Having failed to bribe the Islamic Republic Iran out of its nuclear ambitions, the State Department is putting on its cheeriest face after Saturday’s Security Council resolution, imposing toothless sanctions on an unfazed regime which didn’t even wait for the ink to dry before shrugging them off.
It can be no accident that this news broke in the middle of the weekend before Christmas. Alejandro D. Wolff, the State Department’s acting stand-in for former U.N. ambassador John Bolton, brashly asserted that the resolution sends Iran “an unambiguous message” about “serious repercussions.” In fact, though, it is an unmistakable signal that there will be no meaningful consequences as the evermore bellicose mullahs pursue their nukes.
In what, moreover, has to be one of the more embarrassing king-has-no-clothes moments, this testament to cravenness came only a day after federal judge Royce C. Lamberth’s painstaking 209-page opinion, describing the Islamic Republic’s orchestration of the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing which killed 19 members of the United States Air Force and wounded 372 others.
After many meandering months, the outcome on the sanctions resolution was still in doubt as late as Saturday morning because two of our “allies” in this exquisite diplomatic effort — China (itself a nuclear proliferator with extensive economic ties to Iran) and Russia (Vladimir Putin’s thug-state which is actually helping Iran develop its nuclear capability) — were still busy watering down measures already so diluted even the Iraq Study Group would have found them fatuous.
The penalties against the regime that sees a world without America and Israel as “attainable” are laughable.
The New York Times reports that all countries would be required to ban “the import and export of materials and technology used in uranium enrichment, reprocessing and ballistic missiles.” Except, well … not so much. The Times and the Associated Press note that the Russians are continuing apace with the construction of Iran’s atomic power plant at Bushehr. They succeeded in having any mention of Bushehr removed from the resolution, while forcing other amendments to ensure that “legitimate” nuclear activities in Iran could continue.
The ballyhooed sanctions also include an asset freeze on twelve Iranian individuals and eleven companies involved in Iran’s nuclear and missile programs. But observe: This is not a freeze on Iran. It affects only a handful of persons and entities — and even with respect to them, it matters only if they happen to have assets that can be readily identified inside some country that is willing to pierce through a maze of nominees and seize them.
Feigning at some backbone, the U.S. and some of the more “hawkish” members of the coalition (comprised of the five permanent Security Council members plus Germany) also urged that the named Iranians be banned from traveling outside Iran. But even this gambit — better thought of as a nuisance than a sanction — was too much for the Russians. Due to their nyet, countries will instead be asked “to exercise vigilance” if the Iranian Dirty Dozen enter or transit through their territory. That’ll show ‘em.
It’s worth rehearsing the sorry history that has led us to this point. Abandoning a long-settled policy against direct negotiations with the Iranian regime, and making a mockery of the Bush Doctrine’s pledge that rogue states would be made to decide whether they were “with us or with the terrorists,” the State Department this spring offered to give the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism everything including the kitchen sink for what would have been the pretense of abandoning its nuclear weapons program.
In so doing, the Bush administration conceded the legitimacy of the Islamic Republic’s development of nuclear technology for peaceful purposes — notwithstanding that such efforts are generally indistinguishable from arms development. Not content with that, it agreed that Iran should be assisted in that development with light water reactors, spent fuel management instruction, and “a substantive package of research and development co-operation.”
In addition, the mullahs were cajoled with offers of other high-technology, security assurances, economic aid, and sundry assistance in the areas of aviation, energy, telecommunications and agriculture. No mention was made of Iran’s quarter-century-plus of assiduous terror-mongering. And in the final indignity, verification of Iran’s compliance with its reciprocal obligation to cease enrichment was to be left to the International Atomic Energy Agency — the very body that had failed to detect the program in the first place (and which permits Iran to exercise veto power over which IAEA inspectors are assigned).
Why go out of our way to look so weak in the face of a committed enemy? Because, Secretary Rice and her minions assured us, this time the “international community” was truly united. Why, if Iran dared to decline, this time there would be real consequences. “Aides to Rice,” according to the Washington Post, insisted that the agreement to offer inducements to Iran “also commits China and Russia to a long list of specific steps to punish Iran if it refuses to halt its enrichment program.” Indeed, this joint display of resolve was purported to be the best strategy for backing the mullahs down.
Right. The Russians and Chinese did not even have the good grace to stay mum for a day so State could play diplo-Polyanna for the U.S. media. They immediately balked. There was consensus only on the carrots, they said. Not the sticks. Or even that there would be sticks. And so began the journey — the desperate quest for a U.N. resolution, no matter how weak — that culminated in Ambassador Wolff’s thundering “unambiguous message” on Saturday.
Iran has plainly gotten the point: Its president, Ahmadinejad, one of the more unambiguous orators on today’s world stage, thumbed his nose earlier this week, asserting that enrichment would go on.
As it happens, Judge Lamberth, though clearly not State Department material, is one of those rare American government officials who is about as given to nuance as Ahmadinejad. Meaning: he knows what he sees, and isn’t afraid to say it. His ruling in the Khobar case — awarding $254 million to the victims of the June 25, 1996 bombing of a residential complex in Saudi Arabia used by the U.S. Air Force during a post-Gulf War peace mission — made the following findings of fact, among others:
6. Defendant the IRGC [i.e., the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp, or “the Pasdaran”] is a non-traditional instrumentality of Iran. It is the military arm of a kind of shadow government answering directly to the Ayatollah and the mullahs who hold power in Iran. It is similar to the Nazi party’s SA organization prior to World War II. The IRGC actively supports terrorism as a means of protecting the Islamic revolution that brought the Ayatollah to power in Iran in 1979. It has its own separate funding sources, derived from confiscation of the assets of the former Shah of Iran in 1979, when the Shah was deposed.
7. The Khobar Towers was a residential complex in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, which housed the coalition forces charged with monitoring compliance with U.N. security council resolutions.
The Attack on the Khobar Towers
8. At approximately 10 minutes before 10 pm on June 25, 1996, a large gasoline tanker truck pulled up alongside the perimeter wall of the Khobar Towers complex. The driver jumped out, ran into a waiting car that had pulled up near the truck, and sped off.
9. Although security guards near the top of Building 131 started to give warnings about the unusual vehicle location, the truck exploded with great force within about 15 minutes. The investigation determined that the force of the explosion was the equivalent of 20,000 pounds of TNT. The Defense Department said that it was the largest non-nuclear explosion ever up to that time.
10. The explosion sheared off the face of Building 131, where Paul Blais and his crewmates were housed, and reduced most of it to rubble. Nineteen United States Air Force personnel were killed in the explosion, and hundreds of others were injured.
Iranian Support and Sponsorship of the Attack
11. The attack was carried out by individuals recruited principally by a senior official of the IRGC, Brigadier General Ahmed Sharifi. Sharifi, who was the operational commander, planned the operation and recruited individuals for the operation at the Iranian embassy in Damascus, Syria. He provided the passports, the paperwork, and the funds for the individuals who carried out the attack.
12. The truck bomb was assembled at a terrorist base in the Bekaa Valley which was jointly operated by the IRGC and by the terrorist organization known as Hezbollah. [The opinion elsewhere describes Iran’s creation and control of Hezbollah.] The individuals recruited to carry out the bombing referred to themselves as “Saudi Hezbollah,” and they drove the truck bomb from its assembly point in the Bekaa Valley to Dhahran, Saudi Arabia.
13. The terrorist attack on the Khobar Towers was approved by Ayatollah Khameini, the Supreme leader of Iran at the time. It was also approved and supported by the Iranian Minister of Intelligence and Security (“MOIS”) at the time, Ali Fallahian, who was involved in providing intelligence security support for the operation. Fallahian’s representative in Damascus, a man named Nurani, also provided support for the operation.
I’ve been wondering: Let’s leave aside the Iranian nuclear program aimed at our destruction. If the Khobar Towers atrocity had happened yesterday, would you be satisfied with the “sanctions” the State Department is celebrating today?
Of course, Khobar didn’t happen yesterday. It happened over a decade ago. Our government, since shortly after the attack, has known all the facts referred to by Judge Lamberth. But we have not responded. Not even “sanctions.”
Since then, we’ve had Iranian training of al Qaeda; Iranian harboring of al Qaeda; Iranian transit assistance to the 9/11 hijackers; Iranian proxy war on the United States via Hezbollah’s war against Israel; Iranian proxy war on the United States via training and arming of the terrorist insurgency in Iraq; Khamenei’s reaffirmation of “Death to America!” as Iran’s clarion call; and Ahamdinejad’s proclamation that the destruction of the United States is “attainable, and surely can be achieved.”
Yes, what an “unambiguous message” of “serious repercussions” we’ve conveyed.
– Andrew C. McCarthy is a senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.