Ignoring Iran

Mark Steyn has an excellent, but chilling, piece on the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran. The West has almost never correctly understood the intentions of the Iranians. Western intelligence utterly missed the downfall of the Shah, which was one of the most crucial events in the history of Islamist terrorism. Now, Steyn worries that we’re miscalculating the Iranian’s intentions about acquiring and using nuclear weapons:

The fatalists have a point. We may well be headed for a world in which anybody with a few thousand bucks and the right unlisted Asian phone numbers in his Rolodex can get a nuke. But, even so, there are compelling reasons for preventing Iran in particular from going nuclear. Back in his student days at the U.S. embassy, young Mr. Ahmadinejad seized American sovereign territory, and the Americans did nothing. And I would wager that’s still how he looks at the world. And, like Rafsanjani, he would regard, say, Muslim deaths in an obliterated Jerusalem as worthy collateral damage in promoting the greater good of a Jew-free Middle East. The Palestinians and their “right of return” have never been more than a weapon of convenience with which to chastise the West. To assume Tehran would never nuke Israel because a shift in wind direction would contaminate Ramallah is to be as ignorant of history as most Palestinians are: from Yasser Arafat’s uncle, the pro-Nazi Grand Mufti of Jerusalem during the British Mandate, to the insurgents in Iraq today, Islamists have never been shy about slaughtering Muslims in pursuit of their strategic goals.

Sadly, I think Steyn is largely right. We cannot allow the Iranian regime to possess nuclear weapons – the chances that they’ll use such weapons is intolerably high. We can’t just assume that when Mahmoud Ahmadinejad speaks of “wiping Israel off the map” he’s just playing around. The Iranians are probably the world’s most prolific supporters of terrorism. They are the main source of funding for Hizb’Allah and almost certainly sheltered members of al-Qaeda, including Saad bin Laden and Abu Mus’ab al-Zarqawi. Iran is not a stable state governed by rational actors – Ahmadinejad’s radical views had to have been known to Iran’s Guardian Council. Even “moderates” like former President Khatami have spoken openly about the need to utterly destroy Israel.

Our options in regards to Iran are limited – invasion has never been a viable military option, and wouldn’t have been even if we weren’t otherwise engaged in Iraq. Precision airstrikes may not be enough to stop the Iranian’s hardened nuclear facilities. Using bunker-busting low-yield nukes would be more effective, but would lead to massive repercussions against the United States. We can only hope that conventional weaponry can do the job well enough to prevent the Iranians from developing nuclear weapons.

Every year we delay puts the world closer and closer towards disaster. The idea that it will take Iran 10 years or more to develop a working nuclear weapon is hopelessly naïve – Ahmadinejad has admitted to developing a more efficient P-2 centrifuge design that would vastly accelerate Iran’s enrichment program.

Sooner or later, the world will have to do something about Iran – either taking out the regime or taking out the weapons. A diplomatic solution is always preferable, but there are no diplomatic avenues when you have a country that is in the iron grip of a group of committed fanatics. Ahmadinejad learned early on that the West can be easily cowed into submission through the use of violence. If we continue to send that message it is only a matter of time before an Iranian nuclear weapon is detonated in a Western city.

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