By Ambassador (ret.) Yoram Ettinger
Irrespective of Israel's policies and existence, Iran's pursuit of mega-capability (nuclear) aims at removing the mega-obstacle (the US power projection), which would enable the Ayatollahs to attain their mega-goal: the domination of the Persian Gulf as a prelude to the domination of the Muslim World and then the entire globe.
According to the fact-driven "Guilty until proven innocent school of thought"– and in contrast to the hope-driven, fact-dismissing "Innocent until proven guilty school of thought” - a nuclear Iran would compound the clear, present and lethal threat posed by a conventional Iran to critical American and Western interests, to the survival of Israel, Saudi Arabia and other pro-US Arab oil-producers and to global sanity.
Moreover, the Ayatollahs' track record (e.g., sacrificing 500,000 of its own youth on the altar of clearing minefields during the 1980-88 war against Iraq) suggests that a nuclear, apocalyptic Iran would not be contained, while tolerating Iran as a threshold nuclear power could trigger a nuclear world war.
The track record of a conventional Iran highlights the following:
*Iran annually celebrates November 4 as "Death to America Day,” commemorating the 1979 seizure of the US Embassy, featuring a burning of the American flag.
*Iran intensifies radical Shiite ideology, emphasizing the submission of humanity to the Prophet Muhammad; the submission of the "infidel” the Sharia' laws; the duty to conduct a "holy war” (Jihad) on behalf of Islam; the divinely-ordained Islamic title to land (Waqf)); the duty to expand Dar al-Islam (the residence of the "believers”) into the Dar al-Harb (the residence of the "disbelievers,” who are doomed by the sword); and the art of doubletalk and deception-based agreements, aimed at shielding the "believers” from the "disbelievers” (Taqiyyah), to be abrogated once conditions are ripe.
*Taqiyya is employed by Iran's President, Rouhani, who was Iran's chief negotiator with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), systematically misleading and violating commitments. In September, 2002, Rouhani stated: "When we sign international treaties, it means that we are not pursuing nuclear weapons, chemical weapons or biological weapons.” He was a planner of the 1994 "AMIA terrorism,” causing the murder of 85 civilians in Buenos Aires.
*Iran is the leading sponsor of global Islamic terrorism, including hundreds of sleeper cells in the US.
*Iran intensifies cooperation with North Korea, including the joint development of a long-range missile, capable of carrying nuclear warheads, which could reach the US.
*Iran collaborates with the anti-US regimes in Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador and Cuba, is expanding ties with Argentina and seeking enhanced ties with Mexico.
*Iran fuels Shiite subversion and terrorism in the Persian Gulf – especially in Bahrain and the Al-Hasa oil region of Saudi Arabia - in order to topple "apostate” regimes. Hence, the unprecedented homeland security cooperation between Israel and Arab Gulf States.
*Iran's Revolutionary Guard, weapons, training and money catapulted the anti-Saudi Shiite Houthi minority to the helm in Yemen, aiming to topple the House of Saud, as was attempted in the 1960s by Egyptian President Nasser. A stronghold in Yemen would provide the Ayatollahs with control of Bab el-Mandeb Strait, the strategic link between the Indian Ocean, the Red Sea and the Mediterranean for oil tankers and other vessels. It would generate subversion and terrorism in the neighboring pro-US Oman, which jointly (with Iran) controls the Strait of Hormuz, the only outlet for oil tankers from the Persian Gulf to the open sea.
*Iran dominates much of Iraq, threatens the survival of the pro-US regimes of Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, and has expanded anti-US Iraqi terrorism, as it has done in Afghanistan.
*Iran is the key supporter of Syria' Assad regime and Hezbollah, which has terrorized Lebanon , targeting Americans, as demonstrated by the two 1983 car bombs, that claimed the lives of 300 US Marines at the US Embassy and Marines headquarters in Beirut.
*The number of executions in Iran has increased during Rouhani's presidency - 721 in 2014, 665 in 2013 and 522 in 2012 – which prohibits freedom of religion, speech, press, association and expression.
Notwithstanding such a ruthless track record, the "hope-driven, fact-dismissing school of thought” considers the Ayatollahs a partner for an agreement (rather than imposition), in a region where intra-Muslim agreements are usually signed on ice, not carved in stone. In fact, the nature of the Iranian regime, on the one hand, and compliance with agreements, on the other hand, constitute a classic oxymoron.
Furthermore, the long term goal of denying Iran nuclear capabilities – which may require deterrence-maximizing unilateral American action - could be undermined by short-term eagerness to conclude an agreement through the ineffective deterrence-minimizing multilateral action. The overt eagerness strengthens the hand of Iran and increases the price to be paid by the West.
Recent precedents suggest that the diplomatic option is applicable to rogue regimes that abandon violence, while a credible military option should be highlighted during negotiation with rogue regimes that adhere to violence. For instance, it was the 1988 intensification of the US bombing of Iranian targets, which led Ayatollah Khomeini to reluctantly evacuate Iraqi territory and sign a ceasefire agreement with Iraq. In 2003, Gaddafi's dismantling his nuclear infrastructure, and Iran's suspending nuclear development, were triggered by the US military devastation of Saddam Hussein. However, lowering the profile of the US military option has convinced Iran that it could get away with terror and nuclear.
Will the US learn from recent history by avoiding, or repeating, past mistakes?!
Are the Ayatollahs amenable to policy-change, or do they require a regime-change?