- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 8, 2007

With the addition of more than 21,000 combat troops being sent to Iraq plus the president’s recent declaration to kill or capture Iranian Revolutionary Guard-Quds members these actions could be seen as a first step in addressing the Iranian problem. Further, the raid and capture of Iranian agents in the compound of Iraqi Shia leader Abdul Aziz al-Hakim certainly reinforces that premise.

The Iranian problem has been building for more than 27 years, manifested by the regime of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini conducting numerous attacks against the United States. First in November 1979, the radical “students” and possibly the current Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad overran the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and held our diplomatic personnel hostage for 444 days. Aside from the various hostage takings, the next major act of war against the United States was the car bombing of our embassy in Beirut in April 1983 with the loss of almost all our Mideast operatives.

While we cannot provide the complete audit trail on the embassy bombing, we have proof positive on the Iranian culpability for the Beirut U.S. Marine barracks truck bombing in October 1983 with the loss of 241 of our finest military personnel. We know the orders came from the Iranian Foreign Ministry through the Iranian ambassador to Damascus. The U.S. response was to move the U.S. Marines offshore. Osama bin Laden has often cited this as evidence that, when faced with losses, we will “cut and run.” Following the barracks bombing, the Iranians sponsored numerous hostage takings during the next several years, including the kidnapping, torture and murder of the CIA’s Beirut Station Chief William Buckley.

The next major event occurred during the Persian Gulf tanker war 1986-1989 when the Iranians towed a mine in the path of the recently reflagged U.S. tanker Bridgelon which when triggered basically crippled the ship. Several other U.S. Navy ships were struck by mines as well. The U.S. response to these flagrant acts of war was minimal.

Now with the balance of the situation in Iraq becoming very tenuous, Iran’s continued meddling in Iraq can no longer be tolerated. With the recent declarations by the president on how to address Iranian Revolutionary Guard-Quds operating in Iraq plus the announced deployment of a second carrier group to the theater, these actions probably will not be sufficient to stem Iranian support for their Iraqi allies. With the Shi’ite crescent still rising, a dramatic event must occur to not only get the attention of our friends and allies but stun the Iranians.

Such an event must be so swift and unmistakable that it will send the signal that we will not be driven out of the region. It could, for example, take the form of a tomahawk missile attack to destroy the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, which is still U.S. sovereign territory. The fact that the Iranian Revolutionary Guards use our Embassy is immaterial. The message would be clear to all and serve notice to Iran what will happen if they don’t stop meddling in Iraq and come instead to the negotiating table on all issues. The alternative for Iran would be unimaginable devastation.

James Lyons, a retired U.S. Navy admiral, is former commander in chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, senior U.S. military representative to the United Nations and deputy chief of naval operations, in which capacity he was principal adviser on all Joint Chiefs of Staff matters.

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