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What They Are Saying, Oct. 23, 2008
As Iran's Nuclear Clock Continues to Tick, the World Must Take Action
Former Israeli foreign minister Shlomo Ben Ami writes on www.realclearworld.com on Oct. 12 about the need for disarmament in the Middle East:
"Israel's desperate plea that the world act to curtail what its intelligence service describes as Iran's 'gallop toward a nuclear bomb' has not gotten the positive response that Israel expected. With the United Nations sanctions regime now having proven to be utterly ineffective, and with international diplomacy apparently futile in preventing the Iranians from mastering the technology for enriching uranium, Israel is being boxed into a corner. What was supposed to be a major international effort at mediation is deteriorating into an apocalyptic Israeli-Iranian showdown.
"This is an intriguing anomaly, for, notwithstanding Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's vile anti-Semitic rhetoric, the implications of Iran's emerging power extend far beyond the Jewish state. Indeed, it affects the entire Arab world, particularly the vulnerable Gulf countries, and even Afghanistan and Pakistan. The United States, as a major Middle East power, and Europe also have an interest in stemming the tide of nuclear proliferation that now threatens the Middle East. For a nuclear Iran would open the gates to an uncontrolled rush for the bomb across the region.
"The international system's failure to address effectively the nuclear issue in the Middle East stems mostly from the Russia-U.S. divide, to which wrongheaded American strategy has contributed mightily. Russia cannot want a nuclear Iran. But, in its quest for leverage against what it perceives as hostile American policies, and as way to bargain for a more acceptable security framework with the West, the Russians refuse to join America's leadership in international efforts to curtail Iran's nuclear ambitions.
"But, even if abandoned by the Russians, it is highly unlikely that Iran will give up its nuclear ambitions unless its regional concerns are addressed. Iran's nuclear drive reflects a broad national consensus, the result of a deep-seated sense of vulnerability and betrayal. The Iranians remember how the international community remained indifferent when Saddam Hussein attacked with chemical weapons in the 1980s.
"Any regional security architecture will have to be premised on the Middle East becoming a zone free of all weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. The Middle East retains the infamous distinction of being the only region in the world to have used such weapons since the end of World War II.
"Indeed, Arab states have both developed and used chemical and biological weapons 'not against Israel, so far, but against others in the region. Iraq used them against Iran, Egypt in its war in Yemen of the 1970s, and Iraq against its own Kurds. In 1993, Israel signed the international treaty banning chemical weapons, but did not ratify it because of the Arab states' refusal to follow suit as long as Israel maintained its nuclear advantage.
"The international community must recognize that the Middle East security equation is not a simple linear one involving Israel versus the Arab world. The proliferation of nuclear weapons in a region that has seen fit to use weapons of mass destruction before threatens everyone.
"So a concerted effort is needed by outside powers, such as the United States and Russia, not to act as spoilers of each other's policies in the region, but to create a WMD-free zone. Such a regional system cannot be built in a political vacuum. A major effort to assist in the solution of the region's major political disputes is a vital prerequisite. The nuclear clock is ticking."
Hezbollah Forces Have Taught Al Qaeda Important, Lethal Lessons
Columnist Clifford D. May writes in National Review (www.nationalreview.com) on Oct. 9 about the lessons of letting a terrorist go unpunished:
"Twenty-five years ago, several hundred U.S. Marines were stationed in Beirut on a peacekeeping mission. On Sept. 26, an official with the Iranian Intelligence Service in Tehran phoned the Iranian ambassador in Damascus and issued an order to have them killed. Twenty-eight days later, at 6:22 on Sunday morning, Oct. 23, 1983, two suicide bombers struck. The death toll: 241 troops, 'the highest loss of life in a single day since D-Day on Iwo Jima in 1945,' Timothy J. Geraghty, who had been the Marines' commanding officer, noted.
"We know about the phone call because, as Geraghty also noted, it was intercepted by the National Security Agency. Unfortunately, this was an occasion -- neither the first nor the last -- when intelligence was collected but not translated, analyzed and acted upon in time.
"To plan and carry out the attacks, the Iranian ambassador tapped Lebanese Hezbollah. The Hezbollah operative in charge was Imad Fayez Mughniyeh.
"In an article in Proceedings magazine, the flagship publication of the U.S. Naval Institute, Geraghty recalls that Mughniyeh went on to conduct many other terrorist operations, 'including the 1984 kidnapping and murder of the CIA station chief in Beirut, William Buckley. Mugniyeh was also directly in charge of the 1988 kidnapping and execution of Marine Corps Colonel Rich Higgins, who was serving with the United Nations peacekeeping mission. And he was indicted in absentia by the U.S. government for his role in the hijacking of TWA Flight 847 in 1985, which led to the savage beating and execution of U.S. Navy diver Robert Stetham.'
"In 1996, Mughniyeh (a Shia) met with Osama bin Laden (a Sunni) in Sudan. Among the topics these two terrorists presumably discussed was the efficacy of suicide attacks utilizing vehicles, the psychological impact of synchronized and simultaneous attacks, and the encouraging fact that the United States had never made any serious attempts to punish the individuals, groups and regimes that were responsible.
"That same year, in what is believed to have been a coordinated Iranian/Hezbollah/Al-Qaeda operation, a truck bomb was used to kill 19 American military personnel at Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia.
"In 1988, Al Qaeda carried out the dual suicide bombings of two of America's embassies in Africa. Two years later, the U.S.S. Cole would be attacked by suicide bombers using a small boat. And one year after that, 19 Al-Qaeda combatants would hijack four passenger jets and use them in the most devastating terrorist attack on the United States.
"While a second attack has not been successfully launched on American soil over the seven years since, Iranian-backed militias have killed American troops in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and the Islamist regime in Tehran has provided support to a range of terrorist groups.
"On Oct. 23, Geraghty writes, at a 'cemetery in southern Tehran, there will be a ceremony at a monument erected in 2004 to commemorate the Beirut suicide bombers. In attendance will likely be some dressed as suicide bombers, chanting the standard "death to America" and "death to Israel." ' The good news, if there is any, is that Mughniyeh will not be joining the festivities this year. In February, he was killed by a car bomb in Damascus. No individual, group or government has claimed responsibility."