Wednesday, June 4, 2008

The real danger from Iran.

By Ami Isseroff

Israeli Prime Minister Olmert and Foreign Minister Tzippi Livni have delivered themselves of the now pro forma warnings against Iranian nuclear weapons. When they speak of Iran, the United States officials and presidential candidates are likewise all focused on the nuclear weapons issue, as if that is the only threat posed by Iran and the most urgent one. The ultimate option for dealing with that threat which is debated most heatedly is an air strike against nuclear weapons facilities.

Of course, the prospect of nuclear weapons in the hands of Iranian Mullahs is frightening. But why is it frightening? The United States, Russia, Britain, the USSR, India, Israel and Pakistan all have nuclear weapons, and North Korea probably does as well. So what? The prospect of Iranian nuclear weapons is frightening because of what the Iranian government - the Islamic Republic of Iran - stands for, and because of the goals that it announces day and night, and its apparent readiness to achieve them by all means possible: a world without Zionism and America, an international Islamic caliphate, a Middle East dominated by Iranian radical Shi'ism.

Iran after an air strike that destroys all of its nuclear facilities, would still be Iran ruled by religious fanatics with the same program. Iran would still have its IRGC, its Hezbollah, its Hamas and its Islamic Jihad.. Iran would also have a very much bigger chip on its shoulder, and it would have earned sympathy in the Middle East among the anti-American crowd as a victim of the United States. No Arab regime, and no Muslim regime, regardless of its real opinions, could openly support an attack on another Muslim country by outsiders.

But Iran is not just, or primarily, dangerous because it might develop nuclear weapons. Iran is dangerous because it is trying to undermine the United States and the west, and allies of the United States, including but not limited to Israel. The nature of the Iranian program was dramatically illustrated only a few weeks ago in the Hezbollah takeover of Lebanon, quietly blessed by the Doha agreement. While most of the Arab world and the west looked on with benign unconcern, some Arab clerics voiced their deep concerns. Iran's supreme leader has again insisted that Iran is not seeking to make nuclear weapons, and that just might well be true. So what? Imad Moughnieh and Hassan Nassrallah and their activities represent the real danger from Iran.

The nature of the Iranian ideology and the threat it poses is described in a recent book by Ronen Bergman - "Point of no Return" (in Hebrew) - the English version is "The Secret War with Iran" - the 30 year struggle with the west. Bergman emphasizes that many analysts believe Israeli and American emphasis on the Iranian nuclear program is misplaced. The threat posed by Iranian terror activities and propaganda is underestimated. The nuclear program is only a means to an end, the end being domination of the Middle East. In a sense, destruction of Israel and propaganda against Israel is also only a means to an end, since it is intended to position Iran as the champion of Muslim and Arab rights, allowing it to occupy the seat of leadership once occupied by Nasser's Egypt. Since the Khomeini revolution in 1979, and especially after it emerged from the Iraq-Iran war, Iran has pursued its goals of combating the West, Israel and moderate Islam with singular persistence, by ingenious and effective means, most of which do not involve spectacular hi-tech weaponry. The situation is analogous to the misreading of terrorist groups before 9-11, when the US was obsessed with the idea that terrorists were seeking nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. Huge resources were directed at this issue. In the end, Osama Bin Laden's devastating attack was carried out with inexpensive knives and simple primitive techniques. Hezbollah did not need any atom bombs to take over Beirut - only relatively primitive AK-47 assault rifles. This is the real life threat that is in place now. The preaching of Hassan Nassrallah and the suicide bombings and rocket attacks used to back it up are real and present dangers, whereas the nuclear threat is only an emerging one.

And what if Iran "only" attains the nuclear fuel cycle and renounces nuclear weapons? What if they strike a deal with the west - no nuclear weapons, in return for economic support? Will Iran become a benign country? Picture Iran with no nuclear weapons, but as rich as Germany or France, and still committed to overthrowing the influence of moderate Islam, the west and Israel. Picture a world in which Iran controls the price of oil and decides who gets it, and installs radical Shi'a regimes in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and other countries. Yet they haven't dropped a single atom bomb on anybody and they do not have any bombs. That scenario is far more realistic and probable than a nuclear attack on Israel, and it represents a devastating threat. Iran already controls Syria and Lebanon, and they bid fair to control the Palestinian authority. Who is next?

I do not offer solutions here. The first step in solving the problem is to understand the real danger. By offering to "trade" other concessions for a pledge not to develop nuclear weapons, and by focusing only on this issue, the west is playing into the hands of Iran.

Ami Isseroff

Original content is Copyright by the author 2008.

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