Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Bogie Ya'alon: Iran is the Most Dangerous Element to Regional Stability

by Moshe (Bogie) Ya'alon

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The discussions that began last weekend in Istanbul between the Western countries and Iran regarding the military nuclear program of the Iranian regime, should not placate any thinking person in the free world nor minimize the extent of the challenge that confronts us: while discussions are preferable to war as long as they are beneficial, Iran remains the most dangerous agent to the stability of the Middle East and the Western world. Moreover: Iran is already the most significant destabilizing factor in the region because it supports terror organizations in Iraq, Afghanistan, Bahrain, Yemen, Sinai, Lebanon and the Gaza Strip. Iran arms them, trains them and provides them with a stream of funds. Sometimes, as in Iraq, for example, it supported both Shi'ites and Sunnis when they were killing American soldiers before the withdrawal, and now Iran supports both Shi'ites and Sunnis in their battle against each other.

But Iran is not only active in those countries. Bishar Asad's murderous regime also enjoys Iranian support; the goal of this support is to leave the Syrian regime in place and prevent the dissolution of the axis of evil formed by Teheran, Damascus, Hizballah and Palestinian terror organizations. For years, Iran has been establishing sleeper terror cells in Western Europe, that will arise on command. South America, principally, but not exclusively Venezuela, serves as a center for terror representatives of Iran and its satellite, Hizbullah. This is the "back yard" of the United States, the "great Satan" in the eyes of Iran (Israel, along with the rest of the Western countries has won the title of "the little Satan"), and from there, their proxies will be able to smuggle in dirty bombs using drug dealers, for example, into states such as Texas, California and Arizona. The Iranian attempt to assassinate the Saudi Arabian ambassador in Washington proves their desire and ability to challenge the greatest superpower in the world.

Lately there have been those who have claimed that the Iranian regime is rational, and therefore must be dealt with accordingly when entering into negotiations with it or when considering a military attack. Rationality is not subjective: the president of Iran, Mahmud Ahmadinejad, has built a huge mosque and wide boulevards that will be able to accommodate the great crowd that will greet the Mahdi, the "hidden imam" (the messiah according to Shi'a Islam, who will appear when the whole world converts to Islam). He truly and completely believes this. In the eyes of his supporters he has done something rational. Very rational. Therefore, allowing people such as these to get their hands on nuclear arms threatens the stability of the world. Period.

When do regimes of this sort become rational? When they feel that their existence is threatened. Ahmed Yassin, a certified arch-terrorist, began to speak about a hudna between Hamas and Israel only after he understood that he was in our [Israel's] cross-hairs and that we would not hesitate to eliminate him (this actually happened while I was chief of staff of the IDF in 2004). The supreme leader of Iran, Ali Khameini, understood in 2003 that the continued progress of the Iranian nuclear program might lead to the downfall of the regime in Teheran. He watched the American invasion of Iraq and predicted their aggressive reaction to the attempts by the leader of Libya, Mu'ammar Qadhaffi, to become a nuclear power. This was enough for him to understand that Iran should suspend the project. A few years later he also discerned the weakening of American determination to deal with the Iranian nuclear project, and consequently gave instructions to continue the program at full speed.

The bottom line of the meeting that took place recently in Istanbul is that there will be a continuation of talks in the near future. This apparently serves the interests of both sides, but did not bring the issue to any kind of resolution. The good news is that the talks did not break down, and they are scheduled to continue next month. The bad news is that it seems that this situation is convenient to both sides, who, at present, are interested in drawing out the discussions without arriving at a decisive conclusion, each side for its own reasons.

Even now, I believe, it is possible to cause the regime in Teheran to give up its nuclear project by means of severe sanctions that will lead it to understand that it faces a dilemma: to obtain a nuclear bomb or to survive. The sanctions that were lately put in place on the Teheran regime are meaningful and the economic situation there is deteriorating, but the fact is that the Iranians still conduct themselves as if it doesn't affect them and they continue to promote the military nuclear project. Part of this is indeed done for tactical purposes, because of the negotiations that will begin at the end of the week in Istanbul. On the other hand, they also see that there isn't sufficient determination in the West to accelerate the implementation of the sanctions in such a way that will challenge the regime and to cause it to realize that if it does not change its ways, the end will be similar to the end of other rogue regimes in the Middle East.

For this reason the West, headed by the United States, must roll up its sleeves and prove that it has the determination to confront the Iranian regime even during an election year in the United States and even if the price of gasoline will rise temporarily (temporarily , because it will be possible to increase the production of oil in states like Saudi Arabia and Iraq and to use strategic reserves, in order to neutralize the effect of the decrease in Iranian oil). It is better to pay more for gasoline now and prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power, than to accept a nuclear Iran that will control all of the sources of oil, bring the principalities of the Gulf to their knees and fix prices of gasoline at an astronomical level according to their whim and thanks to the non-conventional weapons that it will possess. It is better to confront Iran now, first and foremost by putting in place crippling sanctions, isolating the Iranian regime in the international arena, supporting the opposition, and using the military option only as a last resort (a plan for which must be ready in the United States and the West), than to accept a nuclear Iran that will threaten world peace, because the reality of a nuclear Iran is even worse than what the effects of a military attack on Iran would be. And so, in one way or another, the nuclear ambitions of this non-conventional regime must be stopped.

And Israel? We do not need to take the lead, but we also must not ignore the subject or let it slip from the world agenda. We must hope that "the work of the righteous shall be done by others", but to prepare in accordance with the saying [of Hillel] "If I am not for myself, who will be for me?"

Moshe (Bogie) Ya'alon was Chief of Staff of the IDF from July 2002 until June 2005. He was part of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and became a Senior Fellow at the Adelson Institute for Strategic Studies at the Shalem Center Institute for International and Middle East Studies. He is presently Vice Prime Minister (alongside Silvan Shalom) and Minister of Strategic Affairs.

Translated from Hebrew by Sally Zahav


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

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