Monday, November 29, 2004

The Australian: Michael Ledeen: Iran is too big a problem for Israel, US Must Fight Israel's Battles

The Australian: Michael Ledeen: Defusing the Iran dilemma [November 30, 2004]: "Michael Ledeen: Defusing the Iran dilemma

November 30, 2004
THE European "solution" to the threat of Iranian atomic bombs is likely to join the Mideast "peace process" as the most hysterical running gag in the history of show biz. Every few months, the elegantly dressed diplomatic wizards from London, Paris and Berlin race across a continent or two to meet Iranians dressed in turbans and gowns, and after some hours of alleged hard work, they emerge with a new agreement, just like their more numerous counterparts engaged in the "peace process".

The main difference is that the peace process deals seem to last for several months, while the schemes hammered out with the mullahs rarely last more than a week or two. Otherwise, it's the same sort of vaudeville routine: a few laughs, with promises of more to come.

The latest Iranian shenanigan may have set a record for speed. Last Monday, they announced they had stopped the centrifuges that were enriching uranium. Then, on Tuesday, they asked for permission to run the centrifuges again. The Europeans sternly said "no". The next scene will be at Turtle Bay, with brief interruptions for somewhat off-colour remarks about sexual harassment at high levels (so to speak) of the UN.

No serious person can believe that the negotiations are going to block, or even seriously delay, the Iranian race to acquire atomic bombs. The European posturing is the Western counterpart of the Iranian deception, a ritual dance designed to put a flimsy veil over the nakedness of the real activities. The old-fashioned name for this sort of thing is "appeasement", and was best described by Churchill, describing Chamberlain's infamous acceptance of Hitler's conditions at Munich in 1938. Chamberlain had to choose between war and dishonour, opted for the latter and got the former as well. That is now the likely fate of Tony Blair, Jacques Chirac and Gerhard Schroeder.

They surely know this. Why do they accept it?

For starters, they have huge financial interests tied up with the Iranian regime (billions of dollars worth of oil and gas contracts, plus other trade agreements, some already signed, others in the works). Iran, furthermore, is the last place in the Middle East where they can play an active diplomatic role. This is particularly acute for France, which knows it will long be a pariah to free Iraqi governments and views Iran as its last chance to thwart the dominant US role in the region. Sad to say, there is no evidence that the Europeans give a tinker's damn either about the destiny of the Iranian people, or about Iran's leading role in international terrorism, or about the Islamic Republic joining the nuclear club.

I think they expect Iran to "go nuclear" in the near future, at which point they will tell George W. Bush that there is no option but to accept the brutal facts: the world's leading sponsor of terrorism in possession of atomic bombs and the missiles needed to deliver them on regional and European targets -- and "come to terms" with the mullahcracy. But if Bush found a way to prevent Iran from acquiring atomic bombs, it might well wreck the Europeans' grand appeasement strategy.

There is certainly no risk that the UN will do anything serious, which is why the Europeans keep insisting that it is the only "legitimate" forum for any discussion of the Iranian nuclear menace.

At the same time, I suspect that the Europeans, like many US diplomats, would be secretly pleased if someone else -- that is to say, Israel -- were to "do something" to rid them of this problem. When they whisper that thought to themselves in the privacy of their own offices or the darkness of their own bedrooms, they mentally replay the Israeli bombing of the nuclear reactor in Osirak, Iraq, in 1981, an attack they publicly condemned and privately extolled. They would do the same tomorrow, sighing in relief as they tighten the noose around Israel's neck. Rarely has the metaphor of the scapegoat been so appropriate: the burden of our sins of omission loaded on to the Israelis, who are then sacrificed to atone for us all.

This may seem sheer wishful thinking, but wishful thinking is an important part of foreign policy. The idea that "we don't need to do anything, because so-and-so will do our dirty work for us" has been central to Western strategy in the Middle East for several years.

For example, it was practised by Bush the Elder in 1991 at the end of Desert Storm, when the president openly mused that it would be simply wonderful if the Kurds and Shi'ites overthrew Saddam Hussein. They tried it, foolishly believing that if things went badly the US would support them. But Bush the First was quite serious about his wishful thinking, and stood by as Saddam slaughtered them -- the scapegoats of the hour -- by the tens of thousands. Similar wishful thinking is now at the heart of European -- and probably a good deal of US -- strategic thinking about the Iranian nuclear project.

Israel won't solve this problem. It is militarily very daunting and successive Israeli governments have believed that Iran is too big a problem for them. If it is to be solved, it will have to be solved by the US and her allies. Iran is the keystone of the terrorist edifice and we are doomed to confront it sooner or later, nuclear or not.

As luck would have it, we have a real chance to remove the terror regime in Tehran without any military action, but rather through political means -- by supporting the Iranian democratic opposition. According to the regime itself, upwards of 70 per cent of Iranians oppose the regime, want freedom, and look to America for political support. Like the Yugoslavs who opposed Milosovic, and the Ukrainians now demonstrating for freedom, they're entitled to the support of the free world.

Even if you believe that a nuclear Iran is inevitable, is it not infinitely better to have those atomic bombs in the hands of pro-Western Iranians, chosen by their own people, than in the grip of fanatical theocratic tyrants dedicated to the destruction of the Western satans?

Michael Ledeen, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, is author of The War Against the Terror Masters (St Martin's Press, 2002). He is in Australia this week as a guest of the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council."

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