If Bush Has The Evidence Of Iranian Complicity, Then Show It
There are other, funner stories to follow today, like seeing Bob Novak lie repeatedly on Meet the Press and then lose it, or seeing lapdog Juan Williams on Fox this morning tag Bill Kristol as an “all war, all the time” cheerleader. Or you could see the obvious when Newt Gingrich said that the GOP needs to start another war before November or face an electoral drubbing. All of these would be more fun that paying close attention to the Middle East today. And all of these stories would be more fun than putting forward what I am about to write.
I was wrong late last week when I said that it was silly for the neocons to make the case that Iran was behind all of this new mess. Aside from this story in Newsweek today, I have heard from one source that I trust, retired Colonel Sam Gardiner, that in fact the emerging consensus from within the intelligence community and the diplomatic community is that Iran was plotting and supporting the Hamas and Hezbollah kidnapings as a preemptive move of its own against the United States and Israel before we could think of doing anything against them over their nuclear program. Again, I think it defies common sense for Iran to have perpetrated these kidnapings at precisely the time that they wanted the Europeans to think of them as a credible negotiating partner, but there are those who think that Iran’s clerics have overestimated their hand at this time, and seeing that moderate members of Hamas were ready to recognize Israel several weeks ago, ordered the kidnaping of the soldier that led to Israel’s overreaction in Gaza. Then, they instigated Hezbollah’s attack upon the Israeli border patrol on Israel’s side of the border, which lead to the deaths of eight and the kidnapings of several more. Iran now honors what Hezbollah has done as a "jihad" against Israel. Fine, but it is way past time for the Iranians to see that there are consequences for supporting acts of war against another country.
We can argue all we want about Israel’s disproportionate and ultimately counterproductive response to the Hezbollah action. The targeting of the Lebanese civilian population who had nothing to do with what Hezbollah did, and the destruction of Lebanon’s economic infrastructure will only make it easier for a moderate and powerless Lebanese government to fall and for the innocent Lebanese to hate the Israelis more and more. The failure of the Bush Administration to use its leverage with Olmert is on full display to the Islamic world, despite the foolhardy belief by the Israelis that they can militarily defeat Hezbollah by crushing the people of Lebanon. But the truth is that Hezbollah committed an act of war against Israel, and that both Hezbollah and Hamas get financial support and weapons from Iran through Syria. If Iran and Syria had any role at all in these kidnapings and used their proxies to carry these acts out, then both have committed acts of war against Israel. These acts cannot go unaddressed, and we cannot allow Iran’s clerics to feel that they can use the political standing that Hamas and Hezbollah have gained as a platform to wage acts of war against Israel. Iran cannot be allowed to perpetrate these acts without consequences. The real question now is what are the appropriate ways to go forward.
I don’t like admitting that John Bolton made all the right, moderate statements tonight on “Larry King Live,” and that John McCain said all the right things about dealing with Syria and Iran. Sure, a large part of the measured response from the Bush Administration stems from being trapped in Iraq, which will be Bush’s ultimate albatross, and from the fact that Iran has economic leverage over this country at the pump. There are already indications that the stock and financial markets will be hit with serious shocks this week as a result of the regional tensions that have arrived on our doorsteps in large part due to Bush’s failed foreign policy. Be that as it may, there are signs of hope, as former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres told King tonight that moderate Arab governments have begun pressuring Hezbollah to back off. Several commentators tonight, including Bolton and McCain have suggested that the first step towards a cease-fire and a cooling off period is for Hamas and Hezbollah to return the kidnapped soldiers back to Israel. And there is a need for Bush and the Europeans to lean heavily on Israel behind closed doors to stop the war against the people of Lebanon and their economy.
But simply put, Iran and to a lesser degree Syria have exposed themselves as willing to wage acts of war against Israel through proxies out of a mistaken belief that our situation in Iraq and Iran’s hand at the United Nations on its nuclear program gives them the latitude to engage in behavior befitting outlaw regimes. Iran and Syria cannot escape responsibility here for what they perpetrated through Hamas and Hezbollah. Yes, Israel should be held to account for its attacks against the people of Gaza and its economic infrastructure, as well as its behavior and damage to the Lebanese people and its economic infrastructure. But the United States must bring forward whatever information it has that indicates Iranian and Syrian support for these kidnapings to the United Nations and hold these two countries accountable. Sanctions should be slapped against both, especially Iran, and any talk about Iran skirting its way out of sanctions over its nuclear program are over. The moderates in Iran have lost control of that country to the clerics, and there are consequences to a regime that engages in acts of war. And yes, Bush should tell the Russians and Chinese that their opposition to sanctions at the Security Council against the Iranians in the face of Tehran’s active involvement in the kidnaping of Israeli soldiers calls into question their true commitment to fighting terrorism.
If the evidence is there that Iran and Syria are involved in the kidnapings, the Bush Administration and the Europeans should challenge them with this evidence at the UN. These countries should be isolated and sanctioned. The Arab League, working through the UN, should move into southern Lebanon to secure that country and expel Hezbollah’s militias so that UN resolution 1555 can be implemented. Syria should be given the chance to implement a disarming of the Hezbollah militias and the shut down of supply routes through their country in exchange for escaping sanctions. There must be an effort to test how willing Syria is to join with other moderate governments and to try and pull them away from Iran. If they reject these opportunities in the face of evidence of their culpability here, then they will be sanctioned and left to deal with Israel militarily.
Gardiner has told me that evidence of Iran’s role in these kidnapings is now known over the weekend. If so, then the Bush Administration should come out with it now. It may be near impossible and strategically counterproductive for a military strike against Iran, despite what the Air Force is now telling Cheney, but that doesn’t mean the Administration shouldn’t undermine Iran once and for all now, and show them for what they really are so that there is no rationale anyone would have for doing business with a country that supports acts of war against Israel. There are those, like me up until recently, who argue that we should talk with Iran and Hezbollah as a way to defuse this. That would grant legitimacy to what they have done here, and send a terrible message to the clerics in Tehran. Instead, the United States and the Europeans should send their own message to the clerics: you got caught and you have been exposed for what you truly are. You will be treated accordingly from this point on.