From The Arizona Republic, July 23, 2006
Hezbollah lets Iran buy time for nukes
Destroying U.S. goal of Tehran
By Orde KittrieArizona State UniversityJul. 23, 2006 12:00 AM
The big winner thus far in the clash between Hezbollah and Israel is Iran. Through attacks by its proxy, Hezbollah, Iran is deftly succeeding in distracting the world from the rapidly progressing Iranian nuclear weapons program. Iran’s success brings it one step closer to one of its ultimate goals. That goal is America’s destruction. As Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has starkly put it: “God willing, with the force of God behind it, we shall soon experience a world without the United States. . . . This goal is attainable, and surely can be achieved.”Why does Iran want to destroy the United States?
Because the United States is the foremost purveyor of Western culture. Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, wants to root out Western culture because it is contrary to Islam and in his view directs “everyone toward materialism while money, gluttony and carnal desires are made the greatest aspiration.” As Khamenei put it in an interview in May 2004: “The source of all human torment and suffering is the ‘liberal democracy’ promoted by the West.”Iranian President Ahmadinejad claims he was divinely given the presidency for a single task: provoking a “clash of civilizations” wherein the Muslim world, led by Iran, defeats the “infidel” West, led by the United States, and thereby hastens the return of the “Hidden Imam,” a messiah-like figure. According to Hassan Abbassi, chief strategist for the Iranian Revolutionary Guards: “We have a strategy drawn up for the destruction of Anglo-Saxon civilization . . . There are 29 sensitive sites in the U.S. and in the West . . . We know how we are going to attack them . . . Anything that can be done to terrorize and create fright in the infidel camp is our privilege and honor. . . We have to uproot liberal democracy from the face of the world.”What is Iran’s connection to Hezbollah?Iran founded Hezbollah, arms it, trains it, and provides it with $20 million to $40 million per month. At Iran’s direction, Hezbollah had, prior to Sept. 11, 2001, killed more Americans around the world than any other terrorist organization.How is Iran using Hezbollah’s recent attacks on Israel to advance Iran’s nuclear weapons program? This is a textbook example of how a terrorism-supporting state, Iran, like a master magician can use its left hand, Hezbollah, to distract the world from the more significant action it is undertaking with its right hand, the development of a nuclear arsenal capable of threatening the United States. This has been a crucial month for Iran’s work to acquire both components of such an arsenal: nuclear warheads and the missiles capable of carrying those warheads to the United States. On July 4, Iranian officials participated in North Korea’s test launch of a missile which, when perfected, would be capable of hitting Alaska, Hawaii, California, and as far inland as Arizona. The United States, Europe, Japan and others began to discuss how to punish North Korea for this test and dissuade it from future such tests.On July 11, Ali Larijani, Iran’s national security adviser, met with Javier Solana, the European Union diplomat who represents Europe and the United States in negotiations to convince Iran to give up its nuclear weapons program. Solana had in early June presented a very generous offer to Iran of various incentives in exchange for Iran ceasing its nuclear weapons program. Solana wanted a response to the generous offer.Larijani’s response at the July 11 meeting made it clear that Iran is simply dragging out the negotiations to buy time to advance its nuclear weapons program. “The Iranians have given no indication at all that they are ready to engage seriously on the substance of our proposals,” announced the French foreign minister on behalf of the United States, France, Britain, Russia, China, Germany and the European Union. “In this context,” he declared, “we have no choice but to return to the United Nations Security Council” for a resolution ordering Iran to suspend its nuclear weapons program.The world seemed to be turning against Iran, and Iran was in a bind. Larijani flew directly from his meeting with Solana to meetings in Damascus with Syrian President Bashar Assad and senior Hezbollah and Hamas leaders. The next day, Hezbollah fired dozens of Iranian and Syrian made missiles at Israel and dispatched its guerillas across the international border to kidnap Israelis. In the days since, Hezbollah has launched 1,000 more rockets at Israeli cities.Iran’s gambit succeeded. At the G-8 summit, the focus was on the televised fighting between Hezbollah and Israel rather than on Iran’s quiet nuclear weapons program. Russia announced it would not agree to impose sanctions on Iran. The plan for a Security Council resolution ordering Iran to suspend that program is on hold. And the world has lost interest in seriously pressuring North Korea over the missile tests it conducted in partnership with Iran.In this era of CNN and the Internet, it is easy to be distracted by news stories with vivid images. Yet every day, far from the news cameras, Iran is pushing forward with its nuclear weapons program, and continuing to work with North Korea to develop missiles capable of delivering those nuclear weapons to the United States. If the West does not refocus and do whatever it takes to stop Iran’s nuclear weapons program, Israel’s current difficulties fending off Iranian-made conventional rockets could turn out to be a mere pale preview of U.S. difficulties fending off Iranian-made nuclear-armed missiles. And we will risk someday finding ourselves staring at bombed-out U.S. cities and wishing we had kept our eye on Iran’s right hand and taken a stand while we still could.Orde Kittrie is a professor of international law at Arizona State University. He served in the U.S. State Department for 11 years, including as senior attorney for nuclear affairs, and negotiated five nuclear non-proliferation agreements between the U.S. and Russia.