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Destroy Iran’s Nuke Facilities. Don’t Wait For Musical Chairs 'Regime Change'

I share the legitimate concerns of center-right critics over the gravely delusive and dangerous concessions the Obama Administration appears hell-bent to agree upon in its nuclear negotiations with Iran:

  • giving an international imprimatur to Iran’s so-called “right” to enrich uranium, with the maintenance of ~6500 centrifuges, including perhaps 600 in the concrete-reinforced, 300 foot subterranean Fordow facility;

  • simultaneous  “quick” economic sanctions relief, and even a partial lifting of existing embargoes on arms sales to the Islamic Republic;

  • the exclusion of Iran’s robust ballistic missile (BM) program, which, per mid-March Senate testimony by the U.S. Missile Defense Agency Director, Navy Vice Admiral James Syring, could have intercontinental (IC) capability this (i.e., 2015) calendar year [note: a satellite image published January, 2015 purports to show a 27-meter tall Iranian ICBM just outside Tehran];

  • the steadfast refusal by Iran—despite repeated, ongoing International Atomic Energy Agency demands—to reveal its record of putative military nuclear development/ weaponization experiments.

It has also become axiomatic, however, that each center-right tocsin of looming calamity regarding the apparent disastrous essence of the Obama Administration’s hotly pursued Iran nuclear deal will invoke the alleged panacea of Iranian “regime change.” Invariably, truculent reminders of President Obama’s failure to support what I have termed the Soylent Green Movement (see here; here; here), during the summer of 2009 accompany the regime change chorus. While certainly not as damaging as the nuclear weapons-abetting Obama Administration “Iranian diplomacy,” the incessantly repeated “alternative” notion of Soylent Green Movement-inspired regime change is another corrosive delusion, particularly when championed in lieu of near-term, targeted, concerted destruction of Iran’s four known major nuclear materials production facilities.

A recent, prototypical conservative paean to Mir Hossein Mousavi and the affiliated Iranian Green Movement hinged upon excoriating the Obama Administration for not abiding the analyst’s ostensible wisdom on these matters:

If we had a foreign policy team worthy of us, we’d be supporting the Iranian opposition, but Obama has proven that he prefers Khamenei to Mousavi.

While Mousavi remains the “transformative” Iranian Green Movement political icon for such analysts, the late Ayatollah Montazeri (d. December, 2009) represents the Green Movement’s eternal “spiritual” inspiration. Writing in October, 2010, ten months after Montazeri’s death, another conservative analyst labeled the Ayatollah, simultaneously, “the spiritual father of Iran’s Green Movement,” and the erstwhile “nemesis of Ali Khamenei, Iran’s ruler,” whom this observer derided (in contrast to Montazeri), as “a very mediocre student of the Sharia.” Earlier, immediately after the announcement of Montazeri’s death at age 87, on December 20, 2009, the following conservative tribute was published:

Some of us who have long fought against the terrible regime in Tehran were fortunate to have received wise observations from Montazeri over the years, and I am confident that, with the passage of time and the changes that will take place in Iran, scholars will marvel at the international dimensions of the Grand Ayatollah’s understanding and the range of his activities. 

These odd, harmonious viewpoints reflect a profoundly flawed, ahistorical mentality which denies the living legacy of Shiite Islamic doctrine and its authentic, oppressive application in Iran, particularly, since the advent of the Safavid theocratic state at the outset of the 16th century. Iran’s Safavid rulers, beginning with Shah Ismail I (r. 1501-1524) formally established Shiite Islam as the state religion, while permitting a clerical hierarchy nearly unlimited control and influence over all aspects of public life. The all-encompassing influence of the Shiite clerical elite, continued for almost four centuries, although interrupted, between 1722-1795 (during a period precipitated by [Sunni] Afghan invasion [starting in 1719], and the subsequent attempt to re-cast Twelver Shiism as simply another Sunni school of Islamic Law, under Nadir Shah), through the later Qajarperiod (1795-1925), as characterized by E.G. Browne:

The Mujtahids [an eminent, very learned Muslim jurist/scholar who is qualified to interpret the law] and Mulla [a scholar, not of Mujtahid stature] are a great force in Persia and concern themselves with every department of human activity from the minutest detail of personal purification to the largest issues of politics.

A thorough evaluation of Montazeri’s recorded modern opinions—entirely concordant with traditionalist Iranian Shiism during the Safavid-Qajar eras, and since the retrograde Khomeini “revolution,” following Iran’s 20th century dalliance with Western secularism under the Pahlavi Shahs (from 1925-1979)—does not comport with the conservative eulogies of the late Ayatollah, referenced above.

Montazeri’s copiously documented views -- his Shiite Islamic juridical writings, memoirs, interviews, and speeches—reveal, unequivocally:

  • Full-throated support for open-ended, aggressive jihad warfare to destroy Israel, fight the U.S., and establish global Islamic suzerainty, and the universal application of Sharia
  • Application of an ugly, najis (non-Muslim infidel spiritual and physical “impurity”)-inspired Islamic order within Iran, openly antithetical to Western conceptions of individual liberty, religious freedom (i.e., including advocacy of the death penalty for “blasphemy”), and democracy.
  • Continued (per interviews Montazeri gave in 2003 and 2006) support for Sharia supremacism, sharing the current Iranian regime’s opinion about (and negotiating tactics for procuring) the Islamic Republic’s “right” to pursue “peaceful” nuclear technology, and re-affirming his bigoted, strident opposition to Israel’s existence. 

During an online symposium published October 9, 2012, Ze’ev Maghen, Professor of Persian Language and Islamic History, made this trenchant reference to Montazeri’s alleged “moderation,” in the context of Iran’s dogged quest for nuclear weapons capability:

Now the Jewish state is facing a regime the most moderate elements of which regularly threaten to wipe Israel off the map and repeat citations of the following sort: “His Excellency [the sixth Shi‘ite Imam Ja’far] al-Sadiq affirmed thrice that those who will ultimately exterminate the Jews will be the clerics of [the Iranian Shiite shrine city of] Qom” (cited approvingly in a public forum by supporter of the “Green Movement” Ayatollah Ali Hosayn Montazeri, Memoirs). Now those clerics are enriching uranium at a dizzying pace just outside of Qom at Fordu [Fordow].[Emphases added]

An objective assessment of Mir Hossein Mousavi’s opinions demonstrates his great fidelity to Montazeri’s Weltanschauung.  Across the gamut of critical issues—jihadism/Sharia-supremacism, violent anti-Americanism and annihilationist anti-“Zionism” (i.e., Jew-hatred), and (active; see below) support for Iran’s nuclear aspirations—Mousavi’s views mirror those of Montazeri. Pooled materials from the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency’s open source translation office, the Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS), an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report, and, primarily, multiple online media accounts that are obtained with relative ease—validate this comparison. Equally unsettling, is the fact that here again, as in the case of Montazeri, conservative champions of Mousavi/the Green Movement never acknowledges, let alone concede the obvious implications, of Mousavi’s well-documented views, and related actions.

During Mousavi’s tenure as Iranian Prime Minister (from 1981-1989), as examples, he made public statements (captured by the FBIS): 

  • Affirming regional and global Islamic hegemony, Anti-Americanism, and annihilationist Anti-Israelism (1984-1987).
  • Championing Iranian theocrats (and theocracy)—with Ayatollah Khomeini being the shining example—as “irreplaceable” (1988)

University of Connecticut Professor Kazem Kazerounian published a trenchant analysis, June 28, 2009, which summarized the ugly legacy of Mousavi’s 8-years as Iran’s Prime Minister, wrought by this toxic animating ideology.

The Bassij force (the motor cyclist hooligans on the streets these days) and the revolutionary guards were formalized and empowered to suppress the people.   Peaceful demonstrations were crushed.  Mock courts held trials lasting a few minutes followed by executions.  Thousands of young teenagers were arrested, tortured and executed for political charges as trivial as possessing a pamphlet.  Under Mousavi’s watch a total of 90,000 were executed. Young girls were systematically raped before execution (per a religious decree so their souls would not reach heaven).  Numerous faculty and students (under the banner of the Cultural Revolution) were purged from the universities. Repression of religious minorities intensified.  Independent newspapers were shut down.  Political activists not affiliated with the ruling ayatollahs were arrested in masses.  His government even initiated assassination of the opposition figures abroad. Under his watch a destructive and unnecessary war with Iraq was continued. In the fronts underage children were used as “mine sweepers.”  Under his government, the regime's aspirations for regional hegemony and export of terrorism were formalized and action plans masterminded. The founder of Lebanon’s Hezbollah Ali Akbar Mohtashami was his interior minister.  Mousavi’s government was directly responsible for the 1983 truck-bombing attacks on the U.S. embassy in Lebanon. His government initiated the Iranian regime’s [pursuit of] the nuclear bomb. The crown of his government’s accomplishments was [the] mass execution of about 30,000 defenseless political prisoners within a few weeks with bodies buried in mass graves.  TIME magazine in 1982 described Mousavi as the “most radical in the top leadership” in Iran.

Mousavi’s role in facilitating Iran’s nuclear program merits elaboration. As described in a November 2007 IAEA report, in 1987, then-Prime Minister Mousavi endorsed the decision by Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization (AEOI) to acquire centrifuge technology from the A.Q. Khan network. The IAEA obtained a copy of a “confidential communication” between the AEOI and Prime Minister Mousavi, dated March 5, 1987, in which the AEOI President stated that Iran’s activities with the Khan network “should be treated fully confidentially.” Reviewing these events (on June 10, 2009), the non-partisan Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS)’s Nuclear Iran project commented, aptly:

Mousavi effectively approved Iran’s use of the black market to pursue its secret gas centrifuge program

Just over two decades later, Mousavi confirmed his commitment to Iran’s nuclear program in a series of statements reported during his 2009 “reformist” electoral campaign:

April 6, 2009, per the Associated Press: “We have to have the technology…the consequences of giving up the country’s nuclear program would be irreparable…the Iranian people support the nuclear program.”

April 12, 2009, via the Financial Times, “No one in Iran would accept suspension. Progress in nuclear technology and its peaceful use is the right of all countries and nations. This is what we have painfully achieved with our own efforts. No one will retreat.”

On April 27, 2009, to Der Spiegel, “We will not abandon the great achievements of Iranian scientists. I too will not suspend uranium enrichment.” Asked if he would at least consider the outsourcing of uranium enrichment, as proposed by Russia. Mr. Mousavi responded simply, “No.”

On June 12, 2009, to Time Magazine: “we will not accept our country being deprived of the right to [peaceful] nuclear energy.”

Finally, although lauded for his opinions about The Holocaust in the 2009 electoral campaign, closer examination of Mousavi’s actual statements reveals mealy-mouthed, immoral equivalence, at best. The Associated Press quoted these comments made by Mousavi: “Some people were killed there, some Jews were killed there, we condemn the killing of a single innocent person.” Even these tepid remarks were accompanied by Mousavi’s mendacious qualification that “the world should not stand by and watch the killing of Palestinian people by Israel.” Asked by Der Spiegel, “Your president [then Ahmadinejad] has repeatedly denied that the Holocaust happened, and that the Germans killed 6 million Jews. Do you, too?”,  Mousavi replied:

It is not a question of the number of people killed. Nor is it a question of who committed the crimes. No matter who was responsible, we condemn them for it. But the issue is this: Why should the Palestinians have to pay for what happened back then in Europe?

Kazem Kazerounian’s 2009 expose on the faux “populist” leader Mousavi, included this additional observation about his wife, Zahra Rahnavard, who is also championed by conservative Green Movement supporters (see here; here). Author of the “Beauty of Concealment and Concealment of Beauty,” Rahnavard:

...was key in enforcing the strict Islamic dress code (Hejab) on women. She had a major role in forming “Gasht-e Khaharan-e Zeinab,” the female street police units that harass women to enforce “Islamic behavior.”

My colleague Diana West (in late June, 2009) found an online English translation of Mrs. Mousavi’s “opus” which extols women’s oppression under the guise of treacly Islamic piety, while expressing virulent anti-Western xenophobia. Mrs. Mousavi's “vision”—like her husband’s—would continue to deprive Iranian women of their liberation from Islam’s oppressive, misogynistic strictures, which they had formerly attained under Pahlavi rule, beginning back on January 7, 1937, thanks to the courageous efforts of true reformers like Sadiqeh Dolatabadi.

Pace  unrelenting, overwrought hyperbole since 2009, a very staid real time (i.e., June 29, 2009) assessment by A. Savyon, Director of the Middle East Media Research Institute’s (MEMRI’s)  Iranian Media Project, observed that the Green Movement’s leaders, notably Mousavi himself, were, “not interested in a change of regime in Iran, and have never called to topple Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.” Furthermore, Savyon reported that former Iranian leaders Khatami and Rafsanjani, who operated behind the scenes of the protests, failed “to recruit the support of any senior ayatollah against Khamenei.” Savyon added that Hashemi Rafsanjani, then the second most powerful figure in the regime who headed two of its most important bodies (the Experts Assembly and Expediency Council),

...never purported to lead a movement presenting an alternative to the regime. Despite his blatant disagreements with the Supreme Leader, he hasn’t openly challenged the latter's decision to accept the election results, though, according to reports, he has sought to recruit senior ayatollahs to join his camp within the regime.

Savyon concluded:

...the protest movement leaders never advocated a regime change in Iran; their campaign is part of a struggle between two streams within the regime.

Within the past 20-months (i.e.,  starting July 14, 2013, with this analysis: “Iran's Presidential Elections – Another Episode In The Years-Long Struggle For The Iranian Leadership between Khamenei and Rafsanjani – Part I”), MEMRI published at least 9 reports updating this quintessentially internal political struggle between Iran’s so-called “pragmatic” and “ideological” camps. Moreover, current hard polling data have confirmed how this “debate” resides within the closed circle consensus of an Iranian Shiite Muslim population still overwhelmingly committed to Sharia supremacism, and the pursuit of Iran’s nuclear program.   After more than three decades of strict re-application of the Sharia in Iran (which has included stoning to death for adultery, execution for homosexuality, abrogation of freedom of conscience and religious minority rights, etc.), and notwithstanding wishful arguments that these phenomena had spawned mass public rejection of Islamic Law, Pew polling data released June 11, 2013 (from face-to-face interviews with 1,522 adults, ages 18 years of age and older), captured a sobering reality. When asked, “Do you favor or oppose the implementation of Sharia law, or Islamic law in our country?”, 83% favored its application. A largely concordant finding demonstrated that only 28% of Iranians were concerned (i.e., 9% “very,” and 19% “somewhat” concerned) about “extremist religious groups” in the nation. Several months earlier, according to Gallup polling data reported February, 2013, almost 2/3 of Iranians were willing to pay the high price of sanctions, designed to deter the country’s nuclear ambitions. Sixty-three (63%) percent claimed that Iran should continue to develop its nuclear program, even given the scale of sanctions imposed on their country because of such efforts.

Sadly, many conservative analysts continues to blithely disregard, or ignore altogether, the voluminous public evidence assembled herein. Far worse, they remains bent on persuading others to promote their bowdlerized assessments as the basis for policymaking decisions, which may have the tragic effect of further delaying requisite, urgent military action against Iran.

Alarmed by this dangerously misguided policy advice, I queried nuclear proliferation expert, Professor Matthew Kroenig (in early November, 2014) about the possibility of imminent Israeli airstrikes. Kroenig’s A Time to Attack argues persuasively about the limitations of such an Israeli campaign, Israel lacking any known capability, for example, to penetrate the deeply embedded fortifications of Iran’s Qom/Fordow uranium enrichment facility. Professor Kroenig considers a targeted, but devastating, single evening of combined U.S. cruise missile and massive ordnance penetrator strikes on all four of Iran’s known facilities—the Arak plutonium producing reactor, the Isfahan uranium ore processing facility, and the uranium enrichment sites at Natanz and Fordow—as his strongly preferred military—and moral—pre-emptive first option. Nevertheless, given what is truly needed two-years from now, hope against hope—a complete U.S. political and policymaking class “regime change”—I offer Professor Kroenig’s temporizing solution until the U.S. regains its geostrategic and moral bearings:

As a last resort, an Israeli strike, and the year or two of breathing space, at minimum, it would buy, would be preferable to acquiescing to a nuclear Iran.

Regardless of the attitudes of current political leadership and policymaking elites, across the political spectrum, polling data strongly suggests that an overwhelming majority of Americans are fully cognizant of Iran’s intentions, and the unacceptable security threat posed by an Islamic Republic armed with nuclear weapons. Perhaps such gimlet-eyed Americans will elect equally astute political leaders also endowed with the courage necessary to authorize targeted military strikes which complete a task Israel will have initiated by 2015: destroying, or severely damaging the Islamic Republic of Iran’s current nuclear development facilities, forestalling, and perhaps even preventing long term, a nuclear weapons-armed Iran.

Hope springs eternal in the human breast.”