Jewish World Review / July 27, 1998 / 4 Menachem-Av, 5758
Pakistan's 'Ghauri' missile, launched on April 6,
is similar to Iran's Shahab-3, tested on Wednesday.

When hopes collide with reality

By Richard Z. Chesnoff

THE OMINOUS NEWS that Iran has a medium-range missile capable of hitting both Israel and Saudi Arabia with nuclear warheads shouldn't come as any shocker.

A few years ago, I broke a story in U.S. News & World Report that rocket scientists from China, Pakistan, Russia and North Korea were in Tehran developing just such a missile. Another item on both this page and in U.S. News was that Russia was building an Iranian nuclear plant capable of helping the mad mullahs develop their own nuclear weapon.

I tell you this not to crow, but to point out a frightening fact. In both instances, more than a few U.S. and European intelligence officials pooh-poohed the reports as "alarmist." "Not to worry," said one "expert" in Washington. "Sure, Iran wants a nuclear weapon and wants to deliver it. But we think it's mostly posturing."

That was the same line Pentagon intelligence delivered in the summer of 1990, when some of us reported that Saddam Hussein was massing troops on Kuwait's border.

"Our best sources here say it's just Iraqi posturing," one of my Washington editors messaged me. Nine months later, when I returned from covering the Gulf War, I framed his message.

Now the headlines ask: "What are Iran's real intentions?" You don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure it out. The goals are the same as they've been since the mullahs took over in 1979: impose their religious extremism on their neighbors, destroy Israel, neutralize Iraq and take over Saudi Arabia both for its oil and for its Muslim holy sites. In other words, control the Mideast.

In the best of worlds, we should have peaceful relations with Iran. That hasn't happened. And while its new president, Mohammad Khatami, is touted as a moderate, I'm not sure he's winning the battle against his extremist rivals. Besides, there's not a lot of evidence he offers anything very different. Iran is still a repressive dictatorship, still funds Mideast terrorists, still tries to assassinate exiled dissidents, still builds nuclear weapons and rockets.

Yet the experts want to believe Iran is changing. One recent story breathlessly reported that Khatami had "graciously" autographed a soccer ball for a visiting American journalist's daughters even though girls are forbidden to play soccer in Iran. It reminded me of the classic line in Mel Brooks' "The Producers." "Very few people know it," confides a nutty Nazi, "but the Fuhrer was a terrific dancer!"

The White House is also grabbing at straws. The Jewish weekly Forward recently revealed that in an odious attempt to curry favor with Tehran, the administration was trying to prevent the Flatow family of New Jersey, whose daughter was murdered by Iranian-backed terrorists, from collecting U.S. court judgments against Iran.

How do we stop Iran? Not by groveling. If there's anything preventing Iran from attacking Israel, for example, it's the knowledge that Israel has a nuclear arsenal and is capable of delivering it. Israel's air force also has the capacity to knock out whatever nuclear-weapon and rocket plants Iran has constructed.

If Israel does that now and I wouldn't rule it out the United Nations and everyone else will scream about "endangering world peace."

That's how they reacted in 1981 when the Israelis took out the nuclear bomb plant Saddam was building. Can you imagine what the Gulf War and the Mideast might have become if they hadn't?

JWR contributor and veteran journalist Richard Z. Chesnoff is a senior correspondent at US News And World Report and a columnist at the NY Daily News.


7/22/98: A lesson about peace ...in Auschwitz
7/15/98: What Hitler tried todestroy, the 'Net helped put back together
7/8/98: Love -- and leave -- thy neighbor
4/9/98: The US Navy's two faced Pollard policy
4/2/98: A breakthrough in Lebanon?
3/30/98: Full rights for all Israelis?
2/27/98: America's Schindler
1/30/98: A last chance for the Mideast?
1/11/98: The Moment for Restitution Has Arrived

©1998, NY Daily News