I am glad to be in Israel again, in a country I love with people I love. It’s been ten years since I was last here. The country has changed. It is a lot greener with a lot more trees, and also has more highways. However, I was struck by how vibrant the economy is. As someone who worked in the private sector, I am impressed with Israel’s resilience.
The world has also changed. Unfortunately, many have not caught up with the strategic paradigm. Many years ago, the Arab-Israeli conflict was looked at as a regional conflict that dragged on, but it was not looked at as part of a global threat. September 11th should have changed that. Resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict will not mollify the Jihadists. It has been the oldest most radical front of the Islamic jihad in the world. This has not been about borders. This is about the failure for them to acknowledge Israel’s right to exist.
The war in Lebanon had little do with the Palestinian issue and two state solution. Jihadist threat runs through Damascus, straight through to Hebron, and onto Gaza. We haven’t fully absorbed the magnitude of this change. As far as our enemies are concerned there is a single conflict. Destroying Israel is just a mask for destroying the world. Fundamentalism is the dark nightmare that follows the last century’s dark nightmare of Communism and Nazism. Jihadism is much greater among the whole Muslim brotherhood, it is not separated between Sunni and Shia; it preaches to hundreds of millions. Its goal is to overthrow of moderate Islamic nations.
The focus in the United States is on Iraq now-a-days. This has been a painful time for the U.S. as of late with as many deaths of our soldiers as we have had. With as many mistakes as the U.S. has made, we are committed to making every effort for success in Iraq. There are some Congressional leaders arguing that the President is not allowed to authorize more forces in Iraq – this is not true.
The heart of the Jihadist threat is Iran. Iran’s leaders and ambitions represent the greatest threat the world has seen since Communism and Nazism before that. Ahmedinijad is a horrible leader as he denies the Holocaust, but his main purpose of denying the Holocaust is to deny the state of Israel. He is testing the waters to see who responds. This threat would take on a new dimension if they were allowed nuclear power. This could be the tipping point of development and proliferation of nuclear weapons.
We need to dispense with three wishful lines of thinking. 1) We hope that Iran’s weakening economy will end the leadership. 2) It is possible to live with a nuclear Iran – thinking that Iran, once being allowed to join the nuclear club, will act responsibly. 3) There is deterrence, like their was in Soviet Russia, but the Russians were never suicidal. This cannot be said for a regime that celebrates martyrdom.
Iran should be rejected and replaced with an understanding of two functional realities. Iran must be stopped and it can be stopped. It is inconceivable that some can think otherwise. They are in disbelief that Iran’s regime believes what it says. Few believed Osama Bin Laden when he said he was out to destroy the United States and then came September 11th. That line of thinking was proved wrong.
The most critical failure was a failure of imagination. Americans could not believe that people would crash airplanes full of innocent people, into buildings filled with innocent people. These things happened! Can we dismiss these threats as rhetoric? We have no way of guaranteeing that Iran will not use a nuclear weapon. There are modest sanctions, Russia refuses to end their cooperation with the program, and the UN will never get sanctions tough enough or soon enough to stop Iran!
The U.S. and Europe can encourage Russia and China to help at the Security Council. There are reasons to be optimistic for China’s role. We can’t sit idle waiting for more cooperation. We should consider a strategy that the governments and clerics are not the sole sources of power. People in Iran are a great source of power. They have not been as radicalized by their government and clerics because of fear from economic backlashes. There are more than 75,000 bloggers active in Iran today. This is a successful strategy on our part!
We see five major dimensions. We need tighter economic sanctions: our model should be as severe as they were with apartheid South Africa. The Bush administration deserves credit for our track so far. The United States and Europe should ensure that Iran gets little financial credit for anything and should make it difficult for Iran to get currencies. We need to send a message to the Iranian leaders and to the Iranian people that the world is not happy.
We need to impose diplomatic isolation with Iran. Ahmedinijad should not be given the clout he is given when going abroad. The world should isolate him. Ahmedinijad should not be invited to foreign capitals nor fךted by foreign diplomats. The message should also include an indictment of Ahmedinijad under the Genocide Convention. The U.S. should lead this. One of the major points of the Genocide Convention is public incitement to incite genocide is a punishable crime.
Arab states must join this effort to prevent a nuclear Iran. These states can do much more than just wring their hands and encourage America to act. They should support Iraq’s new government. They can help by turning down the heat on the Palestine-Israeli conflict. Telling Palestinians to stop executing terror in Israel and stopping the flow of weapons to groups like Hamas and Hezbollah is important. There also needs to be a recognition of the State of Israel’s right to exist.
Iran needs to understand that a military option remains on the table. The nuclear material that Iran develops could fall into the hands of terrorists and, if used, could find a massive military strike against those responsible.
Our strategy should be integrated into a broader approach. NATO should be included in defeating radical Islam. On one hand there is a capable military- this is key. This is a greater investment of the U.S. and other nations. On the other hand there is a global partnership for progress that involves NATO and other organizations. This partnership should help provide the tools necessary for moderate Islamic governments to succeed in their societies. In the final analysis of it all, only Muslims will be able to defeat radical Islam but we could, and should, help!
Attempting to defeat totalitarianism in the last century did not always show that the west would win. We were afraid of major losses. We did not lose though. In the current conflict, we can lose only by not lifting a finger to help ourselves. It is time for the world to speak three truths: 1) Iran must be stopped; 2) Iran can be stopped; 3) Iran will be stopped!