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Coming to a Neighborhood Near You: The Axis of Evil By: Kenneth R. Timmerman
FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, December 08, 2006


The unsurprising victory of Venezuelan song and dance artist Hugo Chavez in his re-election bid on Sunday was warmly welcomed around the world.

Chavez friends in Cuba, Bolivia and Nicaragua were pleased. Castro and Daniel Ortega must think someone flipped a switch and they’re back in the early 1980s – only this time, there’s no President Reagan and no Contras.

 

The Iranian Foreign ministry welcomed the Chavez victory, and didn’t even threaten to raise oil prices to $200 per barrel. That’s for next week.

 

Al Jazeera knew the results even before the votes were cast, and showed Chavez with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Iran earlier this year, rigged out in orange hard hats, the best of buddies.

 

“If the North American empire and its lackeys attempt another coup, or don't acknowledge the electoral outcome, we will not send them one more drop of oil," al Jazeera quoted al Jefe as saying.

 

Oil is mainly what distinguishes Chavez from his mentor, Fidel Castro. Venezuela is the world’s fifth-largest oil exporter, and supplies the U.S. with about 11 percent of our daily oil supplies. And Chavez controls the oil.

 

Instead of inviting the children to spend their summer holiday cutting sugar cane, as Fidel did in the 1960s, al Jefe is offering sugar plums to the poor via his wholly-owned U.S. subsidiary, CITGO, which controls 6% of all U.S. refining capacity.

 

In July, Chavez had CITGO break existing distribution agreements with 1,800 independently owned service stations in ten predominantly red states, because he reportedly wanted to break contracts “that benefit U.S. consumers more than Venezuelans.”

 

Now he is offering to supply discounted heating oil to “the poor” in several U.S. states as a public relations ploy. Even USA Today is asking if Citgo is no longer an oil company, but a “political tool” for Chavez.

 

The Citgo offer of discounted fuel has won support from unexpected circles. On Friday, the parent company of the conservative Washington Times will be hosting Venezeuan ambassador Hernando Alverez Herrera to a “citizens forum,” where he will expound on Chavez’s kind and generous offer to supply discounted fuel to the poor.

 

As a daily reader of the Times (and a former senior writer for Insight Magazine, an investigative newsweekly closed by the Times last year), I was surprised to learn that Herrera would be a featured speaker at a Washington Times event.

 

I was even more surprised when the spokesman for the Citizens Forum, Brian Bauman, told me that he was planning to allow Herrera to speak unchallenged by any panelist who would focus on Venezuela’s strategic ties to Iran, a founding member of the axis of evil .“That’s not the direction of this forum,” he said. “It’s to speak to the cost of energy in the Washington, DC area. One facet of that is the Venezuelan program.”

 

Come hither, Little One, said the Crocodile…

 

Venezuela under Chavez ressembles Castro’s Cuba in important ways. Just as Castro did after he seized power, Chavez has sought to expand his influence throughout the region through covert action. He bankrolled Ortega’s return to power last month, and has helped leftist leaders win power in Bolivia and elsewhere.

 

Also like Castro, he has sought the protection of a powerful opponent of the United States, in this case the Islamic Republic of Iran.

 

Castro was powerless to prevent Nikita Krushchev from deploying nuclear-tipped missiles to Cuba, an act that nearly provoked a nuclear war between the United States and the Soviet Union. And Kruschhev was no radical Islamic fundamentalist. He was rational to the extreme, believing in the cold calculus of power politics.

 

Ahmadinejad has stated publicly that the goal of his government is to bring about the return of the Imam Mahdi, the 12th imam of Shiite Muslim lore who only comes out of his well after a devastating world war.

 

Unlike Krushchev, who understood that he and his regime were doomed if nuclear missiles actually began to fly, Ahmadinejad believes that through death, he wins.

 

It’s hard to deter such a regime.

 

Iran does not currently have nuclear warheads – at least, so far as the CIA professes to know. But they do have missiles which, if deployed in Venezuela, would be capable of hitting the United States.

 

But it goes against the pattern of Iranian regime behavior to act so overtly against the United States. Tehran’s mullahs prefer acting by indirection, through proxies, just as they are murdering Americans today in Iraq through proxies.

 

Suppose for a moment that Iran has acquired a nuclear weapon – either on the black market, as many sources believe; or through a clandestine uranium enrichment program, which the CIA discounts (because they have no spies in Iran who might detect such a program).

 

Iran could send a heavily-shielded nuclear warhead to Venezuela, where it would be fitted to a short-range missile and stowed on board a U.S.-bound cargo ship.

 

That cargo ship would not be owned by Iranians or by Venezuelans, but perhaps by some Qatari millionaire through a front company in the British Virgin Islands. The deadly ship would then depart Venezuela carrying perfectly legitimate, declared cargo for the port of Newark, New Jersey.

 

Perhaps the ship might not even be bound for the United States at all, but for Halifax, Nova Scotia, further up the Atlantic seaboard. Either way, the likelihood it would be inspected on the high seas are very low.

 

Steaming along in commercial shipping lanes one hundred miles off the coast of Washington, DC, the ship’s international crew brings the missile launcher up from the hold and prepares it for launch. Under the cover of darkness, they fire their weapon, then stow the launcher and continue on their way. Two minutes later, Washington, DC is hit with a fireball that obliterates the White House, the Capitol Building, and the national monuments in seconds. And no signature links this act of war back to Iran.

 

This, of course, is just fiction. But the technology is known and available. Iran has been testing sea-launched ballistic missiles since 1998.

 

Well before any kind of military strike on America, both Iran and Venezuela are working to get America to surrender, by first admitting our helplessness.

 

That is why Chavez is offering discounted oil through Citgo to Americans. You are poor, you are weak, and your government won’t take care of you. But we will, if only you will accept our gift.

 

That is why Iran is trying to get the United States to accept its help in Iraq, and is working through proxies in America (since it has no legal equivalent of Citgo) to get its seductive offer across. We will stop the insurgency, Iran says, if only you will recognize the legitimacy of our regime, accept our nuclear program, and stop all efforts to support pro-democracy movements inside Iran. We can keep Americans from getting killed.

 

“Come hither, Little One,” said the Crocodile, “and I’ll whisper.”

 

In Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories, the Elephant’s Child is tempted by his ‘satiable curtiosity’ to seek out the Crocodile, and cannot believe the beast will actually try to eat him. As the Elephant’s Child pulls and pulls to free his nose from the Crocodile’s teeth, it grows and grows – and that is How the Elephant got its Trunk.

We won’t get off so easily.

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Kenneth R. Timmerman was nominated for the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize along with John Bolton for his work on Iran. He is Executive Director of the Foundation for Democracy in Iran, and author of Countdown to Crisis: the Coming Nuclear Showdown with Iran (Crown Forum: 2005).


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