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Radical Islam and Rogue Regimes: Security Challenges for America and Israel

Event Summary

Jewish Policy Center

On October 25, 2009, the Jewish Policy Center brought together Foundation for Defense of Democracies president Cliff May, Former Undersecretary of Defense for George W. Bush Douglas Feith, and former advisor to President Ronald Reagan Michael Ledeen for a roundtable discussion. The event, titled “Radical Islam and Rogue Regimes: Security Challenges for America and Israel,” was moderated by radio talk show host Michael Medved and located at Greenfield Hebrew Academy in Atlanta, Georgia. Click HERE to view the video in its entirety.

The panelists discussed Iran’s nuclear program and Tehran’s ambition to eliminate Israel and the United States. To that end, May said, “The idea that Iran is going to negotiate away its ambitions not just for nuclear weapons but to wipe Israel off the map and achieve a world without America…we will not be able to negotiate that away, Obama will not be able to charm that away.” On the prospect of Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon, Feith stated, “An Iranian nuclear weapon is unacceptable. As dangerous as it would be for the mullahs in Iran to have nuclear weapons, it’s very possible that the worst consequence is not anything that they themselves would do. It is the fact that this would trigger thoughts in Egypt, in Saudi Arabia, [and] perhaps Turkey that we have reached a tipping point in the proliferation. And these countries would decide to get nuclear weapons on their own, and the world would have a much higher chance of having a nuclear war, and the United States would have a much higher chance of getting involved and being victimized by nuclear weapons. This is an extremely serious problem.” Leeden mentioned that Iran was already warring with the United States, saying, “Iran doesn’t need nukes to kill Americans. Iran is doing just fine with roadside bombs and bullets. They are killing Americans every day in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

The panel then offered solutions in dealing with Iran. Leeden recommended the United States aid a rebellion and claimed the conditions were right for revolt, suggesting, “Iran is a country that is ready for democratic revolution. If you do a checklist for the things you need for a country to go into a revolutionary spasm, Iran has them all, from economic and social misery to contempt for the rulers and hatred of the regime. The one factor from the usual checklist that is missing is some kind of outside support.” Feith mentioned that Iran could be economically isolated, saying, “there are a number of things short of military action…more severe economic sanctions could be imposed.”

The current state of the Afghan War was discussed, as were the ramifications of the War on Terror for America and Israel. Feith predicted a dark aftermath at the end of the war in Afghanistan: “If we abandon the effort in Afghanistan, one of the consequences could be the collapse of Pakistan. In the case of Pakistan, Pakistan is a nuclear weapons state. If Pakistan falls to the Islamist extremists, you are not talking about proliferation…you are talking about [Islamists] getting possession of a state that has nuclear weapons and that is something that is certainly worth worrying about.” On the nature of America’s current military involvements, Leeden said, “We are in a big war, we are in a world war which runs from Somalia to Afghanistan to Pakistan to Iraq to Iran to Palestine. We are facing a global alliance that intends to destroy us and says so every day. We are fighting a combination of terrorist organizations and states that support them. [Iraq and Afghanistan] are little theaters of a big war.” On Israel’s role in the war on terror, May said, “Israel is on the front lines in a war on militant Islamism [and] is a Western outpost. It is an island of Western values surrounded by Islamic regimes, most of which would like to see it wiped off the face of the earth. Hamas is dedicated to destroying it entirely, as is Iran…We will not have peace on the Israeli front until we have peace more generally, until the militant Islamist threat is overcome.”

America’s dependence on oil was also discussed. As May noted, “We are fighting a war and, perhaps uniquely in human history, we are funding both sides. The only way we stop that is we have to strip oil of its strategic value. We have nothing we can replace it with at the moment but we could. It should be a top priority to as quickly as possible move to a diverse and competitive fuel market. That would mean the introduction of alcohol fuels, [in which] we would be getting peasant farmers from the third world to fuel our cars instead of the mullahs of Iran and the sheikhs of Saudi Arabia. That’s what we should be doing urgently, it could be done relatively quickly…we have to go faster than the markets want to go. In Dubai, they have indoor ski slopes. People don’t understand the magnitude of the wealth we are turning over and how much of it goes to fund the Taliban, to fund al-Qaeda, to fund Hamas, to fund Hezbollah, to fund all sorts of groups that have as their sole intention to destroy us.”