(photo credit: Associated Press [file])
Iran could achieve nuclear weapons capability in one to two years, and the world must act collectively to stop Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's "sick boast" that he will wipe out Israel, Dr. Victor Davis Hanson, nationally syndicated columnist and policy adviser to US President George W. Bush, told The Jerusalem Post.
In this wide-ranging interview, Hanson, a classical scholar, Senior Fellow at the Stanford University's Hoover Institution and professor emeritus at California State University at Fresno, discusses Iran, Iraq, the Middle East and the West.
What steps should be taken on Iran by Israel, the United States, or the West in general?
I believe we have one to two years, a little more at best, so [the US] must up our military profile in the Gulf, pursue and enhance the UN sanctions, get the Europeans to stop selling this regime almost anything it wants (the EU is Iran's largest trading partner), work with neighboring Arab states, and collapse the price of oil to below $50 a barrel, which would cut off the petrol wealth of this corrupt and shaky regime.
How dangerous is an atomic Iran? Would they use the bomb?
No one knows exactly to what extent Ahmadinejad is typical of the current leadership. My guess is that he is seen as a useful pit bull whose barking whips up Islamic solidarity, but whose leash the mullahs are not ready to cut loose until they have the bomb.
This sort of extremist Persian Shia fervor nullifies classical deterrence. Would such madmen be willing to lose 40 million [citizens] so that the martyred would be in paradise and the survivors eternally boasting that the despised Persian Shi'ites were the true jihadists of Islam who took out the Zionist entity?
The world must act collectively; it cannot expect that 60 years after the Holocaust an Israeli prime minister will sit idly by while a Persian dictator first promises to wipe out the "one-bomb" state, and then proceeds to obtain the means to fulfill that sick boast.
Does US involvement in Iraq limit America's ability to deal with Iran's nuclear program?
It cuts both ways: having troops deployed nearby helps if they are winning, and the opposite if they are perceived as losing. Iran is terrified of a stable democratic Afghanistan, Lebanon, and Iraq near or on its borders, so we are in high-stakes gambit. We must not lose in Iraq. The consequences would be terrible.
I still think the US can stabilize [Iraq] - betting against the US military is not wise. We forget that going 7,000 miles into the ancient caliphate and fostering democracy in a climate of three decades of nightmarish terror isn't easily accomplished in four years.
What role can democratic reforms in the Middle East play in ending terrorism?
Ultimately, constitutional government will help to break the connection between corrupt autocracies and jihadists.
In the short term, we may see the election of terrorists like Hamas.
The Palestinians got their free elections; they voted; and now they must stew in their own juice. That's why it is critical not to give a dime to the Palestinian Authority Hamas government until [they] renounce their terrorist charter.
What explains the overwhelming criticism of Israel? What can Israel do to combat this?
Envy, mostly - how can fewer than seven million achieve what 500 million Arabs could not? Israel is successful, wealthy, and pro-American, the usual foci of the anger of those who need some psychological banshee to deal with their own sense of failure and inferiority.
Israel must continue to explain its democratic essence, its humanitarian accomplishments, and its willingness to treat future democratic Arab states as equals, but assume that such magnanimity will win it only contempt. It must always beware of tiring, of sinking under the Western maladies of cynicism and nihilism. Remember, for Europeans and Arabs, hating "Zionists" and "Israel" has become an acceptable way to hate Jews without the stigma of anti-Semitism.