Twenty-two years to the day afterthe takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran by a mob controlled bydisciples of Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeini, Iran's so-called"moderate" president, Mohammad Khatami, comes to New York, seekingfavors from the Bush administration.
USA Today's Barbara Slavin gave us aglimpse of Mr. Khatami's agenda when she reported last week on alunch for his United Nations representative that was hosted onCapitol Hill by Sen. Arlen Specter.
At that lunch, Ambassador HadiNejad-Hosseinian renewed Iran's long-standing call for the UnitedStates to lift trade and economic sanctions on Iran, in exchange for&emdash; just what, he never made clear. Iran has made no pledge toimprove its behavior, by turning over international terrorists ImadMugniyeh and Ahmad Mughassil, both of whom have murdered Americansand now figure on America's Most Wanted list. Both have taken refugein Iran.
Nor did Mr. Nejad-Hosseinian pledgeto reopen reformist newspapers, to stop arbitrary arrests and the useof torture against Iranian women and dissidents, or even more simplyto allow young Iranian men and women the freedom to mix on thestreets or on university campuses.
Mr. Nejad-Hosseinian made no pledgethat Iran would abandon its nuclear weapons program, its long-rangemissile programs, which are now aimed at U.S. troops in the region aswell as at Israel, or that Iran would allow international inspectorsto monitor its biological weapons laboratories, which the CIA reportsare capable of producing military-grade anthrax.
But Mr. Nejad-Hosseinian and Mr.Khatami are asking the United States to lift a trade embargo placedon the Islamic Republic in 1995 because the Commerce Department haddemonstrated its inability to prevent strategic items from being soldby U.S. companies to the Iranian military and to strategic weaponsplants. Lifting the trade embargo would clearly enhance Iran'smilitary capabilities.
Recent U.S. intelligence reportsestimate that Iran has spent between $12-15 billion over the pastdecade building an array of nuclear weapons, ballistic missile,chemical and biological weapons plants, many of them underground.These reports also present a list of targets for U.S. militaryplanners should the Iranian regime refuse the simplest of demandsfrom the United States in our war against terrorism: Hand over theterrorists who have killed our people.
Mr. Khatami is coming to New York onNov. 4 for the United Nations summit that will actually convene oneweek later. He chose that date for its symbolic value: It was exactly22 years ago that pro-Khomeini students, many of whom went on toassume leadership positions in the Islamic Republic, seized the U.S.Embassy in Tehran and began a 20-year romp of terror under the falseflag of Islam. Many of these same "students" still hold leadershippositions in the Islamic Republic.
Iran has not "moved beyond" the 1979embassy takeover. If anything, the Iranian government of Mr. Khatamihas mainstreamed the hostage-takers. Mr. Khatami himself has played acentral role in forging Iran into the prime supporter ofinternational terrorist movements. In 1983, when he was minister ofculture and Islamic guidance, Mr. Khatami presided over a meeting inTehran that formally established the ties binding the Iraniangovernment to the newly-created Hezbollah movement in Lebanon.
Islamic Republic lobbyists inAmerica will argue that Iran has severed its ties to internationalterrorist organizations. If that is so, why does Tehran still conveneannual terrorist conclaves that bring together the heads of the mostnotorious terrorist groups in the world? And why do Mr. Khatami andSupreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei regularly applaud and address theseterror summits?
If the Islamic Republic has changedits spots, then it should hand over the most notorious terrorists nowresiding in Iran, Imad Mugniyeh and Ahmad Mughassil. Mughassil hasbeen indicted in the United States as the mastermind of the 1996Khobar Towers bombing that killed 19 U.S. servicemen in Saudi Arabia.Imad Mugniyeh, also under a U.S. indictment, is the author ofcountless acts of terror, starting with the bombing of the U.S.Embassy and U.S. Marines barracks in Lebanon in 1983, the taking ofU.S. hostages in Lebanon, and the hijacking of TWA Flight 847 toBeirut, when he murdered in cold blood U.S. Navy diver RobertStethem. Mr. Stethem's parents, who have attended regular memorialservices for their son over the past 15 years, appeared in aWashington courtroom last week seeking reparations from thegovernment of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Today, Mugniyeh serves as a topinternational terror operative for Iran's foreign intelligenceservice, SAVAMA. He is also believed by European intelligenceagencies to serve as a liaison for Iran with the terror networks ofOsama bin Laden. Just 10 days ago, European intelligence officialstold me during a recent trip, Mugniyeh was meeting in Mashad, nearthe border with Afghanistan, with another senior Iranian intelligenceofficer and an Iraqi named Haboosh, identified as "a top deputy toSaddam Hussein in charge of intelligence matters."
Mashad has been the preferred portof entry to Afghanistan for Egyptian Islamic Jihad members seeking tojoin bin Laden for terror training and operational orders, thesesources say.
The United States has been reluctantto point toward Iran in the war against terror, but the U.S. andEuropean intelligence communities have extensive information showingthe active involvement of Mr. Khatami's government in ongoinganti-U.S. terror operations. If Mr. Khatami wants any favors from theUnited States, he needs to hand over the terrorists on Iranian soil&emdash; or go home.
Kenneth R. Timmerman is a seniorwriter for Insight Magazine and writes on security and intelligenceissues for Reader's Digest.
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