- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 7, 2008

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

COMMENTARY:

With both parties’ U.S. presidential and vice presidential nominees now set, American voters have their last opportunity to decide whether Democrats or Republicans can field the team best qualified to meet the challenges of the next four to eight years.

Voters’ primary concern in November should be the war - but not the one in Iraq or Afghanistan. It is the unavoidable war, already begun but not yet fully fought, that will be fully fought within the next one to two presidential terms. Our votes later this year will determine if we are prepared to do so.

This unavoidable war will be with Iran. Every American voter should understand this before casting a ballot. Every voter should understand the theocratic leadership in Tehran is of one dominant mindset. The mullahs, led by the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and current president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who serves at the former’s call, are committed to developing a nuclear weapon for Iran. Mr. Ahmadinejad has made his convictions on this clear. An Islamist zealot, he believes the 12th imam will return to lead Islam to world domination. As the 12th imam can only return after global cataclysmic chaos, Mr. Ahmadinejad believes he must become the vehicle for creating this chaos. (As Tehran’s mayor prior to becoming president, Mr. Ahmadinejad so convinced of the 12th imam’s return - widened some city streets for the welcoming parade.) In 2006, observers at the United Nations heard Mr. Ahmadinejad pray to the 12th imam before delivering his speech.

When one understands all this, factoring in Mr. Ahmadinejad’s past warnings about wiping Israel off the map and his lack of intimidation over retaliatory U.S./Israeli nuclear strikes (rationalizing the deaths of any Muslim victims will expedite their journey to an afterlife of rewards for their sacrifice), one understands why war with Iran is inevitable.

When Mr. Ahmadinejad’s term in office ends in August 2009, he is eligible to run for re-election. And, in Iran, where presidential election outcomes are known ahead of time by the supreme leader, Mr. Ahmadinejad, absent a flagrant act of disloyalty, will remain in office through August 2013. This is more than sufficient time, by any conservative estimate, to make final Iran’s development of its first nuclear weapons.

How will war with Iran start? Three likely scenarios follow.

(1) Least likely regardless of who wins the next presidential election, the United States, having been ineffective in numerous diplomatic efforts, gives Iran a final warning to stop its nuclear weapons development, followed by surgical strikes against its nuclear facilities.

(2) Israel, realizing its survival is threatened, conducts a pre-emptive strike against Tehran to knock out its nuclear development capability. This scenario is gaining momentum. Should such an attack - which Israel has already practiced - happen, the consequences to the United States, from Iran’s perspective, would be the same as if the United States had initiated the attack itself. And this scenario may receive renewed focus in view of Democratic vice-presidential nominee Joe Biden’s recent defeatist comments to Israeli officials. As Barack Obama’s supposed foreign policy “expert,” Mr. Biden said, “Israel will have to reconcile itself with the nuclearization of Iran. … It is doubtful economic sanctions will be effective, and I am against opening an additional military and diplomatic front.” Israel is running out of options.

(3) Most likely, having developed nuclear weapons as the United States and Israel stood by, Iran will conduct a coordinated nuclear attack on Israel and terrorist nuclear/EMP (Electromagnetic Pulse) attack upon the U.S. - to await a retaliatory strike by both countries. (Having lost any land-based capability to strike back but with its submarine fleet intact, Israel will still have a sub-surface capability to do so). As the United States reels from this devastating hit and Israel ceases to exist as was forewarned, Mr. Ahmadinejad, much as Emperor Nero was said to have done as Rome lay burning, will simply fiddle away his time. Awaiting the doom on Iran his actions will have wrought, Mr. Ahmadinejad will smile, firmly believing the 12th imam’s return to be imminent and that Mr. Ahmadinejad’s destiny to lead the imam home will be recognized.

Only by our next president aggressively taking very focused diplomatic steps is there any possibility war will be avoided. These steps, coordinated with our allies where possible, include maximizing economic sanctions against Iran, unleashing the Iranian MEK opposition group Tehran fears most by removing them from the State Department’s terrorist list and rearming them, funding all such Iranian opposition groups and taking whatever other actions are necessary to effect regime change in Tehran.

While most Americans fail to grasp it, the war with Iran unilaterally began three decades ago. The Islamic extremists who took power there in 1979 embarked upon a jihad which since then has claimed hundreds of U.S. citizens’ lives. We have failed to fight this war as it continues today in Iraq, where Iran’s Islamic Republican Guard Corps’ (IRGC) elite Quds unit is actively killing Americans.

Against this backdrop, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama has proven himself dangerously naive about Iran. In 2007, he refused to support a nonbinding Senate resolution which recommended IRGC be designated a terrorist organization as he erroneously believed passage would authorize war with Iran. Too busy campaigning instead of voting on an immensely important issue to future world stability, Mr. Obama failed to vote, condemning the resolution as “excessively provocative.” Instead of condemning the IRGC, Mr. Obama introduced legislation specifying use of force against Iran is unauthorized by any previous act of Congress. Instead of keeping all arrows in our diplomatic options quiver to stop Iranian aggression, Mr. Obama sought to remove a critical one.

Also against this backdrop while campaigning earlier, Mr. Obama said he would meet with Mr. Ahmadinejad - without preconditions. Yet the one precondition to a meeting upon which all our allies agree is that Tehran stop its uranium enrichment program. Even Mr. Obama’s not-yet-selected vice presidential running mate at the time, Sen. Joe Biden, criticized Mr. Obama’s suggestion. And, his willingness to talk with Mr. Ahmadinejad suggests Mr. Obama naively sees him as rational - rather than the religious fanatic he is, undeterred about creating the world chaos he seeks.

November’s U.S. presidential election will seal America’s fate. The inevitable confrontation with Iran will boil over during the next president’s term. This is a time in which we can ill afford inexperienced leadership.

James G. Zumwalt, a Marine veteran of the Persian Gulf and Vietnam wars, is a contributor to The Washington Times.

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