- The Washington Times - Monday, September 19, 2005

Years ago, the peace movement came up with a catchy rhetorical question: “What if they had a war and nobody came?” Incredibly, the Pentagon may soon see what happens if the U.S. military cannot get to a war without permission from an unlikely quarter: our sometime “ally,” Germany.

Recent developments make it increasingly likely America will be required to use force to prevent the terrorist-sponsoring Islamofascist regime in Iran from wielding nuclear weapons against us, our interests and friends. The U.N. visit last week of the Iranian mullahs’ handpicked President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad made clear his regime was not only determined to press ahead with its ever-less-secret nuclear weapons program. He also declared Tehran was willing to share its “nuclear technology” with other Islamic states.

This brazenness has flummoxed the so-called European Union 3 — Britain, France and Germany — who have tried to appease Iran into making empty promises to give up its nuclear ambitions. While there is some talk out of Europe about finally acceding to U.S. demands to take the matter to the United Nations, don’t hold your breath.

Even if the Europeans could screw up their courage to take such a step, Vladimir Putin and his Chinese friends have dug in their heels. The Iranians have been assured Russia and China will prevent any U.N. unpleasantness — even economic sanctions, to say nothing of the authorized use of force.

Thus emboldened, Iran is intensifying efforts to undo the liberation of Iraq. It is undermining bids for freedom in Afghanistan and Lebanon. And Tehran is helping ensure the power vacuum created by Israel’s surrender of Gaza will result in a new Islamofascist safe-haven for terror.

If this were not bad enough, the mullahocracy is taking steps that will enable it directly to threaten to do to the entire United States what Hurricane Katrina did to one region’s electrical grid, energy resources, telecommunications systems and other infrastructure: Cripple them.

According to the 2004 report of a blue-ribbon commission tasked with assessing the threat of electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack on the United States, Iran has demonstrated the ability to conduct such a devastating strike. It has launched a short-range missile from a ship. It has also tested its new, medium-range Shahab-3 ballistic missile in a manner consistent with detonating a nuclear weapon in space — the scenario the EMP Threat Commission said could cause “catastrophic” damage to the United States.

Now come published reports the Iranians not only are obtaining the capability to go to war with the United States. They persuade themselves they can do so successfully.

But, though such circumstances may compel the United States to act forcibly against Iran, it is not clear if the Army, Navy and Office of the Defense Secretary and perhaps the Air Force will be able to participate in such an operation.

It turns out the first two of our armed services and the Pentagon’s civilian bureaucracy rely upon a German software company called SAP to handle their administrative and logistics functions. All other things being equal, the Air Force may decide to follow suit by month’s end.

As a result, any future military operation against Iran might have to be conducted exclusively by the U.S. Marine Corps. For that service alone has decided to use a U.S. software firm to meet the information management needs associated with things like day-to-day operations, personnel, location, storage and movement of weapons inventories, financial matters (like bank accounts) and other, often prosaic, but vital functions.

There are, of course, several things wrong with this. One is German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder — who, at this writing, may just manage to hold onto, or at least share, power after Sunday’s inconclusive parliamentary elections. Mr. Schroeder previously exploited for electoral gain his vehement opposition to the U.S.-led liberation of Iraq. He tried to do so again with respect to Iran in the run-up to the recent balloting, declaring: “Let’s take the military option off the table. We have seen it doesn’t work.”

Then, there is the problem that the company distributes SAP solutions in Iran. In fact, the sort of software it uses to support the U.S. military is available for sale to others with whom the German government has no problem doing business. Such ties could cause the company to be reluctant to help one customer destroy another. Or the Iranians could glean insights from their access to SAP programs that would facilitate cyber-warfare aimed at disabling ours.

Even if SAP did its job for the Pentagon competently — and successive Government Accountability Office reports demonstrate it is not doing so, it is foolish at best and reckless at worst to have our military depend upon foreign suppliers for such critical functions. After hearing testimony in July about such vulnerabilities, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Duncan Hunter, California Republican, promised oversight hearings about the armed services’ seeming unconcern about relying upon possibly unreliable purveyors of vital components, materials and technology. Those hearings can’t come too soon.

At the very least, the Marines could use help from the Air Force if it comes to blows with Iran. That may only be possible, however, if someone decides our airmen — unlike their Army and Navy counterparts — should be supported by software that doesn’t give Germany a veto.

Frank J. Gaffney, Jr. is president of the Center for Security Policy and a columnist for The Washington Times.

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