January 19, 2006
Iran's Big Threat

By Mark Davis

The taunt still rings in my ears. “What about North Korea? If we're going to get so adventurous in Iraq, what about North Korea?”

Many critics of the war in Iraq tried to insulate themselves from accusations of pacifism by asserting that they would back military action if it were a real threat like, say, North Korea.

Well, now we've arrived at the brink of a threat more pressing than North Korea, creating a real honesty test for the people who made themselves feel better by offering up a hypothetical threat that they would actually favor responding to.

Anyone hiding behind the North Korea facade needs to step forward and get behind the possibility of acting against a nuclear Iran.

Some Democrats are already trying to bat military action off the table. Before examining why, let's assess what the range of possibilities is for America and for the profoundly dangerous Iranian regime that threatens the progress of Middle East stability.

Since 1979, Iran has been led by thugs who embrace the kind of pathological terrorist hate that we now seek to defeat.

I was 21 when a jihadist rabble took our hostages in the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. I did not expect that drama to last more than a year, and I did not expect Iran's radical theocracy to last until I reached middle age.

But, to the detriment of millions of Iranians, the Ayatollah Khomeini sparked an uninterrupted string of mullahs equally dedicated to terror.

While Iran now has a secular president who ascended from what passes for an election, that is no comfort. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a Hitler-scale Jew hater and a supporter of the crusade to spread an Islamic revolution around the world. He has spoken enthusiastically about “a world without America” and the violent eradication of Israel, which he calls “a stain of disgrace.”

An energized generation of young Iranians has watched enough cable news to know that it doesn't have to grow old in the grip of tyranny that takes its cues from centuries past. But a revolution cohesive enough to topple Iran's despots will take more time than we have.

America's plans for a democracy across the border in Iraq are a stumbling block the Iranian regime will not tolerate.

Fresh insurgent ranks are pouring into Iraq from Iran and neighboring Syria. Our troops have the job of dealing with that threat right now. But as Iran develops nuclear facilities that may yield more than just electricity, we have to weigh what additional U.S. forces might be called on to stem that new danger.

I wish there were cause for optimism as we weigh diplomatic routes and the prospect of economic sanctions.

While it is premature to load the troop planes for an Iranian invasion, it is the height of myopia to recoil at the possibility of a military solution.

Mr. Ahmadinejad already has threatened to block U.N. inspections of his country's nuclear programs. While we have received mild support from France and Germany on the trial balloons of economic sanctions, China and Russia may be in the mood to obstruct.

So what we need is a sober realization that we will first try everything short of a military option to thwart the unacceptable prospect of nuclear weapons in the hands of this madman, which may work and may not. If not, then what?

What we do not need is American politicians looking skittish about what we might have to do. Sen. Evan Bayh, an Indiana Democrat, is part of a small chorus of voices already distancing from a military solution, choosing instead to blame the Bush administration for “ignoring” Iran for four years.

I'm wincing in advance. Any serious assessment of the need for a military strike to take out Iranian nuclear facilities will rely on — brace yourself — reliable intelligence.

The lessons of Iraq should make that intelligence better. I hope we also see improvement in the tone of debate if diplomacy and sanctions fail. Things will be tense enough without partisanship sullying that debate the way it has on Iraq.

Mark Davis is a columnist for the Dallas Morning News. The Mark Davis Show is heard weekdays nationwide on the ABC Radio Network. His e-mail address is mdavis@wbap.com.

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