- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 22, 2007

Based on recent reports, we now have hard evidence of Iran’s support to Iraqi insurgents and Islamic foreign extremists — including Hezbollah — who are being employed as proxies to attack our forces in Iraq.

This is a familiar pattern. In the past, Iran has used such proxies as Islamic Jihad against American targets. Indeed, the mullahs in Tehran have concluded by our failure to respond to previous acts of war that they currently have no fear of retaliation. So far their assessments have been correct.

How did Islamic extremist terrorists achieve the elevated status it is in today? A recent article in the Jerusalem Post by Michael D. Evans provides one answer. Mr. Evans asserts that the current terrorist nightmare can be traced back not to President Bush’s Iraq campaign but to the failed policies of Jimmy Carter.

Even before Mr. Carter came into office, he had concluded that one of our most important allies in the Middle East, the shah of Iran, had to go because of his poor human rights record. And who would fill the vacuum? Mr. Carter and his advisers gave their blessings and watched from the sidelines as a Paris-based religious fundamentalist, the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, filled the void. Mr. Carter’s ambassador to the United Nations, Andrew Young, said, “Khomeini will eventually be hailed as a saint.” His ambassador to Iran, William Sullivan, called Khomeini “a Gandhi-like figure.” History has shown how wrong they were. However, many of these same people and their like-minded disciples continue to influence the debate on how to deal with Iran today.

With over 170 U.S. soldiers killed by Iranian improvised explosive devices (IEDs) plus those killed by proxies trained in Iran, we can no longer fail to address these acts of war. The IED factories and the training camps must be eliminated. This can be done without exposing our military personnel.

It is often repeated in Washington that no responsible American leader wants a conflict with Iran. This is exactly what the mullahs and Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadjinejad count on. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, however, once said, “If a problem cannot be solved, enlarge it.” We must use that formula on Iran. To wit: The fear factor must be put into the Iranian calculus.

What must take place is a combination of actions that will cause the regime in Tehran to become more concerned about its own survival than in its ability to influence events elsewhere in the region.

How do we accomplish this? Gasoline rationing and a crackdown on women who do not adhere to the regime’s repressive dress code are unpopular and are already causing considerable unrest. This inherent turbulence needs to be amplified and exploited through false-flag covert operations similar to the those former CIA Director William J. Casey successfully used against the Soviets in Eastern Europe in the mid-1980s.

Simultaneously, we should clandestinely back insurgent groups in Iran with the objective of forcing regime change. The MEK should be removed from the terrorist list. The Baluchis are already rising in Southeastern Iran (probably over interference with their drug trade). There are uprisings and bombings in Arabistan. The Kurds are ready to contribute, as are the Azeris in Iran’s northwest. Others who hate the mullahs, such as the Bakhtiars and the Lors, could contribute to a wave of instability.

The money required to quietly support such efforts doesn’t amount to much. Indeed, in today’s pork-rich congressional terminology we’re talking about little more than chump change.

On the diplomatic front, economic sanctions with real teeth will cause Tehran more problems. Freezing the assets of Iranian companies would be a major blow and would resonate with the Iranian merchant class already being shut out of no-bid contracts controlled by the corrupt Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and its Quds Force. Additional direct action, perhaps involving the loss of Iran’s one gasoline refinery and other important infrastructure targets, would add more major blows.

All these combined elements, underpinned by the internal insurgency and the ever-present threat of our military strike forces, should be used to rebalance the equation on the ground in Iraq. And we must act in the near term. We cannot afford to wait.

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