You are currently viewing the printable version of this article, to return to the normal page, please click here.

KAHLILI: The Syria stalemate

- - Monday, September 9, 2013

But indecision will have grave consequences

President Obama's indecisiveness in dealing with Syrian President Bashar Assad's two-year civil war has emboldened the radicals who rule Iran to pursue nuclear weapons.

Iran's decision-makers have long thought that the Obama administration is not willing to engage in a military confrontation in the region, specifically over the regime's illicit nuclear program.

A recent report in the newspaper Keyhan, which is directly supervised by the supreme leader, stated that the fear of the fallout from a war with Syria has caused division in the West and has forced it to back down. Indeed, the British Parliament has already vetoed a strike against Syria; Congress, on the eve of debate, is already showing signs it may, too.

If that happens, a nuclear nightmare that we haven't seen since the early days of the Cold War could soon be at our doorstep.

The regime thinks that its strategy of prolonging negotiations as it develops nuclear weapons and their delivery systems long ago proved that Western rhetoric of war was a bluff. The West, it reasons, would have to accept a nuclear-armed Iran instead of further confrontation that would worsen the global economy.

"It is quite clear that when we watch the current arguments between America and Israel over Iran, the Obama administration is quite confused," Mohammad Mohammadi, an Iranian international affairs and nuclear specialist, wrote last year in Keyhan.

"Iran has always known that America and the West needed a way to solve the nuclear issue with some honor," Mr. Mohammadi said, "and today it is quite visible that with the defeat of America's policies toward Iran, the talk about a need to solve the Iranian nuclear issue diplomatically is a way to obtain that honor."

The lack of action by America and its allies over Mr. Assad's killing machine, which so far has claimed the lives of more than 100,000 Syrians (including many women and children), Iran's involvement in Syria and its pursuit of the nuclear bomb have only emboldened the Islamic regime.

As I reported in The Washington Times a year ago, the Revolutionary Guards' media outlet not only claimed Tehran had armed its proxies such as the terrorist group Hezbollah with chemical and microbial weapons, but it also warned of any intervention in Syria. Citing the weak economies in America and Europe, it claimed that the West would not engage Syria with its military of 220,000 active personnel and 240,000 reserves, Iran's massive forces and Hezbollah.

Should Israel and its allies succeed in unraveling Syria so the Assad regime loses control, the Guards commentary said, there are but two scenarios:

"Groups armed with weapons of mass destruction (chemical, microbial and nuclear bombs), which have been obtained on the black market, will surely target Tel Aviv.

"Other countries with different motivations from revenge to a change in the balance of power in the region looking for the elimination of Israel from the world's map will use the chaos created without accepting any responsibility."

In order to understand the situation with Syria and Iran, one must understand the view of the radicals ruling Iran, who control much of the events in the Middle East and who think that the West is incapable of stopping them. "The West, and its 'Shock and Awe' policy, has tasted defeat with its confrontation with Iran, Syria and Hezbollah and now understands that they can't confront this front with their classic military. in fact, the West has become disarmed in the Middle East because its militaristic policies are no longer effective," said, Saadollah Zarei, another analyst of the regime.

I have said for a long time that any message of weakness by America and its allies will result in the same war that the West is looking to avoid, but on a much greater scale.

Even if Mr. Obama gets Congress' approval for a limited strike, not only will it do little to change the game on the ground, but with America and the West openly showing that they are weary of war, our enemies will continue to test our resolve.

This brings us to the gravest threat in the region, which could possibly destabilize not only world peace, but the global economy: Iran's illicit nuclear program. More than 10,000 centrifuges are enriching uranium daily while a heavy-water plant capable of producing plutonium as a second path to nuclear weapons is moving toward completion — and this when the regime has the largest inventory of ballistic missiles in the region.

The recent show of weakness by America and the West over Mr. Assad's alleged chemical attack on his own people has the Iranian regime's tyrants thinking that their path to nuclear weapons is guaranteed.

Imagine what life will look like after nuclear weapons are in the hands of the radicals and then those arms proliferate to Hezbollah, Mr. Assad and others. America must not let this happen.

Reza Kahlili is a pseudonym for a former CIA operative in Iran's Revolutionary Guards and author of "A Time to Betray" (Simon & Schuster, 2010).