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March Into Fall: Our Weakness is Iran's Strength

By Jules Crittenden

Summer offered no respite, but summer's gone, and it is time to begin the earnest work of fall before winter arrives.

On the most pressing issues of the day, that means reminding the Europeans and the United Nations of the importance of the issues on which we are all engaged.

Iran's nukes, Lebanon's buffer zone and Iraq's future. All roads in these conflicts lead to Teheran, and it is there that these issues ultimately must be addressed.

The United Nations and certain European powers have shown themselves repeatedly to be more interested in appearances than results. In Iran, their great desire now is for talks, anything that might appear to be progress. To achieve this, they feel a further offering of economic incentives may be just the thing to prevent Iran from compelling them to introduce sanctions. Other powers, notably Russia and China, are more than happy to see the disintegration of any effort that threatens their long-term economic goals. Iranian nukes be damned.

What a marvelous position Iran has found itself in, to be able to openly call for destroying western nations, to demand their submission, to ignore the leading world body's demands on the nuclear issue, and to be rewarded with entreaties to accept greater gifts.

Does anyone imagine bribing Iran will end its nuclear ambitions?

The United Nations and some European powers -- when not actively pursuing short-term mercenary self-interest -- tend to focus on maintainance of status quo, failing to recognize that is never an option. Therefore, it must be made clear to them that there is no short-term benefit to be had, no acceptable status quo to be maintained.

The United States, President Bush and America's key allies must demonstrate clearly in coming weeks the threat that Iran poses throughout the region, in Lebanon, in Iraq, and more broadly, as a terrorist-supporting nation eager to acquire nuclear weapons.

On the nuclear front, the president and his allies must make it very clear that Iran faces severe consequences, to include a credible threat of military action -- a prospect that generally spurs Europe into action, for better or for worse -- and he must make it clear to European powers that they also will face consequences in their relations with the United States if they weaken.

In Lebanon, our Italian allies have done a remarkable job of shaming the French back into line on a French-sponsored peace plan. Ehud Olmert, criticized heavily at home and abroad for accepting that plan, is insisting that Iranian proxy Hezbollah hold up its end. Again, pressure must be placed on Europe, the United Nations and Iran directly, to ensure that the newly bolstered U.N. force in southern Lebanon does not remain a farce, and to force Hezbollah out of its position of dominance in Lebanon.

In Iraq, hardline Sunni leaders finally alarmed by what they have wrought are becoming interested in talking peace, and al-Qaeda is suffering heavy losses among its leadership and its ranks. Iran's puppets there, the Shia militias, are a growing threat that must be brought into line, as violently and mercilessly as necessary. Again, pressure must be brought to convince Teheran of the error of its ways. Iraq's democratic forces, growing stronger every day, must be given every opportunity to prevail if we want our efforts there to arrive at a satisfactory conclusion.

(A political footnote: President Bush will find, as he clearly defines the threats we face and takes demonstrable action to confront them, that his concerns about Congress in the November elections will begin to evaporate. In the midst of a long war, more than anything, the American people want decisive leadership, a view of the path ahead and forward movement on that path.)

A trumped up but wiley buffoon, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmainejad, has been allowed to call the shots throughout the Middle East. He is bending Europe and the United Nations to his will in Lebanon and the nuclear dispute, while acting with impunity to influence events in Iraq. Iran's role as the common denominator in each of these conflict zones cannot be ignored, and Iran cannot be allowed to derive strength from the weakness of those so loosely allied against it. As we march into fall, Iran's bluff must be called.

Jules Crittenden is a Boston Herald city editor and columnist for bostonherald.com. Crittenden has covered foreign policy, military affairs and social issues in India, Pakistan, Israel, Kosovo, Armenia, Iraq and Kuwait. He can be reached at jcrittenden@bostonherald.com.

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