Iran has been at war with the United States since 1979. That we have chosen not to formally recognize the conflict has not lessened their aggression, nor diminished the unique danger they continue to pose. Presidents from Carter to Obama have passed along the problem to their successors, but President Trump will not have that luxury, unless he allows Iran to acquire nuclear weapons. While the United States has faced hostile nuclear-armed powers before – and in some respects still does – they have always been so-called rational actors, never religious fanatics in pursuit of world domination.
In 1979, Iran attacked the United States embassy in Tehran, and held 52 Americans captive for 444 days. Embassies are the sovereign soil of their respective countries, and an attack upon them is an act of war. Our failure to treat it as such and retaliate appropriately set the stage for decades of cowardice in the face of escalating hostilities.
In 1983, Iranian operatives blew up the American embassy in Beirut, killing 17 Americans; and in the same year blew up a Beirut barracks, killing 241 American Marines. They ordered the hijacking of TWA flight 847 that resulting in the killing of an American sailor. In 1996, Iranians blew up the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia, killing 19 American servicemen. In 1998, they afforded technical expertise to Al Qaeda operations that destroyed U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, murdering 12 Americans. The same assistance helped Al Qaeda bomb the USS Cole in 2000, killing 17 American sailors.
In 2011, U.S. District Court Judge George Daniels established that the Iranians were closely involved in the attacks of September 11, 2001. Iranian intelligence services assisted with the passage of Al Qaeda hijackers by shepherding them from Saudi Arabia to Iran, and then to Afghanistan without stamping their visas, something that likely would have denied them entry into the United States.
According to testimonies of Iranian defectors, Al Qaeda second in command, Ayman al-Zawahiri, met with the top Iranian leadership for four days in January 2001 to discuss the 9/11 operation. One of the defectors, a former Iranian intelligence chief for European operations, said the 9/11 attack was the cumulation of years of Iranian planning, merely one option out of a larger playbook called “Satan in Flames”.
While neither the 9/11 Commission or the Bush Administration directly blamed the Iranian government for the attacks of 9/11, the record is one of deep and sustained involvement between Iran and Al Qaeda. Far from being the mastermind, Osama bin Laden may well have been a junior partner, employed only to provide plausible deniability for his Iranian masters.
Iran bled the American military in Iraq and Afghanistan, training the Taliban and Iraqi Shiite insurgents, and flooding the Iraq theater with explosively-formed penetrators — a particularly deadly form of roadside bomb. American casualties from Iranian weaponry are estimated to be over 500 dead and many times that wounded.
In the past year, Iran took ten American sailors hostage, and humiliated them in front of television cameras, in violation of international protocols. Iran took an Iranian-American student hostage in July as he tried to visit his sick mother. Former FBI agent Robert Levinson was captured in 2007, and is still being held, assuming he is still alive. Recently released as part of a prisoner exchange, Washington Post writer Jason Rezaian described his 544 days of captivity as an unceasing period of physical and psychological torture.
That Barack Obama sought rapprochement without any fundamental behavioral change illustrates our Alice in Wonderland foreign policy with respect to Iran. If the aforementioned attacks do not serve as convincing evidence of the insane hostility and recklessness of the Iranian regime, then nothing can.
The same voices screaming for peace at any price in the face of unrelenting war waged against the United States, now insist that the Iranian nuclear program can be contained, or barring that, managed. On their present trajectory, Iran will likely have nuclear arms in less than ten years. Once that happens, they will be free from any constraints regarding their terrorist activities, and may very well decide to use their bombs on the United States or our allies.
The Iranian government doesn’t chant ‘death to America’ and call America the ‘Great Satan’ for no reason. They fervently believe in their divine mission to slaughter the infidels and prepare for the coming of the thousand-year-old Twelfth Imam – it’s a long a story – who will cleanse the world before Judgment Day.
Perhaps the best way to understand the nature of the Iranian regime is to recall that during their war with Iraq, the Iranian government used tens of thousands of their own children, some as young as nine, to clear mine fields with their feet.
While President-elect Trump will undoubtedly abandon Obama’s policy of outright appeasement in favor of robust opposition, that will not deter Iran’s quest for the bomb, nor diminish their enthusiasm for killing Americans. The United States should do now what we should’ve done decades ago, and use the full might of our conventional arsenal to deliver a devastating blow against the Iranian regime.
As there is zero appetite on the part of the American people for the introduction of ground forces, the United States will have to rely on air power alone. The introduction of the Russian SA-300 air defense system will make aerial assault more costly, but by no means impossible. Leadership, nuclear sites and military formations should be targeted first, but the whole capacity of the Iranian regime to function must be severely degraded. Oil production, refining, power, transportation, civilian infrastructure, ports – everything should be targeted.
Only then should we discuss the terms of their surrender, the new composition of their government, the means by which humanitarian assistance is to be provided, and the manner of the peace to come.
And if they don’t want to surrender, blockade them until such time as they change their minds.
Iran delenda est.
The author has worked on numerous statewide political campaigns in Virginia, South Dakota and Washington, D.C. His work has appeared in The Federalist, the Daily Caller and other sites. He currently resides in the Washington, D.C. area. Follow him on Twitter @PHGuthrie