May 29, 2007
Our Fleeting Chance to Stop Iran's Nukes Without WarBy James Lewis
Last Friday the Wall Street Journal's Opinionjournal.com had an important intervew with Benjamin Netanyahu. Sunday the Washington Post published its own editorial on Iran, systematically missing every single point Netanyahu made a few days before. Writes the WaPo,
But Netanyahu's vital point was that large-scale, private, government-facilitated disinvestment in Iran may be far more effective than just another UN Security Council Resolution. We can do far more good through the US Congress and the fifty State legislatures by redirecting pension fund investments to less threatening countries than Iran. The US Treasury Department has worked effectively to cut down North Korea's mafia activities in Macao. Sunni Arab nations like Saudi Arabia swing major weight in international finance, and the Saudis' own necks are on the line if Tehran really bares its fangs. Those are the real levers of economic power, not just another watered-down UN Security Council Resolution that make it harder for a dozen top mullahs to travel abroad.
Now it's possible that the WaPo editorial was written many weeks ago, and the writer simply didn't know about the Netanyahu interview. But it is just as likely that the WaPo simply considers Netanyahu to be an Israeli conservative who can be ignored by the liberal foreign policy establishment and the next Democrat president. The Washington Post is not famous for its open-mindedness.
Netanyahu's message was urgent. Iran is getting closer and closer to nuclear weapons. They just bought mid-range ICBM's from North Korea -- simply by importing them. All the published CIA guesses about Iran's uranium enrichment may be wildly optimistic. A NoKo nuclear device could be flown to Tehran at any time, along with quantities of enriched uranium. The Iranians are known to be working with North Korea directly, and may be helping to finance Kim's military industry. World attention is focused on Iran's enrichment plant at Natanz, but Iranians are masters of sleight of hand. With North Korea dabbling in the nuclear black market and desperate for money, a single flight from Pyongyang to Tehran could bring Iran into the nuclear club in just one day.
Netanyahu's urgent message is therefore that we have one last chance of pressuring the martyrdom cult that controls Iran's 70 million people: That would be drastic economic arm-twisting. Netanyahu particularly believes that massive Western disinvestment in Iran may be effective in pressuring the regime, which is badly blundering economically. Ahmadi-Nejad was elected on promises of bringing oil riches to help Iran's poor people. So far, he has just brought them inflation and dangerous foreign adventures. Whether disinvestment would work is unsure; but it looks like the last, best chance for a peaceful resolution of the greatest danger in the world today.
Everyone concerned with Iran's martyrology should know these 1980 words of Ayatollah Khomeini, the Marx and Lenin of the cult:
Khomeini's utter contempt for the well-being of the Iranian people is a repeated theme of his writing; this is not a one-time throw-away line. Just look at how many people Khomeini was willing to sacrifice in the Iran-Iraq War --- which was indeed thrust upon him by another ruthless tyrant, Saddam Hussein. Palestinian suicide killers sometimes celebrate a symbolic wedding before going off to blow up the nearest pizza parlor filled with Jewish kids. When Khomeini's said, "I say let this land burn ... let this land go up in smoke..." he gave a solemn public promise of a similar national martyrdom commitment to fulfill his mad messianic vision.
The Washington Post apparently has never read up on the Khomeini cult, which mobilized thousand of teenagers to wear green plastic "Keys to Paradise" around their necks to walk into Saddam Hussein's minefields, using their bodies to clear the way for Islamic Revolutionary Guard assault troops. The WaPo seems to see Khomeini and his merry band as a kind of Muslim Jerry Falwell. But Ahmadi-Nejad and his boss, Ayatollah Khamenei, are both Khomeini acolytes and fervent believers in national martyrdom. As Ahmadi-Nejad always says, "Martyrdom is powerful."
This is something the Washington Post will never get, until it sees a mushroom cloud rising over the White House; and then it will find a way to blame George W. Bush for everything.
Contrary to the WaPo editorial, therefore, Iran is not going to be just another mildly annoying member of the nuclear club. On the contrary, the Khomeini cult is challenging the strategic foundations of international stability since Stalin exploded his first atomic bomb in 1956. It defiantly proclaims its willingness to die and kill people in the millions for the greater glory of Allah.
Netanyahu understands the Iranian threat very well, having studied it for decades, along with a good part of the Israeli political and military elite. The Washington Post does not. Nor does Nancy Pelosi, who tried to reach out to Iran via the Syrians, and apparently also to Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood -- who were no doubt delighted to see another useful idiot from the West. The foreign policy elite of the Democrat Party is salivating at the thought of coming back into power, and they haven't had a new thought in their heads since Jimmy Carter. They are utterly stuck in a dysfunctional view of foreign policy -- vide Madeleine Albright, Sandy Burglar, Joseph Wilson IV, Jimmy Carter, Nancy Pelosi, Al Gore, Sylvestre Reyes, the whole dreadful gang of bunglers.
As George W. Bush has said time and time again to a deaf and blind media, the greatest danger facing us is a fast-growing nexus between terrorism and nuclear weapons. In Iran that danger is now very close. By all means the saner nations of the world should try economic leverage, the sooner the better. The State of California could implement a disinvestment provision for its massive state and local employee retirement plans. Action is urgently needed, today rather than tomorrow.
But if economic pressure does not work, the West has the means to change the suicide-killer regime in Tehran before the cancer cells metastatize. With Sarkozy in power in France, Merkel in Germany, and probably Gordon Brown in Britain, Europe may finally be able to see the depth of the danger. Under Bush-Cheney-Rice, the United States appears to be fully aware: Don't take the current talk about a diplomatic opening as more than a tactical zigzag. Israel is still hoping that "the world" will take care of the threat from Islamic fascism equipped with a bomb, and its parliamentary coalition is in flux. Russia's cooperation can probably be bought.
Of course there are plenty of Iranians, including some in the regime, who can see reality as well. Yet the most dangerous zealots are now in charge of the power centers in Iran, the ministries, the universities, the police, the military and judiciary, and soon perhaps, the very top position of Supreme Guide. They have been conducting purges ever since Ahmadi-Nejad came to power, and are currently beating Iranian women in the streets for "immodesty" in dress. These are all tests of the fascist power apparatus, including the street-brawling Basiji, designed to intimidate domestic opponents, to see how far they can be pushed. It is their operating mode; it is how they test everybody.
The liberal foreign policy establishment, like the Washington Post, is still in abject appeasement mode. It's certainly worth trying anything that may work, including diplomatic agreements. But promises won't cut it. It is very hard to tell at this point how much time we have left, because North Korea could cut short Iran's rush to nukes. US intelligence has always underestimated the speed of foreign nuclear programs. Once Iran has a few nukes dispersed to different locations, military intervention becomes prohibitively costly. There is a tide in the affairs of men, which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune. And there is a time when the flood has risen far too high, and decades of grave danger threaten the world.
It will take the most delicate, intelligent and courageous statesmanship to get the timing and tactics right. On this one, failure is not an option.
James Lewis blogs at http://www.dangeroustimes.wordpress.com/