Friday, December 29, 2006

The Drama of the Bully and the Victim

Like it or not, history is driven by war. Warfare is conducted by a universal set of rules. Men learn these rules during adolescence in the sandlots and schoolyards of their communities; it is there that the drama of the bully and the victim is first played out. One of the rules of the schoolyard is that — whenever the teachers are out of sight — any boy may walk up to any other boy and punch him. Everything that happens next depends upon the reaction of the victim:

• He may punch back;

• Or he may acquiesce, and accept the dominance of the other boy;

• Or he may seek relief by running to the teachers.

• But the very worse thing he can do is to do nothing at all.

Unfortunately, that is precisely what President Carter did in response to the Iranian Hostage Crisis, what President Reagan did in response to the Beirut Marine barracks bombing, and what President Clinton did in response to the Khobar Towers attack; in all three cases, they did nothing. Why is this fact so significant?

Consequences of Not Fighting Back
When the victim does nothing, the following things happen:

1. The prestige of the attacker goes up; the smaller the attacker, the greater the gain.

2. The prestige of the victim goes down; the bigger the victim, the greater the loss.

3. The attacker is emboldened to attack the victim again. After all, there were no negative consequences the first time. Why should a second attack be any different?

4. The allies of the attacker are emboldened to attack the victim, too.

5. The allies of the victim wonder why they should defend him if he, himself, is not willing to fight back.

6. Boys who were previously neutral begin to side with the attacker.

7. The whole school learns about the incident, and watches for what will happen next.

The victim has only three choices:

• Fight back. This gets progressively more difficult the longer he delays.
• Allow himself to be destroyed.
• Transfer to a different school.

In fairness to President Reagan, the dominant threat to America at the time was nuclear annihilation by the Soviet Union. Reagan set out to disable this threat. He succeeded, and as a result, the world no longer needs to fear a nuclear Armageddon, and all nations respect the military might of America. All nations but one: Iran. Unfortunately for us, the drama of the schoolyard bully is not driven by what the other students think: it is driven by what the bully thinks. From the viewpoint of Iran, a small Islamic nation of 30 million had just bloodied the greatest military power in history, and America did not retaliate. This strongly suggested that America was afraid of Iran.

Once an aggressor believes that the victim fears him, he does not back off; he pushes his advantage, and attacks again. That is precisely what Iran has done.

The Neurology of Human Aggression
This posting is somewhat of a departure from my main story line. However, if you are a woman or a peace-loving man, this may be the most important posting of all. I know I am taking a risk, and that you may, at this point, swiftly conclude that I am sexist. But the simple truth of international politics is that it is run primarily by men, and all men pass through the gauntlet of the schoolyard bully during adolescence. This trial by fire in which a boy begins to assemble his true masculine identity is a universal phenomenon. It cannot be avoided. Muslim boys, Jewish boys, and Christian boys alike must submit to it and survive it before they can become adult men. Sometimes it is easy. But more often it is cruel, brutal, and swift; and how the boy and his family handle the crisis in large part determine the caliber of his manhood.

Because human males share this universal psychology, when they acquire positions of high political power, they automatically know how to defend the nation. This is not to say that the choices they make are always right; only that they all understand the protocols of warfare. These protocols are the rules I have listed above.

Therefore, in the arena of international politics, doing nothing in the face of naked aggression is dangerous just as it is in the adolescent schoolyard. However, in the international arena, things can be deadly, because the men, now grown, possess deadly weapons like atomic bombs.

The protocols of human aggression are easily dismissed as failings. Many Americans honestly believe that, with enough time and effort, and with a commitment to non-violent action, human nature can be incrementally perfected. But studies of aggression among populations of wild animals strongly suggest that aggression plays a creative role in the survival of social species. Were it not for the mutually-repelling force of aggression between lion families, African lions would form one huge pride and eventually consume all the prey animals in the region. Then the lions would all starve. Aggression, by its constant winnowing, controls both the size and hunting range of lion families, thereby insuring that most lions survive.

When contemplating human aggression — whether in the adolescent schoolyard or in the conflicts between nations — what is easily missed is that most of the protagonists survive, and that there is a kind of honor that combatants enjoy when they follow the rules. What is evil in the modern world is that we now possess the means to kill the majority of a large population in a highly dishonorable way: simply by lobbing a nuclear missile. There is no striving of body to body, sweat to sweat, from which the combatants can emerge with honor. Murder, genocide, and sucker-punching are eschewed by nature, as they are in the adolescent schoolyard.

If we do not make Iran pay for its murder of Americans, they will simply kill more of us. And now that they have nuclear missiles, they can kill us by the millions.

The Khobar Towers Bombing

The First Persian Gulf War was launched in 1991 to evict Saddam Hussein's Army from Kuwait and to stop the Iraqis from invading Saudi Arabia. At the end of the war, the United Nations Security Council charged a coalition of forces with the task of monitoring Iraq's compliance with U.N. resolutions. Principal members of this coalition were the United States, Britain, and France. A detachment of airmen from the 4404th Wing of the United States Air Force was housed in a complex for foreign military personnel in the city of Khobar on the Persian Gulf. Khobar is near Dhahran, a major commercial center of Saudi Arabia's oil industry. It is also close to the Shiite city of Qatif.

In April of 1995, American intelligence and military officers began raising alarms that the Khobar Towers complex was being surveilled by Iranian intelligence agents and their local proxies. One of these proxies was a branch of Hezbollah that operated exclusively inside Saudi Arabia. At about the same time, Western intelligence agencies detected a new Iranian-run camp in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley. They reported that Saudi dissidents were being trained there in bomb-making techniques.

In March, 1996, a Saudi Shiite attempted to cross the border from Jordan into Saudi Arabia with 38 kilograms of plastic explosives. He admitted to the Saudis that he was part of an Iranian-sponsored plot to bomb American troops in Dhahran. He had been recruited while on a pilgrimage to a shrine in Damascus, and sent to Lebanon for training by the IRGC. The Saudis arrested the bomber and three other conspirators, but never informed the American commanders in Dhahran.

The Iranians adapted to this setback by activating a Saudi Hezbollah cell in the nearby city of Qatif. They also provided the new team with money, passports, timers, and explosives. The conspirators purchased a tanker truck locally and began to pack it with explosives. It is possible that they shipped the truck on a barge across the Persian Gulf to a small port near Bander Abbas, Iran. There, explosives experts from the IRGC's Qods Force are reputed to have rigged the bomb and shipped the truck back to Saudi Arabia.

On June 25, 1996, the Saudi conspirators parked the truck next to Building 131, an eight-story structure in the Khobar Towers housing complex. As they drove away in two smaller vehicles, they detonated the bomb. Nineteen American airmen were killed.

The attack had been ordered by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Iranian head of state. It was planned jointly by Iran's IRGC (the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps) and MOIS (the Ministry of Information and Security.) The operational commander was Brigadier General Ahmed Sharifi of the IRGC. He was assisted by Ali Fallahian, head of MOIS. The planning was done at the Iranian Embassy in Damascus, Syria. Sharifi provided passports, paperwork, and money to the conspirators. The initial bomb was assembled at an IRGC base in the Lebanon's Bekaa Valley. The base was jointly operated by the IRGC and Hezbollah. However, the operational command center for the attack was an underground bunker in the Iranian city of Parchin.

The bomb exploded at approximately 9:50 P.M. Ten minutes later, an IRGC officer stationed in Canada alerted the Parchin command center that the attack had been successful. Sitting in the command center were the following Iranian officials:

• Mustafa Hadadian, head of Section 110 of the Office of the Supreme Leader. Section 110 assists in the planning of overseas terrorist attacks, and provides physical security for visiting dignitaries from terrorist groups like Hezbollah and al-Qaeda.

• Mustafa Pourghanad, head of MOIS terrorist operations. (MOIS Section 43.)

• Ahmad Vahidi, head of the Qods force of the IRGC.

• Imad Fayez Mugniyeh, the Qods Force officer who had acted as field commander during the Marine barracks bombing of 1983.

Hadadian, in turn, picked up a phone and dialed a private residence in the city of Jamaran, a rich northern suburb of Tehran. Waiting for his call were the following Iranian officials:

• Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, President of Iran, second in power only to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. The home belonged to Rafsanjani.

• Ali Fallahian, the head of MOIS, who had assisted in the planning.

• Mohammadi-Golpayegani, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei's chief of staff.

• Mohammad Mir-Hijazi, Golpayegani's top assistant.

• Morteza Rezai, the IRGC's head of intelligence.

• Rahim Safavi, an ethnic Azari who was, at the time, a Deputy Commander of the IRGC. (Today, he is the IRGC's chief commander.)

Rafsanjani smiled and served chocolates to his guests. This is a widely-practiced tradition in the Middle East, equivalent in the West to serving champagne in celebration of a major victory. Five years later, upon learning of the attacks of September 11, Palestinians living in the West Bank celebrated in the same way.

Rafsanjani and his guests were not the only ones eating chocolate that night; so was Mohsen Rezai, the commander of the IRGC. He learned of the attack via the radio. Rezai gloated that Iran never acted out in the open, but used surrogates such as Saudi Hezbollah to do their dirty work. He also crowed that if Iran killed only one American soldier, the others would withdraw. As proof, he cited the retreat of the United States Marines from Lebanon after the Beirut barracks bombing. His perception of American cowardice was by now widely shared in the Middle East, especially by Osama bin Laden. There is some evidence that al-Qaeda cooperated with Saudi Hezbollah in the Dhahran bombing. But, from start to finish, Khobar Towers was overwhelmingly an Iranian operation.

Ten years later, on December 22, 2006, U.S. District Court Judge Royce C. Lamberth convicted the government of Iran of the Khobar Towers bombing. Much of his ruling was based on an FBI investigation involving more than 250 agents and personally supervised by Louis J. Freeh, who was Director of the FBI at the time of the attacks. This investigation prompted a Virginia grand jury to indict 13 members of Saudi Hezbollah. Judge Lamberth said the indictment "frequently refers to direction and assistance" of Iranian government officials. This testimony was corroborated during the trial by six Hezbollah members.

President Bill Clinton initially suppressed Louis Freeh's investigation, probably because it conflicted with the President's mid-90s effort to establish a constructive dialog with Tehran. But in 1999, when the FBI finally gained access to the six Saudi Hezbollah conspirators, Clinton proposed to go to war with Iran. However, by that time, the Khobar Towers bombing was off the radar screen of most American voters. Without sufficient support from the American public, and without Saudi Arabia's support, Clinton shelved the war plans.

Thus, for the second time, Iran got away with murder. To date, no United States President has punished Iran for either the Beirut Marine barracks bombing or the Khobar towers attack, despite the conviction of Iran on both counts by a U.S. District Court. Imagine how the families of the victims must feel.

It is important for you to understand that both of these bombings were blatant acts of war. While they had the look and feel of terrorism, in reality they were deliberately planned attacks by the IRGC upon American military men. They would not be the last.

The Iranian Attack Model
In order to compare Khobar Towers with the Beirut Marine barracks bombing, it will be helpful for us to review the Iranian Attack Model. I introduced you to this template in Posting # 3. Here is the Model again:

1. The chief instrument of Iranian geopolitics is the IRGC, a uniformed branch of the Iranian military.

2. Iranian acts of aggression are carefully planned and executed, from beginning to end, by Iranian citizens working for the Iranian government.

3. The final phase of each attack, however, is carried out by proxies who may or may not be Iranian citizens.

4. The Iranians hide their culpability by attacking where non-Iranian radical groups can easily be blamed.

5. The Iranians' weapon of choice is a suicide truck or car bomb.

6. Each attack advances the geopolitical ambitions of Iran.

7. Each attack is funded by Iranian petrodollars.

Clearly, Khobar Towers was planned and supervised by the IRGC with the explicit approval of Iran's top political leaders. It was carried out by Saudi Hezbollah, which acted as a surrogate Iranian army. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has a number of dissident parties, some of which are armed. Therefore, once again, Iran was able to hide itself in the noise produced by other Middle Eastern insurgencies. The weapon was a truck bomb. The attack destabilized Saudi Arabia, where Iran wants to oust the royal family and install a fundamentalist Islamic Republic. It also furthered the cause of ousting American soldiers from the Saudi Kingdom.

Once again, it is easy to underestimate the enormous hidden expenses of the attack. IRGC agents in Canada, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia all played a part. They were spirited into those countries, probably clothed as part of the Iranian diplomatic corps. (On September 17, 2006, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad met with Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez in Caracas. It is likely that Ahmadinejad was accompanied by officers of the IRGC. If so, it is possible that Iran is planning to use Venezuela as a base from which to stage further attacks upon America.) The IRGC is enormously expensive. It is nothing less than a complete duplicate of the official Iranian Army. Imagine what it would cost Congress to fund an exact clone of the United States Army. Only the IRGC is not an exact clone: the IRGC is responsible for Iran's nuclear missiles; the regular Army is not.

In order to fit the Khobar Towers attack, the Model needs to be modified slightly: With regard to Item 1, it is important to note that the government of Iran possesses no less than three separate braches that are each dedicated to performing acts of foreign terrorism. All three participated in the planning and execution of Khobar Towers:

• Section 110 of the Office of the Supreme Leader (represented by Mustafa Hadadian.)

• Section 43 of MOIS (represented by Mustafa Pourghanad.)

• The Qods force of the IRGC (represented by Ahmad Vahidi and Imad Fayez Mugniyeh.)

Nevertheless, in each significant attack upon America, the IRGC has been the senior partner.

With regard to Item 5, unlike the Beirut Marine barracks bombing, Khobar Towers was not a suicide attack. But this should not be surprising, for in this case, the conspirators were predominantly Sunni Muslims, not Shiites. Martyrdom is a major theme of Shi'a Islam, and is highly valued by the Iranians. But it is not typical of Sunnis.

With these adjustments, we can now see through the superficial differences between the two attacks. Although the time, place, personalities, and details varied, the perpetrators in both cases used the same M.O.: the modus operandi in both cases was the Iranian Attack Model. It is important for you to grasp this because, except for Iran, there is no other government on earth that has habitually targeted Americans for death since the Vietnam War. Therefore, whenever we see an attack upon Americans that fits most of the Items in the Iranian Model, we can be reasonably sure that Iran is behind it.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The Beirut Marine Barracks Bombing

Between (roughly) 1970 and 1990, Lebanon was engulfed in a deadly and chaotic civil war. Political factions — usually armed — sprang into existence continually. Before long, Lebanon was awash in sectarian militias defined by geography, religion, ethnicity, class, and foreign sponsorship. Throughout this conflict, virtually every group aligned itself with and eventually betrayed every other. In the end, nearly 100,000 civilians perished, 900,000 were left homeless, and the Lebanese national government was destroyed.

Between 1982 and 1984, President Reagan sent 1,800 Marines into Lebanon as part of a U.N.-sponsored multinational peacekeeping force. France, Italy, and Britain also sent soldiers. Iran eyed this apparent invasion of a largely Muslim state with increasing interest. Some time earlier, Iran had begun to supply a Lebanese Shiite militia known as Hezbollah. By 1983, Hezbollah had become an Iranian proxy army, funded and supplied exclusively by Iran. (Iran is predominantly Shiite.)

On October 23, 1983, a truck bomb exploded in Beirut, killing 241 American Marines. The entire operation — including a simultaneous attack on a French barracks — was planned in Damascus by the Iranian ambassador to Syria, Ali Akbar Mohtashemi, and coordinated by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC, a branch of the Iranian military) from their headquarters in Lebanon's Bekka Valley. The attack's staff commander was General Mohsen Rafiq-Doust, head of the IRGC; the field commander was a Lebanese-born IRGC officer named Imad Fayez Mugniyeh. The bomb was constructed by a Lebanese or Palestinian Hezbollah agent. The truck was driven by an Iranian, who died in the explosion.

The French lost 58 soldiers. In order to punish Iran, France sent fighter-bombers to destroy the IRGC compound in the Bekka Valley. Initially, President Reagan agreed to join in the attack. At the last minute — while the French jets were already on their way — Secretary of Defense Casper Weinberger cancelled the American strike. When Weinberger was asked why he had cancelled the strike he replied, "... it was hard to locate who had done it out of all the different groups. The president didn't want some kind of carpet bombing that would kill a lot of innocent civilians. There were so many groups, and not all of them were responsible to the government of Iran. All we knew was that they were united in their hatred of America."

On February 7, 1984, largely because of the Marine barracks bombing, President Reagan ordered the withdrawal of all United States peacekeeping forces.

Nineteen years later, in May 2003, a United States District Court convicted the government of Iran of murdering the American Marines. Key to the decision was a message from Iranian intelligence headquarters in Tehran to Mohtashemi; a message that had been intercepted by American security agents. As paraphrased by U.S. District Court Judge Royce C. Lamberth, "The message directed the Iranian ambassador to contact Hussein Musawi, the leader of the terrorist group Islamic Amal, and to instruct him ... 'to take a spectacular action against the United States Marines.'" Like Hezbollah, Amal was a Shiite militia. It is unclear why Mohtashemi worked with Hezbollah rather than Amal. In the fluid world of Lebanese politics, it is possible that some of the conspirators were members of both groups.

It is important for you to understand the barracks bombing because it set the pattern for all future assaults by Iran upon America. For example, the 1996 bombing of the Khobar Towers military residence in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia was almost a carbon copy of the Marine barracks bombing. So is the current conflict in Iraq, which is largely being driven by Iran. (However, in other attacks, only some of the features of the Beirut model were evident.) In order to show you this pattern, I will again resort to a list:

1. A uniformed branch of the Iranian military attacked a uniformed branch of ours.
The bombing of the Marines barracks was a clear-cut act of war; if we use the term army in a generic sense, then an Iranian army attacked an American army: the Iranian army was the IRGC; the American army was the United States Marines Corps. It matters little that only one Iranian combatant was killed, and that he was not, himself, an official member of the IRGC. He was a human weapon every bit as deadly as an IRGC missile.

2. From inception to conclusion, the bombing was exclusively an Iranian project.
Let's review the cast of characters, both persons and organizations:

• The attack was ordered by the Iranian government in Tehran.

• The order was sent to the Iranian ambassador to Syria.

• The attack was planned and coordinated by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps.

• The staff commander was the head of Iran's IRGC.

• The field commander, Imad Fayez Mugniyeh, is an Iranian citizen. His home is in Qom, Iran. He is an officer in the Qods Force of the IRGC. He is also considered a member of Hezbollah.

• The bomb's creator was a Hezbollah agent. Hezbollah is an Iranian proxy army.

• The truck driver was an Iranian.

3. The Iranians used proxies to mask their involvement.
In the Middle East, important matters are usually handled through intermediaries: marriages are arranged by matchmakers; oil contracts are bartered by middlemen. Iran has turned this time-honored tradition into a deadly weapon, for one of its key features is plausible deniability. Without a direct link between the killers and the Iranian government, an attack coordinated by the IRGC can easily be dismissed as a generic act of terrorism by unknown Muslim extremists. In the Beirut bombing, Iran used countries, organizations, and individuals as proxies:

Syria acted as an Iranian satellite nation.

Islamic Amal and Hezbollah acted as Iranian militias.

• The bomb builder and the truck driver acted as Iranian soldiers.

This technique of indirection was both simple and effective. Neither the Reagan Administration nor the worldwide press publicly condemned Iran for the attack. It took 20 years for an American civil court to convict the Iranians. In the interim, Iran used the world's confusion as a screen to build itself into a military powerhouse unimpeded.

4. The Iranians were hidden in the noise.
By 1983, there were at least 24 militias and armed political parties in Lebanon. Amid all this noise, it was easy for Iran to hide its operations and intentions. Today, Iran is pursuing the same subterfuge in Iraq.

5. The Iranians used a suicide truck bomb.
From Iran's perspective, this innovation was their most successful stratagem:

• By using a truck, the Iranians were able to transport a large amount of explosives to the attack site without attracting attention or arousing suspicion.

• By using a bomb, the Iranians effectively destroyed all evidence that could implicate them in the attack. Furthermore, an explosion makes a powerful political statement: it broadcasts to the worldwide press undeniable evidence of the enemy's vulnerability and incompetence, while building up the attacker's status throughout the Muslim world.

• By using an agent who was willing to commit suicide, the Iranians eliminated the one witness who could most readily identify Iran as the culprit.

By combining all three elements, the Iranians created an ideal weapon for urban insurgency:

• The explosion could be sized, timed, and delivered with great precision. Yet the driver could maintain complete control of the attack up until the final moment.

• To the uninformed, a suicide attack with a truck bomb immediately suggested that the culprits were fanatical terrorists. But in truth, terrorism was no longer exclusively the province of marginal political militias; Iran had turned it into an instrument of state policy.

The world was slow to realize the significance of the suicide aspect of the bombing. Previously, Muslim extremists had used violence and the threat of violence as a prelude to negotiation. Both sides understood that the extremists wanted to survive the encounter, and acted accordingly with restraint. Suicide completely changed the dynamics of terrorism; if the attackers are intent on dying, no negotiation is possible.

As we will see in a later posting, martyrdom is an essential part of the Iranian Shiite national character. Sunnis, in contrast, usually eschew suicide. As a general guideline, suicide attacks perpetrated by Muslims are almost always the work of Iran.

6. The attack advanced the geopolitical ambitions of Iran.
World powers have spheres of influence. The United States, for instance, considers all of North and South America to be part of its military, political, and economic domain. Iran, too, wants to be a world power. Iran wants its sphere of influence to include:

• Afghanistan.

• The Gulf states: Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates.

• Iraq.

• Syria.

• Lebanon.

• Jordan.

• The Palestinian Authority and Israel.

In order to dominate these other nations, Iran must purge them of Western influence. In particular, it must chase the United States military out of the Middle East. The Marine barracks bombing was the first salvo in this undeclared war upon America. From Iran's perspective, the attack was a huge success. More ominously, President Reagan's retreat in 1984 began to convince the Iranians that America had no stomach for a real fight. Unfortunately for us, as we will see, our government has consistently reinforced this view ever since.

7. The attack was backed by petrodollars from Iranian oil.
This final feature of the Marine barracks bombing was not evident in 1983. Only the perspective of history allows us to see Iranian oil wealth as the substrate upon which Iranian geopolitical power is built. From an American perspective, the Marine barracks attack seemed like an inexpensive venture. But in fact, it had taken Iran four years and billions of dollars to build the IRGC into a formidable clandestine army with diplomatic contacts and support throughout the Middle East.

The Iranian Attack Model
This, then, became the template for all future Iranian attacks upon America. It is important for you to remember its seven main features, for you will see them often in what follows. More importantly, armed with this knowledge about how Iran operates, you will be better able to make informed decisions about what we should do about Iran. Here is a summary of the model, which from now on we will call, the Iranian Attack Model:

1. The chief instrument of Iranian geopolitics is the IRGC, a uniformed branch of the Iranian military.

2. Iranian acts of aggression are carefully planned and executed, from beginning to end, by Iranian citizens working for the Iranian government.

3. The final phase of each attack, however, is carried out by proxies who may or may not be Iranian citizens.

4. The Iranians hide their culpability by attacking where non-Iranian radical groups can easily be blamed.

5. The Iranians' weapon of choice is a suicide truck or car bomb.

6. Each attack advances the geopolitical ambitions of Iran.

7. Each attack is funded by Iranian petrodollars.

If we expand the list of weapons in Item 5 to include commercial passenger jets, we have a model that could easily apply to the attacks of September 11, 2001. For now, however, this is too big a leap. Let us move next, instead, to the Khobar Towers bombing of 1996. As we will see, the Khobar Towers attack conformed closely to the Iranian Model.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

The Cold War Isn't Over

Thank you for staying with me past the first posting, which, I know, must have sounded alarming. It may also have sounded irresponsible and reckless. I assure you, however, that The Case Against Iran will be conducted fairly and dispassionately. Within this blog, I will be writing in an informal tone, as if I were speaking directly to you, and only you, sort of as a guest in your living room. However, I have prepared a more formal written document, also entitled The Case Against Iran. Currently, it comprises about 180 pages. It is, in fact, a national security assessment of Iran. Throughout the past year, I have been sending it to selected members of Congress, the Administration, and key foreign diplomats.

Ninety-five percent of American families have a television. We are bombarded daily with frightening, angering, and confusing snippets of news. We see and hear compelling stories about global warming, radical Islam, oil, Israel, the Middle East, the war on terror, and nuclear weapons. Yet we have few prominent journalists who are able to distill this news in a way that is actionable by the American Public. As a result, it is all too easy for us all to simply do nothing.

But fear has a remarkable way of clarifying the mind. Ever since I became convinced that Iran is already in possession of nuclear weapons, I have been fearful of Iran, and of its chief patrons, Russia and China. And that fear, rather than clouding my judgment, has crystallized all of the news since 9/11 into a simple picture. Since I must draw this picture in words, I will begin by summarizing it in a three-item list:

1. There is no war on terror; we are at war with Iran.

2. The Cold War isn't over; it has blossomed into World War III. The first shots were fired in Beirut, Lebanon, on October 23, 1983. On that day, a uniformed branch of the Iranian military attacked and killed 241 American Marines. Instead of counterattacking, America retreated.

3. If we do not act quickly and decisively, World War III will become a nuclear war.

I will provide compelling evidence supporting these three claims in subsequent postings. In order to avoid boring you, I will weave this evidence into a story. (A few side trips will be needed, however, to provide context to the main plot.) The most important part of any story is the beginning; but it is difficult to know where to begin when the problem posed is large, complex, and developed over many years. Such is the case with Iran:

• We could begin the story 3,000 years ago in the early Bronze Age, when Iran was known as Persia, and Persia was the world's only superpower;

• Or we could begin with the treaty of 1856, when the United States began a 123-year-long partnership with Iran;

• Or we could begin with the Islamic Revolution of 1979, when Iranian students invaded our embassy in Tehran and held 52 Americans hostage for 444 days;

But, in my view, the story of the current crisis begins in Beirut, Lebanon, in 1983: for it was here that Iranians first killed American citizens on foreign soil. The Beirut bombings were the first acts of terrorism ordered by Iran against American targets in another land. As such, they were a harbinger of 9/11.