Monday, September 22, 2008

MCINERNEY: Don't kowtow to Iran

U.S., Israel face key decisions
Thomas G. McInerney
Monday, September 22, 2008

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad waves during a conference in Tehran entitled 'The World without Zionism', 26 October 2005. Mr. Ahmadinejad openly called for Israel to be ’wiped off the map’ adding that ’The establishment of the Zionist regime was a move by the world oppressor against the Islamic world.’

Israel is now facing an existential threat from Iran. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad weekly pronounces that Israel will be wiped off the face of the earth - while he simultaneously refuses to negotiate in good faith with the United Nations and Europe on even so much as suspending the Iranian nuclear enrichment program. Iran takes great pride in publicly proclaiming each additional installation of centrifuges at its facility in Natanz. We naively keep discussing more sticks and carrots with no success. The U.N. Security Council and the Europeans, led by the EU 3 ( the United Kingdom, France and Germany), continue to insist soft power in the form of sanctions can resolve this difficult issue. But after each meeting, the Iranians repeat that they will not be deterred from continuing their "peaceful" enrichment program and we continue to think sanctions will work. Apparently our negotiators do not understand the word "no!" Sanctions would work if Russia and China would assist, but they are doing the exact opposite by providing the Iranians new weapons and economic assistance that defy the sanctions - and that was before the invasion of Georgia.

Where is Neville Chamberlain when we don't need him? He's here and we are in denial. The better question is: Where is Winston Churchil? He is nowhere to be found in the Western leadership. However, this may change in the coming elections in Israel and the United States.

In the United States, the race between Sen. John McCain and Sen. Barack Obama offers a very real choice. Mr. McCain brings a very experienced national-security portfolio. He just demonstrated this experience and decisive judgment during Russia's disproportionate response in the Georgian crisis. At the outset, even ahead of the Bush administration, Mr. McCain got it right and denounced Russia's naked aggression. Mr. Obama's views on national security reflect his complete lack of international experience and a view that we must reduce our nuclear deterrent forces significantly and negotiate with our enemies without preconditions. He initially misjudged Russia's intentions in Georgia, but has since recognized its belligerent actions.

It becomes very clear that both Israel and the United States will be making election decisions that will have a direct impact on Israel's survival in the next four years. As evidenced in our intelligence missteps in recent years, we cannot expect to have a very accurate understanding of Iran's progress in nuclear enrichment and weaponization.

A military air response to destroy or damage Iran's nuclear facilities is our last choice, but it is an absolute necessity. Russia's sale of the S-300 long-range missile system, which will negate non-stealth aircraft, is the trigger for action by Israel or the United States. Just-in-time pre-emptive action is not possible.

A nuclear-armed Iran is not an option. Those who consider it one and use the U.S. experience with the Soviet Union as an example have misjudged this threat. The Soviets did not say on a weekly basis that the United States should be wiped off the face of the earth.

In addition, the ideology of jihadist suicide bombers and the radical Islamists who attacked on September 11( and the Iranian Mullahs' belief that the 12th imam will come out of a well in the holy city of Qom after two-thirds of the world's population is killed) is not the same as that of the Soviet leadership. Coexistence with a nuclear Iran is not the same as with the old U.S.S.R for the above reasons.

President Bush has said that a nuclear Iran is not an option, but has let his senior advisors convince him that negotiations can be successful- and the Iranians know that.

We send too many signals of appeasement. Consequently, Iran is speeding up its enrichment program to enable them to weaponize a nuclear capability - perhaps in a nonconventional form such as a refrigerator in a container - as soon as possible.

Do not expect an attack from a missile delivering a nuclear weapon with all the fingerprints that provides. No, it will show up in a Ryder truck as an obscure delivery that our intelligence will never detect - and a radical Islamist group like al Qaeda or Hezbollah will claim credit.

We will soon know if the Israeli people understand this danger as well as the United States. Upcoming decisions by these democracies will determine Israel's survival in the near future.

We all want successful negotiations to resolve this existential threat, but America's lack of resolve and appeasement strategy plus the complicity of Russia and China make that outcome impossible.

Let's hope the Israeli and American people send Iran the right signal - and that Winston Churchill shows up in time.

Lt. Gen. Thomas G. McInerney (ret.) formerly served as assistant vice chief of staff of the Air Force. He is a Fox News military analyst.

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