Sunday, November 23, 2014

We've been dealing with world's most dangerous jihadis for decades

Today, November 24, is a day of reckoning with the most actively dangerous regime in the world. For years, this regime has waged a bloody, undeclared war against the West and western liberalism. It has engaged in a real war with its neighbouring rival. And it is utterly committed to obtaining nuclear weapons.

The Islamic Republic of Iran is a jihadist theocracy that has dragged Iran into economic depression while routinely executing, imprisoning and intimidating its domestic opponents.

It helped instigate the bloodbaths in Syria and Iraq by supporting the Shia-dominated regimes in both countries which oppressed their large Sunni populations. Both countries are now in sectarian civil war. The most loathsome expression of the Sunni insurrection is the group Islamic State.

Iran is far more dangerous than Islamic State, which is no longer fighting a useless army of Iraqi conscripts and is now taking heavy attrition from US air power and Shiite militias trained and financed by Iran. Jihad has met counter-jihad.     


Yet the West, led by US President Barack Obama, has equivocated and appeased this regime for years over nuclear weapons. The West has imposed economic sanctions but allowed the Iranians to talk and talk while they build and build their nuclear program. The Iranian regime knows that every hour it can spend negotiating brings it closer to the point of no return, acquiring nuclear weapons capacity.

So steadfast is this nuclear ambition that the Iranian theocracy is willing to depress the Iranian economy in the cause, which means the Iranian people bear the burden of the regime's nuclear obsession.

For 12 years, the International Atomic Energy Agency has been expressing concern about the nature of Iran's nuclear research program. For the past four years, a group of six nations – the US, China, Russia, Germany, the United Kingdom and France – have been negotiating with Iran over its nuclear program. Iran has yet to make a single major concession amid a shower of minor ones.

As of today, Iran is supposed to have agreed to cap its nuclear fuel production capacity, and commit to reducing the 10,000 centrifuges it is operating. It also must answer a number of questions about the extent of its nuclear weapons research. It must accept stringent transparency conditions.

It has met none of these demands. Nor was Iran ever going to meet this deadline. It has been willing to participate in formal negotiations because the process offers the illusion of progress, while buying time to build.

On November 11, two weeks before today's deadline, Russia and Iran announced that Russia would build as many as eight nuclear power plants for Iran, with two firm commitments and options to build a further six plants.

The Russians claim this will curb Iran's nuclear weapons program because the agreement stipulates that Russia supplies the reactor fuel for the power plants, which negates Iran's argument that it needs to develop its own uranium enrichment program.

The deal has not negated this ambition. The Iranians are refusing to scale back their uranium enrichment program even at the risk of incurring further sanctions.

This goes to the intrinsic core of the Islamic Republic. It is a state that supports jihad and aims for more than domestic power. That is why Iranian meddling can be found among the origins of the bloodshed in Syria, Iraq, Gaza and Lebanon.

Iran supported the disastrously divisive Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, who lived in exile in Iran for eight years during the Saddam regime in Iraq. After moving to Syria he worked closely with the Iranian surrogate, Hezbollah.

Iran has intervened directly in Iraq since the collapse of Iraqi unity and the subsequent power vacuum exploited by Islamic State. It has sent Iranian Revolutionary Guard personnel, elite Qods Force teams and ground-attack fighters to confront Islamic State.

Iran has long supported Syrian dictator President Bashar al-Assad and when Syria descended into civil war along the Sunni-Shia divide, it deployed Revolutionary Guards and Hezbollah militia to prop up the Assad regime's brutal suppression of the insurgency.

Iran has sponsored terrorist attacks throughout the region, and beyond, for more than 30 years, since the 1983 suicide bombing in Beirut by Islamic Jihad, which killed and maimed hundreds of American and French soldiers, for which Iran built a monument celebrating the attack.

Iran funded and trained insurgents killing US and allied forces during the occupation of Iraq.

Iran armed, trained, funded and directed Hezbollah, which has created a Shia state within a state in southern Lebanon. It has supplied Hezbollah with military expertise and thousands of missiles, which have been fired into Israel or stockpiled for future attacks.

Iran provided thousands of rockets that Hamas has launched from Gaza into Israel (even though Hamas is a militant Sunni group).

Iran has promised to supply similar rockets to Palestinians on the West Bank.

Iran is the great destabiliser of its region, even more so since the ultimate single act of destabilisation, the 2003 decision by US President George W Bush to invade and occupy Iraq. (I was highly critical of it at the time and have remained so.)

Now Bush's successor, President Obama, is facing the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran with a commitment to jihad, a long history of sponsoring terrorism and a Persian imperial impulse. This would present a more unstable and volatile nuclear threat than the Communist regimes of the Soviet Union and China at the height of the Cold War.

President Obama, though possessing a far more subtle and worldly understanding of foreign affairs than his Texan predecessor, would thus leave a potentially even worse legacy in the Middle East than President Bush if he appeases Iran's nuclear brinkmanship.

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