When will Iran pay a price for killing Americans?

Opinion Journal:

The traveling Mahmoud Ahmadinejad circus made for great political theater this week, but the comedy shouldn't detract from its brazen underlying message: The Iranian President believes that the world lacks the will to stop Iran from pursuing its nuclear program, and that the U.S. also can't stop his country from killing GIs in Iraq. The question is what President Bush intends to do about this in his remaining 16 months in office.

Over the last five years, Mr. Bush has issued multiple and sundry warnings to Iran. In early 2002, he cautioned Iran that "if they in any way, shape or form try to destabilize the [Afghan] government, the coalition will deal with them, in diplomatic ways initially." In mid-2003, following revelations about the extent of Iran's secret nuclear programs, he insisted the U.S. "will not tolerate the construction of a nuclear weapon."

In January of this year, as evidence mounted that Iran was supplying sophisticated, armor-penetrating munitions to Shiite militias in Iraq, Mr. Bush was tougher still: "We will seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq."

In February, he added that "I can speak with certainty that the Qods Force, a part of the Iranian government, has provided these sophisticated IEDs that have harmed our troops." And as recently as this month's TV speech on Iraq, the President alerted Americans to the "destructive ambitions of Iran" and warned the mullahs that their efforts to "undermine [Iraq's] government must stop."

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The failure to act is similar regarding Iran's support for terror in Iraq. As early as August 2003, Paul Bremer noted Iran's "irresponsible conduct" in Iraq's affairs. In 2005, even Time magazine was reporting "Inside Iran's Secret War for Iraq." It was not until last summer that the U.S. began taking any kind of action against Iranian operatives in Iraq, most of them working under diplomatic cover.

This month U.S. forces arrested Mahmudi Farhadi, whose job description, according to the Iranian government, is head of "cross-border commercial transactions" for the western Iranian province of Kermanshah. Translation: Mr. Farhadi smuggles IEDs into Iraq. Wire reports say Mr. Farhadi's arrest is only the third such action against Iranian nationals this year.

According to information from an Iranian opposition group with a record of being right, Iran's Qods (Jerusalem) Force operates under the aegis of the Al-Najaf Al-Ashraf Al-Saqafieh Establishment, based in Najaf and run by Iranian mullah Hamid Hosseini. Arms deliveries are organized by a group called the "Headquarters for Reconstruction of Iraq's Holy Sites." Iran orchestrates these efforts from the Fajr Base, in the Iranian city of Ahwaz.

Administration officials tell us that Iranian-backed militias using Iranian-supplied arms now account for 70% of U.S. casualties in Iraq. U.S. forces also recently intercepted a shipment of shaped explosive devices that Iran was smuggling to insurgents in Afghanistan. This is at least the third time such shipments have been seized by coalition forces. Dan McNeill, NATO's senior commander in Kabul, notes that "it would be hard for me to imagine that they come into Afghanistan without the knowledge of at least the military in Iran."

The Administration seemed prepared last month to name the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (which runs the Qods Force) as a terrorist organization, a designation that would be amply justified. But once again, the State Department is equivocating amid Russian, Chinese and European opposition.

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The exhaustion of diplomatic responses to acts of war from Iran has been described by Norman Podhoretz as giving futility a chance. I blame the anti war left for the futility. Their opposition to the use of force is making it more likely that it will be needed.

They are giving the Iranians and al Qaeda hope in Iraq, when we should be making the case that their cause is hopeless. Instead, these groups are bent on making our cause hopeless. Wars are won or lost by forcing the opposing side to come to the conclusion that their fight is hopeless. By their giving hope to Iran, the diplomatic chances of success become futile.

Iran is in effect acknowledging that futility when its President said at the UN that the nuclear issue is "closed." That seems to have used up futility"s last chance. Even Democrats are recognizing the futility. MoveOn, want, but that will only further marginalize their "ownership" of the Democrats.

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