HILLARY CLINTON'S RIGHT TO SAY "OBLITERATE"
By Dr. Michael Rubin
If peace and stability are Obama's goals, one only needs to read the Iranian newspapers to see that he is dead wrong. On Sunday, the economic daily Donya-e Eqtesad declared the most recent diplomatic initiative -- a package of incentives offered by the United States, Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany -- to be a validation of Iranian defiance. Then, the next day, Kayhan, the daily newspaper that is the mouthpiece of the Iranian Supreme Leader, ridiculed international diplomats' offers of incentives to Iran if it stops its nuclear enrichment, chiding them "for mistaking Iran today with Iran four years ago" and noting that "Iran's bargaining position has strengthened considerably" since it began to accelerate its enrichment.
Obama must confront reality: While everyone wishes for diplomacy's success, it is Iran's nuclear advance, not American "saber-rattling," that is the single greatest danger to international peace and security.
The civilian nature of Iran's nuclear program is fiction. First, there is original sin: Iran experimented with warhead design until 2003. It spent millions to conceal its enrichment capability. It rests on a sea of oil and gas, giving it almost limitless generating capability for a fraction of its nuclear investment. Most damning, Iran does not possess the uranium resources to power its reactors beyond 2023.
Iran's Foreign Ministry officials -- basically out-of-the-loop minders for Western diplomats and journalists -- deny military ambitions. But those closer to Iran's leadership tell a very different story. On December 14, 2001, then-President Hashemi Rafsanjani raised the possibility that, because Iran has the size to withstand a nuclear response, a nuclear first strike on Israel might be worthwhile.
On May 29, 2005, Hojjat ol-Islam Gholam Reza Hasani, the Supreme Leader's representative in West Azerbaijan, declared possession of nuclear weapons to be one of Iran's top goals. "An atom bomb ...must be produced as well," he said. While University of Michigan Professor Juan Cole has made a cottage industry of denying that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said he wished to wipe Israel off the face of the map, the Iranian President's official translation affirmed his genocidal intent, as did the missiles paraded through Tehran with banners calling for Israel's demise.
The next U.S. President will confront a very different Iran from that faced by George Bush. That Obama, while not taking military options off the table entirely, seems bent on relying primarily on inspections and negotiations, shows ignorance and inexperience.
The International Atomic Energy Agency inspects only Iran's declared facilities. It does so once a month. But, if Iran has installed 6,000 centrifuges, as Ahmadinejad has claimed, the Islamic Republic could produce a bomb's worth of highly enriched uranium in a matter of weeks.
If Iran goes nuclear, no amount of diplomacy will put the nuclear genie back in the bottle. And, while most Iranians are peaceful, they do not control the country's nuclear program; the Supreme Leader and the Revolutionary Guards -- the most ideological and reactionary faction within the Islamic Republic -- do.
And so, in the face of a saber-rattling Iran, the next U.S. President will have just two main policy options: containment and deterrence. Both are military strategies. Containment requires alliances with regional states, forward deployment, and, yes, permanent bases. Deterrence requires all Iranians to understand the collective responsibility that accompanies any use of nuclear weapons.
Clarifying red lines and consequences is not warmongering; it is responsible diplomacy.
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Dr. Michael Rubin, a Ph.D. in History (Yale University) and a specialist in Middle Eastern politics, Islamic culture and Islamist ideology, is Editor of the Middle East Quarterly, a senior lecturer at the Naval Postgraduate School, and a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research. Dr Rubin is author of Into the Shadows: Radical Vigilantes in Khatami's Iran (Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 2001) and is co-author, with Dr. Patrick Clawson, of Eternal Iran: Continuity and Chaos (Palgrave Macmillan, 2005). Dr. Rubin served as political advisor to the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad (2003-2004); staff advisor on Iran and Iraq in the Office of the U.S. Secretary of Defense (2002-2004); visiting lecturer in the Departments of History and International Relations at Hebrew University of Jerusalem (2001-2002); visiting lecturer at the Universities of Sulaymani, Salahuddin, and Duhok in Iraqi Kurdistan (2000-2001); Soref Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (1999-2000); and visiting lecturer in the Department of History at Yale University (1999-2000). He has been a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, the Leonard Davis Institute at Hebrew University, and the Carnegie Council on Ethics and International Affairs.
The foregoing article by Dr. Rubin was originally published in the New York Daily News, May 7, 2008, and can be found on the Internet website maintained by the Middle East Forum, a foreign policy think tank which seeks to define and promote American interests in the Middle East, defining U.S. interests to include fighting radical Islam, working for Palestinian Arab acceptance of the State of Israel, improving the management of U.S. efforts to promote constitutional democracy in the Middle East, reducing America's energy dependence on the Middle East, more robustly asserting U.S. interests vis-à-vis Saudi Arabia, and countering the Iranian threat. (Article URL: http://www.meforum.org/article/1889)
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