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Jewish World Review May 13, 2003 / 11 Iyar, 5763

Michael Ledeen

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The Nuclear Axis of Evil: The people solution | Concern over the Iranian nuclear-weapons program is growing, as well it should. As the UPI's Eli Lake has recently reported, even Mr. Al-Baradei of the international nuclear-watchdog organization is concerned, and the CIA has reportedly reduced its estimate of how long it will take before Iran has the bomb, from four-to-five years to two.

It's hard to get accurate information on such matters - the United States has typically been surprised at the speed with which countries develop nuclear weapons, and just a few years ago the Clinton folks were astonished at an Indian nuclear test - but there are many straws in the wind. Just a few months ago, Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze held a press conference in which he announced that his country's leading nuclear experts were in Iran, working on the mullahs' bomb. And last year the American government was informed of many details of the Iranian program, including a then-secret heavy-water project in Arak. This operation had been hidden by a Tehran company called Masbah Energy, located on a side street just off the main drag - Vali Assra, formerly Pahlavi Avenue.

The United States was told that the chief engineers of the Arak project had come from the former Soviet Union: Vladimir Mirny of the Ukraine, Aleksy Volev of Russia, and a third expert with the catchy name of Andrei Kalachnikov.

Within the past two months, leaders of Iran's Revolutionary Guards were informed by the country's National Security Council that the country would soon have nuclear weapons, and there are some well-informed people who tell me that the regime is hoping to be able to test a device by the end of the summer.

Whatever the accuracy of these various estimates and assessments, there is no doubt that the leaders of Iran's shaky mullahcracy view nuclear weapons as an insurance policy, both against American action and against their own alienated masses. Supreme Leader Khamenei and his henchman, former President Rafsanjani, have spoken openly about their desire to join the nuclear club. Rafsanjani even went so far as to announce that the minute Iran had the bomb, it would be dropped on Israel, regardless of the consequences. Even if all Iranians were killed in the war, he said, it would be a good deal for Islam: Half the world's Jews would be wiped out, but only a small fraction of the planet's Muslims would perish.

Perhaps such words are sheer bravado, perhaps not. But the regime is convinced by the North Korean "model" that nuclear weapons are a reliable shield against American power, and that view is shared by many strategic analysts.

I wonder if it is true. If we are convinced that democratic countries - with or without nuclear weapons - are far less likely to threaten us than tyrannies are, it may well be that a tyranny with nuclear weapons is a more urgent target than one with only conventional weapons. Perhaps a nuclear Iran requires our attention more than a conventional Iran.

Needless to say (or maybe not; my calls for political support for democracy have been systematically distorted by slanderous critics into advocacy of all-out military assault), this urgency does not translate into a military campaign. We certainly believe that nuclear deterrence works, as it did throughout the Cold War, and as it has, at least thus far, in the India/Pakistan confrontation. Those of us advocating support for the democratic opposition in Iran have insisted that no military power need be used against the mullahcracy. We should do the same for the Iranians as we did for the Philippinos against Marcos, the Yugoslavs against Milosevic, and the Czechs, Hungarians, and Poles against the Soviet Empire.

Nuclear weapons may protect the mullahs against an invasion, but they will not protect the Islamic Republic against their own people, which is the greatest threat to their tyrannical rule. Paradoxically, the more we believe that Iran is on the verge of a nuclear breakthrough, the more we should be inclined to act in accordance with President Bush's oft-repeated (most recently last week in South Carolina) message that the United States supports the Iranian people's desire to be free.

To be sure, many of our finest Iran-watchers, including the great Bernard Lewis, believe that any future Iranian government, even a democratic one, is likely to continue the nuclear program. That may be true, although we should remember that once South Africa became a democracy it abandoned nuclear weapons. But even if it is true, a democratic Iran will not be inclined to commit hara-kiri by launching a nuclear first strike against Israel, nor will it likely brandish its bombs against the United States.

The Iranian people have shown themselves to be the most pro-American population in the Muslim world, but the Iranian regime is arguably the most anti-American on earth. Let's support the people, and help them bag the regime.

Faster, please. Much faster.

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JWR contributor Michael Ledeen is a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and author of, most recently, ""The War Against the Terror Masters," Comment by clicking here.


8603.asp" TARGET="_self">05/06/03: Inside the Dark: Applebaum's ‘Gulag’
05/06/03: Tough Guy: Powell's curious priority list
05/01/03: Desert Shame Redux: Want a free Iran and a free Syria? We have to fight for it
04/25/03: Timing Is Everything: We have a narrow window in Iraq to win Shiite support
04/15/03: Political war can remove terror masters in Syria and Iran
04/07/03: The Others: We have miles to go in eliminating the Axis
04/02/03: French Lies: Take the foreign minister at his word
03/31/03: Why muzzle Saddam's foes?
03/28/03: The post-war terror threat
03/26/03: All Fronts: Military war, political war, psychological war
03/24/03: More Bad News for Daschle: Taking out terror of all nationalities
03/21/03: The Killer Pneu: Virus terror from China
03/13/03: Iran: Nuclear suicide bombers?
03/11/03: A Theory: What if there's method to the Franco-German madness?
03/05/03: The Iranian-Election Revolt: The people speak. The West won't listen
02/19/03: The willful blindness of those who will not see
02/12/03: The Europeans Know More Than They Now Pretend? They choose to dawdle and obstruct
02/03/03: Monumental failure: Nelson Mandela had promise
01/30/03: Elevation: The president knows what it's all about
01/29/03: No Leader: France's Chirac is all about personal interest
01/28/03: The Axis of Evil Redux: Same place, a year later
01/27/03: The Return of the Ayatollah: Washington could afford a little more attention on Iran
01/13/03: How we could lose
01/09/03: Fish are Better than Women: Gauging U.S. priorities
01/07/03: The Shape of Things to Come: The terror masters are now waiting for us
12/20/02: A Prophecy for the New Year --- Faster, please!
12/16/02: Scud Surrender: The "W" factor
12/13/02: The Heart of Darkness: The mullahs make terror possible
12/12/02: The Real War
12/09/02: Tom Friedman's Reformation: His Iran
11/26/02: How Tyrannies Fall: Opportunity time in Iran
11/22/02: The Blind Leading the Blind: The New York Times and the Iranian crisis
11/13/02: The Temperature Rises: We should liberate Iran first --- now
11/05/02: End of the Road: Iran's Mohammed Khatami, on his way out
10/29/02: The Angleton Dialogues, Contnued: What George Tenet doesn’t know
10/24/02: The Iranian Comedy Hour: In the U.S., the silence continues
10/16/02: Sniper, Saboteur, or Sleeper? Channeling James Jesus Angleton
10/01/02: The real foe
09/27/02: The Iranian String Quartet: The mullahs get increasingly nervous
09/25/02: The Dubya Doctrine
09/23/02: Intelligence? What intelligence?
09/12/02: America's revenge: To turn tyrannies into democracies
09/10/02: Iran & Afghanistan & Us: We'll have to deal with the mullahcracy, sooner or later
09/04/02: Iran, according to the Times: All the nonsense that's fit to print
08/21/02: Life and death of Abu Nidal tells us a great deal about our enemies
08/08/02: Can You Keep a Secret?: The media silence on Iran
08/06/02: Fantasy Reporting: The latest disinformation from the Washington Post
08/02/02: Propping Up the Terror Masters: Europe's Solana on tour
07/16/02: Bush vs. the Mullahs: Getting on the side of the Iranian freedom fighters
07/12/02: The State Department Goes Mute: It's official: State has no message
07/09/02: History being made, but the West appears clueless
06/05/02: Is George Tenet endangering peace in Israel?
06/03/02: Ridiculous, even for a journalist
05/20/02: So how come nobody's been fired yet?
05/14/02: Open doors for thugs
04/20/02: Iran on the Brink … and the U.S. does nothing
04/16/02: It’s the war, stupid … someone remind Colin Powell
04/08/02: Gulled: In the Middle East, Arafat doesn't matter
04/02/02: Faster, Please: The war falters
03/26/02: The Revolution Continues: What's brewing in Iran
03/18/02: Iran simmers still: Where's the press?
03/05/02: We can't lose any more ground in Iran
02/14/02: The Great Iranian Hoax
02/12/02: Unnoticed Bombshell: Key information in a new book
01/31/02: The truth behind the Powell play
01/29/02: My past with "Johnny Jihad's" lawyer
01/21/02: It's Munich, all over again
01/08/02: What's the Holdup?: It's time for the next battles in the war against terrorism
12/11/01: We must be imperious, ruthless, and relentless
12/06/01: Remembering my family friend, Walt Disney
11/28/01: The Barbara Olson Bomb: Understanding the war
11/13/01: How We're Doing: The Angleton Files, IV
11/06/01: A great revolutionary war is coming
10/25/01: How to talk to a terrorist
10/23/01: Creative Reporting: Learning to appreciate press briefings
10/19/01: Not the Emmys: A Beltway award presentation
10/15/01: Rediscovering American character
10/11/01: Somehow, I've missed Arafat's praise of the first stage of our war on terrorism
10/04/01: What do we not know?
09/28/01: Machiavelli On Our War: Some advice for our leaders
09/25/01: No Room for the U.N.: Keeping Annan & co. out of the picture
09/21/01: Creative destruction
09/14/01: Who Killed Barbara Olson?
08/22/01: How Israel will win this war
08/15/01: Bracing for war
08/09/01: More Dithering Democrats
08/02/01: Delirious Dems
07/31/01: Consulting a legendary counterspy about Chandra and Condit, cont'd
07/19/01: Be careful what you wish for
07/17/01: Consulting a legendary counterspy about Chandra and Condit
07/05/01: Let Slobo Go
05/30/01: Anybody out there afraid of the Republicans?
05/09/01: The bad guys to the rescue
05/07/01: Bye-bye, Blumenthal
04/20/01: Handling China
04/11/01: EXAM TIME!
04/05/01: Chinese over-water torture
03/27/01: Fighting AIDS in Africa is a losing proposition
03/14/01: Big Bird, Oscar, and other threats
03/09/01: Time for a good, old-fashioned purge
03/06/01: Powell’s great (mis)adventure
02/26/01: The Clinton Sopranos
02/20/01: Unity Schmoonity: Sharon is defying the will of the people
01/30/01: The Rest of the Rich Story
01/22/01: Ashcroft the Jew
01/11/01: A fitting close to the Clinton years
12/26/00: Continuing Clinton's shameful legacy
12/21/00: Clinton’s gift for Bush

© 2001, Michael Ledeen