WHAT DOES Iran have to blow up before we get angry enough to crush it once and for all? Pearl Harbor?
In this year of multiple-of-five anniversaries -- D-Day, 50th; moon landing, 25th; Nixon resignation, 20th -- scant attention has been paid to the 15 years that have elapsed since a band of Muslim fanatics overthrew the shah and took control of Iran. The mullahs came to power with a burning hatred of America, Israel, and the West in general. For 15 years that hatred has been channeled into a nonstop campaign of terror.
Iran and its surrogates -- especially Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad, which operate with Syria's blessing out of the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon -- have victimized thousands, many of them Americans, including:
- The staff of the US Embassy in Tehran, held hostage from 1979 to 1981.
- The 241 Marines sleeping in their barracks at Beirut's airport, car-bombed to death in 1983.
- The educators, diplomats, and ministers kidnapped and held prisoner in Lebanon in the 1980s.
- The passengers of TWA Flight 847, hijacked en route to Athens in June 1985 -- especially passenger Robbie Stethem, a US Navy diver, who was pistol-whipped and shot to death by the hijackers.
- The six New Yorkers who lost their lives when the World Trade Center in Manhattan was bombed last year.
Iran's theocratic dictators particularly despise the United States. They fund a covert network of support groups in key US cities, laying the groundwork for future attacks. But as last month's bombing spree in Latin America and Great Britain makes clear, Iran will also go to great lengths in order to kill Jews and Israelis.
On July 18, the Jewish community center in Buenos Aires was blown up; at least 96 people were killed. One day later, a commuter plane exploded in Panama; 21 passengers died, most of them Jewish. The following week, two car bombs blew up in London, one at the Israeli Embassy, the second outside a Jewish fund-raising organization; dozens of civilians were wounded.
This is naked terror, the calculated slaughter of innocent, unsuspecting civilians. Where is the outrage? Where are the infuriated calls for retaliation against the radical Islamic menace? Where are the demands for Western action to round up these butchers and force their patron, Iran, to its knees?
"The decision to kill as many innocent Jewish civilians and residents of Argentina as possible," terrorism expert Steven Emerson testified before the House International Security Subcommittee last week, "was taken in the same manner as was the decision to bomb the World Trade Center. 'We can hit you on your turf' in the very belly of the beast was the message."
In its medieval zeal for jihad -- a "holy war" against heretics, infidels, and Western values -- Iran strikes everywhere. Its goons have assassinated scores of Iranian dissidents and moderates across Europe, including former Prime Minister Shapour Bakhtiar, whose throat was slit in Paris in August 1991. The Japanese translator of Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses was stabbed to death in Tokyo. Four Kurdish prodemocracy leaders were gunned down in a Berlin restaurant. Iranian hit squads have killed journalists in Turkey, plotted car-bombings in Thailand, trained terrorists in Sudan, and organized the murder of foreign tourists in Egypt.
Iran makes no secret of its goals: It intends to become the dominant power in the Middle East, to export "Islamic" revolution to the Arab world and to wage war against the hated West. And it isn't relying on terror alone. Iran is also engaged in a ferocious military buildup.
According to James Phillips, a Middle Eastern specialist at the Heritage Foundation, Iran is spending $2 billion annually to buy such advanced weapons as MIG-29 fighters from Russia and Scud missiles from China. Under President Hashemi Rafsanjani, it is also accumulating weapons of mass destruction. Thousands of tons of chemical and biological warfare agents are already stockpiled. Nuclear bombs are just a few years away.
And what do we do? We hang around the United Nations, hyperventilating over Haiti, while conducting business as usual with the cutthroats of Tehran. US corporations buy one-fourth of Iran's oil exports. Boeing offers to sell 20 jetliners to the mullahs. Nestle, Coca-Cola, Pepsi, and Unilever open plants and branches in Iran. Germany and Japan supply sophisticated technology to the world's leading terror state. The World Bank and International Monetary Fund pump hundreds of millions of dollars into Tehran's bank accounts.
Are we suicidal? Blinded by greed? Or merely stupid?
Iran is an outlaw, vicious and barbaric. It should be strangled. Western nations, led by the United States, should shut down Iran's embassies. Expel its diplomats. Ground its airline. Freeze its foreign assets. Call in its outstanding debt. Deny it all new credit. Embargo its exports. Declare its oil illegal contraband. Order the dismantling of its weapons centers. Destroy them if necessary.
In 1989, Rafsanjani -- then the speaker of Iran's Parliament -- broadcast an exhortation for Muslim militants to kill Americans, Britons, and Frenchmen; to hijack planes; to "blow up factories in Western countries" and to "declare open war on American interests throughout the world." Five years after that open declaration of war, it's time we started fighting back.
(Jeff Jacoby is a columnist for The Boston Globe.)