Craig Biddle: I’m speaking with Peter Huessy, president of Geo-Strategic Analysis of Potomac, Maryland, a defense and national security consulting firm. Mr. Huessy also writes for Family Security Matters, The Hudson Institute, Big Peace, and Human Events.
Thank you for joining me, Peter.
Peter Huessy: Thank you for inviting me.
CB: I want to hear your thoughts on U.S. national defense in the post-9/11 world, but let me begin with a broad question to set the stage. What do you regard as the purpose of the U.S. government in the realm of foreign policy and the use of our military?
PH: Part of its purpose is to protect the United States from existential threats such as a nuclear exchange with a nuclear power such as China or Russia. It’s also to prevent terror attacks on our homeland, to protect our borders, to secure trade and investment and beneficial economic activities, especially secure oil and energy.
CB: Who in your view attacked us on 9/11 and what motivates them?
PH: The attack itself was planned primarily by Khalid Sheik Muhammad. We know that Iran as well as Syria and Hezbollah have been found by a U.S. district judge to be complicit in the attack. As to motives, Khalid Sheik Mohammad’s dominant motivation in my view has always been seeking revenge and he may have secured the support of myriad sponsors, including Iran.
The regime in Iran believes that we are the major impediment to its goal of conquering the world. And however fanciful people may think it is that Iran wants to conquer the world, it is certainly acting toward that end. The constitution of Iran says that it’s obligation is to spread jihad all over the world and to kill the infidels. The president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, says Israel should be destroyed, and he talks about a world without the United States. Whether that’s to be accomplished through an EMP attack or through a nuclear terrorist attack in Times Square, I don’t know. I do know what capabilities they’re seeking to have, and whatever their motivation is within Shi’ism and the Twelfth Imam, they believe they have the obligation to create Armageddon—which they think will bring back the Mahdi and cleanse the world of the unbelievers. They have said so. There’s a video, as you know, circulating around Iran and made by the government that very clearly indicates that they believe the Supreme Leader is the conduit to the Mahdi. So whether anyone thinks it’s nuts or not is immaterial.
Syria’s motivations are bound up with its alliance with Iran. Hamas and Hezbollah are allied with both Syria and Iran, as they were with Saddam Hussein and Gaddafi when they were in power. Then you have the hangers-on in North Korea, Venezuela, Russia, and China—all of whom gave weapons, money, sanctuary, training, and financing to what Michael Ledeen called these state sponsors of terror, or terror masters.
Osama bin Laden’s goal was to show the world that he could fight “the Great Satan” and so that people would flock to Al Qaeda as the Islamic organization best suited to lead to the creation of a new caliphate. So 9/11 for him was like a business card, it was like an advertisement—“look what I can do.” That’s why he wanted something spectacular.
We know that the Taliban supported Al Qaeda so we went and took them down in Afghanistan. The problem with Iraq was that it was never firmly connected in any particular way by the administration to terrorism in general or specific acts of terrorism, and I think that caused enormous problem in how Americans view security policy, terrorism, and our foreign policy.
CB: Which of the enemies that you’ve named would you say is the fundamental enemy—the one that poses the greatest threat and makes the most others possible?
PH: I would put the Iranian regime, if you want to rank them, at the top.
CB: What can and should America do about this regime?
PH: It’s worth noting that Khameini was so worried about Ahmadinejad that he banned the sect he belongs to. These people are genocidal maniacs and in my mind the only way you solve that is to get rid of the regime. Condi Rice said we should do exactly this. Former Secretary Albright doesn't agree. That says a lot. Ledeen is right—we cannot persuade Iran to change.
We’ve been playing kissy-face since 1979. Look at the Iraq study group. James Baker and Lee Hamilton may be smart men, but they repeatedly say “Iran is interested in stability in the Middle East.” As former Director of National Intelligence Michael Hayden said, Iran is the major source of instability in the Middle East and the world today. I would say that the “stability” Iran seeks is the stability of the grave. I find myself not only nonplussed but just flabbergasted at Baker and Hamilton. Why would they say something so absolutely nonsensical? The Iranian regime is interested in only one thing and that is the destruction of Jews, Christians, and infidels in general. They will use nuclear or biological or chemical weapons or anything they can get their hands on to do that. I think they only understand one thing and that is force.
As to the fight in Congress about sanctions on Iran’s banks, you know we did those in 1996 or 1998 under Clinton and they never were enforced. We did another round in the Bush administration and they were half-heartedly enforced. This administration has done more than the previous two, but on a scale of 1 to 100, we’re still at 10. We need to be at 100. The United States should divest from Iran—forbid anyone in America to invest in any company doing business in or with Iran, including its oil markets. I’ve written about why we should not be investing funds into companies via our public pension funds that do business in Iran. Iran uses those profits to make IEDs that they use to kill American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan—soldiers who are the sons, daughters, uncles, and aunts of the very police, fireman, and teachers who are investing their money in the public pension funds.
And then there are all the major endowments of the public universities—over a trillion dollars. Candace DeRussy wrote the top fifty schools in America and asked if they had thought about their endowments being what Roger Robinson has called terror-free investments. We got fourty-nine letters back saying get lost and one letter, from Texas A&M, asking what we had in mind. Candace did this to see what kind of reaction we’d get. She wrote all the letters herself and sent them—and she basically got the backs of their hands.
If by means of divestment and sanctions we were to drive oil down to $30 a barrel, that would bankrupt the Iranians. It wouldn’t solve the problem, but if we did this in conjunction with special ops missions in Iran, using drones to go after them, and most importantly, as Ledeen says, give the democratic resistance in Iran the tools to overthrow these SOBs by creating the conditions by which their leadership becomes very shaky, I think we could get rid of the regime.
It’s kind of a seven-part program, similar to what Ronald Reagan did with the Soviet Union. We did all of that to the Soviet Union—plus went after them in El Salvador, Nicaragua, Grenada, Angola, Afghanistan, and around the world. To the extent we sold them technology, we did so to our advantage. When Reagan and [then-Canadian Prime Minister Brian] Mulroney discovered that companies were selling technology to the Russians, they decided to sabotage the technology. That pipeline that exploded in Kazakhstan and everyone thought it was a nuclear explosion—it exploded because it had defective computer chips.
I believe [GHW] Bush did some of this kind of thing. Bill Clinton did some too. And I think some of the problems the Iranians have been having lately may have something to do with the current administration doing more of it.
In short, my view is that we should use every means available to end the Iranian regime.
CB: One problem is that we haven’t even named the regime as our enemy. Following Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, America named the enemy outright—the imperialist Japanese regime—declared war on it and, in less than five years, ended it, after which Japan became a key trading partner and a good friend to the United States. More than ten years after 9/11, we’ve not only failed to eliminate the enemy; we’ve not even named it. We just keep talking about a “war on terror,” as if our enemy was a tactic.
PH: You’re exactly right. We’ve never identified Iran as the enemy. Prior to 9/11 we had identified Iran as a state sponsor of terrorism, but we’ve never named it as the enemy. So what was the point in designating it a state sponsor of terror? Were they sponsoring terrorism against Puerto Rico or against Switzerland? No, they were sponsoring terror against us. The new national security strategy talks about terrorism as being instigated by Al Qaeda and its affiliates but fails to mention the state sponsors! The states direct the terror groups, not the other way around.
One of the reasons we don’t name Iran more openly now is that Americans are fed up with what the media describe as “endless war.” Afghanistan has lasted more than a decade. (Ron Paul capitalizes on this when he says, “I’m against these endless wars.”) Americans have the attitude that we should fight the war, kick ‘em hard, win and come home and have a barbeque. I’m not being flippant. Americans don’t like to fight, but if they must fight they want to be ferocious and get the job done.
CB: That’s the attitude we ought to have.
PH: Exactly. But we’ve never applied this to Iran. From ’79, through the end of the Cold War, all through the Clinton administration—except for reflagging the Kuwaiti tankers and shooting down the Iranian airbus, which I don’t believe was on purpose—we have taken very little military action of any kind against Iran. Consequently, the regime believes they can get away with all that they have done and are doing with impunity. They think we’re weak. We withdrew from Beirut, Lebanon—whether you think it was right or not to go, the rules of engagement there created a disaster, and we left. We also withdrew from Somalia. Osama bin Laden and his friends took from this the lesson that we will retreat if hit.
Granted, after 9/11 we went into Afghanistan, and Americas largely understood and advocated this; they saw it as a good war because the Taliban harbored Al Qaeda. But then Iraq came around and people wondered what the hell we were doing there. If it’s about democracy, what about North Korea, what about Venezuela, what about Cuba? You can take that argument to dozens of countries around the world.
Now, having ignored the Iranian threat for so long, we’re faced with the prospect of Iran with ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons. We know where some of their missile factories are and we know where some of the nuclear facilities are. We could take them out and I’m in favor of taking them out.
CB: For the sake of argument, if the U.S. decided to eliminate the Iranian regime as quickly as possible, using the full capabilities of our military, how long in your estimate would it take?
PH: I’d have to take a bow toward the generals [Thomas] McInerney and [Paul] Vallely, who have spoken and written a book about this. I think they said it would be a three to four month campaign. They’re basically proponents of air power and I agree. I don’t think you have to send in American ground forces. I certainly wouldn't support that.
CB: Turning to Egypt, the recent elections in Egypt delivered a large majority of the vote to the Muslim Brotherhood’s so-called "Freedom and Justice Party" and the even more-radical Salafist’s party, Al Nour. As the Economist puts it, “the success of Islamists in Egypt marks a trend throughout the region where political Islam is everywhere on the rise.” What could the U.S. have done to prevent this situation in Egypt, and what can or should we do now to deal with the problem of political Islam being everywhere on the rise?
PH: That’s a tough question. We should never have withdrawn our support from Mubarak. There was a reason we supported him. It wasn’t because we liked him and it wasn’t because he was a good guy; it was because he was a bulwark between the Muslim whackos getting government power in Egypt and using the Suez Canal as a lever. Also, as a neighbor of Israel, if the Sinai becomes remilitarized, then Israel has a problem on its southern border as well as on its northern border.
The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt has taken the opportunity to play to popular discontent and promise jobs and security—as if that’s their intention. But it’s interesting that the Economist also quotes some guy saying not to worry about the Brotherhood, because once they have to build sewers and roads and stuff—to deliver on their promises—they’ll forget about jihad. Sorry, but this isn’t going to happen. Our State department said that was going to happen with Hamas in Gaza—that they’d have to provide some kind of government in Gaza, so that will take up all of their time and they won’t have time to launch rockets on Israelis. We know how that worked out.
CB: Final question: What in your view should American citizens demand of our government with respect to Iran?
PH: I think Americans can insist on divestment; sound defense, including missile defenses; sanctions, especially on the Iran energy sector and banking; assistance to the democratic resistance inside Iran; and provisions of necessary hardware to our allies, which we are now doing. And although as citizens we may not be able to call up the president and get anything done, we can have an impact on our state legislatures, we can have an impact on our governors and our state reps. We can also advocate the adoption of a sound energy policy, which is critical to a sound policy on Iran and the Middle East.
Part of the difficulty here, though, is that sanctions will affect people and businesses in America that we don’t think of as having anything to do with Iran. Hyundai, for instance, is the biggest automaker in Iran. I’ve lived in Korea and love Korea—I’m not against the Korean people—but they should not be doing business in American if they are doing business in Iran. I know that’s not going to make everyone happy, but if Hyundai is given a choice, it’s going to choose to do business in America.
CB: It’s been a pleasure talking with you, Peter. Let’s do it again soon.
PH: I’d be delighted to do that. Thanks.
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