Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Iran's Threat

The Defense Education Forum of the Reserve Officers Association hosted a program March 24 on Iran and its threat to Israel and other neighbors.

The theme of this program evolved quickly with Iran labeled the premier threat to United States security. To believe otherwise is to take our eye off the ball. The program delved into Iran’s intentions, potential means, a threat analysis, and our response options. The paragraphs that follow are a snippet of the discussion that occurred at this program:

Iran has announced its intentions:  to expand its hegemony to the Middle East and the world. They wish for a Caliphate based in Iran to run it and violent jihad is the methodology to achieve it. Direct links exist between Iran and various terror groups around the world – Hezbollah, Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood. They believe that mayhem is required to create the environment for the coming of the 12th Imam – the Mahdi. The current unrest in the Middle East and North Africa creates an unusual opportunity for Iran to infiltrate and influence the creation of new governments throughout the region.

The means to create the mayhem has been missing, but if Iran achieves nuclear weapons ability, everything changes. In addition to Iran expanding the range of its medium missiles it is developing and may even have longer range missiles. One scenario in which Iran could attack the United States is a nuclear launch from a seaborne platform off our coast, which would detonate high in the atmosphere. The result would be an electro magnetic pulse (EMP) that would destroy much of infrastructure and which some have estimated would result in the death of 9 in ericans within one year.

In Iran, we face an Islamic leadership who pose a direct threat with coming ability to destroy Israel and America. A vigorous response is required -- but what should that response be?

Israel is defending itself by broadening its defensive ability against Iranian and terror based group’s rockets and missiles. The systems are referred to as the Iron Dome for short range defense;  David’s Sling against medium and short range rockets; Arrow 2, a system that has been successfully tested against the intermediate threat, and Arrow 3, which is an exo-atmospheric interceptor. If Iran achieves a working nuclear weapon, Israel will consider it a threat to its existence.

Iran has a long history of working with terrorist groups, and clear links have connected it to Hezbollah, Hamas, Al Qaida and others. Iranians have trained terrorist forces for years and continue to do so. Using the Shiite indigenous populations of various countries has been their modus operandi (Iran is a Shiite Moslem country; most of the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia, are Sunni Moslem. Relations are typically very strained between the two sects but for purposes of working together to achieve Islamic hegemony in the world, there appear to be areas of cooperation).

Iran has extended its reach into the Western hemisphere with Hezbollah cells in the United States and a growing friendship with Venezuela, which may in the near future provide them with a base for activities – and perhaps a base for missiles that could reach the United States.

Iran, for years, had a covert nuclear program in violation of international norms.  Repeatedly since their nuclear program was discovered in 2002 other infractions have come to light. They continue to evolve their nuclear program and may well have as yet undiscovered conversion and enrichment facilities. A “war in the shadows” through use of assassination of nuclear scientists and cyber attacks such as the Styx virus, may have slowed the evolution of their nuclear program, but they haven’t stopped it. If they achieve nuclear weaponry history shows that they will almost certainly proliferate it to their friends be they countries or terror groups. If Iran goes nuclear, the clamor from other Sunni Arab countries to also have nuclear weapons will increase.

So what can be done? Sanctions are one method. Iran is almost totally dependent on its energy sector for exports. Limitations on it and Iran’s ability to import refined gasoline would bring tremendous pressure on the government. Already unemployment is 15 – 20 percent with a much greater percentage of the population underemployed. Inflation is high – 20 percent – and could get very much higher. Subsidies are being cut by the Iranian government and dissent against the religious leaders is growing. A restless young Iranian population seems poised to assert itself.  Sanctions are not a silver bullet – but perhaps are silver shrapnel. Many Middle Eastern countries have in some way followed the sanctions endorsed by the international community, although not perfectly. Big violators of the sanctions have been China and Turkey, and traditional trading routes and partners have been hard to sever.

A key country to watch for Iranian influence is Iraq. Saddam Hussein was an enemy of Iran and fought a lengthy war against them in the mid 1980s. The current regime in Iraq is Shia – and the majority of the people are Shia – and it may well be unduly influenced by Iran.

Support for Iran dissidents is another method of undermining the current Iranian regime.   One approach that had merit was direct monetary support to the Green movement. This was stopped a couple of years ago as being too provocative and now efforts are being aimed at studies and reports by think tanks.  But is there oversight of the use of our money?  Is there oversight of Voice of America broadcasts?  Strong assertions are made that the Green movement has not been crushed and that we should actively support it.  It was suggested that we should also support Syrian dissidents and that the fall of Syria would be a huge blow to Iran. Of all the roughly 8 -10 revolutions going on now in the Middle East, the one location we know would result in a more friendly attitude toward Israel and the West if its current regime fell is – surprise – Iran. In all the other countries now engaged in some level of instability and even revolution, we have no idea what the ultimate outcome will be. 

Another method to get at Iran is to encourage the divestiture of assets of entities that have anything to do with Iran. Many of our countries universities and their foundations have holdings in companies that do business in Iran. An example of such a company is Hyundai. Many U.S. pension funds have assets with an Iranian connection.  Efforts to get them to divest have been largely unsuccessful.   

Many believe that our efforts are totally unsatisfactory and cannot bring about democratic change in Iran. Indeed, some feel that an “Iran lobby” is hard at work in U.S. policy circles and has thwarted more aggressive action against the Iranian regime.  Ideas for dealing with Iran seem to be in short supply and even our labor unions have not been supportive Iranian labor leaders. Many leaders think a deal can be struck with Iran, but Iran has long history of deception and delay that makes this doubtful.

Iran, in addition to nuclear weapons, is likely to have stores of biological weapons and perhaps chemical weapons. Countries such as North Korea and Pakistan are believed to have shipped WMD to Iran, but indications are that many of these weapons or their technology originated in Russia and China. And this raises the question – why are China and Russia engaged in assisting Iran? The obvious answer seems to be that they will do anything to harm the United States. A less obvious answer might be that Putin feels he is buying off an Iranian jihad against Russia by supplying it with weaponry and other technology. 

The international community has engaged in diplomatic and economic activity action against Iran. To date, it has not engaged in military or informational action against Iran.    Many feel that engaging in military activity would incite Iranians and bring a nationalistic fervor to the forefront should a direct conflict with Israel or the U.S. come about. Iran is a master of the information “spin” game; it is time for the West to also engage on this front. We have been shamefully quiet in our denunciation of the Iranian regime and its cruelty to its people. What we say is important – we should be naming the dissidents that are in danger (it protects them) and naming the perpetrators of the violence against the people of Iran and indicating that they will be held accountable.

Iran is a very unique country and enemy. It is a country with a cause. They see themselves as a movement; they believe they have a manifest destiny to have a global influence and ultimately will achieve global dominance. With the exceptional increase in Moslem populations throughout the world and with similar substantial increases in the economic heft of Moslem nations, the West is facing demographic and economic challenges as never before. Having an Iranian ideology emerge as the leader of the Islamic world would be a disaster.

We probably do not have an overarching strategy for dealing with Iran and we need one.   It is clear that diplomacy and economic sanctions should continue and be ratcheted up.   The military option is the least desirable although it should not be taken off the table.  Indeed, a clear message should be sent to Iran that it cannot act with impunity in the region and threaten it neighbors and that military force remains a viable option and that the days of our not considering military action are over. We must step up our informational campaign against the regime and be willing to denounce the barbarism of its leaders. We must learn from the lessons of the past that when a leader and a country overtly declare their intentions, we should listen, absorb, and action rationally in our defense and that of the future of the world.

1 comment:

3D ultrasounds said...

I am usually trying to find find here. This great article makes so much. more like this.