Today, what Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice refers to as a "diplomatic initiative" aimed at appeasing terror-supporting, and weapons of mass destruction-proliferating Iran, and its terror-supporting, and weapons of mass destruction-proliferating Syrian colony is about to take off in Baghdad. So too, this week, the US began normalizing its relations with the terror-supporting, weapons of mass destruction-proliferating Stalinist dictatorship in Pyongyang.
Bush's traditional opponents are beside themselves with glee.
With regard to North Korea, these opponents are quick to note that there has always been great uncertainty about the level to which Kim Jung Il has advanced in his illicit uranium enrichment program. With regard to Iran, in an interview with the Times, former congressman Lee Hamilton warned that the Bush administration had better not think that the negotiations with the mullahs will lead anywhere quickly.
As the co-chairman of the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group which last November called for the president to appease Teheran and Damascus by forcing Israel to surrender the Golan Heights and Judea and Samaria explained, negotiations with the mullahs have to be open-ended. In his words, "You can't expect miracles here. There has to be a sustained effort. Successful diplomacy requires very careful preparation and very extensive follow-through."
For his part, Hamilton's partner, former secretary of state James Baker, ecstatically declared on Tuesday night, "America must be prepared to talk to our enemies."
What is lacking from both the media's reportage of the Bush administration's strategic about-face, and the administration's traditional detractors' praise for that sudden turn is an analysis of the likely downside of appeasing the mullahs. For instance, on Wednesday the Times ran a report on North Korea under the heading, "US Concedes Uncertainty on North Korean Uranium Effort."
The thrust of the article, which was based on interviews with administration sources, was that while North Korea's commitment to acquire nuclear weapons has never been in doubt, at no time has the US had certain knowledge of its actual capabilities. In light of the uncertainty relating to Pyongyang's capabilities, the Bush administration was wrong - the Times's sources clucked - to have confronted it over its intentions.
By the same token, those who applaud the administration's decision to engage the nuclear weapons-seeking mullahs in Teheran argue that the administration would be wrong to confront Iran for its stated intention to "wipe Israel off the map," and to bring about "a world without America," since US intelligence services are incapable of bringing unequivocal information regarding the state of Iran's nuclear weapons program.
Clearly there is something wrong with this analysis. If what is not in doubt is Iran's commitment to acquiring nuclear weapons, rather than base its policies on a best-case-scenario regarding Teheran's unknown capabilities, the US and its allies should be basing their policies on a calculation of the risks a nuclear armed Iran would constitute for global security.
BROADLY SPEAKING, there are three possible scenarios of how Iran would likely behave were it to become a nuclear power. In the most optimistic scenario, Iran would not attack Israel or any other country with its atomic arsenal, but would rather use it as an instrument of international and regional influence. In this scenario, Iran would reap economic advantage from its nuclear status by threatening oil shipping in the Persian Gulf and so jack up worldwide oil and gas prices. A massive economic dislocation in the oil consuming countries would no doubt ensue. In this state of affairs, all international economic sanctions against Iran would disappear and states would begin fighting with one another for the right to develop Iran's oil and gas fields and refining capabilities.
Operating under Iran's nuclear umbrella, terror groups like Hizbullah and Al-Qaida would feel free to attack at will throughout the world. The rates of terrorism - of both the organized and lone wolf variety - would increase exponentially.
Regionally, Iran would work to export its Khomeinist Shi'ite revolution. It would increase its interference in both Iraq and Afghanistan and so neutralize and defeat coalition and NATO efforts to stabilize those countries.
As to Saudi Arabia, there can be little doubt that Iran would seek to foment an uprising of Saudi Shi'ites who happen to live as a repressed minority on top of the Saudi oil fields.
Hizbullah's aim to overthrow the Saniora government in Lebanon would receive unprecedented Iranian assistance that would likely lead to the Shi'ite takeover of the country. So too, under the Iranian nuclear umbrella, Palestinian terrorism against Israel, and Syrian adventurism against Israel would rise steeply. The regimes in Egypt and Jordan as well as Saudi Arabia would be sunk into chaos, insurgency and war as they themselves entered a nuclear arms race the likes of which the world has never seen.
In a moderate scenario, not only would all the events that would likely occur in a best-case scenario occur, Iran would also make indirect use of its nuclear arsenal. In this case, Iran would likely use one of its existing terror proxies in Sinai, Gaza or Lebanon, or invent a new terror group in one or all of these areas. Iran would transfer one or more nuclear weapons to its terror group of choice, which would then attack Israel and cause the second Holocaust in 70 years. Iran would deny any connection to the attack, although it would shower high praise on its perpetrators.
While Iran's leaders from Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on down have expressed a willingness to endure an Israeli nuclear second-strike, judging from the way in which the Western policy elites are treating Iran today, the Iranians can have every expectation that they can wipe Israel off the map and pay no price for their aggression, either from a destroyed Israel or from the US.
The New York Times and its counterparts will likely note that there is no absolute certainty that Iran was behind the attack. Even the skimpiest Iranian denials or vague allegations against countries like Pakistan or Russia or "rogue" scientists from the former Soviet Union or Pakistan will likely be seized upon as a justification for not responding to the attack. Israel, it will be said, had it coming anyway, because it refused to negotiate with the "militants" from Hamas, preferring instead to maintain its "occupation" of the Golan Heights and Jerusalem.
In the worst case scenario, not only would Iran implement the best case and the moderate case scenario, it would also widen its network of allies while neutralizing its competitors in the Muslim world in order to expand its exportation of the Khomeinist revolution worldwide. All this it would do in an effort to achieve its longstanding aim of destroying America. Here the Iranians would be operating under the reasonable assumption that Europe will be neutral in the conflict, and Russia and China would likely support them against the US - at least covertly.
In this scenario, the Iranians would strengthen their alliances with America-haters in Latin America like Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez, Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega and Cuban dictator Fidel Castro or his heirs. It could openly supply these countries with nuclear bombs or strengthen Hizbullah's foothold in South and North America. In the latter case, Iran could transfer nuclear weapons and delivery systems to its terror proxies and use these networks, which include Hizbullah cells that are already active in the US, to attack the US.
Most brazenly, Teheran could collaborate with its ally North Korea in developing intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of attacking US cities with nuclear weapons launched from Iran. At the same time, given the US's large nuclear arsenal and ICBM capabilities, it is less likely that the Iranians would attack the US directly.
IN LIGHT of this analysis it seems that in spite of the praise it is reaping from the policy jet-set, the Bush administration would do well to reexamine its new policy toward Iran. It should accept their criticism and revert to basing its policy toward the nuclear-proliferating, terror-supporting rogue state on what is known rather than on what is unknown.
Since Iran not only wants nuclear weapons, but has an active nuclear weapons program, the question that should be guiding policymakers is not whether Iran should be negotiated with, but rather, whether the US is willing to accept any of the likely scenarios of what will transpire if Iran does in fact acquire nuclear weapons. If the US is not willing to accept any of those scenarios, then it should be asking itself what must be done to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power.
While Europe may be willing to sit on the sidelines of this fight, just as it sat on the sidelines of the Cold War, and did little to prevent the Nazi conquest of the continent in World War II, Israel has no such luxury.
In light of this, it is deeply disturbing that this week the Olmert-Livni-Peretz government reacted to the US move toward appeasement by claiming that it will have no impact on Israel. Rather than trying to gloss over the dangers, Israel should be actively engaging the many forces in Washington and elsewhere who understand the dangers of a nuclear armed Iran. Together we should be working tirelessly to ratchet up support for a policy based on the understanding that the world cannot abide a nuclear-armed Iran.
Originally published in The Jerusalem Post.