Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Gloves off Iran

John Pohoretz. The New York Post:
GEORGE W. Bush just delivered what may be the most important speech of his presidency since he went before the United Nations on Sept. 12, 2002, and declared his intention to seek regime change in Iraq.

The time has come, the president all but said yesterday, to take the gloves off with Iran.

"The world's free nations will not allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon," he said flatly. He prefaced those words by saying that efforts were being made to find a diplomatic solution to the problem. Nonetheless, Bush has now said in the strongest sentence he has yet spoken on the matter that Iran will not go nuclear. He is unconditional about it.

In a carefully crafted speech, Bush laid out the parallels between the extremists of al Qaeda - Sunni Muslims - and the Shia extremists led by Iran. While they both use fiery rhetoric that may be easy to dismiss in certain quarters as an Islamic cultural affect, they are also uncommonly specific about their strategies and goals to achieve their aims.

Using captured documents, he showed how Osama bin Laden and the head of al Qaeda in Iraq have laid out with great precision their strategy to weaken and exhaust the United States and the free nations of the world - a strategy that is having some effect after three-plus hard years fighting in Iraq.

When discussing bin Laden's writings, Bush compared them to those of Lenin and Hitler a decade before they took power. The president pointed out: "History teaches that underestimating the words of evil and ambitious men is a terrible mistake." Then, almost immediately, he jumped from bin Laden to Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

"Iran's leaders," he said, "have also declared their absolute hostility to America. Last October, Iran's president declared in a speech that some people ask - in his words - 'whether a world without the United States and Zionism can be achieved. I say that this goal is achievable.' Less than three months ago, Iran's president declared to America and other Western powers: 'Open your eyes and see the fate of Pharaoh. If you do not abandon the path of falsehood, your doomed destiny will be annihilation.' "

Bush continued: "Less than two months ago, [Ahmadinejad] warned: 'The anger of Muslims may reach an explosion point soon. If such a day comes, America and the West should know that the waves of the blast will not remain within the boundaries of our region.' He also delivered this message to the American people: 'If you would like to have good relations with the Iranian nation in the future, bow down before the greatness of the Iranian nation and surrender. If you don't accept to do this, the Iranian nation will force you to surrender and bow down.'" READ MORE

Bush wants the world to understand that he sees the nation of Iran as different only in degree from bin Laden and the terrorists in Iraq, not different in kind. We are to take Ahmadinejad's rhetoric seriously. We are not to dismiss his threats as flowery rabble-rousing but as honest statements of intent.

And if you do that, then the conclusion is inescapable that the world must do everything it can to prevent Iran from joining the nuclear club. "Armed with nuclear weapons," Bush said, Islamic extremists "would blackmail the free world, and spread their ideologies of hate, and raise a mortal threat to the American people. If we allow them to do this, if we retreat from Iraq, if we don't uphold our duty to support those who are desirous to live in liberty, 50 years from now history will look back on our time with unforgiving clarity, and demand to know why we did not act. I'm not going to allow this to happen - and no future American president can allow it either."

So there it is. A week after Iran declared its intention to continue uranium enrichment, the president of the United States has said in no uncertain terms that it will be stopped - that the failure to stop it would lead history to judge him, us and the world in the harshest possible terms.

Like most people, I've presumed for the past few years that our commitment in Iraq and the extreme difficulty of targeting the proper sites had basically foreclosed a serious military option in Iran. Certainly the hesitant and cautious behavior of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in the past few months suggested as much.

Now it seems to me that, barring a miraculous change of heart on the part of the Iranian regime, a military strike is all but inevitable. Bush himself will view his own presidency as a failure if he doesn't act.

So act he will.