by Austin Bay
January 3, 2006
Pity the United Nations and the European Union. The militant
theocrats running Iran have ignored their pleas, protests, promises of aid
and finger-wagging threats of economic sanction.
Tehran's mullahs want nuclear weapons. Money, media appeals and
political yammering -- the arsenal of so-called "soft power" -- have so far
failed to curtail Iran's nuclear ambitions.
As 2006 begins, it appears Iran's decade of atomic fan dancing
with "the international community" is approaching a dangerous finale. One
hopes the latest gesture doesn't prove to be another hollow jest. Moscow has
offered to enrich Iranian uranium in Russian facilities. It's an interesting
diplomatic gambit, one that means Iran's jig may continue for several more
Iran insists that the Russian proposal, if accepted, would be
"supplementary" and not a "final plan." One senior Iranian official
cautioned that any proposal that limited uranium enrichment "to Russian soil
only" wouldn't do at all.
At some point in time, Iran's radical mullahs and aging Islamic
revolutionaries will have enough nuclear material to make a nuclear weapon.
Those who think the current Iranian leaders' pursuit of nuclear
weaponry is a theatrical performance (primarily designed to solidify
domestic political support or shake down Arab and European governments for
loans and aid) should consider the rhetoric of Iran's hard-line president,
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Ahmadinejad is a Holocaust denier -- he calls Hitler's
mass murder of European Jews a "myth." On a regular basis, Ahmadinejad and
his cohorts enthusiastically tout the capabilities of Iranian ballistic
missiles. Unfortunately, unchecked fanatics like Ahmadinejad have a tendency
to move from words to war.
Note that Israeli cities aren't the only targets within range.
In the 1990s, the Iranians and the United Arab Emirates quarreled over
islands in the Persian Gulf, but that was lightweight sparring. Still, Iran
with a nuclear weapon threatens every Arab nation on the Arabian Peninsula.
An Iranian nuke also threatens Iraq. Saddam's gone, and with
good reason Iranians despised him. Saddam attacked Iran and started the
Iran-Iraq War. Iraqi forces used chemical weapons on Iranian troops.
However, the rise of Iraqi democracy puts Iran's autocrats in a political
and cultural bind.
Iran begins the 21st century as a profoundly divided country.
One of the key divisions is age. Most Iranians under the age of 40 have no
truck with the ruling mullahs. To describe the clerics' economy as
"stagnant" is a multi-decade understatement. Iran's young don't remember the
Shah, and Khomeini's revolution is ancient history. The Council of
Guardians' brutality is current news, however. The cultural straightjacket
of clerical puritanism chafes, and the mullahs' hypocrisy and corruption are
In some ways, the thief in religious robes is even more
repugnant than the usual greased-palm bureaucrat. Democracy may not be a
panacea, but Iranian youth see it as a source of political and economic
opportunity. Now, "the Arabs" (in this case, the Iraqis, considered by many
Iranians to be cultural inferiors) are building a new society, while Iran
continues to rot.
Ahmandinejad and his clique may believe a nuke will help restore
their "balance of prestige" vis a vis Baghdad.
With a fanatic like Ahmadinejad in charge, Iran will ultimately
In 1981, Israeli air attacks destroyed Saddam's Osirak nuclear
reactor, and everyone in the Middle East (including Iran) sighed with
relief. The "hard power" of U.S. and Israeli military capabilities has
always been the big stick behind EU and U.N. anti-proliferation diplomacy.
However, the rumor mill says Iran has hardened and dispersed its nuclear
sites. As it is, airstrikes and special forces attacks are never "sure
The real solution is regime change in Tehran. The EU and the
United States have talked about supporting the mullahs' political opponents,
but they have not walked that walk with sufficient financial aid, political
support, media support and -- yes, it may be necessary -- weapons. Iran's
tyrants believe they can finesse diplomatic discourse and ride out a
military strike. They fear they cannot quell a popular, pro-democracy