- The Washington Times - Friday, October 21, 2011

The brazen Iranian terrorist plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador, kill Americans and blow up the Saudi and Israeli embassies in Washington was a wake-up call. The radical regime in Tehran has crossed a red line. Iran has murdered Americans in Iraq, Afghanistan and Lebanon over the years. Now it appears to have ordered terrorist attacks inside our nation’s capital. Should this prove true, Iran has engaged in an act of war.

Now the question is: Who will neutralize the threat from Iran before the mullahs finish building nuclear warheads and the ballistic missile systems to deliver them?

“The international community must stop Iran before it’s too late,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned in his United Nations speech last month. “If Iran is not stopped, we will all face the specter of nuclear terrorism, and the Arab Spring could soon become an Iranian winter. … The world around Israel is definitely becoming more dangerous.”

“Iran has not abandoned its nuclear program. The opposite is true; it continues full steam ahead,” warned Maj. Gen. Eyal Eisenberg, home-front command chief for the Israel Defense Forces, in a September speech. He warned that the Arab Spring could turn into a “radical Islamic winter” and “this raises the likelihood of an all-out, total war, with the possibility of weapons of mass destruction being used.”

The Obama administration is not taking decisive action to neutralize Iran. President Obama’s policy of engagement with the mullahs has morphed into a policy of appeasement, and it has failed. Yet the White House has all but taken the use of force off the table. In September 2009, then-Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said, “The reality is, there is no military option that does anything more than buy time.” In April 2010, the New York Times reported that Mr. Gates had “warned in a secret three-page memorandum to top White House officials that the United States does not have an effective long-range policy for dealing with Iran’s steady progress toward nuclear capability.” Little has changed in the past 18 months. What’s more, the administration is pressuring Israel not to launch a pre-emptive strike against Iran despite the growing threat of a second Holocaust.

The American people, however, expect and deserve better. A bipartisan poll conducted in September by Democrat Pat Caddell and Republican John McLaughlin found that 77 percent of Americans think the Obama administration’s current polices toward stopping Iran’s nuclear program “will fail.” About 63 percent of Americans think Iran is the nation posing the greatest threat to us, ahead of China and North Korea. Remarkably, 63 percent of Americans also approve of pre-emptive military action against Iran if economic sanctions do not stop its nuclear program.

War, of course, is not the preferred solution. There are a range of options a serious American president could take to neutralize the Iranian threat. But none of them is likely to work unless the president is willing to publicly put the military option on the table and order the Pentagon to accelerate planning for massive airstrikes and special operations.

Will any of the Republican candidates for president step up? Articulating pro-growth economic policies is vital to the 2012 campaign, to be sure, but the GOP candidates must not drink the Kool-Aid that the economy is all that matters to the American people. To the contrary, anyone who is asking for the Republican nomination must articulate a clear, compelling and detailed strategy for neutralizing the threat posed by the apocalyptic, genocidal death cult in Tehran.

At the next debate, each of the Republican candidates for president should be pressed to directly answer the following questions:

1. As president of the United States, what specific actions would you take to stop Iran from obtaining and deploying nuclear weapons and using terrorism to advance its Islamic Revolution?

2. If you had intelligence that Iran was on the verge of building operational nuclear weapons, would your administration support an Israeli pre-emptive military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities?

3. Would you as president seriously consider ordering a pre-emptive strike by U.S. military forces to neutralize the Iranian nuclear threat?

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney recently delivered a foreign-policy address in South Carolina in which he raised the Iranian threat. “Will Iran be a fully activated nuclear weapons state, threatening its neighbors, dominating the world’s oil supply with a stranglehold on the Strait of Hormuz?” Mr. Romney asked. “In the hands of the ayatollahs, a nuclear Iran is nothing less than an existential threat to Israel. Iran’s suicidal fanatics could blackmail the world.” Mr. Romney noted that he would “begin discussions with Israel to increase the level of our military assistance and coordination” and would “reiterate that Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon is unacceptable.” However, he did not specifically discuss how he would stop Iran from getting the bomb and sponsoring terrorist attacks.

Businessman Herman Cain has soared into the top tier of presidential candidates with a bold pro-growth tax-simplification plan, but he has spoken little of foreign policy. He has identified Iran as one of America’s most serious national security threats and has been clear about his strong support for Israel. Drawing on his experience as a civilian contractor for the U.S. Navy working on ballistic-missile projects, Mr. Cain rightly has called for enhanced missile defenses to blunt an Iranian nuclear threat. “I would make it a priority to upgrade all of our Aegis surface-to-air ballistic-missile defense capabilities of all of our warships, all the way around the world,” Mr.Cain told the Values Voter Summit in Washington earlier this month. “Make that a priority, and then say to [Iranian President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad, ‘Make my Day.’” His instincts are right, but missile defenses are insufficient to neutralize the Iranian threat.

Few of the GOP candidates better understand the Iranian threat - and the dangerous end-times theology of the current Iranian leadership, which is preparing for the coming of the Shia messiah known as the “Twelfth Imam” - than former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania. Thus far, however, he has not made Iran a major element of his campaign. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Rep. Michele Bachmann and Texas Gov. Rick Perry have barely mentioned the issue, though certainly they understand the dangers.

Only Rep. Ron Paul among the Republican contenders doesn’t grasp the seriousness of the twin Iranian threats of terrorism and nuclear weapons. “One can understand why [the mullahs] might want to become nuclear-capable, if only to defend themselves and to be treated more respectfully,” Mr. Paul has written. The congressman opposes economic sanctions on Iran. He opposes pre-emptive strikes on Iran. Indeed, Mr. Paul has indicated he does not have a problem with Iran acquiring nuclear weapons because he doesn’t think the mullahs in Tehran would actually use such weapons against their enemies. What’s more, he has stated that he would not come to Israel’s defense if Iran fired nuclear weapons at the Jewish state.

The good news is that Mr. Paul has little chance of becoming the GOP nominee. The bad news is that none of the candidates who do have a serious chance has made a strong case for how to neutralize the Iranian threat. The time has come.

Joel C. Rosenberg, former adviser to several Israeli politicians, is the author of the just-released “The Tehran Initiative” (Tyndale House, 2011).