Time to Pressure Iran
With so much attention focused on Iraq and North Korea lately, it's
not surprising that we've been hearing little about the other
member of the Axis of Evil. The irony is that, in many ways, Iran
is worse than the other two.
If there ever was a poster child for the Axis of Evil, it's Iran.
It combines repressive Islamic fundamentalism with weapons of mass
destruction and robust support for some of the world's most
insidious terrorist groups, including al Qaeda. This year, the
State Department has again named Iran "the most active state
sponsor of terrorism" in the world.
Even more alarming, the Bush administration believes Tehran could
possess nuclear weapons within five years. Nearly 25 years after
Iranians seized the American embassy, it's time to start pressuring
Iran to change its course.
Many consider Iran's religious leaders the founding fathers of
modern Islamic terrorism. According to the State Department, they
have been arming Hamas, Hezbollah and the Palestine Islamic Jihad
for years, as well as training them and giving them sanctuary.
There are reportedly nine other terrorist groups residing in
Tehran. Small wonder this theocratic regime has done little to help
in the global war on terrorism.
Though these groups focus a good deal of their evil energy on
Israel, they've attacked American interests as well. In 1983,
Hezbollah bombed the Marine Barracks in Lebanon, killing 241
American servicemen. They also struck the American Embassy in
Beirut that year, killing 60. In 1985, Hezbollah hijacked TWA
flight 847, executing an American sailor onboard.
During the embassy crisis, when 52 Americans were held hostage for
444 days, eight U.S. servicemen were killed trying the rescue their
countrymen in the failed "Desert One" operation. Tehran also is
suspected in the bombing of the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia in
1996, which killed 19 American servicemen.
Today, the Iranian regime is giving safe haven to members of al
Qaeda and specifically Osama Bin Laden's son. It is estimated that
the Iranian regime is responsible for at least 1,000
terrorism-related deaths worldwide since 1979. To the mullahs,
Iran's religious leaders, America is Public Enemy #1.
Yes, Iran has signed the Biological Weapons Convention, the
Chemical Weapons Convention and the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty
(NPT). But that hasn't stopped it from pursuing the very weapons
these agreements ban. Tehran has biological and chemical agents and
used them against the Iraqis in the Iran-Iraq war during the
1980's. And, U.S. officials report, Tehran has begun accelerating
its nuclear weapons program. Its ballistic missile arsenal is the
largest in the Middle East, and missiles with intercontinental
range are on the drawing board.
In short, the linkage between terrorism and weapons of mass
destruction (and the means to deliver them) is irrefutable in
There is a glimmer of hope. Almost two-thirds of Iran's 65 million
people are under 25 years of age. These young people want reform
and will protest for it. They want real democracy and ties with the
United States. Iran's president and parliament are democratically
elected but with one tiny proviso -- the Mullahs have the final say
in all matters of governance.
True, there are fissures in the regime's fundamentalist
façade. But can we afford to wait for the regime to reform
itself? Probably not.
We should pressure the regime, just like we're doing with North
Korea. The U.N. Security Council should rule that Iran is violating
the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and consider sanctions.
Washington should urge nations that work with Iran (especially
those in Europe) to insist that Iran prove it has halted its
support for terror and has destroyed banned weapons. We also should
support Iranian opposition and democratic dissident groups who can
serve as agents of change from inside and outside Iran.
Iran may be the most vexing and dangerous challenge in the Axis of
Evil. Afghanistan has been rescued. Syria has been admonished. Iraq
has been liberated. It's time to pressure Iran to renounce its
support for terror and destroy its weapons of mass
Brookes a former deputy assistant secretary of
defense, is a senior fellow for national security affairs at The
Heritage Foundation (www.heritage.org).