Stopping Iran

The West's making a grave mistake seeming to rule out all military options.

April 13, 2010 22:59
3 minute read.
Ahmadinjead inspects an Iranian nuclear power plant

Nuclear Power plant 311 AP. (photo credit: Associated Press)


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Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s push to achieve nuclear weapons capability must be thwarted. In an appropriate response to the existential danger of unmonitored nuclear proliferation and nuclear terrorism posed most notably by Iran’s uranium-enrichment project, US President Barack Obama is currently hosting a two-day summit on nuclear security attended by leaders of 46 countries. This is the largest meeting of its kind hosted by an American president since the 1945 San Francisco Conference created the United Nations and helped establish the post-war world order.

In an extensive interview with The New York Times last week, the US president said that “the biggest threat that we now confront is probably not an attack from a nuclear weapons state, but from nuclear terrorism and nuclear proliferation.” Though the president did not say so, Iran is the most likely candidate to facilitate such nuclear terrorism if it ever gets an opportunity.

Ahmadinejad, socialized in the 1980s into the ethos of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, is continuing the legacy of the Ayatollah Khomeini, whose global agenda aimed to destroy American hegemony in the Middle East and “wipe Israel off the map.” A unique aspect of this Shi’ite outlook is a dualistic division of the world into oppressors (the West) and oppressed (Third World countries), with radical Islam and the impoverished masses locked in an apocalyptic battle against the US and Israel, the Great Satan and its little brother.

Still more ominous, however, is the influence of Ahmadinejad’s mentor, Ayatollah Muhammad Taqi Mezhab-Yazdi, who has instilled in Iran’s president the conviction that Shi’ites can, and must, hasten the coming of the mahdi, or messiah – the 12th and final Hidden Imam – by advancing “the clash of civilizations,” Armageddon and the end of days by, for instance, precipitating a nuclear war.

In his book A Lethal Obsession, scholar of anti-Semitism Robert Wistrich argues that “Western decision-makers have not fully internalized the jihadist and eschatological dimensions of Iranian policy – the full implications of its underlying ideology, aspirations, and values.” As a result, economic sanctions, no matter how “crippling,” won’t work. Rational cost-benefit decision-making processes are not in play.

Perhaps that’s why at least three presidents – Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and now Obama – have so far failed to stop Iran’s push for nuclear capability. The Bush and Obama policies toward Iran, at least since 2005, are basically a continuation of the Clinton policy of presenting primarily economic incentives along with deterrents.

Ahmadinejad’s Iran seems to be on a different plane of consciousness altogether, in which profit-loss analysis is replaced by a bizarre and bloody eschatology. How does one explain comments in praise of suicide bombers made by Ahmadinejad in one of his first TV interviews after being elected president? “Is there an art that is more beautiful,” he asked, “more divine, more eternal than the art of the martyr’s death?” A president who so heartily glorifies martyrdom in public must be suspected of holding religious convictions that immunize him to threats such as sanctions.

AGAINST THIS backdrop, it is all the more worrying that the option of stopping Ahmadinejad’s Iran by sheer military force seems to have been all but scrapped.

Although he was pressed in the above-mentioned interview with the Times, for instance, Obama refrained from stating clearly that he was still considering a military option. Meanwhile, Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev has now warned that an Israeli air strike on Iran would be “a disaster” – effectively seeking to rule it out as an option.

French Prime Minister Nicolas Sarkozy has also called a possible IAF strike on Iranian nuclear facilities “a disaster.” However, unlike Medvedev, Sarkozy seems to be using the threat of a unilateral Israeli attack as a means of goading China and Russia into approving strong sanctions.

The US and other Western nations are making a grave mistake in seeming to rule out a last-resort military option – whether it is bombing Iran’s nuclear sites or blockading the Hormuz Straits at one extreme, or providing arms and cover aid to the country’s many anti-regime groups at the other. For its part, while urging the West to hold to a credible military option, Israel should do nothing to calm fears that an IAF attack is a real possibility. It might be the only hope of stopping Ahmadinejad’s Iran.

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