At Large

Iranian Intentions

Once again the West is only too happy to delude itself.

By 2.26.07

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A clamor is mounting internationally for the United States to step back from even intimating a threat to take military action to destroy Iran's developing nuclear weapon capability. "All options remain on the table" is attacked as American aggressiveness.

Accompanying this noise is not a belief that political and economic sanctions will work, but rather that any future Iranian nuclear arsenal could be "deterred" in a manner similar to what was accomplished regarding the USSR during the Cold War.

The Soviet Union, however, was run by a calculatingly logical secular dictatorship as opposed to Iran's mystical theocracy. That the latter's view of the world is skewed by radical religious perceptions of martyrdom and imperial vested right seems to have escaped this new breed of appeasers.

The fact is that the so-called moderate forces in Iran are just as committed to pushing Iran forward as a nuclear-armed nation as the radical leadership of President Ahmadinejad. In 1988 Ali-Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the man who is considered a more pragmatic, and thus moderate, alternative in Iranian politics was reported to have made the following statement addressing the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps:

"We should fully equip ourselves both in the offensive and defensive use of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons. From now on, you should make use of the opportunity and perform this task." (Quoted in Middle East Defense News, July 22, 1991.)

One could set aside what some might characterize simply as a typical strident tone for the benefit of a military audience, but some material realities would have to be ignored in order to do so. By 2002 the Iranian missile, the Shahab-4 (a version of the Russian SS-4 and North Korea's Taepodong-1) already was test-fired. Initially the missile was reported to be having trouble with its guidance system, but it is now operational. Under development are the Shahab- 5 and 6 (Taepodong-2) with capabilities ranging 4,000 km and beyond, which theoretically could hit targets as far away as Great Britain.

These are not missiles designed for conventional warheads. The Taepodong-1, on which the Shahab-4 is based, reportedly can carry a 1.2 ton warhead with a range of 2000+ km. Iran has been planning for long before the arrival on the scene of Ahmadinejad to become a power capable of projecting its nuclear strength anywhere in the Middle East. A full intercontinental ballistic missile potential is the next step. Those are technological facts, not hyperbole.

But that's not the way some wish to view the obvious. Former U.K. ambassador to Moscow and chairman of the Conservative PM John Major's joint intelligence committee, Sir Rodric Braithwaite, only last week chose to characterize warnings about Iran as "[t]errifying intelligence [that] is once again being trotted out to paint the threat in apocalyptic colors." One wonders what colors Sir Rodric would prefer for nuclear dangers emanating from a regime that sent tens of thousands of lightly armed old men and young teen age boys (of the Basiji) to their deaths across mine fields in futile assaults against entrenched regular Iraqi military units during the Iran/Iraq War.

Old-fashioned European appeasement would like to be accepted as reasoned non-ideological judgment when it is in fact nothing more than the ostrich strategy so well practiced by earlier generations. This is a trap into which an unfortunate number of Americans of both parties are falling.

It is convenient to dismiss warnings about Iran as the ranting of far right wing "neoconservative" political elements. It is another thing to ignore the consistent and well-studied intelligence assessments coming out of the normally reticent State Department as well as the now especially careful Pentagon led by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.

It would be nice to think of the theocratic autocracy that is Iran as simply misunderstood, God-fearing nationalism. The ambitions of Tehran, however, both religious and political, are quite clear to all who pay attention to their incessant theme that the U.S. wishes to take over Iran. This dissembling -- known in Shia philosophy as the principle of taqiyah-- is a convenient method of covering Iran's own intentions of regional hegemony.

Iran ultimately wishes to be recognized as a major power. The Iranians justify this as their historical right as both the center of contemporary Shia Islam as well as the heirs to Persia's ancient political position. Nuclear weapons are deemed essential to reclaiming the greatness of their world role. In their eyes this is merely a long overdue moment in history that has been prevented from coming to fruition by the West, in general, and now the Americans, in particular.

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About the Author
George H. Wittman writes a weekly column on international affairs for The American Spectator online. He was the founding chairman of the National Institute for Public Policy.