Mass murdering mullahs of Iran

Dan Senor:

"I think it would be almost inconceivable that Iran would commit suicide by launching one or two missiles of any kind against the nation of Israel."

--Jimmy Carter, speaking at Emory University, Sept. 19, 2007

On March 17, 1992, a suicide bomber crashed an explosive-filled truck into a building filled with Israelis in Buenos Aires. The bombing was so powerful that the destruction covered several city blocks--29 innocents were killed and hundreds more were injured. This occurred more than 8,000 miles from Tehran. Two years later, on July 18, 1994, Buenos Aires was again hit with a terror attack. This time the target was the Jewish community center in the center of the city--85 were killed.

Argentina was, understandably, rattled. The government launched a full-scale investigation. One of the key officials assigned to it was Miguel Angel Toma (later appointed by then President Eduardo Duhalde as secretary of intelligence from 2002-03). Mr. Toma is not a warmonger. And he did not approach his job with any ideological ax to grind. He concluded not only that Hezbollah carried out the attacks in Argentina, but that at least one of them was planned in Iran at the highest levels of the Iranian government, aided by a sophisticated sleeper-cell network in Latin America. He also concluded that the attacks were strategically aimed at punishing the Argentinean government.

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The Argentinean case reminds us of four important points.

First, we must reconsider the applicability of Cold War-style deterrence. Its central argument is this: While it would be preferable that Iran not go nuclear, the history of the Cold War demonstrates that the possession of nukes creates a balance of power, and thus makes the possibility of nuclear war extremely unlikely. Representing the pro-deterrence school, Stephen Biddle of the Council on Foreign Relations says, "We've lived with Iran as a terror threat for a generation. Iran has a return address, and states with a return address can be retaliated against."

This misses the point. Even if Iran never fires a nuke or transfers one to a terrorist group, its possession of nukes would enable it to escalate support for terrorist proxies, allowing it to dominate the region and threaten moderate regimes. Who would be prepared to retaliate against a future Buenos Aires terror attack if we knew that the "return address" was home to a nuclear weapon?

Second, U.S. officials are deeply concerned that Tehran would not even have to build a complete bomb to transform the balance of power. It would just have to make the case that it could complete development on short notice. "For their political needs, that would be enough," says Gary Samore, a nonproliferation official in the Clinton administration.

Third, Mr. Rafasanjani continues to be described in the Western media as a leading Iranian "moderate." If Mr. Toma is correct, this "moderate" was intimately involved in the planning of the Argentina bombings. And he has ambitions to succeed President Ahmadinejad.

Fourth, according to Mr. Toma, the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei authorized the Buenos Aires attacks. This is important because many analysts today argue that, as scary as President Ahmadinejad sounds, he is not really in charge in Tehran--the true "decider" is the Supreme Leader. Well if he is, then we should in fact be doubly concerned.

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The religious bigots who rule Iran think they are on a mission from God. Deterrence from that mission would condemn them to hell, so they are going to persist. Negotiations are merely a means of buying time to complete the mission. While we are giving futility a chance in negotiations Iran remains at war with us and the rest of the non Muslim world.

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