Iran Policy Must Match the Threat

The U.S. recently labeled Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) a terror group.  Many Americans worry that it’s not enough.  It isn’t, because the IRGC and the Iranian regime have been engaged in a one-sided “Death to America” campaign against the U.S. for 28 years. 

Ayatollah Khomeini created the IRGC in 1979 to safeguard the ideals of his Shiite Islamic Revolution, protect his regime from domestic and foreign opponents, and export his brutal brand of Islamic fundamentalism, influence, and terrorism to neighboring states. 

The group operates independently from Iran’s regular military – reporting directly to the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah Khamenei – and currently has about 200,000 members assigned to special army, air force, navy and intelligence units. 

The IRGC exports the revolution through its Quds (Jerusalem) Force.  This IRGC subgroup is comprised of about 20,000 highly-trained personnel specializing in guerrilla war, armed insurgency, and terrorism in places like Iraq, Lebanon, the West Bank, and Gaza Strip.

IRGC members participated in seizing the American Embassy in 1979 and holding 52 hostages for 444 days – in violation of international law and millennia of diplomatic protocols.  Its Quds Force used Hizballah proxies to bomb U.S. embassies and the Marine Barracks in Lebanon, residences in Saudi Arabia, and orchestrated the kidnapping and murdering of Americans.  They now manufacture and supply lethal roadside bombs to Shiite militias in Iraq and the Taliban in Afghanistan which kill and maim American troops.

In addition to having a powerful security apparatus, IRGC exerts tremendous political and economic clout.  Former and current group members occupy 14 of 21 cabinet positions, 80 of 290 parliament seats, and a host of local mayor-ships and council seats.  Past and present members also include Iran’s President Ahmadinejad, ambassador to Iraq Kazemi-Qomi, and Supreme National Security Council Secretary Larijani.  IRGC is also a business conglomerate that controls about 500 companies active in a wide range of industries including nuclear power, banking, insurance and recreation. 

IRGC and Quds Force headquarters are located in Tehran, the latter in the former U.S. embassy.  Their main tactical bases for Iraq operations are located in the Fajr and Nasr garrisons in Khuzestan and Azerbaijan provinces – and the principal terrorist training facility is located in Northern Tehran’s Imam Ali Garrison.  Lethal roadside bombs (explosively formed projectiles) are produced by Sattari Industries in Tehran’s Lavizan District.

The Bush administration expects designating the IRGC as a terror group will better enable the U.S. to block its assets and disrupt the ability of foreign businesses to provide arms and other support to the group.  While a useful step, it’s not enough to stop Iran’s terror activities and nuclear ambitions.  Unless foreign nations are willing to support a strong sanctions regimen, the U.S. cannot achieve stated objectives.  For example, since 1984 the U.S. has imposed congressionally mandated economic and export penalties on American firms doing business with Iran’s terrorist regime.  The net result: French, German, Russian, Chinese, and Japanese businesses simply supplanted U.S. businesses as Iranian trading partners and by 2006, Iran’s annual trade blossomed to $110 billion. 

If the U.S. truly seeks to achieve greater Middle East peace and stability it should incorporate military measures into the current Iranian policy and covertly encourage all Iranian opposition and resistance groups and dissidents – including the MEK which the U.S. unjustly labeled a terror group during the Clinton Administration in a failed rapprochement attempt – to increase activities to peaceably change the government.

President Bush has repeatedly issued diplomatic warnings to Iran, to no avail.  At one time or another, the President has warned Iran to cease: (1) developing its nuclear program immediately and verifiably; (2) providing ordnance and training to Iraqi Shiite militias like the Mahdi Army, Badr organization and others; (3) supporting foreign terror groups like Hizballah, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad; and (4) providing sanctuary to al Qaeda leaders and operatives.  Nothing has, so far, changed Iranian behavior one iota.  And as Henry Kissinger noted, diplomacy is impotent if not backed by credible threat of force. 

At this point, the president should reconsider diplomatic action.  In the past four years of negotiations, the EU-3 – Britain, France and Germany – have made no progress whatever in getting Iran to back away from uranium enrichment.  In fact, in its 28 years, no one has successfully negotiated any change in the Iranian regime’s behavior. 

The president can, and should, announce that the US policy toward Iran is regime change.  He should also act to support Iranian opposition and resistance groups and dissidents bravely committed to changing their government. Iran is rife with disenchantment and dissent and unfortunately severe repression – as illustrated by the regime recently arresting more than one million people and hanging and stoning several hundred of them to death.  In all, there were some 4,800 anti-government demonstrations and protest acts during the past year, among them student demonstrations, workers protests, and riots to protest gasoline rationing.  Any significant degradation of IRGC capabilities, through selective U.S. air strikes, and a concurrent popular uprising among Iran’s 65 million citizens could eventually lead to the downfall of the regime.

There is nothing else the President can do, other than seek approval from the U.S. Congress to use military force against Iran.  Though this Congress is likely to deny him this authority, the President should, in any event, try to obtain it.  Moreover, in the event of an imminent and extreme threat such as an impending nuclear test, the president should use existing constitutional war power authorities to neutralize it.

The U.S. has never adequately responded to Iran’s repeated acts of war against U.S. troops, citizens and interests.  It’s a fact not lost on the American public and it’s one reason why a Zogby Poll (released on October 29, 2007) reports that 52 percent of surveyed Americans support a military strike on Iran to prevent it from developing nuclear weapons. 

After years of hand-wringing and failed diplomatic efforts dating back to the Carter presidency, Americans deserve a policy commensurate with the security threat.  It must be one that drives the current Iranian thugs from power.