Iran and Nuclear Power.
What can we do about Iran becoming a Nuclear Power?
See Cartoons at the End.
Iran is likely to be a nuclear power in several years. Is that a danger to the world and more specifically Israel? Brazil is going nuclear in almost precisely the same way as Iran (http://www.pinr.com, May 18, 2006). No one need be concerned that Brazil would give nuclear weapons to terrorists; can the same be said of Iran?
Iran has influence from Afghanistan to the Mid East including Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Palestine, Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad and the Shi'a parties in Iraq. It has oil wealth and thereby influence in China and India whose need for oil is significant. Russia no longer poses any threat and the war in Iraq only benefits Iran.
Should the West bomb and attempt to destroy Iran’s nuclear power? To be successful it would require a more functional administration than the current American one.
A recent article in the Harvard Magazine (co-authored by Joseph E. Stiglitz, the 2001 Nobel laureate in Economics) states that the cost of the Iraqi War is likely to be two Trillion dollars (that is two thousand billion) as opposed to the estimated $50-$60 billion (to be recovered according to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, by oil revenues). Regardless of ones thoughts about the justification of Iraq War its execution is a colossal failure.
(http://www.harvardmagazine.com/on-line/050682.html) . America (and others) seem to have forgotten a war begun almost a century ago and its unforeseen circumstances and unintended consequences. That six week planned war (by the Germans) ended four years later with millions of deaths and the destruction of Europe (Barbara Tuchman, ‘The Guns of August’).
Two authors below – Spengler and Mark Steyn (journalists) - believe the answer is to destroy Iran’s nuclear facilities. Timothy Garton Ash (Oxford University) predicts that the result would be massive suicide bombing in Tel Aviv, London and New York. Brett Stevens of the Wall Street Journal (formerly of the Jerusalem Post) suggests a diplomatic alternative.
The EU’s big three (Great Britain, France and Germany) have been negotiating with Iran for two years with American approval. Recently President Ahmadinejad wrote Bush suggesting direct the possibility of direct negotiation. It was a theological oriented letter (reminiscent of the Ayatollah Khomeini’s suggestion to Mikhail Gorbachev in 1989 that communism convert to Islam) but what else would one expect of him? The point is their economy is in shambles and half the population were born after the revolution when the original Ayatollah designated America as the Great Satan. According to the International Crisis Group 75% of Iranians favor relations with the U.S. Did America lose when Nixon decided to talk to China? Negotiation can be seen not as a concession but (to quote David Ignatius) as a strategic weapon. Bombing of Iran would prove that the hardliners were right to be concerned about foreign western control.
Perhaps the Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and his President are willing to bargain thinking they are in a strong position to deal, but maybe George W Bush is actaully in a stronger position.
The U.S. and Europe evaluate the importance of radical Jihadism manifested in global terrorism differently. Americans see it as an ideological and strategic threat to Western liberal democracy as Communism was in the Cold War. Europe, with the partial exception of the United Kingdom, still do not share the American "post-9/11" alarm of international terrorism and potential WMD’s; this despite the terrorist outrages in Madrid and London. Europe continues to believe in conflict resolution using logic and reason. Americans believe that when dealing with ideological fanatics western logic and reason simply do not apply.
Tom Friedman (N.Y.Times) a supporter of the War in Iraq said the only thing more frightening than Iran’s having nuclear weapons is America’s bombing Iran. That would raise the price of oil to over $100 a barrel. ‘We’re in a war on terrorism with people fueled and funded by our energy purchases. We are funding both sides in the war on terrorism. We’re funding the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps with our tax dollars; we’re funding Hamas, Islamic Jihad, al Qaeda, and all their brother and sister organizations and the charities that fund them with our energy purchases’ (Tom Friedman, Foreign Policy Magazine, May-June 2006).
While the Clerics control Iran and President Ahmadinejad is quite abominable we should not forget that almost 25% of Iranians are Turkish speaking, almost 10% are Kurds, and another 10-15% are Arab and other non-Persian ethnic groups. The Turkish speakers are Azens ethnically related to Azerbaijan and the Kurds would probably join Iraqi Kurdistan given a chance. (Azerbaijan is a moderate secular Islamic country having diplomatic relations with Israel.) Azens, Arabs, Kurds and Baluchis, have all staged protests in the past year as political dissent in the Iran has risen. All Iranians know that Britain, Russia and the U.S. have ‘colonized’ Iran for a century and a half. It only ended with the Islamic revolution in 1979. The technology of nuclear power (despite the problems already noted) is an act of national empowerment. American bombing would reduce the future potential for the dissident reactions against the Islamic State.
Given that the War in Iraq has had a questionable impact to both democracy in the Mid East and on the war on terrorism other options ought to be seriously thought about.
Chag Sameach and Happy Pentecost
War with Iran on the worst terms
Washington wants to avoid a small war in the Middle East today, and instead may set in motion yet another Thirty Years' War in the region.
Iran cannot be persuaded to abandon its nuclear ambitions. Its peasants and urban poor gave an overwhelming electoral mandate to a government with imperial ambitions. The government cannot be overthrown, and cannot be derailed. But it can be beaten handily. A few hundred, or at worst a few thousand, sorties by US aircraft at this juncture could put an end to the matter now.
Why is Washington unwilling to take expeditious action?
US National Intelligence Director John Negroponte spelled out in essence the scenario before the Senate Intelligence Committee on February 1. Negroponte accused Tehran of arming Shi'ite militants in Iraq, warning that Iran has the capacity to broaden the conflict into a wider regional war.
Much as Washington complains about Iran's efforts to arm militant Shi'ites in Iraq, it cannot do anything to hinder this except to deliver and execute a military ultimatum. The longer Washington dallies, the more resources Tehran can put in place, including:
* Upgrading Hezbollah's offensive-weapon capabilities in Lebanon.
* Integrating Hamas into its sphere of influence and military operations.
* Putting in place terrorist capability against the West.
* Preparing its Shi'ite auxiliaries in Iraq for insurrection.
The problem with postponing war is that the belligerents gain more time to prepare for war. Russia could not abandon the Central European Slavs without losing faith in its own mission, and Austria-Hungary could not accommodate the Slavs without destroying a multi-ethnic empire. Germany could not permit Russia to walk over Austria, for it might not be able to defeat Russia a generation later; France could not let Germany defeat Russia, for it would lose its last chance to prevent German domination of the continent. War might have broken out a half-dozen times prior to August 1914. Postponing war allowed France to cement its alliance with Russia, and France and Russia to ensure Britain's support in the event of hostilities with Germany. A perfect balance of power gives each armed camp assurance if there is no ultimate motivation for war, but in the event of war, it ensures that war will be prolonged and thoroughly destructive.
Today's Shi'ites are the Serbs of the Middle East. Emerging from a millennium of oppression into majority power in Mesopotamia and Persia, the Shi'ites have their first and only opportunity to exact compensation for the humiliation of centuries. They have the misfortune to enter modern history at a point of maximum disadvantage for the peoples of the Middle East, who have few means to compete with the economic powers of East Asia. In Iran re (Demographics and Iran's imperial design, September 13, 2005), they face a devastating economic and demographic decline one generation from now. That is why these choose leaders such as Mahmud Ahmedinejad in Tehran and Muqtada al-Sadr in Baghdad.
Washington does not wish to fight but will if necessary. The Europeans, and even the Saudis, will fight rather than allow Iran to become a nuclear power, although they wish to fight much less than Washington.
If Washington were to deliver a military ultimatum to Iran tomorrow, the results would be a painful jump in oil prices, civil violence in Iraq, low-intensity war on Israel's northern border, and a wave of anti-Americanism in the Arab world - not an inviting picture.
But if Washington waits another year to deliver an ultimatum to Iran, the results will be civil war to the death in Iraq, the direct engagement of Israel in a regional war through Hezbollah and Hamas, and extensive terrorist action throughout the West, with extensive loss of American life. There are no good outcomes, only less terrible ones. The West will attack Iran, but only when such an attack will do the least good and the most harm.
(Copyright 2006 Asia Times Online Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us for information on sales, syndication and republishing.)
Facing Down Iran: Our lives depend on it.
BY MARK STEYN
Wednesday, April 19, 2006 12:01 a.m. EDT
Most Westerners read the map of the world like a Broadway marquee: north is top of the bill--America, Britain, Europe, Russia--and the rest dribbles away into a mass of supporting players punctuated by occasional Star Guests: India, China, Australia. Everyone else gets rounded up into groups: "Africa," "Asia," "Latin America."
But if you're one of the down-page crowd, the center of the world is wherever you happen to be. Take Iran: it doesn't fit into any of the groups. Indeed, it's a buffer zone between most of the important ones: to the west, it borders the Arab world; to the northwest, it borders NATO (and, if Turkey ever passes its endless audition, the European Union); to the north, the former Soviet Union and the Russian Federation's turbulent Caucasus; to the northeast, the Stans--the newly independent states of central Asia; to the east, the old British India, now bifurcated into a Muslim-Hindu nuclear standoff. And its southern shore sits on the central artery that feeds the global economy.
If you divide the world into geographical regions, then, Iran's neither here nor there. But if you divide it ideologically, the mullahs are ideally positioned at the center of the various provinces of Islam--the Arabs, the Turks, the Stans, and the south Asians. Who better to unite the Muslim world under one inspiring, courageous leadership? If there's going to be an Islamic superpower, Tehran would seem to be the obvious candidate.
In the Holy City of Qom [the Mullahs] has ruled that "the use of nuclear weapons may not constitute a problem, according to sharia."
If we'd understood Iran back in 1979, we'd understand better the challenges we face today. Come to that, we might not even be facing them. But, with hindsight, what strikes you about the birth of the Islamic Republic is the near total lack of interest by analysts in that adjective: Islamic. Iran was only the second Islamist state, after Saudi Arabia--and, in selecting as their own qualifying adjective the family name, the House of Saud at least indicated a conventional sense of priorities, as the legions of Saudi princes whoring and gambling in the fleshpots of the West have demonstrated exhaustively. Hypocrisy is the tribute vice pays to virtue--though, as the Royal Family has belatedly discovered vis-à-vis the Islamists, they're somewhat overdrawn on that front. The difference in Iran is simple: with the mullahs, there are no London escort agencies on retainer to supply blondes only. When they say "Islamic Republic," they mean it. And refusing to take their words at face value has bedeviled Western strategists for three decades.
As a geopolitical analyst the ayatollah is not to be disdained. Our failure to understand Iran in the seventies foreshadowed our failure to understand the broader struggle today. As clashes of civilizations go, this one's between two extremes: on the one hand, a world that has everything it needs to wage decisive war--wealth, armies, industry, technology; on the other, a world that has nothing but pure ideology and plenty of believers. (Its sole resource, oil, would stay in the ground were it not for foreign technology, foreign manpower, and a Western fetishization of domestic environmental aesthetics.)
For this to be a mortal struggle, as the cold war was, the question is: Are they a credible enemy to us? For a projection of the likely outcome, the question is: Are we a credible enemy to them?
Four years into the "war on terror," the Bush administration has begun promoting a new formulation: "the long war." Not a reassuring name. In a short war, put your money on tanks and bombs--our strengths. In a long war, the better bet is will and manpower--their strengths, and our great weakness. Even a loser can win when he's up against a defeatist. A big chunk of Western civilization, consciously or otherwise, has given the impression that it's dying to surrender to somebody, anybody. Reasonably enough, Islam figures: Hey, why not us? If you add to the advantages of will and manpower a nuclear capability, the odds shift dramatically.
If you've also "recently acquired" a significant Muslim population and you're not sure how to "adjust" to it, well, here's the difference: back when my Belgian grandparents emigrated to Canada, the idea was that the immigrants assimilated to the host country. As Kofi and Co. see it, today the host country has to assimilate to the immigrants: if Islamic law forbids representations of the Prophet, then so must Danish law, and French law, and American law. Iran was the progenitor of this rapacious extraterritoriality, and, if we had understood it more clearly a generation ago, we might be in less danger of seeing large tracts of the developed world being subsumed by it today.
Anyone who spends half an hour looking at Iranian foreign policy over the last 27 years sees five things:
1. Contempt for the most basic international conventions;
2. Long-reach extraterritoriality;
3. Effective promotion of radical Pan-Islamism;
4. A willingness to go the extra mile for Jew-killing (unlike, say, Osama);
5. An all-but-total synchronization between rhetoric and action.
Yet the Europeans remain in denial. Iran was supposedly the Middle Eastern state they could work with. And the chancellors and foreign ministers jetted in to court the mullahs so assiduously that they're reluctant to give up on the strategy just because a relatively peripheral figure like the, er, head of state is sounding off about Armageddon.
Instead, Western analysts tend to go all Kremlinological. There are, after all, many factions within Iran's ruling class. What the country's quick-on-the-nuke president says may not be the final word on the regime's position. Likewise, what the school of nuclear theologians in Qom says. Likewise, what former president Khatami says. Likewise, what Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, says.
But, given that they're all in favor of the country having nukes, the point seems somewhat moot. The question then arises, what do they want them for?
So the question is: Will they do it?
And the minute you have to ask, you know the answer. If, say, Norway or Ireland acquired nuclear weapons, we might regret the "proliferation," but we wouldn't have to contemplate mushroom clouds over neighboring states. In that sense, the civilized world has already lost: to enter into negotiations with a jurisdiction headed by a Holocaust-denying millenarian nut job is, in itself, an act of profound weakness--the first concession, regardless of what weasely settlement might eventually emerge.
Conversely, a key reason to stop Iran is to demonstrate that we can still muster the will to do so. Instead, the striking characteristic of the long diplomatic dance that brought us to this moment is how September 10th it's all been. The free world's delegated negotiators (the European Union) and transnational institutions (the IAEA) have continually given the impression that they'd be content just to boot it down the road to next year or the year after or find some arrangement--this decade's Oil-for-Food or North Korean deal--that would get them off the hook. If you talk to EU foreign ministers, they've already psychologically accepted a nuclear Iran. Indeed, the chief characteristic of the West's reaction to Iran's nuclearization has been an enervated fatalism.
Back when nuclear weapons were an elite club of five relatively sane world powers, your average Western progressive was convinced the planet was about to go ka-boom any minute. The mushroom cloud was one of the most familiar images in the culture, a recurring feature of novels and album covers and movie posters. There were bestselling dystopian picture books for children, in which the handful of survivors spent their last days walking in a nuclear winter wonderland. Now a state openly committed to the annihilation of a neighboring nation has nukes, and we shrug: Can't be helped. Just the way things are. One hears sophisticated arguments that perhaps the best thing is to let everyone get 'em, and then no one will use them. And if Iran's head of state happens to threaten to wipe Israel off the map, we should understand that this is a rhetorical stylistic device that's part of the Persian oral narrative tradition, and it would be a grossly Eurocentric misinterpretation to take it literally.
Would Washington act? It depends how clear the fingerprints were. If the links back to the mullahs were just a teensy-weensy bit tenuous and murky, how eager would the U.S. be to reciprocate? Bush and Rumsfeld might--but an administration of a more Clinton-Powellite bent? How much pressure would there be for investigations under U.N. auspices? Perhaps Hans Blix could come out of retirement, and we could have a six-month dance through Security-Council coalition-building, with the secretary of state making a last-minute flight to Khartoum to try to persuade Sudan to switch its vote.
Once again, we face a choice between bad and worse options. There can be no "surgical" strike in any meaningful sense: Iran's clients on the ground will retaliate in Iraq, Lebanon, Israel and Europe. Nor should we put much stock in the country's allegedly "pro-American" youth. This shouldn't be a touchy-feely nation-building exercise: rehabilitation may be a bonus, but the primary objective should be punishment--and incarceration. It's up to the Iranian people how nutty a government they want to live with, but extraterritorial nuttiness has to be shown not to pay. That means swift, massive, devastating force that decapitates the regime--but no occupation.
The cost of de-nuking Iran will be high now but significantly higher with every year it's postponed. The lesson of the Danish cartoons is the clearest reminder that what is at stake here is the credibility of our civilization. Whether or not we end the nuclearization of the Islamic Republic will be an act that defines our time.
Mr. Steyn is a columnist for Canada's Western Standard and Maclean's magazine, as well as for National Review and the Atlantic Monthly. This article appears in the Spring issue of the Manhattan Institute's City Journal.
Timothy Garton Ash
Thursday April 20, 2006
May 7 2009 will surely go down in history alongside September 11 2001. "5/7", as it inevitably became known, saw massive suicide bombings in Tel Aviv, London and New York, as well as simultaneous attacks on the remaining western troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Total casualties were estimated at around 10,000 dead and many more wounded. The attacks, which included the explosion of a so-called dirty bomb in London, were orchestrated by a Tehran-based organisation for "martyrdom-seeking operations" established in 2004. "5/7" was the Islamic Republic of Iran's response to the bombing of its nuclear facilities, which President Hillary Clinton had ordered in March 2009.
Despite massive protests across the Islamic world, and in many European capitals, the US-led military operation had initially appeared to be successful. The US, supported by British and Israeli special forces, had bombed 37 sites, including underground facilities in which Iran was said to be on the verge of making a nuclear weapon using its own version of P-2 centrifuges. The model for these had been originally supplied by AQ Khan, the rogue Pakistani nuclear scientist. US forces had taken down Iran's air defences and destroyed much of its air force. Inevitably, there were civilian casualties - estimated by the Iranian government at 197 dead and 533 injured. A Pentagon spokesman insisted that "collateral damage" had been confined to "an acceptable level". He claimed Iran's nuclear weapons programme had been "knocked back to first base".
The US navy had also successfully broken an attempted Iranian naval blockade of the Strait of Hormuz, one of the main arteries of the world's oil supplies. A US gunship had been damaged by an Iranian underwater missile attack, but with no loss of American lives. In panic on the oil markets, the price of crude oil had soared to more than $100 a barrel, but the Bush administration had built up America's strategic oil reserves and the new Clinton administration was able to draw on these. European economies were worse hit.
As experts had predicted, however, the biggest challenge for the west was Iran's ability to wage asymmetric warfare through Hizbullah, Hamas and its own suicide-bombing brigades. The Islamic Republic had for years been openly recruiting suicide bombers through an organisation described as the Committee to Commemorate Martyrs of the Global Islamic Movement. As early as April 2006, it had held a recruitment fair in the grounds of the former US embassy in Tehran, claiming it already had more than 50,000 volunteers for operations against "the al-Quds occupiers" (that is, Israel), "the occupiers of Islamic lands", especially the US and Britain, and the British writer Salman Rushdie. Recruits could also sign up through the internet (www.esteshhad.com) While Hizbullah and Hamas provided the infrastructure for the Tel Aviv bombings, the key to the attacks on London and New York was the recruitment of British and American Muslims through this group. The man who detonated the dirty bomb at Euston station, Bradford-born Muhammad Hussein, had been secretly trained by the Committee to Commemorate Martyrs at a camp in northern Iran.
With hindsight, it appears that the turning point may have come in the spring of 2006. Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, having proclaimed his intention to wipe Israel off the face of the earth, announced that his country had already successfully enriched uranium and hinted that it had the superior P-2 centrifuge technology. Whether true or not, these claims effectively destroyed the last hopes of achieving a diplomatic solution through negotiations led by the so-called E3 - France, Germany and Britain.
A long, tortuous diplomatic dance followed, with China and Russia eventually agreeing to minimal UN sanctions on Iran, including visa bans on selected members of the regime. These had little perceptible impact on the Iranian nuclear programme, but were successfully exploited by the regime to stoke up an always strong national sense of victimisation. Meanwhile, the exposure of the clumsy channelling of US government financial support through a California-based monarchist exile organisation to a student group in Isfahan was used as a pretext for a brutal clampdown on all potentially dissident groups. Several show trials for "treason" were staged despite international protests. This produced a further hardening of US policy in the last years of the Bush administration. In the 2008 US presidential campaign, the Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton, felt compelled - perhaps against her own better judgment - to use the Iran issue to demonstrate that she could be tougher than John McCain on national security issues.
When she came into office, she was already committed to preventing Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon, by military means if necessary. Meanwhile, the Iranian regime had abandoned all restraint in its pursuit of that objective, calculating that its own best chances of survival lay in the swiftest possible acquisition of a nuclear deterrent. In February 2009, an alarming intelligence report reached Washington, suggesting that Tehran - using a secret cascade of its version of the P-2 centrifuge - was much closer to obtaining a bomb than had been thought. In a series of crisis meetings, President Clinton, her new secretary of state, Richard Holbrooke, and her new secretary of defence, Joe Biden, decided that they could afford to wait no longer. Operation Gulf Peace, for which the Pentagon had long made detailed contingency plans, started on March 6 2009.
Washington claimed that it had legal authorisation under earlier UN security council resolutions sanctioning Iran for its non-compliance on the nuclear issue, but these claims were disputed by China and Russia. Most European countries did not back the operation either, producing another big transatlantic rift. However, under enormous pressure from his close friends among US Democrats, the British prime minister, Gordon Brown, reluctantly decided to give it his approval, and allowed the token deployment of a small number of British special forces in a supporting role. This provoked a revolt from the Labour backbenches - led by the former foreign secretary, Jack Straw - and a demonstration of more than 1 million people in London. Even the Conservative leader, David Cameron, mindful that a general election was expected soon, criticised Brown's support for the American action. Brown therefore postponed the British election, which had been provisionally scheduled for May 2009. Instead of an election, the country experienced a tragedy.
Meanwhile, President Ahmadinejad faced a presidential election in June 2009. Unlike Brown, he was riding high on a wave of national solidarity. Even the many millions of Iranians disappointed by his failure to deliver on his material promises, and those who despaired of their country's international isolation, felt impelled to rally round the leader in time of war.
Many prominent Americans criticised the US military action. Some claimed to know that the presidential spouse, Bill Clinton, was privately among those critics, although in public he was loyalty itself. But Dr Patrick Smith of the Washington-based Committee for a Better World, which had long advocated bombing Iran, demanded of the critics: "What was your alternative?"
How to Stop Iran (Without Firing a Shot)
Current diplomacy isn't working. Here's Plan B.
BY BRET STEPHENS
Tuesday, May 16, 2006 12:01 a.m. EDT
What can the Bush administration do to persuade Iran's leaders that their bid to develop nuclear weapons will exact an unacceptable price on their regime? What can it do, that is, short of launching air strikes?
Begin by shelving the current approach. For three years, the administration has deferred to European and U.N. diplomacy while seeking to build consensus around the idea that a nuclear-armed Iran poses unacceptable risks to global security. The result: Seven leading Muslim states, including Pakistan and Indonesia, have joined hands with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to affirm his right to develop "peaceful" nuclear technology. China and Russia have again rejected calls for U.N. sanctions. The Europeans are again seeking to sweeten the package of technical, commercial and security incentives the mullahs rejected last year. And that's just last week's news.
Today, the international community is less intent on stopping Tehran from getting the bomb than it is on stopping Washington from stopping Tehran. That's something the administration may not be able to change. But there are steps it can take independently to alter Iran's calculations. Here are four.
• Take the diplomatic offensive. "Western countries must push the internal conflicts inside the Iranian government," says Mehdi Khalaji, an Iranian journalist and visiting scholar at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
Mr. Khalaji proposes that President Bush write an open letter to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, specifying the conditions under which the U.S. would be prepared to negotiate. By addressing Mr. Khamenei this way, Mr. Bush would bypass and humiliate Mr. Ahmadinejad, aggravate the regime's internal frictions and explain to the Iranian people why theirs is a pariah state.
"The administration could say, 'If you halt enrichment, we can negotiate. If you stop supporting Hamas and Hezbollah, we can negotiate. If you release the following political prisoners, we can negotiate. If you stop meddling in Iraq, we can negotiate.' This would provoke a controversy inside the government. Some would say, 'OK, we can give up on these prisoners. We can back away from our relationship with Hamas. And so on.'"
Mr. Khalaji also urges the U.S. government to recast the content of its Farsi-language radio station, known as Radio Farda. The station's programmers, he says, "misunderstand the young generation of Iran, which is very political. The quality is not appropriate for a serious audience. The news isn't professional the way the BBC is." Offering a serious journalistic alternative to the Beeb ought to be an administration priority.
• Target the regime's financial interests. "In many ways, the Islamic Republic of Iran has become the Islamic Republic of Iran, Inc.," says Afshin Molavi, the Iranian-American author of "Persian Pilgrimages." Between 30% and 50% of Iran's economy is controlled by the bunyad, so-called "Revolutionary Foundations" run by key regime figures answerable only to Mr. Khamenei. Hard-line Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi, considered to be Mr. Ahmadinejad's spiritual mentor, controls the sugar monopoly, while former President Ali Rafsanjani is said to be the richest man in the country.
Since Mr. Ahmadinejad came to power, these ayatollah-oligarchs have been running for financial cover: Capital outflows from Iran surpassed the $200 billion mark in the past year alone. Much of that money has made its way to banks in the United Arab Emirates, many of which have correspondent banks in the U.S. "We are preventing financial transactions going to the Palestinian Authority because banks are scared they'll be hit by U.S. terrorism-financing laws," says a source who closely tracks the Iranian economy. "Why can't we do the same thing with Iran?"
• Support an independent labor movement. On May Day, 10,000 workers took to Tehran's streets to demand the resignation of Iran's labor minister. And despite last year's $60 billion oil-revenue bonanza, the Iranian government routinely fails to pay its civil servants, leading to chronic, spontaneous work stoppages.
Workers' rights got a boost in January when Tehran's bus drivers went on strike to demand the release of their imprisoned and tortured leader Mansour Ossanloo. In a state that bans independent labor unions, the strike was an unprecedented event, calling to mind the 1980 Gdansk dock strike that became Poland's Solidarity movement. That movement succeeded largely thanks to the support of Lane Kirkland's AFL-CIO, which in turn received funding from the National Endowment for Democracy. The same model needs to be energetically applied to Iran today.
"The neat thing about the labor movement is that wherever it goes, it's welcomed," says a source familiar with Iranian workers' groups. "It actually makes America look good."
• Threaten Iran's gasoline supply. Iran is often said to have an oil weapon pointed at George Bush's head. Rob Andrews, a Democratic congressman from New Jersey, notes the reverse is closer to the truth: Because Iran lacks refining capacity, it must import 40% of its gasoline. Of that amount, fully 60% is handled by a single company, Rotterdam-based Vitol, which has strategic storage and blending facilities in the UAE. The regime also spends $3 billion a year to subsidize below-market gas prices.
One picture is worth a thousand words.
by Robert Ariail, The State, South Carolina
by Robert Ariail, The State, South Carolina
by Yaakov Kirschen, The Jerusalem Post
Cartoon by Gary Varvel, The Indianapolis Star-News