- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 27, 2007

This space recently commented former CIA Director R. James Woolsey believes we have been in World War IV ever since Islamic revolutionaries overthrew Iran’s monarchy in 1979 — and imposed a draconian clerical dictatorship. Following September 11, 2001, that was a view shared by Mr. Woolsey and many other prominent students and practitioners of geopolitics.

But Mr. Woolsey, now a vice president with Booz Allen, says he abandoned that view “several years ago,” so we were wrong and apologize. But in our defense, we Googled “Woolsey & World War IV” and 98,800 references were immediately available in 0.29 seconds from all over the world.

It’s no longer World War IV, but whatever Tehran’s extremists have in store for us, the outlook is still grim — and, explains Mr. Woolsey, it will be a “Long War.”

In Jan. 11 testimony to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Mr. Woolsey said, “The regime’s threats to destroy Israel and, on a longer time-scale, the United States are part and parcel of [the regime’s] essence.”

The Iranian regime is helping terrorists infiltrate Iraq and provides material support to attacks on the U.S., Mr. Woolsey said, and “over the years, directly and through its controlled assets such as Hezbollah, Iran has killed and murdered hundreds of Americans… and large numbers of Israelis, French and Argentineans as well.”

Iran’s nuclear weapons program has alarmed the Sunni states of the Middle East. Six of them, including Egypt and Saudi Arabia, are moving forward with their own nuclear programs. “Iran,” said Mr. Woolsey “has now triggered a Shi’ite-Sunni nuclear arms race in this volatile region.”

But he rejects the widely held notion that Shia and Sunni Islam cannot collaborate against the West. “Seventy years ago it was the conventional wisdom that communists and Nazis would never cooperate, and that was largely true — until the Stalin-Hitler Pact.”

So what to do about Iran? Its regime is “fundamentally incorrigible.” But Mr. Woolsey is not yet ready to propose all-out use of military force to change the regime and halt its nuclear plans. Instead, he opts for “a nonviolent regime change.” Much time has been wasted negotiating with the mullahocracy, “but the restiveness among Iran’s minorities — Arab, Kurdish, Azeri and Baluch, and the opposition of youth — indicate some chance of success.” But Mr. Woolsey rejects the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group, which advocates engaging Iran and Syria “constructively.” This would “legitimize their regimes, embolden them and their terrorist cohorts, buy time for Iran’s nuclear weapons program, and create the illusion of useful effort and thus discourage more effective steps.”

In short, “engage, but with the Iranian people, not their oppressors.” Hit the Iranian leadership with travel and financial sanctions. Also seek to bring charges against President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in an international tribunal for “violation of the Genocide Convention in calling publicly for the destruction of Israel.”

U.S. support in the 1980s for the Polish people and the Solidarity labor movement, Mr. Woolsey explains, provides an effective model for Iran, reinforced this time with the worldwide Web and modern communications technology for direct contact with Iranian student groups, labor unions and other sources of resistance.

For Mr. Woolsey, a potential checkmate scenario would be the drastic step of cutting off Iran’s imports of refined petroleum products as its lack of refining capacity means this oil giant has to import 40 percent of its gasoline and diesel fuel. But if all these measures do not produce the desired effect, what next?

What we face today, he says, is comparable to the secular totalitarian dreams of the 20th century — e.g., the Nazis’ Thousand Year Reich and World Communism and Japanese Imperialism, the one powerful 20th century totalitarian movement that had a religious component. The three began their global conquests from national bases.

This century’s Shi’ite theocratic totalitarians in the Middle East have enjoyed such a base in the Middle East for almost 27 years in Iran while the Sunni totalitarians had one for the better part of a decade in Afghanistan. There was also Wahhabism, adds Mr. Woolsey, “a variety of Sunni theocratic totalitarianism, which has been the state religion of Saudi Arabia for eight decades. None of these groups have attained 20th century death tolls yet, but this is principally due to lack of power, not to less murderous or less totalitarian objectives.”

“One of [Iran’s] stated objectives is, quite explicitly, to destroy us,” he says. So what do we do? Mr. Woolsey calls it the “Long War, one I believe will last for decades, with the Middle East’s theocratic totalitarians.” A containment strategy, comparable to what achieved victory in the Cold War, “has very little to do with movements driven by religious fervor,” he says. Deterrence wouldn’t work either. “What could be held at risk, as the U.S. once did Soviet military forces and cities?” Our enemies have no fear of death. They live to die as jihadis.

Hot wars may occur abroad during this “Long War,” but it’s at least as likely “that important combat in the form of major terrorist attacks will occur here at home. Hence, the need for more effective surveillance of “contacts between these theocratic totalitarian movements in the Middle East and U.S. persons or visitors” because this new war is “driven by our enemies’ decisions about how to make war on us, not by ourselves.”

So if Iran doesn’t cough up its nuclear weapons paraphernalia, would Mr. Woolsey favor U.S. air strikes on suspected nuclear sites? His cryptic reply: “It depends on the circumstances at the time, principally but not exclusively their degree of progress toward having nuclear weapons.”

Mr. Woolsey was more loquacious on “Fox News” last July 17 during the 34-day war between Israel and Hezbollah: “We ought to execute some air strikes against Syria, against the instruments of power of that state, against the airport, which is the place where weapons shuttle through from Iran to Hezbollah and Hamas. Both Syria and Iran think we’re cowards. They saw us leave Lebanon after the 1983 Marine Corps bombing [when 241 U.S. Marines were killed]. They saw us leave Mogadishu in 1993. The last thing we ought to do now is to start talking about cease-fires and a rest.”

Iran, Mr. Woolsey said last summer, “has drawn a line in the sand. They’ve sent Hezbollah and Hamas against Israel. They’re pushing their nuclear weapons program. They’re helping North Korea, working with them on a ballistic missile program. They’re doing their best to take over southern Iraq. This is a very serious challenge, and we need to weaken them badly. And undermining the Syrian government with air strikes would help weaken them badly.”

As for air strikes against Iran, Mr. Woolsey said then, “One has to take things to some degree by steps.”

Arnaud de Borchgrave is editor at large of The Washington Times and of United Press International.

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