Leaving Iran for the Next Administration

It’s obvious by now that the Bush Administration has no intention of acting decisively on the Iranian nuclear threat. That is unfortunate because the longer we wait, the more serious the problem grows.

To all who have studied Iran’s regime, the possibility Iran’s intent is peaceful is as minute as the horror of it achieving nuclear arms is great. Somebody in charge here (hopefully with our allies, but if not, then alone) is going to have to give the order one day to eliminate the Iranian program by force and the sooner that is done, the less is the chance that it may spark a larger conflict.

We are certainly not the only nation who would like to see a fully and verifiably de-nuclearized Iran. Many Arab nations do not want Iran to gain a military advantage over them as they fear the motives of a basically unstable and enormously dangerous Iranian government.

To its credit, the Bush Administration has repeatedly warned of the coming dangers of a nuclear-armed Iran. In his State of the Union message on Monday, January 28, President Bush took the time to single out and differentiate the people of Iran from their government, saying:

“We have no quarrel with you. We respect your traditions and your history. We look forward to the day when you have your freedom. Our message to the leaders of Iran is also clear: Verifiably suspend your nuclear enrichment, so negotiations can begin. And to rejoin the community of nations, come clean about your nuclear intentions and past actions, stop your oppression at home, cease your support for terror abroad. But above all, know this: America will confront those who threaten our troops. We will stand by our allies and we will defend our vital interests in the Persian Gulf. ”

These last comments were mostly inspired by the recent game of chicken in which Iranian gunboats attempted to engage the U.S. Navy in the Persian Gulf.  And that is certainly an issue that needs our attention because Iran would like nothing better than to have the U.S. incur the ire of world opinion for firing upon their “poor little defenseless crafts” for what might appear to many as no valid reason.

The problem illustrated by this incident is that we lack any clear and decisive policy toward Iran.  Its aggression is never challenged with active measures, only half-hearted statements to the press or the UN.   For our ships at sea, especially in the Persian Gulf where the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps is very active, that lack of policy is evolving into a policy in itself: to let the Iranians act forcibly and provocatively even where they threaten American lives.

For at least four years, Iran has been manufacturing and smuggling into Iraq the “explosively-formed penetrator” (“EFP”) explosive device for the sole purpose of killing American and other Coalition troops. It is the single most effective weapon the terrorists have against us.  And the Bush Administration has in almost all instances exacted no price.

The incident in the Gulf proves that failure to respond only emboldens Iran.  The more they get away with, the more bold they become.  It is time we announce to the world that these incidents will — every time and any time — be responded to with military action.  The local rules of engagement establish only a flexible “exclusionary zone” around US ships.  

The IRGC is a formally-designated terrorist organization. If they are allowed to send their boats against our navy in provocative attack-like maneuvers without being fired upon, then presumably we’d allow al-Queda to do the same. The result is obviously farcical: if the IRGC are terrorists, they should be destroyed wherever they are found.  Allowing them to close on US naval vessels is beyond dumb: it’s bizarre.

From now on, the IRGC and all others should know that if they come within 1,000 yards of a US ship, they will be fired on and destroyed.  Come to think of it, if they come within range of any US forces — anywhere, anytime — they should be fired on.  Or are we now in the business of playing nice with some terrorists while our soldiers, sailors, marines, airmen and coast guardsmen are risking their lives fighting others?

The Bush policy in this matter appears to be merely about words and not about action.

Leaving the decision of what to do about Iran to the next American President is as dangerous to world peace as, unfortunately, are some of our current choices to be the next American Commander-in-Chief.