At an Accuracy in Media luncheon on Thursday, those in attendance heard from Ken Timmerman, former GOP Senate candidate from Maryland, investigative journalist and author of the new book Countdown to Crisis: the Coming Nuclear Showdown with Iran. While interesting, the talk itself was far from comforting.
It has long been acknowledged that the Islamic Republic of Iran is a terroristic regime, as the regime itself began with an act of terrorism, the 1979 siege of the American embassy in Tehran and the subsequent hostage crisis which lasted 444 days. The unique nature and level of the threat posed by Iran however has, at best, been underreported, and at worst utterly missed.
Timmerman makes the case, based on years of investigation of the highest levels of our intelligence apparatuses to the lowliest Iranian dissenters, that Iran’s participation in global terrorism has been wholly underestimated. What’s more, they probably have now, or soon will have, nuclear weapons.
The story begins with Iranian defector “Zachary.” On July 26th, 2001, “Zachary” tells the CIA that there is going to be a massive attack on America using hijacked airplanes and that the Arab fundamentalists who will carry out the attack are being trained in Iran. The attacks, he claims, will take place on 3 Mehr (the Farsi equivalent of September 11th). Despite the nature of the claims, “Zachary” is written off by the CIA station chief as a fabricator.
In hindsight, such inaction on the part of our nation’s leading intelligence agency is unforgivable, but it was largely the result of a universal supposition that Iran, being a Shiite Muslim republic, could never gain the willing cooperation of Al Qaeda, a mostly Sunni/Wahabbi group of extremists. That supposition, sadly, was far from accurate.
As the 9/11 Commission Report makes clear, and Timmerman underscores in his book, there was indeed cooperation between the regime in Tehran and Al Qaeda. On pages 240-241 of the commission’s report it is noted that the Iranian Republican Guard facilitated the movement of Al Qaeda operatives, including several of the “muscle” hijackers for September 11th, in and out of Afghanistan via the Iranian border. In fact, Tehran sent its top terrorist, Imad Mugniyah (mastermind of the U.S. Embassy and Marine barracks bombings in Beirut, Lebanon), to personally escort the September 11th terrorists to the Iranian capital.
Long before that, however, it was Imad Mugniyah who met with Osama bin Laden in Sudan in 1993 to discuss future cooperation between Iran and Al Qaeda. Bin Laden later agreed that the two parties should not let their religious differences stand in the way of their common goals; mainly, the destruction of Israel and the targeting of Americans.
Another source, interviewed by Timmerman, made numerous references to an underground nuclear plant. The report was not only that this facility existed, but that it was stockpiling nuclear weapons. These weapons would be within range of Israel.
When this information was taken by Mr. Timmerman to the CIA they confirmed the existence of the facility, however they were unable to comment on potential weaponry stockpiled inside. However, there is still great cause for alarm. Even if the Timmerman source is not to be believed, the reports of a Pakistani scientist recently arrested there, give rise to graver reasons for concern.
In 1986, this scientist went to Iran for the purposes of building up that country’s nuclear program. If his reports are to be believed, by this point the Islamic regime would have enough fissionable material to build between 20 and 25 bombs.
Yet the picture isn’t all dark, according to Timmerman. The United States has one secret weapon already on the ground within Iran: the Iranian people. After September 11th, Tehran was the only Muslim capital to spawn a spontaneous display of solidarity with the people of the United States and the victims of the Al Qaeda attack. Through non-violent conflict tactics similar to the solidarity movement once promoted in Poland, the supporting of opposition parties and an active delegitimization of the governing regime through international diplomacy, it might be possible to rein in the Mullahs and their anti-west/pro-terror governance and spark meaningful reform.
Above all, if the United States and the international community are going to take the war on terrorism seriously, it must shift away from its tacit endorsement of the status quo. While Iran continues to support global jihad, fund the insurgency in Iraq and build up its nuclear arsenal, we have managed to cede our diplomacy to the European Three who appear content to look the other way and insist that maybe a carrot will satisfy Iranian ambitions; but what happens if Iran eats the carrot then turns around and hits us with their own stick. We need to get serious with Iran, and very quickly. If we fail to do so the consequences could be extremely grave.