Shrugging at Evil

Iran freely declares its evil and violent intentions. The West responds with an incentives package. What will it take for America and other Western nations to take Tehran seriously?

Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, wants to start World War iii. Together with the total destruction of Israel and the demolition of America, this is one of the primary goals of his presidency.

The Trumpet didn’t receive this intelligence from a covert source in Tehran, or an undisclosed contact in the cia or Mossad. We, like millions of other people, learned this from the overworked mouth of Ahmadinejad himself. Since his election last summer, the Iranian president has virtually laid out a step-by-step plan by which he intends to thrust the globe into its next world war!

In spite of the public revelations and the abundance of evidence proving the nation is spoiling for war, America and Europe remain alarmingly casual and nonchalant toward Tehran. They simply do not take Iran seriously.

The story would be different if this was some middle-African dictator on a power trip. But this is Iran: leader of the Islamic world—a nation with deeply motivated, hard-core Islamic leadership—a nation with some of the largest energy supplies on the planet—a nation on the cusp of acquiring nuclear weapons.

All these factors tell us Iran should be taken very seriously.

But the West is doing anything but.

It is no longer (if it ever was) really about stopping Iran in its tracks—destroying the Iranian nuclear threat—preventing the greatest terror-sponsoring nation in the world from developing nuclear weapons capability. It is about offering Iran incentives to coax it to behave responsibly and honestly in a seemingly never-ending diplomacy game in which Tehran holds the upper hand.

Enticing Iran

In the latest round, in early June, Washington joined the European Union in offering to conduct nuclear talks with Tehran. The proposal included an incentives package encompassing trade, security and technology benefits, boosted by a U.S. offer to lift sanctions on Iran (a European proposal the previous month having been rejected—and ridiculed). Of course, the sticking point is, Iran must first agree to suspend uranium enrichment—something it has refused to do.

Just what is it about Iran’s dual insistence that 1) it wants to develop a nuclear program, and 2) it wants to destroy Israel and the West, that the U.S. and Europe don’t get?

International intelligence firm Stratfor describes the farcical—and dangerous—game America is playing: “The problem is this: The Iranians are drawing the Americans into the North Korean model—meaning that negotiations would be about whether there will be negotiations, and the mere act of talking will, at the end of the day, be seen as a major concession. That works for the United States so long as Iran doesn’t use the negotiations about negotiations as cover for disrupting Iraq or for actually building a bomb. The current situation really does parallel the North Korea issue. The North Koreans act like loons, and the international community negotiates among itself for the best way to hold a meeting with North Korea. That’s okay for North Korea—but Iran borders Iraq, where U.S. troops are fighting daily” (June 5).

But it is a game Iran knows well and is playing skillfully.

To show his appreciation of the offer, in a speech broadcast on state radio on June 4 Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei threatened the West once again: “If you make any mistake (punish or attack Iran), definitely shipment of energy from this region will be seriously jeopardized,” he stated (Advertiser, Australia, June 6). He specifically threatened oil shipments passing through the Strait of Hormuz—a choke point for oil exports to the U.S., Western Europe and Japan.

America’s response, as usual, was to ignore the threat: “I think that we shouldn’t place too much emphasis on a threat of this kind,” U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said. Oil markets reacted more strongly: The following day, world oil prices rose sharply.

Even while Iran is busy throwing out its usual array of threats, timid U.S. officials “have said they want to keep the details of the [EU-U.S.] proposal secret in order to avoid the appearance of threatening Iran” (Agence France Presse, June 5; emphasis ours throughout).

Why is the U.S. so afraid to threaten Iran—and at the same time so dismissive of Iranian threats? That is shamefully weak.

Rhetoric Precedes Action

Columnist Mark Steyn recently wrote, “Anyone who spends half an hour looking at Iranian foreign policy over the last 27 years sees five things: 1) contempt for the most basic international conventions; 2) long-reach extraterritoriality; 3) effective promotion of radical Pan-Islamism; 4) a willingness to go the extra mile for Jew-killing …; 5) an all-but-total synchronization between rhetoric and action” (City Journal, Spring 2006).

Since the Islamic Revolution of 1979, Iran’s leaders have demonstrated remarkable consistency between their words and their actions (the obvious exception, of course, being their repeated lies about the malignancy of their nuclear program). In other words, if Iran says it will do something, be prepared for it to happen. If Iran’s leaders say they intend to strike at Israel and the West, we ought to take them at their word.

Thus far, Iran has followed to a T its stated plan of assuming leadership of the Islamic world and working to spread its theocratic ideals worldwide. For example: When the Iron Curtain fell in 1989, signaling the end of the Cold War and heralding the dissolution of the ussr, Iran plainly stated its intention to fill the void left by the failure of communism. In a letter written to Moscow, Ayatollah Khomeini stated, “I openly announce that the Islamic Republic of Iran, as the greatest and most powerful base of the Islamic world, can easily help fill up the ideological vacuum of your system.”

That, indeed, is what happened. “As communism retreated, radical Islam seeped into Africa and south Asia and the Balkans” (City Journal, op. cit.). The Central Asian republics that practiced a moderate form of Islam 15 years ago are now permeated with Iran’s radicalized version. This “Iranification” also occurred in Lebanon, with the aid of Hezbollah, and among the Palestinians, through Hamas. The process is currently underway in Iraq

If history is a guide, we can be sure that Iran’s President Ahmadinejad is working to bring to fruition his beliefs and public comments regarding Israel, the West and the beginning of World War iii.

Yet, for some reason, Western leaders have exhibited a generation-long refusal to simply believe what Iran says. They are blinded by an innate, naive desire to believe the best in Iran’s leaders.

Though branded by President George W. Bush as a member of the “axis of evil,” Tehran was invited to be Washington’s negotiation partner over Iraq. Iran has been praised by U.S. officials as a “democracy,” a nation undergoing a “democratic flowering.” Bill Clinton last year unbelievably stated: “Iran today is, in a sense, the only country where progressive ideas enjoy a vast constituency. It is there that the ideas that I subscribe to are defended by a majority.”

Western leaders believe that if Ahmadinejad grows too haughty or dangerous, then the more moderate factions of the Iranian government will step in to keep the situation in hand. There is a common denial of the fact that, fundamentally, on their contempt for the West, they are all on the same side. “What’s the difference between a hothead and a moderate?” Steyn satirically asks. “Well, the extremist Ahmadinejad has called for Israel to be ‘wiped off the map,’ while the moderate Rafsanjani has declared that Israel is ‘the most hideous occurrence in history,’ which the Muslim world ‘will vomit out from its midst’ in one blast, because ‘a single atomic bomb has the power to completely destroy Israel, while an Israeli counterstrike can only cause partial damage to the Islamic world’” (ibid.).

The very fact that no one takes Ahmadinejad seriously may currently be the greatest factor working in Tehran’s favor. Iran’s president can make just about any threat, even declare war—and in retaliation he may receive a stern word from the diplomatic community. If he oversteps the mark a little, the “moderates” are there to reassure the international community that Iran really does seek peace.

Once Iran acquires nuclear weapons, however, it will be a different story.

Demanding to be Taken Seriously

During the Cold War, the U.S. and ussr avoided a nuclear war because both knew that a single strike-counterstrike exchange would be catastrophic, and neither wanted to annihilate the human race. With Iran, there is no such restraint. It would be the equivalent of a suicide bomber with a nuke strapped to its chest. It could threaten to lob a nuke at the slightest provocation, essentially holding the entire Western world to ransom.

Tehran is already using the nuclear card to gain leverage in its (behind-the-scenes) negotiations with Washington over Iraq—now, when just the possibility of nuclear weapons exists. What mad bargaining power will Iran hold once it carries out its first successful nuclear weapons test?

Iran’s President Ahmadinejad envisages “a world without America”—as he stated in his keynote speech at a “World Without Zionism” conference in Tehran on Oct. 26, 2005. He threatened that such a goal was “attainable, and surely can be achieved.” A few months earlier, he stated: “… Islam will conquer all the mountaintops of the world” (Iranian Channel 1, July 25, 2005).

To try to entice such a country to adhere to a civilized agreement as though it were a “normal” state is delusional. Iran simply has no regard for international conventions. It does not even respect the sovereignty of other nations, the very basis of relations between states. Ever since the seizure of U.S. soil and citizens in the form of the American Embassy in Tehran in 1979, Iran has exhibited a total disregard for any law but its own. Two months after the Iran-Iraq War ended, then parliamentary speaker (and future president) Ali-Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani stated that “the war taught us that international laws are only drops of ink on paper.” Iran thought nothing of sending a Hezbollah suicide bomber to blow up the Israeli Embassy in Argentina in 1993, killing 29, and the following year bombing the Argentine Israel Mutual Association, killing almost 100. The fatwa against British citizen Salman Rushdie calling for his assassination was answered by loyal Muslims who succeeded in murdering one of his translators (his publisher and another translator survived assassination attempts). Iran claimed jurisdiction over a Danish newspaper in the cartoons incident earlier this year, leading to riots and deaths worldwide. Iran has already done much to enforce its brand of Islam around the world.

In a sermon in Tehran on Nov. 9, 1986, Khamenei openly declared: “We are at war with the United States.” Clearly, as the National Observer’s Andrew Campbell states, it has been waging that war on some level ever since the 1979 Revolution (June 22).

Can the U.S. afford to be so nonchalant?

The U.S. has been struck before—but its reaction has been similarly weak. When two Iranian-inspired and -trained terrorists attacked the U.S. Embassy in Beirut in April 1983, killing 241 Americans, Iran got away with it. A former cia officer specializing in Iranian terrorism, Robert Baer, assessed, “Iran ordered it,” and concluded: “The Islamic Republic of Iran had declared a secret war against the United States, and the United States had chosen to ignore it” (See No Evil).

Why? Many people dismiss such threats as mere Iranian exaggeration. “Iran’s leaders calculatedly use exaggeration to mobilize and inflame their followers for martyrdom-terrorist operations; and their followers use real bombs against live targets” (National Observer, op. cit.).

What if those “real bombs against live targets” become nuclear? In Iran’s hands, the world would witness the dawn of an age of nuclear terrorism.

Last year, Graham Allison, a wmd proliferation specialist and former assistant secretary for policy and plans in the first Clinton Administration, stated, “If we continue on our present course, in the decade ahead we will see a nuclear attack on one or more Western cities” (Herald Sun, Melbourne, Jan. 8, 2005).

Sadly, America’s record for anticipating nuclear capability is not good: Five days before the Soviets exploded their first atomic bomb on Aug. 29, 1949, the cia predicted that the Russians wouldn’t be able to produce a bomb until the mid-1950s; the U.S. also failed to predict India’s first nuclear test in 1998. Former cia operations officer and Iran specialist Reuel Marc Gerecht warned: “Unless Langley [cia headquarters] gets lucky with an Iranian ‘walk-in’ who volunteers detailed, critical information about Tehran’s weapons program, the cia will probably only know the mullahs have the Bomb after they detonate it” (Weekly Standard, Nov. 14, 2005).

And still, Iran is not taken seriously.

A Historical Lesson

Step back 81 years for a moment. A young Austrian nobody wrote a book in which he described his antipathy for the Jewish people and his plan to sort the problem out when he gained power. He more or less laid out a step-by-step plan of how he would thrust the world into World War ii. The world took no notice. Adolf Hitler was either a raving lunatic or a confused young man. Or perhaps it was all a bit of a joke. In any case, he couldn’t possibly have really meant what he had set out plainly in Mein Kampf.

The course of history, as we all know only too well, tells us differently.

But perhaps one could have been excused for not taking Hitler seriously when he said his goal was to eradicate the Jews. After all, he wasn’t in any position of power—actually, he was imprisoned at the time he started writing his book. He didn’t control 10 percent of the world’s oil, and he didn’t have a nuclear weapons program. If he had this kind of power and capability, surely the world would have done something preemptive to stop this madman from initiating war.

Look at the world scene today, and think again.