Politics & Policy

The Terror of Tehran

The nuclear threat just went from bad to worse.

There are three things you need to understand about Iran’s recent sham elections.

The first is that contrary to the misreporting of the mainstream media, the Iranian people never had a choice between a “moderate” who might be more willing to halt Iran’s nuclear program, and a “hardliner” bent on a nuclear confrontation with the West.

The Associated Press had the gall to describe the 70-year old Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani as “the more moderate candidate” and said the “pragmatic” Rafsanjani “has appeared more willing to negotiate [with the West] on the nuclear program.”

Reuters echoed that assessment, describing Rafsanjani as a “moderate cleric” who has “recast himself as a liberal” and to stop his “ultra-conservative rival,” Tehran Mayor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Similarly, the Washington Post described Rafsanjani as a “senior statesman” who “carried the banner of the reformist movement.”

The New York Times, meanwhile, reported that “if Mr. Rafsanjani loses, hard-line anti-Western forces, which already dominate the nation’s leadership, will have a monopoly on power.”

But nothing could have been further from the truth. Rafsanjani, who previously served as Iran’s president from 1989 to 1997, was neither a “moderate” nor a “reformer.” He certainly was no “pragmatist” with whom the West could do business. To the contrary, he is one of the father’s of Iran’s nuclear program and an outspoken advocate of Iran and her radical Islamic allies building offensive nuclear weapons.

On December 14, 2001, the Iran Press Service (IPS) ran this headline: RAFSANJANI SAYS MUSLIMS SHOULD USE NUCLEAR WEAPON AGAINST ISRAEL. Speaking before a crowd in Tehran, Rafsanjani said, “When the Islamic world acquires atomic weapons, the strategy of the West will hit a dead end–since the use of a single atomic bomb has the power to destroy Israel completely, while it will only cause partial damage to the Islamic world.”

The IPS story said that according to analysts, “not only [was] Mr. Hashemi-Rafsanjani’s speech…the strongest against Israel, but also this is the first time that a prominent leader of the Islamic Republic openly suggests the use of [a] nuclear weapon against the Jewish State.”

In his new book Countdown To Crisis: The Coming Nuclear Showdown With Iran, Kenneth R. Timmerman cites a 1988 speech by Rafsanjani to a conference of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards in which the Iranian leader says bluntly, “We should fully equip ourselves both in the offensive and defensive use of chemical, bacteriological, and radiological weapons. From now on, you should make use of the opportunity and perform this task.”

Bad to Worse

The second thing to understand about Iran’s sham elections is that Rafsanjani–the “moderate”–lost to someone even the mainstream media understands is even more dangerous. Indeed, no sooner did President-elect Mahmoud Ahmadinejad get the word that he had triumphed in the rigged elections than he vowed to accelerate Iran’s nuclear program.

Translation: The Iranian nuclear threat to the U.S., Israel and our allies in the region just went from bad to worse.

For the past two years I have traveled to Russia and the Middle East doing research for my just-released political thriller, The Ezekiel Option. It focuses on a White House facing a dictator coming to power in the Kremlin who builds a nuclear alliance with Iran and brings the world to the brink of the apocalypse. But truth may be stranger–and more dangerous–than fiction.

I just returned to Washington from two weeks in Israel and Jordan where I met with a number of high-level political, military, and intelligence officials. Across the board, they predicted Iran will reach the “point of no return” by the beginning of next year. That is, by January 2006–if not before–Iran will finally have the technology, the know-how, and the trained nuclear scientists needed to produce highly enriched uranium.

Once those pieces are in place, Iran could have ready to bomb by 2006 or 2007. What is more, Iran will also very likely have the missile technology capable of delivering nuclear weapons into Israel, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and even as far as Europe. And they will possess the terror networks through which they could try to send a nuclear bomb into Europe or even the United States.

Russian Roulette

Thirdly, rather than help us stop or slow down Iran’s feverish bid to join the nuclear club, Russian President Vladimir Putin is actually aiding and abetting the mullahs in Tehran.

Indeed, Moscow has effectively formed a nuclear alliance with Iran.

Russia has an $800 million contract to build Iran’s first nuclear reactor in Bushehr and to provide all the nuclear fuel needed. The facility is now 84-percent complete and is expected to come online next year. The Russians have further plans to build at least five more reactors for Iran and have trained more than 1,000 Iranian nuclear scientists.

Despite repeated entreaties by both the Clinton-Gore and Bush-Cheney administrations, the Kremlin refuses to back off. Indeed, Putin was one of the first foreign leaders to congratulate Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on his rise to power, and specifically offered the Iranian hardliner continued nuclear cooperation.

“The construction of the Bushehr nuclear plant is nearing end, and we are ready to continue cooperation with Iran in the nuclear energy sphere,” the Russian leader wrote to Iran’s president-elect in a letter released by the Kremlin.

Watching the Sand Clock

No one wants another war in the Middle East. But the clock is ticking and we must be clear: the threat posed by a nuclear-armed Iran to the U.S., Israel and to our allies in Europe and the Middle East is growing. Should the Bush administration allow Iran to go nuclear on its watch, so many of the gains made thus far in the war on terror would be erased virtually overnight.

As one of the characters in The Ezekiel Option puts it, “To misunderstand the nature and threat of evil is to risk being blindsided by it.”

The West was blindsided on 9/11 by al Qaeda terrorists armed with nothing but box cutters and the will to kill thousands.

We dare not be blindsided in the future by Ayatollahs armed with thermonuclear warheads and the will to kill millions.

Joel C. Rosenberg is the New York Times best-selling author of The Last Jihad and The Last Days. His new political thriller is The Ezekiel Option was published Monday by Tyndale House. This article is adapted from a speech he delivered at the Heritage Foundation.


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