On November 30, ABC News reported that Iran is arming Shiite militias in Iraq with “brand-new weapons fresh from Iranian factories.”
“There is no way this could be done without (Iranian) government approval,” says a senior official.
[A] review of thousands of pages of intelligence reports by U.S. News reveals the critical role Iran has played in aiding some elements of the anti-American insurgency after Baghdad fell–and raises important questions about whether Iran will continue to try to destabilize Iraq after elections are held. …
[T]he picture that emerges from the sheer volume of the reports, and as a result of the multiplicity of sources from which they were generated, leaves little doubt about the depth of Iran’s involvement in supporting elements of the insurgency…
Iranian intelligence agents were said to have planned attacks against the U.S.-led forces and supported terrorist groups with weapons. Iranian agents smuggled weapons and ammunition across the border into Iraq and distributed them “to individuals who wanted to attack coalition forces…”
In November of last year , the Iraq Survey Group received information that Iran had formed small groups of fighters to conduct attacks in cities across Iraq. “Iran had reportedly placed a bounty on U.S. forces of U.S. $2,000 for each helicopter shot down, $1,000 for each tank destroyed, and $500 for each U.S. military personnel killed,” the Iraq Survey Group reported. …
[A]s it continues its elaborate dance with the West over its ambitious nuclear program, the Islamic regime has yet to turn the heat up full blast in Iraq, evidently secure in the knowledge that it can do so when and if it sees the need to. “I would not put it past them to carry out spectacular attacks,” says David Kay, the former chief U.S. weapons inspector in Iraq, “to demonstrate the cost of a hostile policy. That is the policy issue–can we learn to live with Iranian nuclear capacity?”
Now John Hinderaker of Power Line says President Bush should place the new evidence before the nation, a la Cuban Missle Crisis, and threaten preemptive strikes on terrorist training camps and supply depots. Futhermore,
declare that no nation that is engaged in killing American servicemen… will be permitted to arm itself with nuclear weapons. Iran must either open all nuclear-related facilities to inspection by an international group headed by the U.S. … or those facilities, too, will be destroyed, along with the economic infrastructure that supports them.
I doubt very much that Mr. Ahmadinejad’s domestic position would permit him to back down to this kind of threat. He would stand defiant, implying an enormous bombing and cruise missile campaign; necessarily boots on the ground in Iran, to direct air strikes; and great economic and physical suffering for the Iranian people. The analogies write themselves: Cambodian Incursion and Linebacker.
The Power Line Forum commenter Bird of Paradise is correct that U.S. public opinion was entirely different during the Missile Crisis. Could the President execute Mr. Hinderaker’s plan with out asking Congress for a declaration of war or getting the approval of the Iraqi government?
Rather than such a dramatic escalation, I would submit that a show of moral and psychological “force” or resolve would have greater effect on Mr. Ahmadinejad than an overt bombing campaign. This would include signals of commitment in Iraq (increases in deployment levels and the base size of the Army), selected and deniable strikes on Iranian safe havens, some level of partnership with Iranian Kurdish insurgents, Congressional endorsement of a plan for Iraq, and so forth.
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UPDATE: Dean Barnett says it’s not the nukes, it’s the regime: “What makes the Iranian potential nuclear arsenal an untenable threat is the nature of the country’s leadership. In short, it’s not Iran’s nuclear weapons program that must be made to disappear. It’s the present ruling regime.”