After September 11, 2001, President Bush had a message for countries that support terrorism. “America has a message for the nations of the world. If you harbor terrorists, you are a terrorist. If you train or arm a terrorist, you are a terrorist. If you feed a terrorist or fund a terrorist, you’re a terrorist and you will be held accountable by the United States and our friends.”
For more that a quarter-century, one country — Iran, has done all of the above and has never been held accountable. This is a country that now is seeking to develop a nuclear energy program (which they clearly do not need), which would provide them the means for making a nuclear weapon.
The bellicose statements of its radical President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and its supreme “religious” leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei should reinforce not only our and our allies’ concern of what Iran would do with a nuclear weapon. Yet we have now joined with our European allies to provide concessions to Iran, which by many reports would allow Iran the possibility of enriching uranium on its own soil. These concessions are sweetened with a reported U.S. promise of U.S. assistance for an Iranian civilian nuclear energy program.
Have we lost our sense of balance? I am sure the logic behind these concessions is that these are necessary steps that must be taken to determine Iran’s intent to negotiate seriously. Of course, with its past track record, what would the mullahs’ acceptance of a negotiated agreement really mean? Iran is the recognized leading member of the axis of evil and the world’s leader in state-sponsored terrorism. Did we not learn anything about appeasement, which led to World War II?
Over the past 25 years, the regime founded by the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini has declared war on the United States several times. In November 1979, the radical “students” including, some claim, the current Iranian President Ahmadinejad, overran our embassy in Tehran and our diplomatic personnel were held hostage for 444 days.
The next major event was the car bombing of our embassy in Beirut in April 1983 with loss of almost all of our Mideast operatives. While we cannot cross the “t’s” and dot the “i’s” on the embassy bombing, we have proof positive on the Iranian culpability for the U.S. Marine barracks truck bombing in October 1983 with the loss of 241 of our finest military personnel. We know the orders came from the Iranian Foreign Ministry through the Iranian Ambassador to Damascus. The U.S. response was to move the Marines offshore. Osama bin Laden has often cited this as evidence that when faced with losses, we will “cut and run.”
Aside from the numerous hostage takings during the next several years, including the kidnapping, torture and murder of the CIA’s Beirut station chief William Buckley, the next event when the Iranians overtly declared war was the Persian Gulf tanker war of 1986-88. In addition to seeding the gulf with mines, the Iranians also towed a mine and placed it in the path of the recently-reflagged U.S. tanker Bridgeton which when it was triggered basically crippled the ship. Several other U.S. warships struck mines as well. The U.S. response to these flagrant acts of war were minimal, shooting up an oil platform; sinking a few Iranian patrol crafts, etc., but no direct attacks on Iran proper.
However, starting in October 1986, a plan was developed to shut Iran down. This plan was refined and updated through August 1987. That plan appropriately updated would be equally effective today. More to the point, it can be carried out while we are still engaged in Iraq. The pressures that would be brought on the Iranian regime would be unimaginable. The Iranian economy would grind to a halt. Inflation rates would go through the ceiling. Iran’s current customers, Russia, China, Japan, et al, would feel the full effect.
Our military forces have the capability to execute such a plan over an extended period of time. The Iranian regime needs to understand that this is an action the U.S. public will fully back. Even if Iran accepts a negotiated agreement, what would it really mean? We have learned the hard way that you cannot negotiate with a renegade regime. The only real solution is the elimination of the current Khamenei regime. If it was necessary to eliminate Saddam Hussein for our long-term security interest, then we have significantly more reason to help the Iranian people eliminate the current regime and take Iran back.
Adm. James Lyons served as commander in chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, senior U.S. military representative to the United Nations, and deputy chief of naval operations, where he was principal adviser on all Joint Chiefs of Staff matters.