August 5, 2006
In the middle of the fourth week of the Lebanon War, the tide began to turn in Israel’s favor. The battlefield finally responded to the effect of Israel’s air might, its tank columns, the pounding by mobile artillery and naval craft and its repeated armored infantry assaults.
After losing 44 fighting men, more than 30 civilians, many thousands of wounded and billions of dollars of damage, finally, the Israeli military was given the chance to do what it does best: focus its firepower instead of spreading it out thin over too many targets.
The setbacks of the first three weeks were partly due to tactical incompetence and laggard decision-making on the part of prime minister Ehud Olmert and defense minister Peretz.
Israeli troops therefore spent too long in abrading combat against stubborn Hizballah resistance in such places as Maroun er Ras and Bint Jubeil. But as soon as Israeli ground forces shifted to the massive, long-distance firing mode which they knows best, the impact on the warfront was immediate.
The battle went their way with a minimum of casualties. In places where Israeli troops adhered to the close combat tactics practiced in the first three weeks, they continued to suffer high casualties.
Hizballah soon showed signs of distress. Lacking the weapons and resources to stand up to IDF’s precise-shooting juggernaut, their commanders quickly pulled their men out most combat sectors of South Lebanon and ordered them to regroup in five places:
1. The Western Sector and the center of Tyre.
2. The Wadi Hajar pocket east of Tyre.
3. The Central Sector surrounding Bint Jubeil, where the outcome is still unresolved after many days of fighting.
4. The Wadi Saluki area northwest of the northernmost Israeli town of Metullah.
5. The Eastern Sector, including al Khiam, the Shabaa Farms and Mt Dov, which has seen little fighting - although last week Israeli forces began - then stopped - a major offensive before it got underway.
These pockets are now the main launching-pads for rockets fired into Israel. Outside, there is no ground fighting in South Lebanon but for Israeli air strikes.
Hizballah also has also been using the Tapuach and al-Haroub areas south and northeast of Sidon for shooting rockets. It is from this region that Hizballah fired the long-range Khaibar-1 missiles at Hadera Friday night, August 4, which came 45 km short of Tel Aviv.
Saturday morning, Sidon’s 200,000 inhabitants and its outlying villages up to the Zahrani River were warned to leave their homes and head north to escape the coming Israeli air offensive.
Until the Khaibar attack on Hadera, the concentration of Hizballah’s rocket launchers and stores in and around Sidon had been immune from Israeli attack – largely because Olmert and his senior ministers refused to increase the number of ground troops deployed in Lebanon. The military commanders had to do their best with the limited numbers available.
In other words, with the right manpower level, Hizballah’s abilty to fire rockets can be dented, notwithstanding claims by Israel officials and generals that there is no way to do this when most of Hizballah’s 13,000-rocket stockpile remains intact.
But even cutting down on the daily 200-plus rocket blitz on northern Israel is not plain sailing because:
First, neither the Israeli Air Force nor any other air force is capable of completely halting rocket fire from the ground. In the relatively small distances between Lebanon and Israel, the short-range Katyusha rockets have the effect of medium-range weapons, while the short-to-medium range rockets perform like long-range missiles.
Second, Israel does not have enough infantry on the ground to make substantial inroads on Hizballah’s rocket-firing capabilities.
Third, Iran and Syria are constantly restocking Hizballah’s diminishing supplies of rockets of all types, launchers and operating manpower by a round-the-clock airlift from Iran via Syrian military air fields. Some of the incoming supplies are destroyed by Israeli air attacks as they cross into Lebanon, but a substantial part is conveyed to Hizballah by smuggling networks employing mules to traverse Lebanese mountain paths.
Even if 2,000 have been wiped out and a similar amount has been fired, no one knows how many are left in stock because it is replenished. As long as that corridor is not severed by bombing the Syrian stopover air facilities, Iran will continue to top up Hizballah’s stockpile. Therefore, the rocket offensive cannot be reduced by very much.
Fourth, Israeli forces do not operate in all parts of South Lebanon.
Hizballah’s withdrawal to five pockets in South Lebanon affords the IDF certain tactical advantages - although liabilities too.
It is now possible to carve the region the Israeli army controls into three sections, western, central and eastern, a tactic familiar from the Gaza Strip, for encumbering Hizballah guerrilla movement between the sections. The goal is to confine Hizballah to the five pockets and place them under blockade. They can then be made to capitulate or face liquidation.
Leaving the two banks of the Litani River, the Nabatea plain and Hazbaya to the north of the river in Hizballah hands leaves a route open for its reinforcements to come through and to strike Israeli forces from the rear.
Nonetheless, by Thursday, August 3, Hizballah was showing signs of being in trouble.
A) Local Hizballah village commanders signaled repeated appeals for more manpower and ammunition. The appeals were not met because outside forces cannot break through the defense lines held by the advancing Israeli troops. The village commanders were therefore told by their superiors to fight to the last man and last bullet and reserve the last grenade for suicide.
B) Hizballah’s shadowy leader, the long-wanted Imad Mughniyeh, was hurriedly appointed commander of the southern front as a last resort to save South Lebanon from falling to Israel.
Military and counter-terror sources maintain that this appointment raises the conflict to a new and dangerous level on several counts.
Mughniyeh, wanted for a quarter of a century by the FBI for the huge bombing attacks he orchestrated on the US embassy in Beirut and American and French troops, as well as a spate of hijackings and murders, is important enough to take orders from no-one ranking lower than Iran’s supreme ruler, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Those orders come through the Revolutionary Guards commander Gen. Rahim Safavi.
Therefore, placing Mughniyeh at the head of Hizballah forces in South Lebanon confronts prime minister Olmert uncomfortably close to Iran’s supreme leader; ranges defense minister Peretz opposite his Iranian counterpart Mustafa Najer and chief of staff Lt. Gen Dan Halutz opposite Gen. Safavi, while on the warfront, Israel’s war leaders face the formidable Mughniyeh, Tehran’s secret weapon for rescuing Hizballah from collapse.
Informed circles in the West have a high opinion of Mughniyeh’s military, intelligence and tactical skills. His hand was seen in the transformation of al Qaeda’s 2001 defeat in Afghanistan into a launch pad for its anti-US campaign in Iraq and many other ventures in the terror war against America.
After the death of Abu Musab al Zarqawi, Mughniyeh is rated the world Islamic terror movement’s most outstanding field commander.
Therefore, while the appointment is a measure of Israel’s belated military success in the Lebanese war, it also brings the conflict ever closer to two dangerous orbits – Tehran and al Qaeda.
Mughniyeh is the only undercover agent in the Middle East who enjoys the complete personal trust of Khamenei and Osama bin Laden, on both of whom he is in a position to call for aid.
On the diplomatic front, even if the United States and France can get together on a unified UN Security Council ceasefire resolution, military sources report that neither Iran nor Hizballah has any intention of complying with a resolution dictated by the United States, France and Israel.
Iran's Plot to Mine Uranium in Africa
August 06, 2006 Times Jon Swain, David Leppard and Brian Johnson-Thomas
link to original article
Iran is seeking to import large consignments of bomb-making uranium from the African mining area that produced the Hiroshima bomb, an investigation has revealed.
A United Nations report, dated July 18, said there was “no doubt” that a huge shipment of smuggled uranium 238, uncovered by customs officials in Tanzania, was transported from the Lubumbashi mines in the Congo.
Tanzanian customs officials told The Sunday Times it was destined for the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas, and was stopped on October 22 last year during a routine check.
The disclosure will heighten western fears about the extent of Iran’s presumed nuclear weapons programme and the strategic implications of Iran’s continuing support for Hezbollah during the war with Israel.
It has also emerged that terror cells backed by Iran may be prepared to mount attacks against nuclear power plants in Britain.
Intelligence circulating in Whitehall suggests that sleeper cells linked to Tehran have been conducting reconnaissance at some nuclear sites in preparation for a possible attack.
The parliamentary intelligence and security committee has reported that Iran represented one of the three biggest security threats to Britain. The UN security council has given Iran until the end of this month to halt its uranium enrichment activities. The UN has threatened sanctions if Tehran fails to do so.
A senior Tanzanian customs official said the illicit uranium shipment was found hidden in a consignment of coltan, a rare mineral used to make chips in mobile telephones. The shipment was destined for smelting in the former Soviet republic of Kazakhstan, delivered via Bandar Abbas, Iran’s biggest port.
“There were several containers due to be shipped and they were all routinely scanned with a Geiger counter,” the official said. “This one was very radioactive. When we opened the container it was full of drums of coltan.
Each drum contains about 50kg of ore. When the first and second rows were removed,the ones after that were found to be drums of uranium.”
In a nuclear reactor, uranium 238 can be used to breed plutonium used in nuclear weapons. The customs officer, who spoke to The Sunday Times on condition he was not named, added: “The container was put in a secure part of the port and it was later taken away, by the Americans, I think, or at least with their help. We have all been told not to talk to anyone about this.”
The report by the UN investigation team was submitted to the chairman of the UN sanctions committee, Oswaldo de Rivero, at the end of July and will be considered soon by the security council. It states that Tanzania provided “limited data” on three other shipments of radioactive materials seized in Dar es Salaam over the past 10 years.
The experts said: “In reference to the last shipment from October 2005, the Tanzanian government left no doubt that the uranium was transported from Lubumbashi by road through Zambia to the united republic of Tanzania.”
Lubumbashi is the capital of mineral-rich Katanga province, home of the Shinkolobwe uranium mine that produced material for the two atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945. The mine has officially been closed since 1961, before the country’s independence from Belgium, but the UN investigators have told the security council that they found evidence of illegal mining still going on at the site.
In 1999 there were reports that the Congolese authorities had tried to re-open the mine with the help of North Korea. In recent years miners are said to have broken open the lids and extracted ore from the shafts, while police and local authorities turned a blind eye.
In June a parliamentary committee warned that Britain could be attacked by Iranian terrorists if tensions increased. A source with access to current MI5 assessments said: “There is great concern about Iranian sleeper cells inside this country. The intelligence services are taking this threat very seriously.”
Iran Plans to Expand Nuclear Activities
August 06, 2006 The Associated Press Ali Akbar Dareini
link to original article
Iran's top nuclear negotiator said Sunday that Iran will expand uranium enrichment, in defiance of a U.N. Security Council resolution giving the Islamic Republic until Aug. 31 to halt the activity or face the threat of political and economic sanctions.
Ali Larijani called the U.N. Security Council resolution issued last week illegal and said Iran won't respect the deadline. "We reject this resolution," he told reporters. "We will expand nuclear activities where required. It includes all nuclear technology including the string of centrifuges," Larijani said, referring to the centrifuges Iran uses to enrich uranium.
He said Iran had not violated any of its obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty, and that the U.N. had no right to require it suspend enrichment. "We won't accept suspension," he said. Larijani said the Security Council resolution contradicted a package of Western incentives offered in June to persuade Tehran to suspend its enrichment activities.
He reiterated that Iran would formally respond to the incentives package on Aug. 22. Iran has said it will never give up its right to produce nuclear fuel, but has indicated it may suspend large-scale activities to ease tensions with the West. Larijani said the world should blame the United States and its allies for acting against their proposed package and seeking to deny Iran its rights under the NPT.
The United States has accused Iran of seeking nuclear weapons. Tehran maintains its program is peaceful and intended to generate electricity. In February, Iran for the first time produced a batch of low-enriched uranium, using a cascade of 164 centrifuges. The process of uranium enrichment can be used to generate electricity or to create an atomic weapon, depending on the level of enrichment. Iran said it plans to install 3,000 centrifuges at its enrichment plant in Natanz, central Iran, by the end of the year.
Industrial production of enriched uranium in Natanz would require 54,000 centrifuges. Hard-liners within Iran's ruling Islamic establishment have called on the government to withdraw from the NPT in response to the U.N. resolution, but the government has not heeded the call. Withdrawal from the treaty could end all international oversight of Iran's nuclear program.
Larijani: Iran Will Reject UN Resolution, Suspension
August 06, 2006 Islamic Republic News Agency IRNA News
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Iran will reject both the resolution adopted by the United Nations Security Council on Tehran's nuclear case and he suspension of uranium enrichment, said Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) Ali Larijani here Sunday. "The resolution is illegal because we have not made any violation (of the NPT) to suspend our enrichment activities," Larijani told domestic and foreign reporters in a press conference.
Stressing that Iran has always been ready for talks, Larijani said "We announced that if there is any ambiguity for anyone, it can be removed through negotiations and we stick to the same policy."
"The double-standard policy practiced by the Western countries towards Iran's nuclear program has led to a position where they (Western states) have complicated the issue with their own hands," Larijani said. "On the one hand, they offered the package and on the other, issued the resolution. By doing this, they changed the procedure of solving the problem," Larijani stressed.
"They (Western states) should understand that they cannot talk to Iran by the language of force. They have to change their approach if they want the package to survive," Larijani stressed. "I'm not saying that there are no more chances," Larijani added.
Iran: We supplied Zelzal-2 to Hizbullah
August 05, 2006 The Jerusalem Post Jpost.com Staff and Yaakov Katz
link to original article
Iran admitted for the first time on Friday that it did indeed supply long-range Zelzal-2 missiles to Hizbullah. Secretary-general of the "Intifada conference" MohtashamiPur told an Iranian newspaper that Iran transferred the missiles so that they could be used to defend Lebanon, Channel 1 reported.
The extent of Iran's intimate involvement in Hizbullah attacks is starting to emerge. According to the defense establishment, the reason Hizbullah has not fired long-range Iranian-made Fajr missiles at Israel is due to Teheran's opposition. Israel now understands that without direct orders from the ayatollahs, Hizbullah is not allowed to use Iranian missiles in attacks against Israel.
The IDF also believes that it seriously damaged the long-range rocket array in the first night of air strikes almost three weeks ago and impaired Hizbullah's ability to fire the rockets. The longer-range Zelzal missiles, manufactured by Iran and capable of reaching Tel Aviv, have also not been fired at Israel, and the IDF believes this is because it destroyed almost two-thirds of these in the Hizbullah arsenal.
US Hails Iran's 100th Anniversary of Constitutional Revolution
August 05, 2006 Agence France Presse Yahoo News!
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The United States hailed Iran's constitutional revolution on its 100th anniversary as a defining but short-lived advance toward democracy, and voiced support for Iranians it said who still hoped for an open society. The August 5, 1906 decree, which called for the creation of an elected parliament, the Majlis, "serves as a defining political moment for advancing the democratic ideas it represented," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said in a statement released Friday.
"Iranian nationalists set forth a powerful and revolutionary concept: a written constitution founded on the rule of fair and just laws, providing for a free press and respect for individual rights," McCormack said.
"This short-lived but noble constitutional movement was a significant victory for Iranian democracy and for the cause of freedom in the Middle East." Since then, McCormack said, Iranians have continued the struggle against unchecked power, corruption and wide disparities in wealth.
"The United States supports the aspirations of the Iranian people for an open society that encourages debate, allows for freedom of the press, champions human dignity and ensures justice, the rule of law and government accountability," he said.
The State Department message aimed at Iranians came against a backdrop of mounting tensions over the Iranian government's nuclear program and its support of the Shiite militia Hezbollah, based in southern Lebanon and currently engaged in fighting with Israel that has killed more than 900 people, mostly civilians, since July 12.
Earlier Friday, the United States issued a new rebuke to Iran and Syria, accusing them of directing Hezbollah to attack Israel. "Iran created Hezbollah in 1982. Iran has funded Hezbollah and Iran has provided the long-range rockets that are raining down on the northern part of Israel right now,"
Nicholas Burns, under secretary of state for political affairs, said in a CNN interview. "Iran is acting in a way that is fundamentally contrary to the hopes of all of us for stablility and peace in the Middle East." On Monday the UN Security Council adopted a resolution calling on Iran to freeze sensitive nuclear work by the end of the month or face possible sanctions.
Tehran contends that its nuclear program is for civilian purposes but the US and other countries suspect it is a cover to develop nuclear weapons.
Moscow Slams U.S. Ban on Russian Arms Sales
August 05, 2006 MosNews mosnews.com
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Washington imposed sanctions on two of Russia’s leading arms firms over their links with Iran on Friday, a step Moscow said was a “clearly illegitimate” attempt to impose U.S. laws on foreigners, Reuters reports.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the State Department had slapped sanctions on state export agency Rosoboronexport and state-owned warplane maker Sukhoi, meaning they could no longer work with U.S. firms.
“This is a clearly illegitimate attempt to make foreign companies work by internal American rules,” the statement said. Russia said the sanctions had been imposed under a U.S. law which penalizes companies for working with Iran in the sphere of weapons of mass destruction.
The U.S. later said it had imposed sanctions on seven companies from North Korea, Russia, India and Cuba for their arms deals with Iran.
Iran and Russia signed a $1 billion defense deal in December, Russian media said at the time.
Russia agreed to supply TOR-M1 ground-to-air missile systems to the Islamic Republic and also agreed to modernize its air force. Russia is also building an atomic power station at Bushehr on Iran’s Gulf coast.
The statement said the sanctions would stop U.S. companies from working with the two Russian firms, a potential blow to the Russian Regional Jet civil aviation project, which Sukhoi is working on with aerospace giant Boeing. A Sukhoi official said it had broken no regulations.
“We have competed on the U.S. market for a long time, we carefully study the laws and have never violated anything and do not intend to,” Alexander Klementev, deputy director of Sukhoi told Ekho Moskvy radio. “Sukhoi has sent absolutely nothing to Iran in the last 6 or 7 years.”
Rosoboronexport is one of the world’s biggest arms sellers, accounting for around 70 percent of Russia’s $6 billion of sales in 2005. It was not clear from the Russian statement whether the sanctions would also cover the two firms’ subsidiaries. If so, they could soon affect U.S. imports of titanium, an important metal in the aerospace sector.
Rosoboronexport is planning to acquire the world’s biggest titanium maker, Russia’s VSMPO-Avisma, which supplies 35-40 percent of Boeing’s titanium as well as 60-70 percent of that used by its European rival Airbus. Aircraft part maker Goodrich Corp. is also a customer.
Rosoboronexport owns Russian carmaker AvtoVAZ, which has a troubled joint venture with U.S. auto giant General Motors, which could also be affected. “The U.S. is punishing its own companies, taking away their possibilities to cooperate with leading Russian companies,” the ministry said.
Washington and Moscow have clashed frequently over trade policy and Iran over the past few years, with U.S. officials angering President Vladimir Putin with criticism of his democratic record and foreign and energy policy.
Iran: Imprisoned Dissident Dies in Custody
August 03, 2006 Human Rights Watch HRW
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The Iranian government should immediately allow an independent investigation into the suspicious death in prison of student activist Akbar Mohammadi, Human Rights Watch said today.
Human Rights Watch said that if responsibility for Mohammadi’s death in Tehran’s Evin prison on July 30 lies with the prison or other state authorities, the relevant individuals should be identified and prosecuted.
Mohammadi, 38, is the second inmate to die in the notorious Evin prison in the past three years. In June 2003, Zahra Kazemi, a Canadian-Iranian photojournalist, died while in custody there. Iranian authorities arrested her as she was photographing Evin prison.
A few days later, Kazemi fell into a coma and died. According to lawyers for Kazemi's family, her body showed signs of torture. The Iranian authorities have not charged anyone in connection with her death. “Every death in custody must be investigated,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, director of the Middle East and North Africa division at Human Rights Watch. “But the failure to prosecute anyone for Kazemi’s death underlines the need for an independent inquiry into Mohammadi’s death.”
Human Rights Watch called for an independent commission comprised of Iranian lawyers and medical experts to investigate and report publicly on the circumstances resulting in Mohammadi’s death. Human Rights Watch also expressed its serious concern for the health and safety of other prisoners held for their political beliefs inside Iran’s prisons.
The authorities arrested Mohammadi in 1999 following his participation in student protests at Tehran University. He was originally sentenced to death in September 1999, but his sentence was commuted to 15 years in prison in April 2001.
Several sources told Human Rights Watch that after his arrest in 1999, Mohammadi was severely tortured and ill-treated, leading to serious health problems. Ali Afshari, a student leader, was imprisoned in the same wing as Mohammadi in Evin prison from March 2002 to October 2003. Afshari told Human Rights Watch that Mohammadi told him in detail of his torture and beatings.
Another former detainee, who was also imprisoned with Mohammadi in Evin prison, and knew him well, confirmed that Mohammadi had been badly tortured and that his health had deteriorated. Mohammadi’s brother, Reza Mohammadi, also stated that interrogators severely tortured Mohammadi after his arrest in 1999. “He was healthy before his arrest in 1999, but during his detention he developed several complications, including internal bleeding, injury to his spinal cord and lung infection,” Reza Mohammadi told Human Rights Watch.
In July 2004, government medical authorities determined that Mohammadi’s continued imprisonment endangered his health and that he required immediate medical attention. In July 2004, Mohammadi was released on an indefinite medical leave and reportedly underwent at least three major operations. He was receiving medical treatment in his hometown of Amol until June 2006.
On June 11, security agents re-arrested Mohammadi in his home without any warning and put him in Evin prison. The authorities did not provide any reason for his arrest. Mohammadi’s lawyer, Khalil Bahramian, was informed that Mohammadi went on hunger strike on July 25 to protest his return to prison.
He said that, upon learning of his client’s hunger strike, he asked to visit him, but prison officials denied his request. On Monday, July 31, Justice Minister Jamal Karimirad confirmed Mohammadi’s death in custody. He told reporters that “before his death, this prisoner [Mohammadi] was under medical supervision in the prison’s medical clinic and he had stated that he is in good health.”
He added, “Ultimately, we must await the autopsy report by the coroner’s office.”
On the same day, the director of prisons, Sohrab Soleimani, said, “Last night Mohammadi’s conditions deteriorated and he was receiving medical treatment, but he insisted to be returned to his cell. Upon his return, his condition worsened again and he passed away while being transferred back to the clinic.”
Soleimani, who had earlier denied the reports, also confirmed that Mohammadi had been on hunger strike since July 25 and was consuming only water and tea.
On July 25, when news agencies reported Mohammadi’s hunger strike, Soleimani said, “I absolutely deny this news – Akbar Mohammadi is not on hunger strike.”
“Iran’s judiciary is responsible for Mohammadi’s arrest, his torture and now his death in custody,” said Whitson. “Only an independent investigation can establish why he died, and whether he was tortured, beaten or force-fed. Someone must be held accountable for Mohammadi’s death.”
(Alan's Note: For months now, Iran has been quietly killing political prisoners and dissidents,close to two dozen in the past months. Look for other deaths in the near future in keeping with Ahmadi-Nejad's threat to kill all political prisoners if the UN Security Council imposes sanctions on Iran. Ahmad Batebi,the icon of Student unrest, back in prison again, is likely to be one of the next to go.
While reports on how Mohammadi actually died range from choking on his own vomit and internal bleeding while gagged and bound to prevent being noticed by important visitors, to a similar effect of choking on his internal bleeding after his bonds wre removed, one quite possible version was that in the process of trying to feed hi intravenously, an air bubble entered his blood stream and caused the massive coronary given as his official cause of death.
Air bubbles injected into a vein have been a traditional way of killing prisoners "invisibly".
No Time to Delay on Iran's Threat
Sunday, August 6, 2006; B06
It is about time that the United Nations set a deadline for Iran to suspend its uranium enrichment and nuclear fuel reprocessing activities [news story, Aug. 1]. The deadline has been set for Aug. 31, which although less than a month away, is still too long. Iran has been asking for additional time for a while now, and every moment that passes gives the country further opportunity to develop its nuclear capabilities.
This is a very real and serious problem because Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has already stated his goal of wiping Israel off the map and has also said, "God willing, with the force of God behind it, we shall soon experience a world without the United States."
Iran is (and has long been) the world's largest state sponsor of terrorism, funding such groups as Hamas in the Palestinian territories and Hezbollah in Lebanon. (And sheltering senior Al Qaeda inside Iran).
Sanctions against Iran need to be imposed sooner and include stricter demands or Iran will distribute its new nuclear capabilities to its terrorist pawns, which would spell disaster not only for Israel and the United States but for countless other nations as well.
Iran's Nuclear Threat Must Be Faced
July 31, 2006 Telegraph y Daniel Hannan
link to original article
It won't be a "durable" ceasefire, Condi, and it won't be "sustainable"; not while the ayatollahs are in power in Iran. T
his war isn't about border security, or prisoner exchanges, or the status of the Shebaa Farms. It isn't really about Lebanon at all, for Hizbollah is not, in any meaningful sense, an indigenous Lebanese phenomenon.
The paramilitaries, rather, are creatures of Teheran: the Levantine branch of the Islamic Revolution. The Iranian Hydra has many heads. The mullahs sponsor militias and political movements across the Muslim world, in the old Silk Road Khanates and as far afield as Bosnia. You can lop off the head called Hizbollah. You can even cauterise the wound, by demilitarising southern Lebanon. But, as long as the monster's heart continues to beat in Teheran, the head will grow back.
The Iranian Revolution of 1979 will one day be seen as an epochal event, as significant as the French Revolution of 1789 or the Russian Revolution of 1917. Like those earlier upheavals, it immediately burst out from behind its borders, disregarding all the accepted rules about how states should deal with each other. Like them, it refused to recognise the legitimacy of foreign governments, and sought to replicate itself around the world.
The ayatollahs' contempt for national sovereignty was manifested in the very first act of their regime: the seizure of the US embassy. Diplomatic immunity is the foundation of all international relations.
Even during the Second World War, when irreconcilable ideologies fought to extirpate each other, embassy staff were peacefully evacuated through neutral countries. By seizing sovereign American territory, the revolutionaries were sending out a message: "We do not acknowledge your rules; we despise your notion of territorial jurisdiction". And they got away with it.
Even while the embassy staff were being held hostage, a counter-revolutionary group occupied the Iranian embassy in London. And how did we respond? We secured the building, our SAS men sliding down like spiders on their threads, and we handed it politely back to Teheran with a purse of money to compensate for the damage caused during the assault.
Not unnaturally, the mullahs concluded that they could have it both ways. They could continue to be accorded the privileges of a sovereign state without having to reciprocate. So began a global campaign to spread the revolution. Iranian agents set out to radicalise the Shia populations of Iraq, the Gulf monarchies and the Fertile Crescent.
They sought to reawaken the old faith among people who had long since turned away from it, notably in the Balkans and in Central Asia. Nor did they confine themselves to the Muslim world. In 1989, Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwah against Salman Rushdie. In other words, the leader of Iran presumed to pass sentence on a British subject - a sentence reconfirmed by Khomeini's successor, Ayatollah Khamenei, last year.
In 1994, Iranian extra-territoriality crossed the Atlantic. A bomb in Buenos Aires killed 100 people and injured 250 more, prompting Argentina to issue warrants for a number of Iranian diplomats and politicians. What possible strategic interest did Iran have in destroying a Jewish community centre in South America?
The answer, surely, is that it was precisely the remoteness of the target that made it so attractive. The ayatollahs were again flaunting their ability to act whenever and wherever they chose.
These are the same men, remember, who are three or four years away from developing nuclear weapons. They already have Shahab-3 missiles, which, in their modified form, have a range of 1,500 miles.
But why worry about delivery mechanisms? We have already seen the mullahs' readiness to equip their proxies in Lebanon with rockets, their agents in South America with bombs. Can we be confident that they would not tack on nuclear warheads?
I am no neo-con. I opposed the Iraq war, because I didn't believe that Saddam had WMD. But who can doubt that Iran is developing them?
Indeed, Iran provides the answer to one of the great conundrums of the decade, namely: why did Saddam pretend that he still had weapons stocks when he had in reality destroyed them? The answer, it seems, is that he didn't want the ayatollahs to see how weak he was. (Alan's note: the WMDs were not destroyed but moved, with a similar result as a loss of deterrent for Sadam against Iran but a misinformation for readers).
A legacy of the Iraq war is that it is much harder to make the case for confronting Iran militarily. Still, there are plenty of intermediate steps that we could take: targeted sanctions, seizure of assets, direct assaults on arms facilities - even, in extremis, the kind of siege, complete with a no-fly-zone, that paralysed Saddam between 1991 and 2003.
At the same time, we could sponsor internal dissent. Plenty of groups oppose the mullahs: monarchists, communists, students, secularists. There are Kurds, Arabs, Turkmen and Azeris with little loyalty to the Persian state. There are Iranian Sunnis who are not even allowed a mosque in Teheran (unlike their co-religionists in London).
But we must first recognise the magnitude of what we are up against. The 1979 revolution introduced many Muslims to the novel idea that there was a conflict between their faith and their secular loyalties. When Britain made war on Ottoman Turkey in 1915, a Cabinet memo fretted that "attacking the Caliphate might agitate our Mussulmans in Egypt and India".
In that event, of course, British Muslims volunteered happily to fight for the Crown, seeing no tension between their private devotion and their civic duties. Their sons and grandsons were, for the most part, equally patriotic.
Yet today, some of their great-grandsons are crossing half the world to take up arms against British troops. This is the poisonous ideology that we are fighting.
Our chief purpose in defeating it should not be to restore the comity of nations, nor to bolster Muslim moderates, nor even to bring freedom to the long-suffering Iranian people - though all these would be happy side-effects. Our main object, rather, must be to forestall a nuclear attack.