- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 1, 2006

After the media blitz in New York arranged by his PR handlers, followed by his invitation to speak before the Council of Foreign Affairs and capped by his picture on the cover of Time magazine, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad must have left New York thinking he was on a “roll.”

It is also an indication on how gullible he considers the American public: It was no coincidence that Mr. Ahmadinejad and the tin-horned dictator from Venezuela joined forces in an unprecedented media circus of “heads of state” denigrating the president of the United States while visiting our country. It is all too clear this was previously arranged during their meeting some weeks ago in Tehran. It was insulting and a slap in the face.

This follows previous insults and acts of war by Iran starting with the sacking of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in November 1979 and holding our diplomats hostage for 444 days. Then there was the blow-up of our embassy in Beirut in April 1983, followed by the Marine barracks bombing killing 241 of our finest military personnel in October 1983, plus countless other direct offensive actions by Iran against the United States. What other insults or acts of war by Iran against the will it take to make us act? We can no longer continue to turn the other cheek.

Let’s not forget, Iran provides much of the funding, weapons, improvised explosive devices (IEDs), training and operators supporting the Iraq insurgency that has caused so many U.S. military casualties. For us not to confront Iran would dishonor our military personnel who made the ultimate sacrifice.

How long will we let Iran continue to support the radical cleric Sheik Muqtada al-Sadr’s private military, the Mahdi Army? As has been previously proposed, this renegade militia needs to be eliminated to send a clear message to Tehran.

The recent crisis created in Lebanon by the Hezbollah has scuttled any near-term solution for an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord. It has also shifted the public debate on Iran’s goal of achieving a nuclear weapon.

Mr. Ahmadinejad used the platform of the U.N. to show his contempt for possible sanctions against Iran in the belief he can play off the European Nations against the United States. French President Jacques Chirac’s recent comments that he doubts sanctions will work with Iran, is a case in point. I happen to agree economic sanctions won’t work with Iran, though their current unemployment and inflation rates are about 13 percent. Nonetheless, the European appeasers still try to negotiate an agreement with Iran backed by the United States.

What would an agreement with the Iranian ayatollahs really mean? Let’s not forget it is written in Islamic law that Muslims can only conclude agreements with non-Muslims to buy time so they can achieve their ultimate objectives.

This clearly is the game Mr. Ahmadinejad and his predecessors have been playing for the last several years. There is no question we have a regional problem that will require some very creative approaches to achieve our objectives. Having said that, Russia, China, Japan, France et al. have many vested interests in the region too.

France is one of the largest Iranian oil importers. China and Japan receive about 10 percent of their daily requirements from Iran. None of them wants this supply disrupted. On the other hand, the region’s other Arab nations have no interest in seeing a nuclear Iran.

Therefore, we need to put together a multifaceted strategy that brings together all of these vested interests in a coherent and pragmatic manner. Our principal objective is to prevent Iran from achieving a nuclear weapon capability. Regime change would also be welcomed. U.S. military power will underpin this strategy.

Iran should not delude itself that, because we are involved in Iraq and Afghanistan, we cannot afford to engage Iran. That would be a tragic miscalculation by them. We have unbelievable military power that can be brought to bear on Iran.

There is no question in my view we can keep the Straits of Hormuz open. Oil will continue to flow, but not from Iran. The impact on Iran will be devastating. So, Mr. Ahmadinejad, your response to the latest offer for cooperation on your nuclear energy program, should be carefully weighted. The nexus of much of the problems in the Middle East centers on Tehran. It is still the target — it always was.

James A. Lyons, retired U.S. Navy admiral, is a former 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.


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