other obviously questionable statements made by Gates in his testimony, that Gates deliberately watered down the facts and his assessments so as not to upset the Iranians while a massive back channel effort is underway to bring them to the negotiating table.

The problem with this approach of walk softly and carry no stick is that, just as did Britain and France in the 30's, we are setting the stage for an ever more deadly - and seemingly inevitable - confrontation with a hyperaggressive power and we do so at a point when that power can still be deterred with force or the threat of force. On this, I am in total agreement with Newt Gingrich, who comments on all of the above plus Obama's perceived coldness towards Israel:

Former US House Speaker Newt Gingrich on Sunday blasted the Obama administration for setting itself on a collision course with Israel and endangering the Jewish state.

"They are systematically setting up the most decisive confrontation that we've ever seen," the leading Republican politician told The Jerusalem Post, referring to news reports about the administration's approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

"There's almost an eagerness to take on the Israeli government to make a point with the Arab world," he said, speaking to the Post ahead of his speech before the American Israel Public Affairs Committee's annual conference.

He called US President Barack Obama's program of engagement on Iran a "fantasy," and his Middle East policies "very dangerous for Israel." He summed up Obama's approach as "the clearest adoption of weakness since Jimmy Carter." . . .

Read the entire article.

Update: Soccer Dad has done a post comparing the Israeli and U.S. views on Iran with, as always, the Palestinian issue making a cameo appearance. I think Soccer Dad's conclusions are spot on:

American interests in the Middle East are threatened by Iran. The United States must marshal its allies to fight Iranian designs. The Israeli view of the situation - that Iran is the major source of instability in the Middle East - is largely in agreement with the State Department's latest analysis. So the question is whether the Obama administration will allow itself to be distracted by pretending that pressuring Israel will make handling the Iranian challenge easier or whether it will heed the State Department's analysis and give priority to the Iranian threat.

Read the entire post. My sense is, unfortunately, that the Obama administration is wholly invested in the latter option.

Robert Avrech, at Seraphic Secret, has posted on Israel's preparations for an attack on Iranian nuclear facilities. As he points out, this will not be a repeat of the small sortie that undertook a similar mission against Iraq. It will be a large and complex operation, and he forecasts few consequences beyond a worldwide, and very private, sigh of relief:

The Israeli strike on the Persian nuclear facilities will not be a small operation of a three or four F16's. It will be a robust strike with massive cyber attacks on the Persian air-defense systems, dozens of attack jets, rescue planes, AWAC's, and almost certainly special forces on the ground in Iran directing air strikes. The world will publicly condemn Israel, but in private these same people will breathe huge sighs of relief. The only people who want the Persians to go nuclear are—what a shock—the Persians, and rabid leftist Jew-haters who hide behind the fig-leaf of, ahem, academic anti-Zionism.

Read the entire post. Our window of opportunity to fan the flames of regime change in Iran before they acquired a nuclear weapon passed long ago. A nuclear Iran is too great a danger to literally the entire civilized world to allow. It would be the equal of Hitler having a nuclear arsenal at his disposal on January 1, 1939. Moreover, the proliferation nightmare Iran has already kickstarted throughout the Middle East likewise cannot be allowed to continue. Obama's plans for "aggressive diplomacy" will only be used by the regime to buy time to strengthen its position. Either we should lead a strike against Iran's nuclear facilities or we should give full support to such an Israeli action.

No comments: