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PostPosted: Tue Aug 12, 2003 6:44 am    Post subject: MULLING THE MULLAH DILEMMA Reply with quote


Democrats may not have finished bashing the Bush folks for having eliminated Iraq as a threat, but it's none too early to consider another uncomfortable truth: Something will have to be done soon about Iraq's belligerant Islamist neighbor - Iran.

Certainly, there's plenty of time to figure out what .

Nor would it be at all surprising to learn that American agents have already been "in country" for some time, clandestinely.

But the status quo in Tehran is growing ever more untenable, from an American point of view. And time isn't exactly on the West's side.

First, Tehran admits it has "in custody" several senior al Qaeda operatives, possibly including the terror network's No. 3, Asif al-Adel. But the mullahs have spurned U.S. requests to hand them over.

If Iran is detaining top al Qaeda thugs, are the detentions really just "protective custody" from America? It certainly wouldn't be the first time Iran has been accused of providing a safe haven for al Qaeda.

Then there's Iran's nuclear program. The International Atomic Energy Agency says the Islamic republic is aggressively pursing atomic weapons.

Iran claims that its nuclear plants are for peaceful purposes. But the country's vast reserves of oil easily meet its energy needs.

Last week, the Los Angeles Times reported that "Iran appears to be in the late stages of developing the capacity to build a nuclear bomb."

Compounding that threat is Tehran's unveiling last month of the Shahab-3 missile, which can reach Israel. The L.A. paper also reported that the North Koreans "are now working on a longer-range Shahab-4 [for Iran] and providing assistance on designs for a nuclear warhead."

Then, of course, there's Iran's longtime, relentless support for terrorism.

Iran's proxy militia in Lebanon, Hezbollah - a terrorist group responsible for the murder (among many, many others) of 241 U.S. Marines in 1983 - continues to launch attacks against Israelis, the latest coming just over the past few days.

And Hamas - partly financed, armed and trained by Iran - is behind some of the bloodiest suicide bombings against civilian targets in Israel.

Meanwhile, a number of radical Shi'ite clerics in Iraq are believed to be taking orders from Tehran. And the mullahs continue to make trouble with inflammatory TV and radio broadcasts into Iraq.

For now, Iran seems to know just what it can get away with across its Western border. Perhaps the government fears intervention now that some 150,000 U.S. troops are within just a few days' trek of Tehran and President Bush has made it clear "states that support terror will be held accountable."

Of course, it may be that the days of the hard-line Islamist regime are numbered anyway; regime change in Iran may come from within. Consider:

- Its population is young (mostly born after the '79 revolution) and restive.

- Its reformist politicians are increasingly willing to challenge the hard-liners - for instance, over murdered Canadian journalist Zhara Kazemi.

- Thousands of its students have risked their lives to protest the mullahs.

Surely, Iran's theocratic thugs must be dismayed, to say the least, that a grandson of Ayatollah Khomeini (who took power in the revolution of 1979), attacked it last week as "the worst dictatorship of the world." On a visit to Iraq, Hossein Khomeini also praised the U.S. overthrow of Saddam.

On the other hand, the hard-liners have a large and brutally effective security apparatus. Regime change may well require direct military intervention.

Prudence dictates that Americans, as the old adage advises, hope for the best - but plan for the worst.

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