Iran is the Soviet Union
National Review - By Lt. General Thomas McInerney & Maj. General Paul Vallely
May 20, 2004
In many aspects, Iran seems a more formidable enemy than Iraq. It has a larger population, a more challenging terrain, and a military not degraded by years of sanctions. That said, Iran is very likely to fall more easily than Iraq did, because Iran's domestic opposition is developing into a serious threat to the regime.
Iran reminds us of the Soviet Union circa 1989. It is a large country with a huge population (more than sixty-eight million), and it should be a rich country, sitting as it does on huge reserves of oil. The country's wealth, however, does not make it down to the majority of Iranians. Instead, approximately 40 percent of Iranians live in poverty, because the clerics who control Iranian political and economic life siphon off much of the national income for their own uses.
The Constitution of the Soviet Union promised numerous rights to its citizens. Likewise, the Iranian constitution presents a façade of political freedom. It has an elected parliament and a democratically elected president. The catch, however, is that the constitution also vests all ultimate power in an nonelected body of six clerics and six religious lawyers, the Guardian Council, and the post of Supreme Ruler, a cleric chosen by another nonelected body, the House of Experts.
For many years, the Islamic Republic apparently was popular within Iran. However, over time, many Iranians have come to oppose the theocratic nature of the Iranian state and resent the concentration of political and economic power in the hands of the mullahs, their families, and their cronies. Among the youth of Iran there are many who find Western political forms and even elements of Western culture more attractive than the political and cultural construct offered by the mullahs. In fact, judging from recent political developments in Iran, it appears that the rule of the mullahs survives only because they manipulate Iran's political process. Democratic reform won't happen naturally in Iran because the mullahs probably will block it, using their constitutional power and, if that fails to stem the tide of democratization, the quasi-official paramilitary forces at their command, their own versions of the militias and "fedayeen" of Ba'athist Iraq. It cannot be denied, however, that the people of Iran are ready and eager for it. The broadly popular Iranian movement in favor of democracy deserves our support for three simple reasons: the Iranian people want to be free, they deserve to be free, and the Web of Terror will greatly diminish when they are free.
For these reasons, the United States and other free nations should offer the democratic opposition everything we can to help them spread their message: satellite phones, computers, fax machines, even satellite radio and television stations, Voice of America broadcasts, and so on. Our goal should be to help the democratic opposition achieve the same impact on Iran that Solidarity had in Communist Poland. Our president should make it clear that our country stands behind the ambitions of the Iranian people for freedom. And if we succeed in creating a stable, democratic Iraq, the president's words will have a very tangible meaning for the people in Iran.
As encouraging as the growing strength of the pro-democracy movement in Iran is, we cannot wait for moral suasion and quiet diplomacy to have some effect on the mullahs. They are a key strand in the Web of Terror, and their nuclear ambitions are dangerously close to fulfillment.
The Iranians insist that their nuclear program is devoted to civilian purposes, to provide electricity. In September 2003, however, inspectors of the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency reported that they had discovered highly enriched (weapons-grade) uranium on equipment at an Iranian nuclear site. This discovery and other reports concerning the Iranian nuclear program, including some that we heard directly from Israeli and Indian diplomats brings into question the CIA's oft-cited analysis that Iran would have nuclear weapons in two to three years. We remember all too well the shock that occurred when, after the 1991 Persian Gulf War, international inspectors discovered that Saddam Hussein's nuclear program was much farther along than prewar intelligence estimates had claimed. We also now know thanks to Libya's about-face on its WMD programs that Libya was much farther along in developing nuclear weapons than anyone imagined. There is no reason to be sanguine and there is every reason to be worried about how far Iran has gone and is going in its nuclear program.
If Iran develops nuclear weapons, so might other countries in the region. Saudi Arabia, for instance, already has as many as fifty Chinese-made intermediate-range ballistic missiles. Saudi Arabian officials have met with Pakistan's President Musharraf, and, as we recently discovered, Pakistan has a history of selling nuclear technology and nuclear know-how, including apparently to Iran, North Korea, and Libya. We have no way of knowing what the Pakistani nuclear establishment might have sold to Riyadh in the way of equipment, advice, and documents related to nuclear weapons or the Pakistani army might have exchanged as a quid pro quo for Saudi financial support of the Taliban and Pakistan-sponsored Islamist rebels in Kashmir. It is imperative that Pakistan disclose all of its nuclear proliferation dealings with other countries.
More important is the question of Israel's reaction to Iran's nuclear weapons program. On January 4, 2004, the Israeli Defense Minister, Shaul Mofaz, an Iranian-born Israeli, spoke to the Iranian people via a radio broadcast. Speaking in his native Farsi, General Mofaz bluntly told his listeners that Israel would not accept an Iranian nuclear bomb. Only a couple of weeks later, we met with Israeli diplomats who underlined Mofaz's comments. They also confirmed information we received in 2003: Israel considers a preemptive strike against Iran's nuclear facilities as a serious possibility. There is precedent for such a strike. In 1981, in a brilliantly planned and executed attack, the Israeli Air Force destroyed Iraq's French-built Osirak nuclear reactor, an act that was publicly condemned and privately welcomed in the region and around the world.
In Rowan Scarborough's book, Rumsfeld's War, it was revealed that the Israeli defense forces have eighty-two nuclear weapons as part of their nuclear deterrence force. In our research for this book, we discovered that a group of countries, led by Israel and the U.S., had been working since 1981 on a mega-secret project to develop and deploy a weapon system that can neutralize nuclear weapons. The highly advanced, space-deployable, BHB weapon system, code-named XXXBHB-BACAR-1318-I390MSCH, has extraordinary potential and is a key part of the West's deterrence strategy. For the past twenty-five years, the project and the scientists involved in it were kept in strict secrecy and their existence denied. The scientists rejected Nobel Physics prize and Nobel Peace prize nominations and have been repeatedly and deliberately the subject of intense military disinformation through the media in order to divert attention from their highly secretive work. In 1981, when CIA director William J. Casey signed onto the SDI (Strategic Defense Initiative) a missile defense shield against incoming nuclear warheads he gave the green light for the technology's development for deterrence purposes and peaceful use only. Although we have only limited information, it appears that Iran's rapidly developing nuclear capabilities could be neutralized and rendered obsolete, as could the capabilities of other rogue countries.
Moreover, Iran continues to be a major state sponsor of terrorism with such clients as Hezbollah, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Authority. Iranian support of these groups is coordinated by agents of Iran's Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (also known as the Pasdaran), organizations that have been used by the mullahs to export Iranian-style Islamic revolution throughout the region for decades. In early January 2004, an American intelligence officer confirmed to us that there are also al-Qaeda operatives in Iran and Iran has refused to turn over these terrorists to the United States.
A pro-Western, democratic regime in Iraq is, obviously, a threat to the Iranian mullahs' legitimacy because it would provide a rallying point for Iranian exiles and would-be democratic reformers. If the mullahs continue to run Iran, they will try to destroy a democratic Iraq. It was not a surprise, therefore, when we learned from a CIA officer that the MOIS already is active in the Shi'ite areas of Iraq, often in support of extremist Shi'ite clerics. We cannot tolerate Iranian support for terrorism, including attempts to subvert Iraq. But most of all, we cannot tolerate Iran's development of nuclear weapons.
The president must first inform Iran in the bluntest language possible that developing nuclear weapons is a red line it cannot cross. The president should not only immediately invoke his statutory authority to impose sanctions against corporations that do business with Iran's oil industry, but also encourage foreign governments to do the same. Japan needs to be encouraged to crack down on its corporations by a direct appeal to its self-interest: Every Japanese corporation that invests in Iran's oil industry is making a de facto investment in Iran's nuclear weapons cooperation with North Korea and North Korea has Japan as a target. Likewise, the United States must urge Russia and Germany to pull their support from Iran's civilian nuclear program; the technology and know-how is too easily transferred to weapons programs. It might be worth approaching France with a request to restrict its support of Iran's nuclear program if only to give the world another example of the French government's boundless venality.
The United States must prepare to approach the UN Security Council with a draft resolution for a total economic embargo on Iran, the seizing of Iranian assets (to be held in trust for future Iranian government), and a strict naval quarantine in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz. The United Nations would lift the embargo only when the Iran government dismantles its nuclear weapons program under the supervision of international inspections. Libya (and before Libya, South Africa) has given Iran an example to follow on how to dismantle a nuclear weapons program in a way that meets international standards of verification. Iran would be required to surrender or destroy all equipment needed to produce fissionable materials (highly enriched uranium and plutonium), all long-range ballistic missiles, and all cruise missiles; release all documents related to its nuclear weapons program; and expel all foreign scientists, technicians, and engineers involved in nuclear weapons design, development, and production. Because the French or Russians are likely to veto or, at least, threaten to veto such a Security Council resolution, the United States should be ready to impose these conditions on Iran with a coalition of our own. If that coalition is, in the end, composed solely of the United States, the Gulf States, Great Britain, Australia, Japan, and India, it would be enough.
A strict "no sanctuary" policy regarding terrorists is an essential part of the global strategy against terrorism. Therefore, the United States should be prepared to give Iran another dose of strong antiterror medicine by using airpower to strike terrorist sanctuaries within Iran. If Iran allows al-Qaeda or other jihadist groups to set up shop or take refuge within its borders, it must pay the price of being an accessory to and abettor of terrorism.
The Iranian mullahs' support for terrorism, their repression of their own people who so obviously yearn to be free, and their appalling human rights record are reasons enough to change the regime. Their ambitious nuclear weapons program makes regime change in Iran more than desirable; it makes it necessary now. And to achieve that, we should deploy every lever we have diplomatic, economic, and even military until we get the necessary result.
Iran is the Soviet Union
National Review - By Lt. General Thomas McInerney & Maj. General Paul Vallely
May 20, 2004