Tuesday, February 28, 2006

# Posted 10:35 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

IRAN, TERRORISM & WMD: Daniel Byman of the Brookings Institution testified before Congress last fall about the long history of Teheran's sponsorship of terrorism. Yet Byman argues -- persuasively, I think -- that:
Despite Iran’s very real support for terrorism today, I contend that it is not likely to transfer chemical, biological, nuclear, or radiological weapons to terrorists.
The issue here isn't, of course, that the ruling clerics have any regard for international norms or the value of human life. It is simply that they fear Western, principally American retaliation.

In short, Iran has been deterred. Whereas Al Qaeda has no state, no government and nothing to lose, the Iranian dictatorship is desperate to maintain control of its armed forces, its oil wealth and its ever more desperate population.

Byman points out that Teheran's terrorist agenda was much more agressive in the late 1980s and early to mid-1990s, when its bombers slaughtered Jews in distant places such as Buenos Aires while, closer to home, its agents bombed the US military facility the encompassed Khobar Towers. However,
Iran’s use of terrorism has changed dramatically since the 1980s. Most importantly, Iran appears not to target Americans directly, though it still retains the capability to do so. Iran instead uses terrorism as a form of deterrence, "casing" U.S. Embassies and other facilities to give it a response should the United States step up pressure
Nonetheless, the State Department still identifies Iran as "the most active state sponsor of terrorism" today, principally because ot its support for Hezbollah and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

Yet perhaps most disturbing is Teheran's uncertain relationship with Al Qaeda. Although it has occasionally cooperated with American efforts to stamp out Sunni jihadism, Teheran
Has allowed several very senior al-Qa’ida figures, such as Saif al-Adel, Saad Bin Ladin, and Abu Hafs the Mauritanian, to remain in Iran. Although Iran supposedly monitors individuals linked to al-Qa’ida, some reports indicate they played a major role in the May 2003 attacks in Saudi Arabia – suggesting Iran is not exercising true control over them. Iran claims it has subsequently clamped down on those suspected of links to the Saudi attacks, but its long-term intentions with regard to al-Qa’ida are still unclear and its past actions in this regard are cause for concern.
When it comes to setting policy for today, Byman states firmly -- perhaps a little too firmly for my taste -- that Iran fears a united US-European diplomatic far more than it fears simple American power. Mind you, Byman testified in September, the month after the election of Mahmoud Ahmedinejad.

Certainly, Iran would be more concerned about a united front than it would be about a fragmented one, my sense is that even the anti-Ahmedinejad faction sees nuclear weapons as the only real protection there is from the United States of America.

To be sure, a united front is both necessary for the moment as well as offering the best prospect of preventing further proliferation. There are limits, however, to how much we should sacrifice for the sake of diplomatic unity.
(1) opinions -- Add your opinion

to be certain, efforts to prevent iran from obtaining nuclear weapons is as futile as past efforts to prevent china, india, and north korea. if a nation state wants to attain a nuclear state status and they have the economic as wells as intellectual means (direct or indirect), it will get it. our concern should be forward looking. what do we do with a nuclear iran given its public support of terrorist organizations and its unbednding position to "wipe isreal" from the map. i say we covertly overthrow the current government now and give democracy a chance in iran. if that does not work, nuke them now before they (directly or indirectly) nuke us.
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