Mitt Romney’s recent opinion piece in the Washington Post was titled, “How I would check Iran’s nuclear ambition.” As a conservative Republican and the one who recommended Benjamin Netanyahu to Prime Minister Menachem Begin for his first political post, I find Romney’s Iranian plan deeply troubling.
The Republican front-runner states that the Iranian hostages taken during the Carter administration were released in essence because of Reagan’s “peace through strength” stance. Romney declared: “On Jan. 20, 1981, during the hour that Reagan was sworn into office, Iran released the hostages. The Iranians well understood that Reagan was serious about turning words into action in a way that Jimmy Carter never was.”
Romney is wrong: Shortly after 4:00 A.M. on Inauguration Day, January 20, 1981, the Carter administration relinquished $7.977 billion to the Iranians through the Federal Reserve and the Bank of England. The transfer required fourteen banks and the participation of five nations acting concurrently. This was done to buy the hostages’ release.
At the same time, Carter signed the 1981 Algiers Accords which stated that the US “would not intervene politically or militarily in Iranian internal affairs.” This simply meant that the US agreed not to attack Iran. This effectively eliminated any first-strike options and reduced the US to retaliatory action only. Carter had tried for months to pull this rabbit out of the hat, all the while knowing his presidency was at stake. The Iranians waited until just before Reagan’s inauguration to accept the deal. It was an opportunity to further humiliate Carter, while putting their eggs in the basket of a man they saw as only an actor. They weren’t at all frightened of Ronald Reagan.
After having interviewed over one hundred Iranian leaders including Empress Farah Pahlavi, many of the remaining cabinet ministers who served under the Shah, the majority of current cabinet ministers in Iran, including President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and having written three books on the subject, I am extremely well-aware of these facts.
Romney states that his policy would be the same as that of President Reagan. I was in Lebanon on October 22, 1983 with a camera crew. We were sleeping on the US Marine beachhead. On the following morning we were horrified by the sounds of a massive blast. A terrorist driving a truck laden with explosives drove it into the barracks at the airport killing 220 Marines, 18 Navy personnel and three Army soldiers. The president’s only response was to pull the troops out of Lebanon—even though many thought Iran Hezbollah terrorists were behind the attack.
Romney’s plan to press for tighter sanctions is laughable. President Obama has done an excellent job in playing the sanction card. He has been even more effective than President George W. Bush. Romney says he would demonstrate his commitment to Israel by making Jerusalem his first destination on any foreign trip, and that he would persuade the ayatollahs in Iran to abandon their nuclear ambitions by buttressing any policy with military options. The Republican candidate has also indicated that he would restore the presence of aircraft carriers in the Eastern Mediterranean and Persian Gulf.
Many of the Iranian ayatollahs in authority are “Twelvers,” men obsessed with the belief system that they can usher in the Mahdi through an apocalypse. They do not fear war; they welcome it. These men also seem to think that under no circumstances would the US fight a ground war. Why? It is likely that such a conflict would last a decade and require at least 250,000 body bags for US troops.
In essence, Romney has said absolutely nothing substantive. Conversely, the best possible plan was articulated by Mitch McConnell during a speech to AIPAC when he said: “If Iran, at any time, begins to enrich uranium to weapons-grade level, or decides to go forward with a weapons program, then the United States will use overwhelming force to end that program.”
This country desperately needs a man with moral clarity, integrity, fortitude, and strength of character behind the desk in the Oval Office—someone who is unafraid of the saber rattling and threats emanating from the terrorists in control in Tehran.
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