Thursday, January 12, 2006

Tehran’s resumption of uraniuam enrichment at Natanz nuclear site this week is the latest testament to the futility of further negotiations with the cunning mullahs of Iran, who have so far used brinkmanship to buy more time to advance their nuclear weapons program.

During the IAEA Board of Governors’ meeting on Nov. 24, the European Union accused Iran of having documents that show how to make nuclear warheads.

A few weeks prior, the news broke out that a stolen laptop computer obtained by the United States offered evidence that Iran is trying to design a compact nuclear warhead to fit atop its medium-range Shahab missile. One doesn’t need such a warhead unless it has, or intends to have, a nuclear weapon.

Meanwhile, the mullahs in control in Tehran have dropped all pretensions of moderation, and are stepping up their campaign to terrorize their neighbors and export Islamic fundamentalism worldwide, in particular to Iraq. As Nicholas Burns, the under secretary of state for political affairs, pointed out on Nov. 30: “At a time when nearly all the world’s governments are distancing themselves from groups that engage in terrorism, Iran has retained close links to the most notorious terrorist groups in the Middle East.” It’s not that they’re doing anything really different; it’s just that they’re no longer pretending to care what the West thinks. They’ve deluded appeasers like Britain’s Foreign Secretary Jack Straw for many years, all the while continuing their efforts to develop nuclear weapons.

Now, 27 years after the Ayatollah Khomeini established the world’s only theocracy — and Iran became the world’s foremost exporter of Islamist terrorism — the mullahs have demonstrated through their puppet president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, that nothing has changed. It now is abundantly clear that dreams of moderation in Tehran were only in the eyes of the beholders — and those beholders were wearing blindfolds.

When will the West learn? Let’s look at what has happened in the past few months:

• Iran has stonewalled the IAEA about inspections of its nuclear development program.

• The mullahs who run the country put aside any pretense that they, and they alone, are in charge by engineering the “election” of their puppet, Mr. Ahmadinejad, a former Revolutionary Guard commando who is used to taking orders.

• The handpicked president put the nuclear program in the hands of the Revolutionary Guards, not the scientists. Can there be any question that civilian nuclear use is not the goal of the mullahs? Does anyone seriously doubt Iran is seeking to develop nuclear weapons?

• Mr. Ahmadinejad took the opportunity of his first appearance before the United Nations not to try to mollify the rest of the world, but to bluntly tell his audience to stop trying to meddle in Iran’s affairs.

• Mr. Ahmadinejad went out of his way to demand that Israel “be wiped off the face of the earth” and called Holocaust a “myth.” He also threatened Muslim nations with terrorism.

Now it’s back to square one.

The good news is that there are things that can be done, and they don’t involve an Iraq-like military action. Indeed, that’s the last thing that should be considered.

As the Iranian opposition leader Maryam Rajavi has articulated, the Iranian solution is neither appeasement nor foreign invasion. Democratic change by empowering Iranian people and their organized resistance is the answer, but only if the West decides to side with Iranians’ cry for freedom.

The essential first step is to bring the Iranian nuclear file to the U.N. Security Council — not for talk but for action. The only thing the mullahs will understand is a threat to their own security in their own country.

That threat is an oil embargo. Iran is the world’s fourth-biggest crude oil producer and it thinks the West can’t afford to cut off its supply. But it can and it must. More than hurting Europe, an oil embargo will deny Tehran the resources to suppress Iranians at home, pursue nuclear weapons and export its brand of fundamentalist Islam.

There also is a ready-and-willing dissident group waiting in the wings. The National Council of Resistance of Iran, or NCRI, without whose eyes and ears in Iran the world might still be unaware of Tehran’s nuclear ambitions, is eager to act.

But one of its components, the Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK), has unjustly been on the U.S. list of terrorist organizations as part of a misguided and futile initiative to appease the mullahs 1997. That terrorist listing must be undone.

The West could ill afford to ignore Tehran’s nuclear and terrorist threats. Taking the mullahs to the Security Council and de-listing the dissidents seem to be the most practical and least costly means to stand up to them.

Ali M. Safavi is president of Near East Policy Research Inc. He served as a spokesman for NCRI, which is affiliated with the MEK.

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