- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 14, 2006

A few weeks ago, the radical Iranian president sent us an 18-page rant about how the United States is at fault for everything bad that ever happened in his part of the world. Rather than treat this ramble like the Uni-Bomber’s “Manifesto,” the secretary of state convinced the president to include us in direct negotiations with Iran along with the Euros, Russia and China, provided Iran stop reprocessing nuclear material. We’ve even offered them advanced nuclear technology —if they quit reprocessing.

Their reply: They will talk with us, will accept all the incentives but will not stop reprocessing nuclear material. If this sounds familiar, it’s exactly how North Korea stiffed the Clinton administration in the 1990s. They did it with a carefully orchestrated charade of threats, negotiations, more threats, a formal “agreement” (that they ignored) and then a self-justified withdrawal from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). Finally, of course, came the belated admission that, yes, they really had developed nuclear weapons but that we made them do it — so it was really our fault.

Expect the same scenario from Iran: Just as the North Koreans never intended at all to stop their nuclear weapons program, nor do the Iranians. And, while the North Koreans remain dangerous, the Iranians are both dangerous and deranged. Recognizing this, there were some earlier reports of U.S. military planning options to use “bunker busters” to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran from becoming a reality. While the president initially called this “wild speculation,” he later said he hadn’t ruled anything out.

He shouldn’t — and it wouldn’t be the first time we’ve had this kind of Draconian “choice” forced upon us. Looking for helpful historical comparisons, some have compared the radical Iranian leadership to the Nazis of the 1930s and ‘40s — but there is a far “better” historical comparison, if we need one.

The Japanese attacked us at Pearl Harbor because of a long festering hatred of our influence in their part of the world and they killed millions of innocent people throughout Asia in their barbaric imperial expansion. We fought them in a series of bloody battles across the Pacific until we had beaten them back to their homeland. Yet, they vowed to fight us to the death and inflict — even in their sure defeat — as many casualties upon us as they could, estimated at a million killed or wounded on our side and two- or threefold that on their side. Only after President Truman brought the war to a merciful end were the Japanese people able to shake off the demons of imperial fanaticism. And only then — redirected with fundamental internal social change — did they emerge as an enduring and responsible democratic influence in Asia. Reflecting on this period of their history, Japanese officials have confided to me over the years that they “must have been crazy” — perhaps as good an explanation as has ever been given.

While the Iranian nuclear crisis cooks to a rolling boil, not one authoritative voice in the Muslim world has condemned the outrageous statements coming from Iran. In this regard, Karl Rove said recently that the Iranian president was “not rational” — the understatement of the year about a leader who seems truly excited at the prospect of seeing his country going up in the smoke of some contrived holy war.

Is that really what they want? Do they understand that in the end we are not about to allow them to build or otherwise get their hands on nuclear weapons? Not ever. Why? Because we know that, unlike any “traditional” view of a deterrent nuclear capability, the Iranians will use their weapons to threaten — or actually attack — the non-Muslim world, as if it’s their only purpose in life. And, maybe it is their only purpose in life and we just can’t quite believe it yet — because it’s frankly more than a little insane.

A “diplomatic solution” with Iran — as often described in the press — isn’t at all realistic. And if one is worked out anyway, it will only serve as a cover for the Iranian nuclear weapon program to continue with international acquiescence.

In fact, this rapidly worsening crisis can’t be the subject of a “negotiation” with the Iranians in any sense of the word: They simply will not give up their quest for nuclear weapons no matter what the United Nations, the International Atomic Energy Agency, the Euros, the Russians or the Chinese do — and, least of all what we do — short of effective coercive action against them. Even then, they will continue with their obsessive pursuit of nuclear weapons whatever the risks to their society — including its ultimate destruction.

That may have to happen.

Like the Imperial Japanese of the 1930s and ‘40s, Iran will not abandon its irrational and dangerous objectives unless it undergoes a total internal change — one resulting in a political regime able to separate itself from the influences of radical Islam. This seems increasingly unlikely unless it is imposed it on them.

Bottom line: Iran’s radical leaders actually believe what they say and it’s way past time we take them fully at their word. And, like the Imperial Japanese, they may be nuts. But this doesn’t change the critical security equation: It’s not the U.N., the IAEA, the Euros, the Russians or Chinese who are at immediate risk from a nuclear-armed Iran — it’s us.

Daniel Gallington, a senior fellow at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies, was a Member of the U.S. delegation to the Nuclear and Space Talks with the former Soviet Union.

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