Time to get moving on Iran
Thursday morning it was announced that the eight British servicemen who were nabbed by Iranian Revolutionary Guards in the Shatt al-Arab waterway on the Iraq-Iran border earlier in the week had been released to the custody of the British Embassy in Teheran.
Remarking on the transfer of the British sailors and marines who had been pictured blindfolded and forced to apologize for trespassing into Iranian territorial waters on Iranian state television, British Foreign Minister Jack Straw expressed his gratitude to the Iranian government for its cooperation in settling the matter. "I'd like to express my thanks to my colleague, Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi, for his assistance," Straw said.
This is all very diplomatic and pleasant. In an earlier day, when diplomacy was used as an arm of a nation's interest, Straw would not have been thanking the Iranians for backing down after having committed an act of war, indeed of piracy, against Great Britain. He would have been issuing an ultimatum backed by a massing of British troops, already conveniently nestled along the border in Basra. But such are not our times.
Last week a Jordanian military court convicted and sentenced 15 al-Qaida terrorists to prison terms for their roles in planning attacks against American, Israeli, and Jordanian intelligence targets in the kingdom. Of the 15, only one terrorist was actually in Jordanian custody for the trial. The rest, 12 Jordanians and two Iraqis, are happily sheltered in Iran, awaiting their next opportunity to strike.
This week, as Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz was congratulating himself and the security services for bringing levels of terrorist attacks down 75 percent over last year, IDF and Shin Bet units were preventing yet another suicide bombing in the capital. Two Fatah terrorists, the dispatcher and the bomber, were arrested in a-Ram, north of the capital. Their arrest led to the seizure of a 10-kilogram bomb, hidden in a child's school bag that was being transported in a taxi from Nablus.
Interrogation of the would-be mass murderers uncovered that Hizbullah, Iran's terrorist proxy, had ordered the bombing.
As we know, Shi'ite terrorist Moqtada el-Sadr, who launched a guerrilla war against coalition forces and moderate Shi'ites in southern Iraq this past spring, takes his orders from the ayatollahs in Iran. US intelligence services have also pointed a finger at Iran for sponsoring al-Qaida forces in Saudi Arabia and for sheltering senior al-Qaida commanders in the Islamic Republic.
Commenting on the interdiction of the British patrol boats and their crews this week in National Review Online, Iran expert Michael Ledeen raised the possibility that the boats and their crews had been interdicted by the Iranians because they were laying ship-detection sensors in the waterway.
This, he explained, is necessary to protect the Iraqi oil terminals in Basra from further sabotage, which has rendered the Iraqi oil industry a virtual hostage to terrorist forces that have repeatedly attacked pipelines and terminals over the past year.
Much of the sabotage, according to Ledeen, has been sponsored by Iran, which has an interest in seeing not only the destabilization of Iraq but a precipitous rise in oil prices before the US presidential elections, in the hopes that such an event will bring about the defeat of President George W. Bush at the polls.
To a certain degree, Straw can be forgiven for his obsequious prattle about the cooperation Britain received from the Iranian government after the same government committed an act of war against Straw's country. After all, Britain wanted to make sure its men were released unmolested. But how does one explain France?
At the same time as the British servicemen were being humiliated on Iranian television (the Arabic channel, to ensure the widest possible regional audience no doubt), a high-level official French delegation was visiting the Iranian capital to celebrate the reinstatement of Air France's flight service between Teheran and Paris.
According to The Teheran Times, Serge Degallaix, political adviser to French Prime Minister Jean Pierre Raffarin, told his Iranian hosts that France "believes that Iran has the right to acquire nuclear technology meant for peaceful purposes." So, at least under Jacques Chirac, France, which was behind the Iraqi nuclear weapons program in the 1970s and 1980s, is consistent in its approach. It believes that oil rich rogue states have the right to pursue nuclear capabilities.
And France is also consistent it its wish to appease these dictatorships. Last June, dovetailing the conclusion of a number of lucrative business deals between French companies and Iran, the French police launched a crackdown on members of an Iranian opposition group, the National Council of Resistance of Iran. They arrested 164 members and launched investigations against 17 on terrorism-related charges. Yet one year later, French human rights officials noted this week in a demonstration against the crackdown, not one indictment has been filed.
Iranian officials continued to press the French to crackdown on the group during the delegation's visit to Teheran. Degallaix assured his hosts that France considers the group a terrorist organization and would not allow it to operate in the country.
All of this Anglo-French brown-nosed wrangling and Iranian aggression directly follows the latest resolution of the International Atomic Energy Agency on the status of Iran's nuclear weapons program. The resolution, which is considered "harsh," was drafted by France, Britain, and Germany, the three nations whose foreign ministers interceded on Teheran's behalf last year to ensure that the mullocracy was given a stay of undetermined length before it would face UN Security Council sanctions for violating the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty by advancing its nuclear weapons program.
The resolution, issued last week stated that the IAEA members "deplored" the fact that "Iran's cooperation has not been as full, timely, and proactive as it should have been." The resolution is a detailed list of the finding of highly enriched uranium at Iranian nuclear facilities that has not been adequately explained. The IAEA will meet again to discuss the Iranian nuclear program in September.
The fact is that everyone knows that the Iranians are actively pursuing their nuclear weapons program and that this program may already be producing bombs. Estimates last year were that Iran will have the nuclear fuel cycle down and be capable of producing several atomic bombs per year by next year. For no apparent reason, as Iran moves full speed ahead on its uranium enrichment programs and insists that the international community "accept Iran as a member of the nuclear club," the estimated timeline of Iranian acquisition of nuclear weapons capabilities has been moved to 2006.
Remarking on the IAEA resolution, US Secretary of State Colin Powell said on Monday that at the next IAEA meeting in September, "judgments can be made as to what action might be appropriate." A veiled threat perhaps? Perhaps. Yet it is hard to escape the fact that this statement parrots those made a year ago after the IAEA's first inspection of Iranian nuclear facilities in Nantanz showed evidence of uranium enrichment activities. And the IAEA is still issuing resolutions.
When we look at Iran's brazen defiance of all international norms of behavior – with its support of terrorists, acts of aggression on the high seas, and confrontational advancement of its nuclear weapons program – we must ask the question, what is the US waiting for?
In a statement on the Iranian nuclear program last April, Bush said, "It is intolerable for the peace and the stability in the Middle East if they [the Iranians] get a nuclear weapon, especially when their stated objective is the destruction of Israel." Yet, according to The Wall Street Journal, there have been "a disturbing number of quiet remarks in Washington and other Western capitals recently to the effect that the world will just have to 'get used to' the idea of the Iranians having nukes."
Indeed, when we look at British and French appeasement of the mullahs and we see Powell talking about maybe taking some action (perhaps economic sanctions that will take years to implement and still will be ineffective as oil prices rise to $60 a barrel) in September, we see that when the international community speaks, it doesn't have much to say about the single largest threat to the survival of the State of Israel today.
And in the meantime, here in Israel, the first target for the Iranian bombs, we obsess over whether and when and how Jews will be thrown out of their homes and communities in the territories and get flustered over remarks by US Ambassador Dan Kurtzer about the need to speed up the demolition of the so-called outpost communities of mobile homes on hilltops in Judea. We pontificate endlessly and vacuously about whether or not it is a good idea for Egypt to train a 30,000 man Palestinian army that will be deployed on the outskirts of Ashkelon.
In light of the failure of any outside power to take a concerted stand on Iran, we must ask the question: Are our leaders, like their Western counterparts, quietly resigned to our nuclear annihilation as we quibble over strategic irrelevancies and lesser orders of threats?
Because if there is the slightest chance that the answer is yes, we had better set about replacing them with others who are not, as quickly as possible.
Originally published in The Jerusalem Post.