- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 11, 2006

Ever since Ayatollah Khomeini toppled the shah, Iran’s theocrats have regularly threatened Israel with genocide. That is what destruction and extermination mean — genocide, with murder measured in the millions.

The Israelis have decided to respond to Iranian genocidal menace by reminding the mullahs of the stakes.

Israeli Vice Premier Shimon Peres made the warning explicit, telling Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad he “should remember that Iran can also be wiped off the map. Tehran is making a mockery of the international community’s effort to solve the crisis surrounding Iran’s nuclear program. Iran presents a danger to the entire world, not just to us [i.e., Israel].”

The Peres statement is Middle East speak for what the Cold War called MAD — Mutual Assured Destruction. It’s the Dr. Strangelove paradox behind nuclear deterrence — you try to nuke us, we’ll turn you into radioactive glass.

The Israelis are not bluffing, and anyone who thinks they are is a contemptible naif. Adolf Hitler’s Holocaust is an unforgivable historical fact, and when the Israelis say, “Never again,” they mean it.

Mr. Peres is right — Iran presents a danger to the entire world. But this “entire world” has too many regimes either rhetorically or financially sympathetic to Iran. The rhetorical sympathizers really aren’t the biggest obstacle to restraining — and ultimately defanging — Tehran’s mad mullahs. Charges of “American imperialism” made by Third World dictators don’t create the political stir they once did.

The financially sympathetic, however, are another matter. China and Russia appear to be willing to sacrifice Israeli blood for Iranian oil.

Mr. Ahmadinejad knows who his real enemies are: the Western democracies. In a rambling 18-page letter to President Bush, Mr. Ahmadinejad opined: “Liberalism and Western-style democracy have not been able to help realize the ideals of humanity. Today, these two concepts have failed. Those with insight can already hear the sounds of the shattering and fall of the ideology and thoughts of the liberal democratic systems.”

No doubt Russia’s throwback fascists and the authoritarian suits running China harbor hopes Mr. Ahmadinejad is right. China’s bosses, however, fear the democratic forces in their own country.

Iran’s turbaned tyrants also sit on an angry and alienated populace. The mullahs fear their own people. In the long run, the Iranian people would topple the turbans. The mullahs’ regime is a kleptocracy, a cultural desert and an economic bog. However, the short nuclear fuse may shortcircuit the long run.

I am not convinced war between the United States and Iran is inevitable. For years, I’ve advocated Western support of Iranian democratic opposition groups, including overt and covert aid. The Iranian regime is rife with internal corruption. The regime itself is no monolith.

Real economic sanctions could shake Mr. Ahmadinejad’s government. Iran’s sick economy relies on numerous imports. But the prospect of “real sanctions” emerging from the U.N. Security Council are slim. Real sanctions ultimately mean enforced sanctions, and given Iran’s porous borders — and the porous commitments by the likes of Russia and China — the likelihood of enforced sanctions drops from slim to none.

So what’s the United States to do, if the Iranians obtain a nuclear bomb and we know the Israelis will then proceed to make very certain Iran’s nutcases never use it?

The most potent U.S. military option is the “simultaneous strategic bombing strike.” This would produce the most hellacious 10 minutes in Iran’s long and illustrious history. One eye-popping scenario has aircraft, cruise missiles and perhaps ballistic missiles with conventional warheads delivering at least 2,000 precision blockbuster-sized weapons in that time on Iran’s two dozen or so “critical nuclear-related targets.” The U.S. may also take control of the Strait of Hormuz at the mouth of the Persian Gulf, by eliminating Iranian naval and shore facilities.

Defensive preparations will include deploying additional anti-missile missiles in the region. Some planners suspect Iran will try to attack its neighbors. Iraq, with its U.S. troop contingents, may not be the primary target. Saudi Arabia and Kuwait’s oil fields and oil transportation facilities are tempting targets for conventional, terrorist or even chemical weapon strikes.

Dangerous? Regrettably so. Iran’s genocidal mullahs have chosen a dangerous path. The irony is that such an attack might save Iran from becoming a radioactive wasteland.

Austin Bay is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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