Friday, March 22nd | 15 Adar II 5779

March 28, 2012 11:28 am

Iran Must Be Stopped

avatar by John Bolton

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Iranian police. Photo: Rodrigo Javier.

Recent advances in Iran’s nuclear weapons  program show that  events  are  moving extraordinarily swiftly, as Tehran nears  the end  of its decades-long quest  to possess  a lethal  WMD capability. One  thing  is certain: If Iran  succeeds, the Middle  East  – and  the world – will be far more dangerous  and  unstable, with  substantially  increased prospects for further nuclear  proliferation. That is why we are facing difficult, risky, and uncertain decisions.

Iran has pursued nuclear weapons since the Islamic Revolution of 1979 overthrew the shah, replacing the monarchy with an authoritarian, theocratic regime.

The mullahs placed the nuclear program (camouflaged as a “civil nuclear power” project) under the increasingly powerful Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps  (IRGC),  a force independent of lran’s regular army, devoted  passionately to preserving the revolution.

Iran today is the world’s central banker for internation­al terrorism. It funds and arms terrorist groups worldwide, including Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in the Gaza Strip, Shia terrorists in Iraq,  and  the  Sunni Taliban and other  radical in Afghanistan.

In February, President Obama’s Director of National Intelligence James Clapper testified that Iran  even had  a “shotgun marriage, or marriage of convenience” with  al­ Qaida.

Given Iran’s global sponsorship of terrorism, a nuclear Iran could easily deliver nuclear weapons via ballistic missiles (which it has developed in cooperated with North Korea) and by providing them  to terrorists for use around the world.

Iran’s objectives in seeking nuclear weapons are clear.

First, Tehran prizes them as the ultimate trump card against Israel (the “little  Satan” in the words of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, leader  of the 1979 Revolution) and the United States  (the “great Satan”). President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has  called  for  Israel  to  be “wiped  off the map,” and  he has  speculated about  “a world without the United  States” or Israel.

Given  these  plainly stated intentions, if Iran  were  to achieve the capability to launch what former  Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon called  a “nuclear Holocaust,” only the  hopelessly naive would  not see Iran  as an existential threat to Israel,  and  as a grave terrorist menace to America. For the United States, Iran would not be a serious military risk, but it would  constitute a classic  example of an asymmetric threat, aimed  at our innocent civilians rather than military targets.

Second, nuclear weapons would give Iran a firm foundation for Middle East hegemony, and would make it a significant global power. In the centuries-old regional struggle between Persians, Arabs, and other ethnic groups, these weapons would dramatically shift the local balance of power. The  threat posed  by a nuclear Iran  would  permit it to dominate the  small  Arab  monarchies across  the  Persian Gulf, increase its already  significant presence, malign  influence  over Iraq,  and  challenge Saudi  Arabia  for dominance throughout the  entire theater. Iran’s reach would be not only political, but also economic, as its clout grew dramatically within OPEC, with potentially enormous consequences for the international price of petroleum and the West’s economy.

Third, nuclear weapons would provide Iran   and   its Shiite faith an enormous advantage in the struggle against Sunni Muslims for dominance within Islam. This battle is currently being fought out in Syria, where Iran’s  support  for the Assad  family dictatorship constitutes a proxy war against the Sunni majority. In Bahrain, a small island off Saudi Arabia’s coast (and once a province of an earlier Iranian empire), the Sunni Arab king rules a population that is 70 percent Shiite.  There, “democratic” reform could well bring a pro-Tehran regime to power.

Already, even before Iran acquires nuclear weapons, the Obama Justice Department has indicted IRGC officials for conspiring to kill the Saudi ambassador to Washington; one can imagine what Iran’s behavior will be once it crosses the nuclear finish line.

For these   reasons, Saudi   Arabia and the other oil-exporting nations of the Gulf Cooperation Council do not want Iran   to have nuclear   weapons any more than Israel does.

Many Westerners, whether or not intending to act as propagandists for Iran, downplay the threat, contending Iran would never actually use nuclear weapons. Some  argue  that  Iran  seeks nuclear  capabilities purely  for defensive  purposes, given  America’s massive atomic arsenal, and  the  nuclear assets   of  dangerous  neighbors  like Israel and Pakistan.

Of course, Iran itself, by joining the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), committed to eschew nuclear weapons – one of those ‘solemn treaty obligations” rogue states violate casually and with impunity.

But even more importantly, Iran does not actually need to use nuclear weapons to change the balance of power in the Middle. East (and globally) in profound way’s.

Consider, for example,   how Europe would have responded in the 1990s to the breakup of Yugoslavia, if President Slobodan Milosevic’s Serbia  had  possessed  nuclear weapons. Merely holding such a capability gives Iran an advantage its aggressive use of terrorism and powerful conventional forces along cannot provide.

Faced with dangerous consequences of a nuclear Iran, the United States and others have tried for decades to prevent it. Nonetheless, despite rhetoric, diplomacy, and economic sanctions, Iran has .made steady progress.   Tehran is now at the point where even Leon Panetta, Obama’s secretary of defense, said in January that Iran could fabricate a nuclear weapon “within about a year.”

Many analysts believe   it   could come sooner.

Why have we allowed Iran to come so close to its goal? Successive U.S. presidents – Bill Clinton, George  W. Bush,  and   now  Obama have  repeatedly put  their  faith  in diplomacy to prevent  Iran  from  becoming a nuclear power.

Obama said in his inaugural  address,  “we will extend a  hand  if you are willing  to unclench your fist.” But this has always been delusional. Iran was never going to betalked  out  of its nuclear program, no matter how many carrots were placed  before it.

Iran  understood that  Russia and China were  fully prepared to fly political cover for it in the U.N. Security Council and   elsewhere, and   that   it could  play “the  Israel  card”  by arguing  its  nuclear weapons were  purely defensive, a favorite line of Iran’s Western friends.

Of course,   it is  more  than   ironic that   these  Westerners are  justifying a  “defensive” nuclear  weapons  program  that  Iran  has repeatedly denied it even has.

During George W. Bush’s administration, Britain, France, and Germany repeatedly tried to persuade Iran to give up its uranium-enrichment efforts (a key element in the  nuclear fuel cycle, and the route to nuclear weapons through highly-enriched uranium).   Iran simply used the lengthy negotiation process to overcome the scientific and technological obstacles it faced.

In  2006, Hassan Rouhani, Iran’s former   nuclear  negotiator, disdain­ fully  and   publicly   declared: “While we were  talking  to the  Europeans in Tehran,  we  were   installing  equipment  in  parts  of the  [uranium conversion] facility, but  we still had a long way to go to complete the project.

“In fact, by creating a calm environment, we were able to complete the work at Isfahan.”

Iran’s successful strategy of deception shows   that  negotiations have costs  as  well  as benefits. Europe and the United States   – which   continuously supported and encouraged Europe’s diplomacy failed to recognize this.

Iran gained both time and  legitimacy,  and  made progress   toward obtaining nuclear  weapons. In return, the West gained nothing.

By 2006, faced with the potentially catastrophic failure of these negotiations, the Europeans and the United States turned to the U.N. Security Council to adopt economic sanctions against Iran. Russia, China, and other council   members, however,   watered    down   the   sanctions,   rendering them weak.  To be effective, sanctions must be comprehensive and swiftly applied and vigorously enforced, none of which has been true to date of the penal­ ties against Iran.

Even oil sanctions recently adopted by the Europeans, and financial- institution sanctions forced on the Obama ad- ministration by Congress, are filled  with  loopholes, exemptions,  and   waiver   provisions. Many key countries with  important oil and  other  business dealings with Iran,  such  as China, India, and  Turkey, have essentially said  they will simply  ignore  any  sanctions not  imposed by the Security Council.

Clapper testified to the   Senate in January that “The sanctions as imposed so far have  not  caused [the Iranians] to change their  behavior or their  policy.” Accordingly, all the spin and hype about  the  impact of sanctions  to date  has been  just that, with­ out any substance whatever.

Even now, the goal of Obama’s sanctions policy is simply to get Iran back to the negotiating table.

The administration does not even try to argue that sanctions will stop or roll back the  nuclear  weapons program  itself. What if diplomacy did resume? It may well be in Iran’s interest to restart negotiations, given its previous successes in buying time and political legitimacy. But what is the acceptable “compromise” between Iran, clearly striving to   acquire    nuclear weapons, and the West, which  wants to prevent  just that?  Iran gets to keep a, small nuclear weapons program? That is plainly unacceptable.

Iran gets to have a “peaceful” nu­ clear power program? That would be a fool’s paradise. Given  its  decades­ long  duplicity  and   complete  indigenous mastery over  the  nuclear  fuel cycle, Iran could “break out” of any commitment to purely  civil use  with relative ease.

International monitors could not prevent cheating, as rogue states like North Korea have shown, by hiding extensive nuclear weapons programs even with U.N. inspectors in-country. And if Iran expelled   the inspectors and   renounced the NPT,  as  Pyong­yang did in 2003, what then?

The unpleasant reality is that both diplomacy and sanctions have failed, are failing, and will fail to halt’s Iran’s steady march toward nuclearization. Indeed, the most likely outcome today is that  Iran  will achieve nuclear weapons, perhaps even earlier  than predicted by Defense Secretary Panetta. The only surprise is that its progress has been so stately and measured, thereby showing Iran  simply does not fear outside interference.

In February, on the anniversary of the Islamic Revolution of 1979, Ahmadinejad announced what was already suspected: advanced centrifuges were enriching uranium at  the  hardened . and  deeply  buried  centrifuge halls  at Fordo,  near  Qom,  and  that  Iran  had successfully fabricating fuel  rods  for the Tehran Research Reactor.

Could regime change, overthrowing the Islamic Revolution, succeed before Iran gets nuclear weapons? While   it   should obviously   be   our goal, regime change is not like turning a light switch  on or off. The IRGC brutally   suppressed   unarmed   civilians demonstrating against Iran’s obviously fraudulent June 2009 presidential elections, which gave Ahmadinejad a second  term.   Had earlier U.S. administrations worked more extensively and effectively to aid Iran’s opposition, President Obama might have been capable in  2009 of using the massive  popular unrest  in Iran  to overthrow the regime.

Unfortunately,  no  such   preparation  had  been  made,  and  Obama himself,  apart from  rhetorical flourishes,  did  little  to  oust  the  mullahs. Sanctions could facilitate regime change and warrant support for that reason. But regime change will not come in time to stop Iran from crossing the nuclear finish  line.

In fact, the  regime  is  wildly  unpopular. Economic mismanagement since 1979 (and not recent sanctions) has              thwarted                economic growth   in this   potentially powerful, wealthy country, creating shortages of goods and    services that   regularly prompt strikes  and other  disruptions.

Iran’s      young    people (those   under 30 constitute over two-thirds of the total   population)  are  educated    and    sophisticated, and    know    from    foreign media and their own travels that they could enjoy a vastly different lifestyle if the Islamic Revolution collapsed.

Finally, there is widespread ethnic dissatisfaction. Persians constitute only half of Iran’s people.  The Azeris, Kurds, Arabs, Baluchis, and   others have long  chafed   under discriminatory policies.

While  these  sources of discontent do not .coincide exactly, their very magnitude  shows   why   the   regime must  cling  to power  through military force,  which  it  is  perfectly  prepared to do. After all, the mullahs represent God’s view. Why worry about mere popular opinion?                                 .

The unfortunate reality is that the only real alternative to a nuclear Iran is pre-emptive military force to break its control over the nuclear fuel cycle. The Obama administration has made it plain that it does not plan  to take military action, which leaves Israel to take the initiative.

Israel  has twice before struck  preemptively  against  hostile  governments seeking nuclear weapons, first against Saddam Hussein’s Osirak reactor  outside  of Baghdad  in 1981, and then  in September  2007,  against a nuclear  reactor in Syria being constructed by North Koreans.

If anything, Israel may have already waited too long, by allowing Iran’s Bushehr reactor to be loaded with nuclear fuel rods and operations to begin,  thus  potentially  providing Iran with the plutonium  route to nuclear weapons.

Even more seriously, Iran may already have built deeply buried, hardened facilities beyond the reach of Israel’s military capacity.  Israel and the United States may be completely unaware of them.

There is no doubt that Washington could shatter Iran’s nuclear program, thus potentially buying years of valuable time. Israel acting alone, how­ ever, would be straining at the limits of its capacity.  And time is growing short as the window for a military option closes.

Israel does not have  to  destroy Iran’s  entire   nuclear  infrastructure, but only break it at key points. These include the little-publicized, but absolutely vital, Esfahan uranium-conversion plant, the uranium-enrichment halls at Natanz, and the heavy-water production facility and reactor under construction at Arak.

All but Natanz are above ground, and  even  Natanz’s  buried  facilities are well known,  having been subject to repeated IAEA inspection.

The highly sensitive centrifuges there are the key targets, not the physical structures.

Israel knows exactly what it must do to destroy or irreparably damage the centrifuges, even if the hardened steel-and-concrete works largely survive an attack. The Fordo nuclear facility is harder, but it can be severely impaired, its tunnel entrances closed, and repeatedly closed in subsequent months and years should Iran try re­ opening them.

Obviously, everyone worries about Tehran’s potential response, and a regime not rational in Western military terms is capable of almost anything. Careful analysis, however, shows that Iran’s  real options, post-attack, are limited. Retaliating against  U.S. military personnel  or facilities in the region (including Iraq or Afghanistan), or launching terrorist attacks  worldwide, would all invite a devastating  American  response – as would any Iranian  effort to blockade the Strait of Hormuz.

Iran’s most likely answer would be to unleash Hezbollah and Hamas to rocket innocent Israeli civilians, thus posing a fearful threat. That is why Israel must count on the prompt re­ supply of planes and ordnance lost or expended over Iran, so it can control the airspace over Lebanon and Gaza to thwart Hezbollah or Hamas.

While the Obama administration has implicitly threatened to with­ hold that resupply to pressure Israel against using force, Congress will overwhelmingly come to Israel’s side if it strikes Iran.  Nonetheless, even the risk of a delay in replenishment causes Israel enormous concern, obviously complicating its decision on whether to attack.

Panetta’s  recent  prediction  to The Washington Post that an Israeli attack would  be  in  the  April-June   period likely shows that private pressure has failed and that,  not squeamish about squeezing a close ally faced with an enormous  threat,  Obama  has turned to pressuring Israel publicly.

Contrary to the Obama view, how­ ever, the United States can and should support Israel, and there would be enormous public support to do so. But ideology, not strategy, drives Obama, and his antipathy to Israel is strong and deep.  He apparently fears an Israeli strike more than an Iranian nuclear weapon.

President Obama’s plan B is to contain and deter a nuclear  Iran. This is delusional. A regime prizing life in the hereafter more than life on earth does not play by classic deterrence theories. The Soviets’ atheist mindset in  the  Cold  War at  least  made  them more  sensitive to  entering the  darkness  of nuclear war, a sensitivity the mullahs do not register. The complexity of deterrence strategies obviously goes beyond simple psychology, but relying on deterrence against anti­ Western religious fanatics is not a winning play.

Moreover, Obama’s   decision to withdraw U.S. combat forces  from Iraq and radically shortening our time horizons in Afghanistan hardly  lends credence to an Obama “commitment” to long-term containment.

But even if, contrary to all the evidence, a nuclear Iran could be contained and deterred, that is still in­ sufficient. The nuclear threat doesn’t stop with Iran. Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey, and perhaps others in  the region  would  get  nuclear weapons if Iran  did.

Thus, in  a  relatively  short period of time  as these  things go, five to 10 years,  the  volatile  Middle  East  could have over half a dozen  nuclear weapons  states, an  inherently dangerous and  unacceptably risky outcome.

And,  of  course,  even  regime change that  results  in  representative government in  Tehran will not  allay fears of a nuclear Iran in Saudi Arabia or elsewhere.

Their incentive to obtain their own nuclear weapons will persist, thus emphasizing the imperative of stop­ ping Iran from getting nuclear weapons in the first place.

We are thus   down   to very unattractive options. Unfortunately, the choice is not between the world as it is today versus a world after a pre- emptive strike against Iran’s nuclear infrastructure. That choice would be easy. Unfortunately, however, the world as it is today is disappearing, soon to be replaced by a world where Iran has nuclear weapons.

The choice in reality, therefore, is between that nightmare world, and a world after a pre-emptive strike.  As dangerous and   hostile   as the world after a strike might be, a world where Iran has nuclear weapons would  be far more dangerous and  hostile.

Israel will soon have to make that choice, and America, either under Obama or under his successor, will have to deal with it.

Time will tell -and time may well be growing short.

John Bolton currently is a senior fellow with the American Enterprise Institute and a Fox News contributor.

This article was originally published by Newsmax.

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