Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Merkel grasps the menace of Islamist terrorism

The London Free Press
February 7, 2006
By Rory Leishman

In Angela Merkel, Germany is blessed with a Chancellor who has a clear understanding of the urgent need to combat the growing menace of Islamist terrorism.

In an address last week to Germany’s diplomatic corps, Merkel warned: "The fight against terrorism requires the mobilization of all political, economic and, when necessary as a last option, military means -- whenever possible under the umbrella of the United Nations.”

Merkel was referring specifically to the Islamist government of Iran. She said. "I can only warn Iran not to pull away from the international community and the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency). We have been following with great concern Iran's recent escalation of the dispute over its nuclear program into a crisis."

In February 2003, the IAEA discovered that Iran had been pursuing a secret nuclear program in violation of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty for the previous 18 years. Of particular concern is an uranium enrichment plant at Natanz that could be used for the production of material for nuclear weapons. Having failed to persuade Iran to close the plant, the IAEA finally resolved by a vote of 27 to three on Saturday to refer the dispute to the United Nations Security Council.

In response, the Iranian government has authorized full-scale production at Natanz. According to security experts in both Europe and the United States, this move could enable Iran to acquire a nuclear arsenal within five to 10 years.

The communist dictators of the Soviet Union were deterred from starting a nuclear war by the prospect of massive nuclear retaliation, but it would be folly to rely on the same threat to deter Iran from launching a nuclear first strike. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is an erratic Islamofascist. In a speech last October, he said: “Israel must be wiped off the map … The Islamic world will not let its historic enemy live in its heartland."

Iran already has intermediate-range missiles. No one can be certain that if the fanatical government of Iran were to obtain nuclear warheads for these missiles that it would never use them to destroy tiny Israel, despite the certainty of a devastating retaliatory attack.

Alternatively, Iran might conceivably provide Islamist terrorists with suitcase nuclear bombs to attack targets in the United States, Canada or one of the European democracies. French President Jacques Chirac is alive to the danger. Speaking at a nuclear submarine base on Jan. 19, he warned: “The leaders of states who use terrorist means against us, as well as those who would consider using, in one way or another, weapons of mass destruction, must understand that they would lay themselves open to a firm and adapted response on our part.” He underlined: “This response could be a conventional one. It could be of a different kind."

Iran’s implacable quest for nuclear weapons in defiance of the IAEA seems belatedly to have awakened even Chirac to the menace of Islamist terrorism. Perhaps, he might now be willing to join Bush, Blair, Merkel and other democratic leaders in a concerted effort to get the Iranian mullahs to abandon their nuclear ambitions.

That will be no easy task. Not even punishing economic sanctions would be likely to suffice.

A surgical air strike on the Natanz uranium enrichment plant would also do little good. It’s just one of several sites scattered in the Iranian mountains that could harbour nuclear-weapons facilities. In the opinion of Kenneth Pollack, an Iranian expert on the National Security Council in the Clinton administration, a massive series of air raids would be needed to destroy, first, Iran’s air defence system and then these sites.

Such a major military attack on Iran would inevitably cause numerous civilian deaths and engender enormous turmoil throughout the Arab Middle East. But the potential costs in lives and strife of allowing Iran to acquire nuclear weapons would be infinitely worse.

Nonetheless, it’s conceivable that Russia or China might veto a Security Council resolution to impose economic or military sanctions on Iran. In that event, the democratic allies should act on their own. Merkel is right: The democracies cannot allow the United Nations to prevent them from taking all necessary measures to defend themselves against the dire perils of Islamist terrorism.

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