Monday, July 31, 2006

Iran's Nuclear Threat Must Be Faced

Daniel Hannan, The Telegraph:
It won't be a "durable" ceasefire, Condi, and it won't be "sustainable"; not while the ayatollahs are in power in Iran. This war isn't about border security, or prisoner exchanges, or the status of the Shebaa Farms.

It isn't really about Lebanon at all, for Hizbollah is not, in any meaningful sense, an indigenous Lebanese phenomenon. The paramilitaries, rather, are creatures of Teheran: the Levantine branch of the Islamic Revolution.

The Iranian Hydra has many heads. afield as Bosnia. You can lop off the head called Hizbollah.

You can even cauterise the wound, by demilitarising southern Lebanon. But, as long as the monster's heart continues to beat in Teheran, the head will grow back. READ MORE

The Iranian Revolution of 1979 will one day be seen as an epochal event, as significant as the French Revolution of 1789 or the Russian Revolution of 1917.

Like those earlier upheavals, it immediately burst out from behind its borders, disregarding all the accepted rules about how states should deal with each other. Like them, it refused to recognise the legitimacy of foreign governments, and sought to replicate itself around the world.

The ayatollahs' contempt for national sovereignty was manifested in the very first act of their regime: the seizure of the US embassy. Diplomatic immunity is the foundation of all international relations.

Even during the Second World War, when irreconcilable ideologies fought to extirpate each other, embassy staff were peacefully evacuated through neutral countries. By seizing sovereign American territory, the revolutionaries were sending out a message: "We do not acknowledge your rules; we despise your notion of territorial jurisdiction".

And they got away with it. Even while the embassy staff were being held hostage, a counter-revolutionary group occupied the Iranian embassy in London. And how did we respond? We secured the building, our SAS men sliding down like spiders on their threads, and we handed it politely back to Teheran with a purse of money to compensate for the damage caused during the assault.

Not unnaturally, the mullahs concluded that they could have it both ways. They could continue to be accorded the privileges of a sovereign state without having to reciprocate. So began a global campaign to spread the revolution.

Iranian agents set out to radicalise the Shia populations of Iraq, the Gulf monarchies and the Fertile Crescent. They sought to reawaken the old faith among people who had long since turned away from it, notably in the Balkans and in Central Asia. Nor did they confine themselves to the Muslim world.

In 1989, Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwah against Salman Rushdie. In other words, the leader of Iran presumed to pass sentence on a British subject - a sentence reconfirmed by Khomeini's successor, Ayatollah Khamenei, last year.

In 1994, Iranian extra-territoriality crossed the Atlantic. A bomb in Buenos Aires killed 100 people and injured 250 more, prompting Argentina to issue warrants for a number of Iranian diplomats and politicians.

What possible strategic interest did Iran have in destroying a Jewish community centre in South America? The answer, surely, is that it was precisely the remoteness of the target that made it so attractive. The ayatollahs were again flaunting their ability to act whenever and wherever they chose.

These are the same men, remember, who are three or four years away from developing nuclear weapons. They already have Shahab-3 missiles, which, in their modified form, have a range of 1,500 miles.

But why worry about delivery mechanisms? We have already seen the mullahs' readiness to equip their proxies in Lebanon with rockets, their agents in South America with bombs. Can we be confident that they would not tack on nuclear warheads?

I am no neo-con. I opposed the Iraq war, because I didn't believe that Saddam had WMD. But who can doubt that Iran is developing them?

Indeed, Iran provides the answer to one of the great conundrums of the decade, namely: why did Saddam pretend that he still had weapons stocks when he had in reality destroyed them? The answer, it seems, is that he didn't want the ayatollahs to see how weak he was.

A legacy of the Iraq war is that it is much harder to make the case for confronting Iran militarily. Still, there are plenty of intermediate steps that we could take: targeted sanctions, seizure of assets, direct assaults on arms facilities - even, in extremis, the kind of siege, complete with a no-fly-zone, that paralysed Saddam between 1991 and 2003.

At the same time, we could sponsor internal dissent. Plenty of groups oppose the mullahs: monarchists, communists, students, secularists. There are Kurds, Arabs, Turkmen and Azeris with little loyalty to the Persian state. There are Iranian Sunnis who are not even allowed a mosque in Teheran (unlike their co-religionists in London).

But we must first recognise the magnitude of what we are up against. The 1979 revolution introduced many Muslims to the novel idea that there was a conflict between their faith and their secular loyalties.

When Britain made war on Ottoman Turkey in 1915, a Cabinet memo fretted that "attacking the Caliphate might agitate our Mussulmans in Egypt and India".

In the event, of course, British Muslims volunteered happily to fight for the Crown, seeing no tension between their private devotion and their civic duties. Their sons and grandsons were, for the most part, equally patriotic. Yet today, some of their great-grandsons are crossing half the world to take up arms against British troops.

This is the poisonous ideology that we are fighting. Our chief purpose in defeating it should not be to restore the comity of nations, nor to bolster Muslim moderates, nor even to bring freedom to the long-suffering Iranian people - though all these would be happy side-effects. Our main object, rather, must be to forestall a nuclear attack.