- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 29, 2008

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

The winds of war are sweeping the Middle East. Recent press reports reveal Israeli military has been conducting secret exercises in preparation for possible air strikes against Iran’s nuclear facilities. Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton predicts Israel will launch a devastating air campaign before the end of President Bush’s term.

Tehran poses an existential threat to Israel - and to the West. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has vowed to “wipe Israel off the map.” He boasts that the end of the “Zionist regime” is “near.” Mr. Ahmadinejad is a revolutionary Islamofascist, who believes Tehran is the strategic anchor for a global caliphate. He wishes to spread radical Shi’ite Islam across the Middle East - and eventually the world.

The immediate goal of Tehran’s mullahs is to establish Iran’s regional hegemony. The mullahs are arming Hezbollah in an attempt to destabilize Lebanon. They are supporting Hamas in Gaza in order to wage a proxy war against Israel. They have transformed Syria into a client state. They are funding, training and equipping both Shi’ite and Sunni insurgents in Iraq. As a result, hundreds of U.S. soldiers have been killed. Tehran is assaulting American troops in order to force a humiliating U.S. retreat from Mesopotamia. Iran seeks to defeat America so that Iraq can be destabilized and fall under its geopolitical influence. Tehran hungers for Baghdad’s rich oil resources and the expansion of Shi’ite power.

Mr. Ahmadinejad is the Adolf Hitler of our time - an ideological fanatic who cannot be deterred by traditional carrot-and-stick diplomacy. In 1938, Hitler was consolidating his dominance over Central Europe. This paved the way for genocide and mass murder. By failing to stop him at Munich, the West emboldened Hitler.

The West is committing a similar tragedy regarding Mr. Ahmadinejad. For several years, Germany, Britain and France have offered numerous diplomatic incentives and economic inducements in exchange for Iran suspending its uranium-enrichment activities. This has failed. The United Nations Security Council then imposed economic sanctions. Still, Mr. Ahmadinejad thumbs his nose at the international community. Like Hitler, he is not interested in realist diplomacy; nor does he have limited, rational aims. Instead, he seeks what the Nazi leader did: World power or ruin.

Mr. Ahmadinejad is a Shi’ite extremist. He vows that the mythical 12th Imam is about to return, signaling the beginning of an apocalypse that will usher in a new Islamic golden age. He believes his divinely ordained role is to help bring this about - and to destroy the Jews in the process. His ultimate objective is to forge “a world without America.”

Iran must not be allowed to acquire a nuclear bomb. If it does, then every major country in the Middle East - Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan - will develop its own nuclear weapons program in order to balance Iran’s military superiority. The consequences could be cataclysmic. Iran may also surreptitiously transfer a nuclear weapon to terrorists - who are more than willing to use it against Israel or the United States.

Some State Department officials argue that the world can live with a nuclear-armed Iran. These prophets of appeasement claim that, during the Cold War, the West survived even though the Soviet Union and China possessed massive nuclear arsenals. These officials assert that, if the doctrine of MAD (mutually assured destruction) acted as an effective deterrent against Moscow and Beijing, then it can certainly keep Tehran’s mullahs in check.

However, for Mr. Ahmadinejad, the purpose of having a bomb is to use it. In fact, Tehran’s mullahs believe that, if millions of Iranians are killed in a nuclear confrontation with Israel (or America), these victims will be rewarded by going straight to heaven. Mr. Ahmadinejad is convinced he will be doing them a favor: Call it salvation through nuclear war.

Iran is a clerical fascist state. It has imposed Shariah law on every aspect of society. It enslaves women. It routinely executes homosexuals. It imprisons and tortures political dissidents. It oppresses religious and ethnic minorities. It sanctions official anti-Semitic propaganda. And it champions radical Muslim supremacy and cultural dominance.

In other words, the Jews of Israel are witnessing the return of Nazism - only this time with a Persian, Islamic face -right before their eyes. The Israeli government realizes it has about a one-year window before Tehran reaches the point of no return.

If Hitler had been stopped in 1938, tens of millions of lives would have been saved, including 6 million Jews who perished in the Holocaust.

Israel will not - and should not - allow a similar tragedy to happen again. There is no doubt: If Mr. Ahmadinejad acquires the bomb, he will use it to destroy the Jewish state. Israel must defend itself before it is too late.

Jeffrey T. Kuhner is a columnist for The Washington Times.

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