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A Present and Deadly Threat

5:17 PM, Apr 23, 2012 • By DANIEL DORON
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An agreement to curb Iran's development of nuclear weapons was not reached at the International Conference in Istanbul. The West came to the conference with no unified strategy or coherent goals because it seems confused about Iran's intentions and strategy. Few asked why Iranian leaders are spending so much political capital on a nuclear arms program? Or why they are spending a significant proportion of their only reliable source of income on developing nuclear weapons, when they desperately need it to feed their population? Or why they are inviting painful economic sanctions by Europe and the U.S.? Above all, why would they risk a devastating attack to stop their nuclear project?

Iran

The answers to these questions would have revealed the nature of the  threat a nuclear-armed Iran poses, and what steps the West must take to counter it.

Iran is extremely vulnerable economically. Ayatollah Khomeini's decision to lower food prices soon after seizing power decimated Iran's once prosperous agricultural sector. Millions migrated from bankrupt rural farms to shanty towns outside major cities. Welfare payments based on family size resulted in skyrocketing birthrates that doubled the population. Iran must now feed over sixty millions. It could do so only if the price of oil remains high—and sales keep growing.

And unlike thousands of protesting students, there might be too many welfare recipients to marginalize and brutally suppress. If they rebel, the regime could be brought down.

Nevertheless, the mullahs are ready to take extreme risks because their faith dictates that they must seek the establishment of Shi’a Islam—the only true religion, as far as they are concerned—as the universal religion. The Prophet Muhammad decreed, the mullahs believe, that every Muslim must enforce God's faith, even, if necessary, by the sword.

“The Iranian revolution is not exclusively that of Iran,” Ayatollah Khomeini has said, “because Islam does not belong to any particular people. … We will export our revolution throughout the world because it is an Islamic revolution. The struggle will continue until the calls ‘there is no god but Allah and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah’ are echoed all over the world.” 

It is because of this strong faith that Iran’s political leaders have taken extreme risks to develop nuclear weapons . They seek an ultimate deterrent against those who stand in the way of universal salvation. Their strategy, being implemented rationally, is simple: Iran must secure economic strength by controlling the price of oil; it must  spread Shi’a Islam to the rest of the world.

If Iran gets the bomb, it will be able to threaten to block the Strait of Hormuz and cut shipments of oil to Western customers, unless it receives a "transit fee" on every barrel of oil passing through what it considers its territorial waters. Through this fee, so much  European wealth will be transferred to Iran that it will be able  to dominate the world economically without even firing a shot.

Iran's leaders perhaps assume that they will not even have to act on this threat as long as it is credible. But if anyone would threaten to try to break Iran's blockade Iran could activate its international terror networks, launching a campaign of terrorism that may include the threat by terrorist proxies—who can not be restrained the way states can be—to use chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons. Iran could also threaten to incinerate the Arabian oil fields if worse comes to worse.

No one would be inclined to dismiss such a formidable challenge—to call Iran’s bluff, to test the mullahs’ resolve to become martyrs in the cause of the greatest Jihad ever. Iran would be free to incrementally ratchet up the price of oil by, say, five dollars a barrel, causing Europe, as well as America to likely acquiesce.

Once Iran controls the flow and price of oil it will be powerful enough to depose the Saudi regime, the hated guardian of Sunni Islam. Iran could engineer coups by Shiites who are the majority in the Saudi oil producing region of Dhahran. It could arrange a takeover, either directly or by proxies, of Islam's most holy cities, Mecca and Medina.

Then, after it unifies Islam under the Shi’a banner, a "rational" Iran could come to terms with an impotent West. It could then eradicate the little Satan—an isolated, emasculated Israel—with much less risk or effort. It can also proceed with its jihadist plan to establish the rule of Allah and sharia in the rest of the infidel world, by "peaceful" or other means.

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