The mul­lahs’ stealth war

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary -

Ay­oung, for­eign pol­icy pun­dit on CNN made a com­ment re­cently that best ex­plains why Iran’s brazen march to de­velop nu­clear weapons con­tin­ues, un­abated by U.S. ef­forts to stop it. Asked about for­mer Vice Pres­i­dent Dick Cheney’s state­ment that the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion at one time con­sid­ered war with Iran, the pun­dit, with ob­vi­ous sar­casm, re­sponded that start­ing an­other war would have been a bril­liant move.

What is dis­con­cert­ing about this is the pun­dit’s naivete — un­for­tu­nately shared by most Amer­i­cans — that go­ing to war with Iran means we would be “start­ing” it. The re­al­ity is Iran has been at war with us for three decades. Much as stealth tech­nol­ogy hides an air­craft from radar’s view, our re­fusal to re­tal­i­ate against Iran hides its war against us from view.

If Amer­i­cans fully un­der­stood this, the Sept. 21 rev­e­la­tion that Iran has been build­ing a sec­ond ura­nium-en­rich­ment plant since 2007 and Tehran’s test-fir­ing six days later of short-range mis­siles should have evoked in­ter­na­tional out­rage. It should have had us fo­cus­ing on what th­ese Is­lamic ex­trem­ists have in mind next as they take a war they are fight­ing — but we are not — to its endgame.

This war has been deadly as Iran has claimed hun­dreds of Amer­i­can lives — all without ret­ri­bu­tion. It em­bold­ens the mul­lahs to con­tinue their quest for global hege­mony, which they see achiev­able only through Amer­ica’s and Is­rael’s de­struc­tion. Un­der­stand­ing this, as well as the apoc­a­lyp­tic vi­sion of Tehran’s lead­er­ship that such hege­mony only evolves from the ashes of world chaos, makes it clear what Iran’s endgame is — nu­clear war. And based on Is­lamic ex­trem­ists’ per­cep­tion of the bliss­ful re­wards to come in the af­ter­life, not even the threat of a U.S. or Is­raeli nu­clear re­tal­ia­tory strike will de­ter them from it.

In 1979, Ay­a­tol­lah Ruhol­lah Khome­ini’s road to power in Iran was paved by Pres­i­dent Carter’s il­lu­sion that Khome­ini was a hu­man­i­tar­ian. Mr. Carter pres­sured the shah to leave. De­cep­tion achieved, Khome­ini ripped off his Dr. Jekyll mask, re­veal­ing Mr. Hyde, bru­tal­iz­ing his own peo­ple and ter­ror­iz­ing the West.

Vi­o­lat­ing in­ter­na­tional law, he seized the U.S. Em­bassy in Tehran, tak­ing our diplo­mats hostage. Only a more force­ful U.S. pres­i­dent’s inau­gu­ra­tion prompted Iran to release them.

The U.S. Em­bassy seizure just tested the wa­ters as Iran’s mul­lahs sought to as­cer­tain if Amer­ica had back­bone. Dur­ing Pres­i­dent Rea­gan’s watch, Tehran struck for blood.

On the morn­ing of Oct. 23, 1983, 241 Amer­i­can lives were lost in the big­gest non-nu­clear ex­plo­sion since World War II when a sui­cide truck bomber at­tacked the U.S. Marine bar­racks in Beirut. Re­spon­si­bil­ity was claimed by the ter­ror­ist group Is­lamic Ji­had, serv­ing as a front for Hezbol­lah — an or­ga­ni­za­tion whose life­line di­rectly leads to Tehran. Yet the U.S. took no re­tal­ia­tory action.

On June 21, 1996, Hezbol­lah struck again. This time the tar­get was a build­ing hous­ing U.S. troops at the Kho­bar Tow­ers com­plex in Saudi Ara­bia. A nearby parked truck ex­ploded, killing 19 Amer­i­can ser­vice­men and wound­ing 372 oth­ers. Again Tehran’s fin­ger­prints were found. Again, no re­tal­ia­tory action was taken.

On Jan. 20, 2007, in the “bold­est and most so­phis­ti­cated at­tack in four years of war­fare” in Iraq, mil­i­tants — dressed and armed as Amer­i­cans, speak­ing per­fect English and driv­ing U.S. SUVs — in­fil­trated the pro­vin­cial gov­er­nor’s com­pound in Kar­bala, where U.S. and Iraqi of­fi­cials were meet­ing. The mil­i­tants at­tacked, tar­get­ing only Amer­i­cans. One sol­dier was killed, four taken pris­oner. Leav­ing with their cap­tives, the mil­i­tants headed for the Ira­nian bor­der. With Iraqi po­lice in hot pur­suit, they aban­doned their SUVs and uni­forms — but not be­fore ex­e­cut­ing their Amer­i­can cap­tives, found bound with gun­shot wounds to the head.

The at­tack had all the mark­ings of a sim­i­lar at­tack against Is­raelis on Le­banon’s bor­der by Hezbol­lah, trig­ger­ing the 2006 war. It is be­lieved the Kar­bala raid was prompted by Iran’s de­sire for U.S. hostages to ex­change for se­nior Ira­nian mil­i­tary leaders who had been cap­tured ear­lier by U.S. forces in Iraq.

De­spite the Kar­bala at­tack and Ira­nian sup­port for Iraqi mil­i­tants (which in­cludes arm­ing them with im­pro­vised ex­plo­sive de­vices to kill Amer­i­cans), no re­tal­ia­tory action against Tehran has been taken.

While many Ira­nian acts of vi­o­lence have been di­rected against Amer­i­cans, Tehran tar­gets other Western­ers and Is­raelis as well. Some of its mur­der­ous acts have re­sulted in in­ter­na­tional war­rants for the ar­rest of se­nior Ira­nian of­fi­cials. But, again, other states have been re­luc­tant to take re­tal­ia­tory action.

The dis­clo­sure of a sec­ond ura­nium-en­rich­ment plant and the test-fir­ing of short-range mis­siles — all just days be­fore Iran was sched­uled to meet with world leaders try­ing to dis­cour­age its nu­clear weapons de­signs — is very telling. It should con­vince even the most naive ob­server that Tehran’s mul­lahs care not what the world thinks, for Iran is com­mit­ted to pos­sess­ing nu­clear weapons.

Iran has been de­scribed as an oc­to­pus with ten­ta­cles reach­ing out to dif­fer­ent parts of the world, in­flict­ing acts of vi­o­lence. But the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity’s re­luc­tance to re­tal­i­ate against Iran only em­bold­ens the oc­to­pus to arm it­self with nu­clear weapons. When it does, Iran will use them — and the West’s re­tal­i­a­tion will come too late.

James Zumwalt, a Marine vet­eran of the Viet­nam and Gulf wars, writes of­ten on na­tional se­cu­rity and de­fense is­sues.

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