If I were a Syrian rebel I’d be very appreciative of Israeli military might. Without Israel’s Operation Orchard, the 2007 airstrike on Bashar al-Assad’s nuclear reactor in eastern Syria, the dictator in Damascus would now be deterring any pro-rebel outside influence with a nuclear bomb. And depending on how bad things got for his regime, he might find his way to pushing the button. Toppled dictators like to take their walks of shame with big fiery bangs.
It’s amazing how despised preemptive action on the part of democracies ends up looking like a blessing when crises hit. Without the American invasion of Iraq, Muammar Qaddafi would have had an extensive WMD arsenal at his disposal while his regime unraveled last year. In March 2003, Operation Iraqi Freedom woke him up to the consequences of WMD subterfuge and he gave up his program later in the year. So if not for Israeli and American preemptive action, the Arab Spring might very well have been far more deadly and destabilizing than it already is.
This all leads to the question of Iran. Of the many nightmare scenarios that could be birthed by a nuclear-armed Islamic Republic, the one that gets the least attention is arguably the most likely. Eventually, that thug regime will go the way of its neighbors and fall. Indeed, the Arab Spring had a decidedly Persian kickoff. In June 2009, millions of Iranians took to the streets to demand justice in the wake of fixed presidential elections. There is no if about the fall of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. And when it happens, does the world really want the mullahs who’ve been preaching Armageddon for three decades to have nuclear weapons? Leave aside the prospect of an Iranian-Israeli nuclear exchange, the misery of an Iranian-Saudi nuclear arms race, and the regional domination of a nuclear blackmailing Tehran. Peace-loving, America-fearing progressives better get their stories straight for the day the mullahs find out their time is up. If the Khomeinists face that prospect with nuclear weapons at their disposal, they’re likely to make Saddam Hussein’s exploding-oil-field retreat in 1991 look like a bunch of bonfires.
“We will destroy you all, even if we ourselves die in the process,” Ayatollah Khomeini said. “We do not worship Iran, we worship Allah,” he offered on another occasion. “For patriotism is another name for paganism. I say let this land [Iran] burn. I say let this land go up in smoke, provided Islam emerges triumphant in the rest of the world.” Having watched one Arab Spring regime after another elect Islamists into office, the theocrats in Tehran will likely feel secure in the triumph of radical Islam before they self-immolate.
There are things much worse than Western military action. Foremost among them are those things that only Western military action can prevent or stop. Just ask the Syrians. It’s so bad for them they might even tell you the truth.