Apr 4, 2008

Presidents and Persia

By Mike Evans

Soon the U.S. will choose its next president. The prevailing holy grail of understanding is that the only vote that matters is the vote of the American people. Persia (Iran), however, may have a dog in the fight as U.S. policy in Iraq will greatly affect U.S. policy in Iran.

To think that Iran would support another “Bushie” (John McCain) in the White House is a ridiculous assumption. Iran, a predominately Shia state as is Iraq (100 million plus Shiites combined), ultimately desires a Shia super-state. It has everything to gain and nothing to lose by destroying McCain’s bragging rights. To do this would require an Iranian surge of IEDs (improvised explosive devices) in Iraq and the 60,000 pro-Iranian Mahdi army death squads to deliver a few hundred U.S. body bags. It appears this fall will be a bloody one as Iran attempts to achieve a goal similar to the one it achieved during President Jimmy Carter’s last days of the 1980 election campaign.

On Sept. 23, 1980, during the Reagan-Carter presidential campaign, I had dinner with Isser Harel, founder of Mossad Israeli Intelligence and director from 1947 to 1963. Dr. Ruben Hecht, senior adviser to Prime Minister Menachem Begin, joined us. “Who do you think will be the next president?” I said during a light moment in the meal. Harel responded, “The Persians invented the game of chess. Arab oil buys more than tents. You kill a fly and rejoice, they kill one and a hundred come to the funeral. The word on the street is that when Reagan places his hand on the Bible during the inauguration, the hostages will be released.” I was stunned when Ruben Hecht called me during the inauguration and said, “Can you believe it? Harel is a prophet. It is happening now.”

Earlier that morning, Jimmy Carter approved the wire-transfer of $7.9 billion to Iran through the Federal Reserve to a bank in England. The Iranians were hell-bent on humiliating Jimmy Carter to the very end. For the Republican Party not to anticipate Iran’s obsession to humiliate George Bush is extremely na├»ve.

Before I left the dinner that evening, I asked Harel two more questions: “How do you think Sadat is going to do in the future?” and “Do you think terrorism will ever come to America?” Harel’s response was, “We saved Sadat’s life twice, but I fear some event will take place at an inopportune time and we may not be there. He will be assassinated.” That inopportune time would be the 1981 Egyptian celebration of the Yom Kippur War.

In answer to my second question, “America has the power but not the will, and the terrorists have the will but not the power,” said Harel. “All of that could change in time. They will strike your greatest fertility symbol; the symbol of your power and economic wealth, New York City, and your tallest building, the Empire State Building first.” (At the time of Harel’s prophecy, the Empire State Building was in fact the tallest building in New York.) America reeled in shock when on Sept. 11, 2001, the World Trade Towers were hit.

Yes, the Iranians are winning. They seized our hostages in 1979 and we launched an ineffective rescue operation. We tied yellow ribbons around trees. In 1983, Hezbollah blew up our embassy and Marine barracks in Lebanon and we left. During the various Iranian and terrorist attacks of the 1980s, we basically sent lawyers. We treated it as a law enforcement issue. In the 1990s, we had Blackhawks downed in Mogadishu. We were struck at our reserve facility in Saudi Arabia and at the Khobar Towers. Until 9/11, we responded as we did in the 1980s; we ran it as a law enforcement operation trying to catch and imprison a few terrorists. This had little effect on the religious fanatics who would rather die and presumably go to Paradise than go to prison.

In 1993, Saddam tried to kill President George H. W. Bush with a bomb in Kuwait. During his presidency, President Clinton launched two dozen cruise missiles against an Iraqi intelligence headquarters in the middle of the night. The secretary of state explained that we responded as we did so that no one would be in the building. James Woolsey, President Clinton’s CIA director, told me the story and said, “I don’t know what we had against the cleaning woman and night watchman, but I would not call that an effective response.”

The most dangerous thing in the world in dealing with religious fanatics is to talk big and then not follow through. It appears that neither party has the intention of doing so. Teddy Roosevelt had it right: “Speak softly and carry a big stick.”