- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 14, 2005

Two tough guys will meet next month at the opening of the United Nations. These diplomatic ruffians will wrestle over the U.S.-Iranian cold war as Iran restarts uranium processing and denies American charges that it is trafficking weapons into Iraq.

In one corner is John Bolton, President Bush’s recess appointee to be ambassador to the U.N. While Democrats allege that Mr. Bolton is a bully, that may be what is needed in the debate over Iran. On that subject, Mr. Bolton suggests, “it [Iran] has to be isolated in its bad behavior.”

In the other corner is Iran’s new president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who has promised to address his country’s nuclear activities and foreign policy. The former Tehran mayor, a long-time revolutionary guard, is close to Supreme Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who engineered his election.

Messrs. Bolton and Ahmadinejad have the temperament necessary to resolve the standoff that began when Iranian revolutionaries seized our embassy in 1979. Since that seizure, the mullahs have waged a low-intensity war using proxies such as the terrorist group Hezbollah that murdered 241 U.S. Marines in Beirut. In response to that event, the U.S. froze $24 billion in Iranian assets and blocked the republic’s access to capital and technology.

Messrs. Bolton and Ahmadinejad must discuss the facts surrounding Iran’s role in Iraq, its nuclear and missile programs, its associations with terrorist groups and its oppressive human rights record. These are hot-button issues that, if not mended, could lead to armed confrontation.

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said Iran harbors financiers and organizers of the Iraqi insurgency and has sent fighters and weapons to assist Shi’ite insurgents.

On Aug. 9, Secretary Rumsfeld declared, “It is true that weapons . . from Iran have been found in Iraq.” Sophisticated munitions similar to those used by Hezbollah against Israelis have been used in Iraq to kill Americans.

Very troubling is Iran’s influence over Iraq’s Shia-controlled government. America fears Iran is trying to clone itself in Iraq rather than let that country establish a secular republic.

A major topic of discussion must be Iran’s nuclear ambitions. On Aug. 9, Mr. Ahmadinejad rejected calls by European leaders to halt uranium processing claiming it is “our right” under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. He denies his country is pursuing nuclear weapons although the U.S. charges there is evidence to the contrary. It is of little help that Iranian intelligence minister Ali Yenesi announced that the U.S. has been fooled by double-agent disinformation.

Mr. Bolton is not amused by this allegation. He warned, “If we permit Iran’s deception to go on much longer, it will be too late. Iran will have nuclear weapons.”

For years, Iran hid facilities such as the uranium conversion factory in Isfahan and up to 4,000 centrifuges at Natanz. In June, however, Iran admitted to a small-scale experiment to create plutonium.

Once uncovered, Iran released video footage of its facilities to extract uranium ore and to produce uranium hexafluoride, only one step away from centrifuge enrichment for energy or weapon use. According to The Washington Post, the new National Intelligence Estimate includes credible indicators that Iran is acquiring and mastering technologies that could be diverted to production of weapons and has a clandestine nuclear weapons program. The report states, “left to its own devices, Iran is determined to build nuclear weapons” although not for maybe another decade.

Iranian centrifuges were traced to Abdul Qaadeer Khan, the father of the Pakistani bomb. We don’t know, however, whether Mr. Khan, a black marketer, sold nuclear weapon plans to Iran like those confessed by Libya.

The U.S. has also determined that Iran tried to buy high-speed switches that could be used to trigger a nuclear weapon and specialized cameras that could test a nuclear explosion.

At Arak, Iran is constructing a heavy water reactor. “A heavy water reactor … is likely to have one significant purpose — the production of plutonium for nuclear weapons,” said James Schlesinger, former secretary of defense. For weapons, plutonium is preferred to enriched uranium because less is required.

A nuclear device of significant size requires a delivery system and Iran has developed the Shahab ballistic missile, which is being improved with solid-fuel technology. The improved version can be mass produced and could easily target Israel.

Recent photographs indicate that the Shahab warhead has been redesigned, possibly to accommodate nuclear weapons. Uzi Rubin, former director of Israel’s Ballistic Missile Defense Organization, said the missile appears to comprise the first prototype of the more capable Shahab-4.

Mr. Bolton must confront Mr. Ahmadinejad about Iran’s support of terrorism. According to our State Department, Iran’s “Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and Ministry of Intelligence and Security were involved in planning and support of terrorist acts.” During 2004, Ayatollah Khamenei praised Palestinian terrorist operations and Iran provided Lebanese Hezbollah and Palestinian terrorist groups with funding, safe haven, training and weapons.

Martyrdom as a weapon is also an issue. Recently, Mr. Ahmadinejad spoke on Iranian television in praise of “the art of martyrdom.” His spiritual adviser, Ayatollah Mohammed Misbah Yazdi, founded an organization called Zeitoon for people committed to martyrdom operations “against the enemies of Iran and Islam.”

The State Department’s 2004 human rights report declares that Iran’s Shia muslim clergy dominate Iran’s key power structures. These clergy are accountable for a worsening human rights record that continues to “commit numerous, serious abuses. The right of citizens to change their government was restricted significantly.”

Ambassador Bolton and President Ahmadinejad are no-nonsense tough guys who can, if they will, cut through the rhetoric and chart a path away from confrontation. The discussions will be intense but Mr. Bolton is the man for the job.

Robert Maginnis is a retired U.S. Army officer, a national security and foreign affairs analyst for television and radio networks and a senior systems analyst with BCP International Ltd. in Alexandria, Va.

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