THE PROGRESSIVE CONSERVATIVE, USA

An Online Journal of Political Commentary & Analysis
Volume VII, Issue # 228, October 16, 2005
Dr. Almon Leroy Way, Jr., Editor
Government Committed to & Acting in Accord with Conservative Principles
Ensures a Nation's Strength, Progress, & Prosperity
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TEHRAN RISING:  A BRIEFING
By Ilan Berman

THE IRANIAN POLITICAL REGIME & THE GROWING THREAT IT POSES TO AMERICAN NATIONAL INTERESTS IN THE MIDDLE EAST & CENTRAL ASIA:  THE REGIME'S MOVING AGGRESSIVELY TOWARD ACQUIRING NUCLEAR CAPABILITY THAT COULD BE EASILY TRANSFORMED INTO AN OFFENSIVE NUCLEAR ARSENAL -- THE IRANIAN GOVERNMENT AS A MAJOR SPONSOR OF ISLAMIC TERRORISM -- THE BALANCE OF POWER IN THE PERSIAN GULF SHIFTING TOWARD IRAN -- HOW THE UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT SHOULD RESPOND TO THE GROWING IRANIAN THREAT
FULL STORY:   Iran is a rising power in the Middle East and Central Asia and a growing threat to American national interests in the region..
THE DANGER
The Iranian government is moving aggressively towards acquiring nuclear capability that it could easily transform into an offensive nuclear arsenal. The nuclear endeavor is clear: the authorities have hidden sites, are involved in plutonium conversion and uranium enrichment, and they have prevented the International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors from entering certain sites. Further, sites that were inspected had been sanitized by removal of certain equipment.

Iran's nuclear endeavor started under the Shah and inherited by the leaders of the Khomeini government, whose mentality is cause for acute concern. The Iranians see themselves having a choice, to become like North Korea, which possesses nuclear weapons and thus stands out of the reach of the U.S.A., or to end up like Iraq, invaded and with a new government. Not surprisingly, they see nuclear weapons as a tool to deter Washington, rather than cause an attack.

But Iran's nuclear capability is not Americans' only concern. The regime has long ranked high as a sponsor of terrorism. Its expanding Hezbollah's reach has led, for example, to the sending of 12,000 artillery pieces and short-range rockets that the Shi'ite militia in Lebanon now possesses for use against Israel. Tehran is also helping Hezbollah expand in Africa. American officials say Hezbollah's capabilities equal or exceed those of al-Qa'ida.

It once was thought that Shi'ites and Sunnis would not cooperate, because of theological differences, but it is now clear that the Iranians and al-Qa'ida have found common cause. At least 10 percent of al-Qa'ida's communications go through Iran, as at least some authorities there are aware. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian-born terrorist, won safe haven in Iran, and his insurgency operations are now taking place in its Kurdish regions.

Tehran has also meddled in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Israeli official sources state that Hezbollah has directed over 50 separate Palestinian terrorist cells in 2004, a sevenfold increase from 2002. Hezbollah (and Iran) are filling a political vacuum in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

The Iranian leadership perceives U.S. actions, such as the operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, as a threat, and has been interfering in Iraq to avoid the democratization in that country, as a way to stave off the same prospect in Iran itself. It has been increasing its activity in the post-Soviet states to co-opt countries that could be useful to the U.S.A. Tehran signed a bilateral security agreement with the Syrian government that said neither country would host troops that would be hostile to the other. In addition, Iran has increased its naval presence in the Caspian Sea, which is a substantial energy hub. Co-opting the countries in the region would have negative consequences on the energy market.

THE REST OF THE WORLD
In the Persian Gulf, the balance of power is shifting away toward Iran, now the region's dominant military power. Iran receives investments from Russia, China and North Korea, while making pacts with the Saudis, Kuwaitis, and Iraqis. The U.S. protective umbrella in the Persian Gulf is receding; Iran and its smaller neighbors are starting to make security pacts.

The U.S. government tried negotiations with Tehran through the European Union, but without success not surprisingly, given their incompatible goals. Bush said he would not tolerate a nuclear Iran, but some of his European counterparts approved of Iran having some level of nuclear capability.

Nor will the United Nations Security Council control Iran, for two permanent members (Russia and China) are important providers of knowledge and technology to Iran. Although the Russians, with population centers in close proximity to Iran, might wake up to the dangers of proliferation, the Chinese are another matter. Beijing has succeeded in signing deals with Iran in the past year that basically offer Tehran a UN Security Council veto in return for energy resources.

THE RESPONSE
To challenge Iran, Washington should:

Deploy defenses to protect countries like Jordan, Saudi Arabia, or Kuwait from Iranian ballistic missiles. The Iraqis have, in particular, cited Iran's capabilities as a threat. This would blunt Iranian influence in the region.

Counter proliferation, for which the Bush administration's Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) has been extremely important toward that goal. (PSI is a series of bilateral arrangements between more than 60 countries that allow for mutual alteration of international law to permit intelligence sharing, hot pursuit into international waters, and other matters, in situations when weapons of mass destruction are involved.) PSI has managed to curtail as much as two-thirds of North Korea's missile trading over the last two years. Washington should think of bringing PSI to the Persian Gulf and nearby regions to contain technology flowing in and out of Iran

These steps can delay Iran's nuclear capabilities, but not stop them. It is, therefore, important to focus on who will be ruling in Tehran. Iranians are dissatisfied with their government now, and the country is worse off or at least just as bad now as in 1977. Half of Iranians live under Iran's poverty line, the unemployment rate is about 20 percent and rising, and the drug-use rate is 5 times higher than that of the U.S.A.

The U.S. government needs to look at Iran's opposition groups and empower journalists to report on domestic situations. It says it supports Iran's move to constitutional democracy, but it does not show that. Washington needs to clarify its message to Iranians. The opposition needs to know it has solid American support, and will have that support for the long run.

There will be a nuclear Iran in 5 or 10 years. Whose hands do we want the weapons in?


LINKS TO RELATED TOPICS:
The Middle East & the Problem of Iran

Islamism & Jihadism -- The Threat of Radical Islam
Page Three    Page Two    Page One

War & Peace in the Real World
   Page Two    Page One

Islamist Terrorist Attacks on the U.S.A.

Osama bin Laden & the Islamist Declaration of War
Against the U.S.A. & Western Civilization

Islamist International Terrorism &
U.S. Intelligence Agencies

U.S. National Security Strategy



Ilan Berman is Vice President for Policy at the American Foreign Policy Council in Washington, D.C. An expert on security issues in the Middle East, Central Asia and Russia, he has consulted for the CIA and the Pentagon and is a frequent guest on radio and television. His writings have appeared in The National Interest, the International Herald Tribune, Financial Times, and the Middle East Quarterly. He is Adjunct Professor at the National Defense University and Editor of the Journal of International Security Affairs.


The foregoing article by Ilan Berman was originally published as a "MEF Wire" and can be found on the Internet website maintained by the Middle East Forum.


Republished with Permission of the Middle East Forum
Reprinted from the Middle East Forum News
mefnews@meforum.org (MEF NEWS)
October 15, 2005





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