The Islamic fundamentalist regime in Iran has been at war with the United States for more than 30 years, but every administration from President Jimmy Carter’s to the current one has tried to ignore it. Currently, the Obama administration is wrestling with the issue of Iran’s drive to achieve nuclear weapons capability. The question of what we should do about it really becomes moot, since we now have clear evidence of Iran’s direct involvement and support of al Qaeda before and after the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. Evidence indicates Iran, Hezbollah and al Qaeda made an alliance in the 1990s.
On Dec. 22, 2011, U.S. District Judge George B. Daniels in New York ruled that Iran and Hezbollah provided both material and direct support to al Qaeda in the Sept. 11 attacks against the United States. Part of the convincing evidence was provided by three Iranian defectors from Iran’s intelligence agency, the Ministry of Information and Security and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
One of the defectors, Abolghasem Mesbahi, a former Ministry of Information and Security operative in charge of Iran’s espionage operations in Western Europe, testified that he was part of a joint task force with the Revolutionary Guard Corps that designed contingency plans for unconventional warfare against the United States, code name “Shaitan dar Atash” (Satan in the Flames). These plans included crashing hijacked airliners into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and the White House. During the summer of 2001, Mesbahi stated that he received three coded messages indicating that the plan had been activated.
Mesbahi also testified that, in 2000, Iran used front companies to obtain a Boeing flight simulator for training the Sept. 11 hijackers. Evidence from the 9/11 Commission Report that a senior Hezbollah operative, Imad Mughniyah (terror chief) coordinated activities of the hijackers in Saudi Arabia, where they were provided passports with special markings so that they could proceed to and through Iran without having their passports stamped en route to Afghanistan. Unanswered questions include who provided the special Saudi passports? How did the Iranian border guards know what to look for? Was it a conspiracy?
Regretfully, the evidence presented to Judge Daniels was not the result of U.S. government or congressional committee investigation but by private attorneys and witnesses representing the families of the Sept. 11 victims. By way of background, just one week before the 9/11 Commission sent its final report to the printers in July 2004, a six-page National Security Agency analysis summarizing what the intelligence community had learned about Iran’s direct involvement in the attacks was found in the “last box” of classified documents they were reviewing.
This information was so devastating in implicating Iran’s role in the Sept. 11 attacks that the CIA tried to get it expunged from the final 9/11 Commission Report. Could it be they were trying to cover up their own mistakes?
The information in the last box was critical in putting together the mosaic of how the hijackers were able to prepare and carry out the attacks. Many of the 9/11 committee members and staff members believed further investigation by the U.S. government was required. To date, no such investigation has been carried out or even initiated. Is there no congressional intelligence committee willing to stand up for America?
That there has been no follow-up investigations is evidence that the Iran lobby is alive and well in America. It has been able to penetrate into every level of government as well as many respected think tanks that help influence government policy. There is an excellent study by Clare M. Lopez, dated Feb. 25, 2009, promulgated by the Center for Security Policy, which traces the rise of the Iran lobby and how Tehran’s front groups moved into the Obama administration. The message that this group promotes is very familiar. It calls for “direct and sustained dialogue without preconditions” between Iran and the U.S. Of course, this is the Obama administration’s position.
In addition to Iran’s direct involvement in the Sept. 11 attacks, we have a litany of Iran’s acts of war against the U.S. Since the takeover of the U.S. Embassy in November 1979, we have positive proof of Iran’s involvement in the April 1983 bombing of our embassy in Beirut and the October 1983 bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut. With our nonresponse to these acts of war, there followed countless kidnappings and murders of Americans and further bombing of our facilities, and the training, equipping and financing of insurgents we were fighting in Iraq and still face in Afghanistan, which have costs thousands of American military lives.
As the Obama administration wrestles with the question of what to do about Iran’s nuclear weapon program, the action we should take should be very clear. We certainly have more than sufficient justification to launch a devastating strike against Iran. The failure of all previous administrations to act, it can be argued, indirectly contributed to the Sept. 11 attacks. The difference now is that Israel must act to ensure its survival.
President Obama repeatedly has stated that a nuclear-equipped Iran is unacceptable. As a great nation, we should prepare our own strategic strike plans to eliminate Iran’s nuclear weapon infrastructure and other key targets. If we do not act, then it is most likely Israel will launch its own strike before our national elections in November. Whether we assist Israel or not, we will share the blame for failure. Therefore, as a minimum, we should provide Israel with all the necessary equipment and material to make their strike as effective as possible. Nothing less is acceptable.
Retired Adm. James A. Lyons was commander in chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet and senior U.S. military representative to the United Nations.