Something ominous is taking place in Iran. For several days now, U.S. and Israeli intelligence agencies have been monitoring suspicious activities. U.S. spy satellites and an increased number of communication intercepts of short-burst, encoded messages from within Iran further support this assessment.
Is a strike against Israel planned? Within the next few days, the U.S. and Israel will need to determine whether Iran's certifiably mad president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is preparing to make good his threat to wipe Israel off the map. If so, Israel's existence will rest on the decision whether to launch a pre-emptive first strike against Iran.
This is the scenario author Chet Nagle uses to begin the plot for his novel "Iran Covenant." The book's intrigue makes it difficult to end one chapter without going on to the next. But, for those familiar with Tehran's draconian leadership, the novel provides a frighteningly realistic depiction of a mindset capable of doing the unthinkable. One can better appreciate this mindset by fully understanding its evolution.
Observers of Iran's leadership ever since Islamic fundamentalists took control of the country in 1979 have witnessed a march towardadomination in the region that becomes more brazen with every step. The brutality the leadership exercises in taking these steps was first evidenced by its actions against its own people after the shah's departure.
President Carter had pressed the shah of Iran to step down, believing the country would fare better under the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Mr. Carter believed Khomeini would be a "Mahatma Gandhi," but what returned was a "Genghis Khan." Initial euphoria over his return quickly gave way to abject fear. Under Khomeini's tutelage as "Supreme Leader," Iran's Islamic revolution turned on itself - its leaders one day finding themselves victims the next, always unsure against whom this religious zealot's wrath might next be directed. The violence of the French Revolution two centuries earlier paled in comparison to Iran's, where even children fell victim - executed for failing to observe tenets of Islamic fundamentalism they could not even comprehend. And, among the young leaders who excelled during Khomeini's bloody purges was Iran's current president.
Khomeini's reign of terror resulted in brief tenures for Iran's first two presidents. While the ayatollah hand-selected both, the first, Abolhassan Banisadr, had to flee for his life to France after falling out of favor with Khomeini. The second, Mohammad Ali Rajai, was assassinated after only two weeks in office. The first president to survive a full two terms in office was the man who today is Iran's supreme leader - Ali Khamenei - having replaced Khomeini after his death in 1989. Originally perceived as a Khomeini "off steroids," Ayatollah Khamenei since proved to be cut from the same cloth. Symbolic of the violence he espouses, the ayatollah occasionally appears in public with an AK-47 rifle at his side - an odd accessory for an avowed spiritual leader within the safe confines of his own country.
Ayatollah Khamenei and Mr. Ahmadinejad survived Khomeini's terror reign by demonstrating an unwavering commitment to the Islamic revolution and to Khomeini himself. That commitment included fulfilling Iran's mandate, memorialized in its constitution, to export the revolution outside its borders. True to this mandate, Iran's leadership has long sanctioned activities to further the revolution's extraterritorial reach - including terrorist attacks in Argentina and Germany and supporting terrorist groups today in Lebanon, Gaza, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Interestingly, as to Iran's nuclear program, Khomeini, prior to his death, never sought to re-start a program started by the U.S. under the shah as peaceful but later abandoned by Washington due to fears he sought a non-peaceful application. Only after Ayatollah Khamenei became supreme leader was Iran's nuclear weapons program secretly started. And, only after an Iranian opposition group disclosed the weapon program's existence did the Iranians then try to claim it was for peaceful purposes.
If one understands the capacity of Tehran's theocracy to kill its own citizens and if one understands Tehran's commitment to possess nuclear weapons, the only thing left to determine is Tehran's real intentions toward its declared enemies - the U.S. and Israel - when it finally achieves this nuclear capability. In the world of fiction, "Iran Covenant" gives a realistic picture of those intentions. But, in the real world, we need hard evidence of Tehran's intentions to go to war. Does Iran intend to go to war with the U.S.? The reality and hard evidence is that Iran is already at war with the U.S.
While Mr. Ahmadinejad's statements of such intent - claims about ridding the world of "the Great Satan" and wiping Israel off the map - might be dismissed as bravissimo, the theocracy's acts of aggression against the U.S. prove most telling.
Twenty-five years ago, 241 Marines died as a suicide bomber drove a truck laden with 12,000 pounds of TNT into the U.S. Marine Barracks in Lebanon, causing the largest, non-nuclear explosion since World War II. The attack was conducted by the terrorist group Hezbollah - a proxy of the Iranian government. Only five years ago, as part of a civil lawsuit brought against the Iranian government by U.S. Marine victim families, hard evidence was discovered linking Tehran to this attack. A paper trail established Iranian financial and logistical assistance to Hezbollah for the operation. But, more damning was an intercepted message from Iranian intelligence just prior to the attack giving the go-ahead to the Hezbollah-affiliated terrorist group leader.
The book "Iran Covenant" is fiction. But the fact is that a covenant among Iran's theocratic leadership has long existed calling for the destruction of both the U.S. and Israel. The fiction in "Iran Covenant" will eventually evolve into fact. It will be the responsibility of our leadership to detect that transition in time to prevent the Iranian theocracy's dream of America's demise from becoming our worst nightmare.
James G. Zumwalt, a Marine veteran of the Persian Gulf and Vietnam wars, is a contributor to The Washington Times.