Iran: Public enemy number one
In 1996, Larry Bond and Pat Larkin wrote The Enemy Within, a techno-thriller about a plot by Iran to launch false-flag terrorist attacks inside the United States as a diversion while Iran made ready to attack across the Persian Gulf into the oil fields of Saudi Arabia and, thereby, control much of the world’s supply of readily-available oil. While the novel has more twists and turns than a Colorado mountain pass, the authors’ main purpose is to tell us that Iran is the only clearly identifiable nation-state that conducts a war of terrorism directed against the United States and Israel.
Granted it is the Sunni-Islamic-inspired al-Qaeda that struck the most spectacular blow against the United States on 9/11. But al-Qaeda really has no nation-state sponsor on which we can pin the tail of the terrorism donkey. Pre-9/11, al-Qaeda was a guest in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. But, before turning their attention to the geographically more important Iraq, President George W. Bush and General Tommy Franks made short work of al-Qaeda in Afghanistan.
As a result, what is left of the leadership of al-Qaeda is hiding in the caves and souks of northwest Pakistan. Nevertheless, “lone-ranger” individuals or small cells inspired by Sunni, Islamic fundamentalism continue to kill Americans and others outside the borders of radical Islam. Wherever and whenever possible the United States has tried to track down and kill or capture al-Qaeda operatives. But we have done virtually nothing about the world’s primary sponsor of terrorism directed against the U.S. and its allies which is: (drum roll) Iran.
Now, why is that? It is because al-Qaeda is a geographic orphan while Iran sits on geographic features of enormous importance to a world which, unfortunately, is still dependent on the oil of the Persian Gulf. Many nation-states welcome, albeit it sometimes grudgingly, our troops on their soil to help rid them of the virulent forms of Islamic terrorism. But we have no entry into Iran. Iran is a closed dictatorship behind whose borders are the masterminds of a constant series of attacks aimed at the interests of the United States and her allies.
Which is worse for the non-Islamic world, Iran, or al-Qaeda? Just to name a few examples: In 1979, Iran committed an act of war against the United States by seizing our embassy in Teheran then holding 66 Americans hostage for 444 days. Iran engineered the 1988 kidnapping and murder of Marine Colonel William Higgins in Lebanon. Iran was behind the 1992 and 1994 bombings of Jewish cultural centers in Argentina. Iran arranged the 1996 truck bombing of the Kobar Towers in Saudi Arabia, killing 19 American service personnel. Hezbollah, Iran’s primary agent against Israel, has carried out hundreds of attacks against the only democracy in the Middle East. Iran supplies weapons and money to both the Taliban and al-Qaeda. Iran provides weapons and money to the anti-government forces in Iraq. From the Wikileak classified documents, we see extensive collaboration between Iran and the Taliban, with the Afghan warlords and with al-Qaeda.
So, why have we done less about Iran than al-Qaeda? Iran has geography on its side. All Iran needs to do is close the exit to the Persian Gulf at the Strait of Hormuz. But can’t the world’s strongest naval power – the U.S. Navy – prevent that from happening? Not likely. You see, the cash-strapped Russians sold several Kilo-class diesel submarines to Iran. The super-silent Kilos can get into position and then lie undetected for long periods of time. Sailing a U.S. aircraft carrier over a Kilo tempts a horrible fate. We do have some submarines purpose-built to hunt down other submarines; however, detecting a bottom-hugging Kilo is virtually impossible.
Trade sanctions are not going to stop Iran from being the only Persian Gulf nation with nuclear weapons. The answer? At this point, no one seems to know.
Nationally syndicated columnist, William Hamilton, was educated at the University of Oklahoma, the George Washington University, the U.S Naval War College, the University of Nebraska, and Harvard University.
©2010. William Hamilton.