"You, America, the West must attack Iran," the Arab said.
"Attack Iran how?" I asked him. "What targets?"
"The mullahs," he replied.
"Their nuclear program?" I asked. When he nodded emphatically, I asked: "Air attack? Ground attack? Special forces?"
"Yes. And if you do not (show such willingness to use military force), Iran will become stronger. They with Hezbollah, their ally, already defeated the Israelis (in south Lebanon) in 2006. They say so."
"You're sure they did?" I asked.
"Oh, yes," he assured me. "That is the Arab perception."
"The Arab street's perception?" I smirked, my tone dipping into sarcasm.
"Yes," the Arab said, a bit antagonized by my tone. "Hezbollah has shown its guerrillas are willing to die, to martyr. They will not quit."
"An endless intifada fought by a limitless supply of martyrs, attacking both Israel and Arab regimes?"
"Yes, exactly," he said, fearfully. "They win when America leaves."
"If I told you we were already attacking Iran -- where it is truly vulnerable -- and defeating the carefully constructed myth of the martyr, which I agree Hezbollah uses in its pitch to perception, in its attack on your will, would you believe me?"
"Well -- "
This exchange -- which I've momentarily suspended -- took place three weeks ago, before the new National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) suggested Iran's corrupt mullahcrats suspended (also momentarily?) their nuclear weapons program in 2003.
If the NIE is accurate, this is very good news. In the wake of Saddam's fall, Libya terminated its nuclear program. However, before sighing with relief, we must remember intel is always (always) inadequate. Everyone with real experience in the intel and operations business also knows that intelligence assessments are often wrong, which is why "level of risk" guides smart planning. As better intel becomes available, the smartest plans require adaptation.
So Iran's nuclear facilities may ultimately be bombed. I've no doubt Iran's cagey mullahs have an "intent to acquire" nuclear weapons. But -- as I told my Arab interlocutor -- a U.S. or Israeli strike on Iran benefits the ruling thugs politically. It may well harm Iran's domestic opposition.
"So," he laughed, "do you say (U.N. and EU) economic and political sanctions will work (on the Iranians)?"
"They will have an effect, as well as targeting the bank accounts of the most corrupt officials. But the truth is, we have their carefully created martyr myth surrounded ... in Gaza, Palestine.
Austin Bay is the author of three novels. His third novel, The Wrong Side of Brightness, was published by Putnam/Jove in June 2003. He has also co-authored four non-fiction books, to include A Quick and Dirty Guide to War: Third Edition (with James Dunnigan, Morrow, 1996).
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