With the outcome of the various uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East unknown at this time, there are some troubling developments. The intellectuals and liberal media are promoting the thesis that these revolts appear to be primarily secular in nature - but are they? It has been grudgingly acknowledged that al Qaeda and other Islamic extremists, including the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), are involved in the uprisings. Now Cairo appears to be moving to re-establish diplomatic relations with Tehran after 30 years, which would be a major political gain for Iran. Such a move by Cairo had to have the approval of the Egyptian Armed Forces with strong support from the MB.
The MB is the best organized political party in both Egypt and Libya and has branches throughout the Middle East. The Brotherhood's principal goals are to establish Islam as the state religion with Shariah as the governing law. This is a formula for totalitarian rule to control every aspect of one's daily life. As Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini stated in 1979, under a Shariah government, dissent is punishable by death. This mentality is reflected in the recent rioting in Afghanistan and senseless murder of innocent United Nations workers and other civilians over the burning of a Koran. It is a manifestation of a seventh-century mindset, which our military commanders accommodate to a point of appeasement as part of a counter-insurgency (COIN) strategy. This is not what we fight for or what we should force our military to embrace.
The fact that the MB is now stating that their goals are much more modest should be viewed with great skepticism. Leaders say that they have renounced violence to achieve their objectives; believe in multiparty democracy; endorse women's rights and intend to refrain from imposing "overarching" Shariah law. But I believe their now-stated major goals should best be characterized as taqiyya (lying). Under Shariah, it is quite permissible to lie, especially to non-Muslims, and always to advance the cause of Islam.
Another area of concern with establishing relations with Iran that should not be overlooked is the fact that Hamdi Hassan, spokesperson of the MB parliamentary caucus in 2006, stated that the Brotherhood is interested in creating an Egyptian nuclear deterrent. He said they are ready to starve in order to own a nuclear weapon that will be decisive in the Arab-Israeli conflicts. Iran's potential role in helping Egypt achieve a nuclear weapon capability cannot be discounted.
Let's not forget that the MB has close ties to the terrorist organizations Hamas and Hezbollah, which are both supported by Iran and are dedicated to the elimination of Israel. With renewed diplomatic relations between Cairo and Tehran, the free flow of military weapons and equipment into Gaza should be expected, which will put tremendous pressure on Israel. It will certainly end any chance of a Palestinian-Israel political accommodation.
In a recent interview, historian Bernard Lewis stated that we should not try to impose Western-style democracy on countries in the Middle East and that we should not rush to force elections. I agree with both propositions. We should remember it was forced elections that brought to power both Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon.
With regard to Iran, Mr. Lewis thinks the United States should not take military action against the regime of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad because of "Iranian disdain for the ruling mullahs." He invokes the common excuse that "It would give the regime a gift that they don't at present enjoy - namely, Iranian patriotism. This rationale has been used by the intellectuals as an excuse for not taking action against Iran for more than 25 years. It has only permitted Iran to get stronger and take bolder action to push the envelope against the United States.
The fact that Iran has declared war on the United States several times over the last 31 years and has caused the loss of thousands of American lives - military and civilian personnel - and tens of thousands injured, is not addressed by Mr. Lewis. His alternative to military action is to "hope" the Green movement is effective. Mr. Lewis goes on to state that he doesn't think Iran can be contained if it goes nuclear. He correctly points out that the Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) strategy we shared with the Soviets will not work with Iran because "the mullahs are religious fanatics with an apocalyptic mindset."
"In Islam there is an end-of-time scenario - and they think its beginning or has already begun." Certainly the rogue president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad thinks so. He is a member of a small, extremist sect known as the "Twelves" who believe men can play a key role in causing world chaos, which then would trigger the return of the "Hidden Twelfth Inman." Mr. Ahmadinejad believes he has been chosen to be that man.
We have stated many times a nuclear-weapon-equipped Iran is unacceptable. The Green revolution opposition forces in Iran are going to require considerable outside support to be successful. The formula that we are using in Libya will not work in Iran. However, we should be under no allusion that the opposition led by Hossein Mousavi will bring Western-style freedom and democracy. Quite to the contrary, Mr. Mousavi has made his views very clear: a return to the "pure theocracy" of Ayatollah Khomeini. New leadership must be found.
Nonetheless, we need to plan for a near-term opposition uprising in Iran to be coordinated with the execution of our Strategic Strike Plan (SSP) to eliminate Iran's nuclear infrastructure as a first priority. Support to the opposition could be provided in conjunction with the execution of the SSP. The alternative to military action is to accept a nuclear Iran with its apocalyptic mindset.
By Retired Navy Adm. James A. Lyons, commander in chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet and senior U.S. military representative to the United Nations.