I’ve been wondering what accounts for the sudden change in tone regarding Iran from London and Washington. Both Bush and Blair had been playing the mullahs’ game, taking military options off the board, talking with feigned optimism about the diplomatic strategy, patiently working for UN sanctions, and so forth. Then, all of a sudden, we started hearing very tough talk about Iran (and Syria) from the two leaders, and over here from Secretary Rice and National Security Adviser Hadley. Blair even delivered a very strong speech in Dubai, which is virtually an Iranian protectorate. How come? Had something happened?
Copley News Service reported a few weeks ago that we and the Jordanians had uncovered an Iranian-backed plot to assassinate Bush when he was in Amman. Copley told me the evidence is very good, even though the plot never came to anything, and nobody tried to kill the president. If the story is true, it would be a virtual replay of Saddam’s efforts to kill W’s father on a trip to the region while Clinton was president. Now, the London Telegraph reports the possible cause of Blair’s ire:
A military aide to the commander of British forces in Afghanistan appeared in court yesterday accused of spying. Cpl Daniel James, 44, is charged under the 1911 Official Secrets Act with “prejudicing the safety of the state” by passing information “calculated to be directly or indirectly useful to the enemy”.
It was said he had communicated with a “foreign power” in the incident on Nov 2, believed to be Iran…The Daily Telegraph has learned that he acts as an interpreter for Gen David Richards, the commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan and one of the most senior officers in the Army.
That might well do it, don’t you think? Here the Brits have been appeasing the mullahs, and all the gratitude they get is–if the story checks out–an Iranian spy getting information that would be used to kill Her Majesty’s soldiers. And notice the suppressed premise in this story: Iran is working with the (Taliban) terrorists in Afghanistan.
Leaders take these things very personally, as well they should.
More recent developments can only fuel this fire. On Wednesday, a politically bloodied but totally unbowed Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nezhad told a crowd in Western Iran “The Islamic Republic of Iran is now a nuclear power, thanks to the hard work of the Iranian people and authorities.” Iran, he said, had “gained access to the nuclear fuel cycle.” He then trotted out the ritual language about “peaceful nuclear technology,” but few take this seriously. A nuclear power plant does not a “nuclear power” make, especially when the president adds, “the Iranian nation will continue in its nuclear path powerfully and will celebrate a nuclear victory soon.”
And on Monday, according to Haaretz, Israeli intelligence officials said that “dozens, perhaps hundreds, of Hamas militants recently left the Gaza strip to receive advanced military training in Iran.” They were set to get the same training course as that given to Hizbollah forces in Lebanon.
Not to belabor a point that should be obvious by now (but all too often isn’t): here we have Iranian Shi’ites working hand in glove with Afghan and Palestinian Sunnis, just as those Iranian Shi’ites have long worked with Fatah and al Qaeda. The presumed unbridgeable chasm between the two worlds of Islam is bridged most every day, Saudi princes to the contrary notwithstanding.
Meanwhile, those who insist there is no hope for a timely democratic revolution in Iran might be asked what they make of the outspoken students at a university in Tehran, seen all over the world calling for an end to the “fascist” regime in their country. And we should ask our leaders why they have not said a word in support of the students, nor for the countless other Iranians who protest almost daily against the mullahs. If the recent Iranian elections prove anything, they surely show deep divisions within the ruling class. The combination of an internal power struggle (as Supreme Leader Khamene’i’s health deteriorates visibly) with an energized national protest is precisely the sort of revolutionary brew that favors vigorous political support for the opposition.
And Iran’s heavy-handed support for the killers of American and allied forces in the region calls out for a forceful response. I do not want an American invasion of Iran, or a massive bombing campaign against the country’s nuclear facilities. But I think anyone who truly supports our troops must insist that we go after Iran’s and Syria’s terrorist training camps, and the facilities that produce the lethal bombs that are the single greatest cause of American deaths and casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan.
There is still no sense that we are at war, after twenty-seven years of unilateral killing by the Iranians and Syrians. It is indeed a grotesque replay of “The Gathering Storm.” As David Zucker so elegantly puts it, let’s hope we don’t lose another fifty million people because we failed to go after a crazy dictator again.