Features

When the West blinks

"When the West blinks" Continued...

Issue: "Death blow," June 17, 2006

Mr. Ekeus told WORLD that when Iraq attacked Iran in 1981, "it was backed massively by the Arab world, and Iran has not forgotten." Iraq, he said, would have lost the war "if they had not had WMDs, primarily chemical weapons." Iran learned a lesson: Despite having an army and population three times that of Iraq, it could not be its own gatekeeper against the Arab world without unconventional weapons.

But viewing Iran in isolation within the Arab world, with its ancient Persian empire and adherence to Farsi over Arabic, should not lead to discounting its linkage with Arab-based terror groups, other experts warn. The assertion that a Shiite regime in Tehran would not support a Sunni-led insurgency in Iraq-and al-Qaeda operatives in general-said Michael Ledeen, author of The War Against the Terror Masters and a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, is "a hoax."

Mr. Ledeen asked, "How many examples of cooperation do you need to get beyond this?" Iran's Shiite Revolutionary Guards trained Sunni-led terrorist groups going back to the 1970s, but more recently there is much intelligence to confirm Tehran's support for al-Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who was killed in Iraq June 7. In early 2003, according to Yossef Bodansky, a bin Laden expert and former director of the Congressional Task Force on Terrorism, Mr. Zarqawi received sanctuary in Tehran along with seven other al-Qaeda leaders and, at some point, Mr. bin Laden. That began a coordinated effort to fuel insurgency in Iraq along the ethno-religious divide.

Mr. Ledeen said, "They'll do anything that works to kill us. This is the mafia. Think about the godfather sitting around the table and making a war plan. They don't care which one married a blond and which one converted to Catholicism."

Neither regional considerations nor terror linkages seem to have received prominent consideration in the latest overtures from the West. With the ayatollah's dubious welcome, the United States and its Security Council counterparts last week sent the European Union's foreign minister, Javier Solana, to Tehran with an incentives package aimed at prompting the regime to end its enrichment of weapons-grade uranium.

Sponsored by the United States, Great Britain, Germany, France, Russia, and China, the package was heavy on inducements and light on penalties: It would allow Iran to continue enrichment for nuclear power and would actually provide U.S. technology in order to do so. The deal also offers trade concessions not dreamed of in nearly three decades of stiff U.S.-Iranian relations.

In a move reminiscent of concessions offered to Saddam Hussein despite UN sanctions, the United States under the deal will allow Iran to import spare parts to upgrade its aging fleet of commercial airliners. And in a step mirroring President Bill Clinton's nuclear deal with North Korea, the United States and other allies may assist in developing light-water reactors for nuclear power if Iran agrees to set aside its weapons-grade enrichment program.

The catch? Iran will end a nuclear weapons program it kept hidden for 18 years, and the United States and its allies will rely on strict UN monitoring to make sure it does so.

Since April when Tehran acknowledged enrichment activities, conservative experts have put forth solutions along a spectrum between hat-in-hand appeasement and all-out war. What landed on the table last week, many believe, goes beyond the spectrum.

"The details as they come out make the proposals look softer and softer. You don't hear anyone talking about sticks; it's all carrots all the time," said James Phillips, research fellow at the Heritage Foundation. He called the proposal "increasingly disturbing" in its resemblance to the Clinton administration's deal with North Korea. "The one thing they want is the means to produce a nuclear weapon, and we are giving them the means to produce one."

Increasingly Iran's thirst for nuclear power and official Western reaction also overlooks the word on the street. Late last month riots broke out at Tehran University following a student protest over what appeared to be a purge of the academic faculty. Eyewitnesses told opposition newspapers that students carried signs and chanted "We don't want nuclear energy" and "Forget Palestine-think of us."

Eight student leaders were arrested, according to the internet Farsi daily Rooz, after about 500 police descended on the demonstrators. The report said 25 students were wounded, five of them seriously, when Iranian security forces fired live bullets on the crowd. One student told Rooz: "The university campus is on fire, raids are being conducted throughout the campus, and the students are in fear and anxiety. . . . Gunfire is heard from all directions. . . . There is blood everywhere." The report also said that university telephone lines were cut.

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