Lebanon’s Hezbollah terrorists marching with flags 370.
(photo credit: Jamal Saidi/Reuters)
LONDON – The Iranian regime’s genocidal threats toward Israel and the European
Union’s failure to list Hezbollah as a terrorist organization shaped many of the
panel discussions at a one-day conference in London last week on “Iran and the
It is a “very bad thing that Hezbollah can
operate in Europe regarding fund-raising and logistics,” US Ambassador Daniel
Benjamin, a former coordinator for counterterrorism at the State Department in
the first Obama administration, said. Hezbollah’s legal status in the EU
“undermines security goals,” he said.
“If you want to put a dent in
Hezbollah activities, it would be a positive thing” to outlaw the Lebanese
group, and an EU terror “designation would be a blow to Hezbollah’s legitimacy,”
The London-based Henry Jackson Society and the Washington-
based Foundation for Defense of Democracies think tanks hosted a series of panel
discussions with a who’s who of global experts on Iranian sanctions, human
rights in the Islamic Republic, and the use of military force to stop Iran’s
illicit nuclear program.
Mark Dubowitz, an authority on economic
sanctions, said there is a “stark reality that Iranian nuclear physics is
beating Western economic pressure.”
He urged rigorous enforcement of
existing sanctions and a trade embargo that would “bring Iran’s economy to
The goal, said Dubowitz, who is executive director of the
Foundation for Defense of Democracies, is to break the political will of Iran’s
Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, to compel him to end his drive to weaponize his
Dr. Alan Mendoza, the executive director of the Henry
Jackson Society, described Tehran’s rush to obtain nuclear weapons capability as
the “most pressing issue of our time.”
Dr. Michael Broer, a senior
nonproliferation and nuclear arms control expert at Germany’s Defense Ministry,
said a nuclear-armed Iran would “set up a cascade of nuclear proliferation” in
the Middle East region. A nuclear Tehran “allows Iran to pursue its aggressive
policies toward its neighbors,” he warned.
Rafael Bardaji, a former
special adviser to former Spanish prime minister Jose Maria Aznar, cited an
example of Iran’s lethal anti-Semitism: A 2001 meeting between the then-Spanish
prime minister and the supreme leader of Iran.
Bardaji, who attended the
meeting with Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, said when Khamenei was asked what his
role within the Islamic Republic is, he responded: “To set Israel on
Bardaji raised the anti-Israel ideology of Khamenei at the panel
discussion on how to tackle the Iranian threat in 2013 and the policy
Iran’s rhetoric about dissolving the Jewish
state “is in their nature,” Bardaji said.
“As we think through the
likelihood of arriving at a good negotiated solution with Iran, and the
possibility of persuading and pressuring the supreme leader to abandon his
nuclear weapons program, it is worth keeping this rare encounter with him by a
Western democratic leader very much in mind,” commented Elliott Abrams, a senior
fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the US-based Council of Foreign Relations,
on his blog about Bardaji’s account of Khamenei.
Abrams spoke at the
London event and noted skepticism in certain sections of the US policy- making
establishment about the seriousness of the EU to tackle the Iranian threat. He
cited the example of Hezbollah.
“If they [European countries] can’t even
designate Hezbollah, how serious can they be taken,” he said.
panel discussion on “What if Sanctions Fail? Military Action vs. Containment,”
John Hannah, a senior Foundation for Defense of Democracies fellow and a former
national security adviser to US vice president Dick Cheney, said the
international community is “getting close to the end of diplomacy” but there is
still time to “let coercive diplomacy play out.”
He stressed a
paradoxical situation where there is the need for “the credibility of a military
threat” to avoid war. Hannah said, however, that in the event that sanctions and
diplomacy fail to persuade Iran, it is important to have the option of US
military action, preferably coupled with a coalition of governments, to knock
out Iran’s nuclear weapons sites.
Richard Perle, a fellow with the
Washington-based American Enterprise Institute, said an “interesting
possibility” is to make sanctions so onerous that the Iranian people change the
regime. He raised the policy prescription of “sanctions associated with regime
Perle said the number of military targets that would be needed
to destroy in Iran is not enormous and cast doubt on whether the Iranian
population would “rally around the government” in the event of a strike on
nuclear facilities, largely because the population is unhappy with the clerical
leadership.Benjamin Weinthal is a fellow with the Foundation for Defense