- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 4, 2009

War with Iran is now inevitable. The only question is: Will it happen sooner or later? Tehran’s recent missile tests and war games suggest that the apocalyptic mullahs have reached the same conclusion.

Iran is on the march. Their medium-range Shahab-3 and Sajjil missiles can reach Israel, the entire Middle East and parts of Europe. Tehran is slowing expanding its regional sphere of influence. It has backed insurgency groups in Iraq, which have killed U.S. soldiers. It sponsors Hamas and Hezbollah. It has transformed Syria into a political vassal. It has forged an alliance with Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela. It has purchased key air defense systems from Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a Holocaust-denier and virulent anti-Semite. He is a Persian Nazi strongman who vows to wipe Israel “off the map.” He is a revolutionary Shi’ite. He believes the Jews must be extinguished in order to usher the coming of the Shi’ite Messiah, the so-called “Hidden Imam.”

For years, the fascist theocracy has invested considerable resources into developing a clandestine nuclear weapons program. Mr. Ahmadinejad insists Tehran only wants atomic energy for “peaceful purposes.” Yet, he cannot answer one simple question: Why does a country with the world’s second-largest natural gas reserves and third-largest oil supply need domestic nuclear power?

Moreover, Mr. Ahmadinejad is a congenital liar. He repeatedly insists that Iran is a “democracy.” Rather, it is a brutal police state based on rigged elections and the torture and murder of dissidents. He claims that Iran has “no homosexuals” and that women are treated “fairly.” In fact, the Islamist regime routinely executes gays and subjugates women. He says Iran has “nothing to hide” about its nuclear program. The West, however, recently discovered a hidden, underground facility near the holy city of Qom capable of producing highly enriched uranium for weapons-grade nuclear material.

Since establishment of the Islamic Republic in 1979, Iran has been engaged in an ideological struggle against the West. Its two main enemies have been the United States (“the Great Satan”) and Israel (“the Little Satan”). From its inception, Tehran has sought to erect a world Muslim empire; to restore medieval Islamic civilization to its former dominance. The regime is reactionary and - in a twisted manner - even utopian. Nuclear weapons are about more than attaining great-power status. They are the means to achieve the final triumph of messianic Shi’ism.

Iran is on the verge of acquiring the bomb. The mullahs have reached the point of no return. Israel - the country that has to live in that dangerous part of the world - believes the mullahs are six to nine months away from getting it.

Hence, President Obama’s policy of diplomatic engagement combined with possible sanctions is doomed to fail. It is ineffective, naive and reckless. Direct talks, like those conducted in Geneva on Thursday, only give Iran more time. Mr. Obama is simply providing the mullahs with the cover they need to finish completing their nuclear arsenal.

Washington now has two choices: Sanction an American or Israeli military attack to destroy Iran’s nuclear facilities or allow Tehran to go nuclear. Either option means war.

A devastating strike would likely trigger a fierce Iranian response, including waves of suicide bombers targeting Israeli civilians and U.S. troops in Iraq. Iranian missiles would pound Israeli and, maybe, European cities. Vital shipping lanes in the Persian Gulf would be disrupted, driving the price of oil to more than $300 a barrel - plunging the West into a possible depression. Hezbollah sleeper cells might be activated within the United States, unleashing deadly atrocities on American soil.

Yet, allowing a nuclear-armed Iran is likely to lead to an even worse regional war. Once the ruling clerics get their hands on nukes, a military showdown with Israel is inevitable. They will seek to destroy the Jewish state once and for all. Jerusalem will not stand by and commit existential suicide. It will retaliate. The result would be a nuclear holocaust in the Middle East.

The winds of war are blowing across the Persian Gulf. Following this summer’s crackdown on pro-democracy protesters, the Iranian regime is weak, desperate and fracturing. Washington should vigorously pursue a policy of internal regime change; otherwise, Tehran will drag the Middle East into a certain conflagration that could lead to the slaughter of millions.

Instead, Mr. Obama has ruled out “meddling in Iran’s internal affairs.” His peace-at-any-cost diplomacy guarantees military conflict. It is no longer a question of if this will happen, but when and on whose terms. Mr. Obama is sleepwalking into disaster. America and the Middle East will pay the price.

Jeffrey T. Kuhner is a columnist at The Washington Times and president of the Edmund Burke Institute, a Washington-based think tank.