Since the tumultuous birth of the Islamic Republic, Iran has been at war, oftentimes on multiple fronts.  They fought a war of attrition with Iraq whilst being involved with the birth of Hezbollah in Lebanon during the early-to-mid 1980’s.  While blame for the Iran-Iraq war cannot be saddled entirely on the back of Iran, their tactics during the war are telling.

In his book, “The Shia Revival,” Vali Nasr discusses the human-wave attacks launched by “tens of thousands” of Iranians, “using their bodies to set off mines and even swarm Iraqi tanks or overrun Iraqi gun positions.”  Nasr concludes they were fighting for country and faith (between which, no distinction was ever made), and for the Twelfth Imam.  As martyrs, they believed they were guaranteed a place in paradise.  The regime even sent actors on horses to appear as “visions” of the martyred grandson of Muhammed, Imam Husain to the Iranian soldiers, attempting to lend legitimacy to their actions and reinforce the notion of religious struggle.

The 1990’s saw relative peace as Iran and Iraq agreed to a cease-fire.  While neither party realized any sort of territorial gains from that agreement, the lives of the hundreds of thousands were lost during the war that ensued.  Though Iran was not directly involved in kinetic actions in the war, they were very active in Hezbollah, or the “Party of God,” in Lebanon.  Iranian involvement with Hezbollah started in the early 1980‘s when members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps exploited Lebanese Shia discontent with Amal, a less militant movement founded by the uncle of anti-U.S. cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

Additionally, Iran has had more than a peripheral involvement in “third party” attacks against U.S. and Israeli interests. The U.S. government concluded that Iran’s fingerprints were on the U.S. Embassy bombing and Marine Corps barracks bombing in 1983, and the bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Argentina in 1992.  Since the invasion of Iraq in 2003, Iran has played an active role in facilitating the Shia insurgency, providing equipment and personnel to carry out attacks against coalition forces and Iraqi civilians.  The most prolific weapons contribution Iran made was the introduction of Explosively Formed Penetrators (EFP’s) to the battle field.  Though EFP’s were not produced exclusively in Iran, the intellectual knowledge and expert oversight in the production of the explosive devices originated there.

Iran’s involvement has more recently has expanded eastward into Afghanistan. A notable period during the Iranian involvement in post-Saddam Iraq is the summer of 2006, when Israel engaged Hezbollah in response to the abduction of Israeli soldiers patrolling along the Israeli-Lebanese frontier.  The timing of the actions that precipitated the conflict is interesting, to say the least.

In 2006, a crucial year for Iran’s nuclear development, Iran was referred to the U.N. Security Council following the findings of the International Atomic Energy Agency.  Ayatollah Khamenei, Iran’s “Supreme Leader,” then promptly warned the U.S. and the West that any attempts to curb the Islamic Republic’s nuclear ambition would be returned double-fold.  Within two months, Hezbollah began unleashing over one hundred rockets per day towards Israel, joining in the offensive initiated a month before by HAMAS, another Iranian proxy, which had won the Gaza elections earlier that year.

Iran seems to have an insatiable desire for conflict.  The Iranians planned the assassination of the Saudi Ambassador to the U.S. (on U.S. soil), with no regard to potential civilian casualties or collateral damage that would be incurred.  Last week, multiple bombings targeting Israeli diplomats were carried out in Tbilisi (Georgia), New Delhi (India) and Jakarta (Indonesia).  Israel, who is known for having a high-caliber intelligence apparatus, has indicated that the attacks can be traced back to Tehran.

Due to their perception of regional and global affairs, the Iranian government will not — let me state again — will not, abandon their nuclear program on our terms.  In fact, the only way I see Iran ever abandoning their nuclear ambitions is if they were to completely run out of money or if the current regime loses power.   Viable hope of success at any negotiating table relies on all parties sharing similar goals.  What goals do Iran and the U.S., Israel and the greater West share?  Peace?  Maybe, but at what cost, and for what duration?  ‘Live and let live’ hasn’t been the policy of the Iranian regime since it took power in 1979 and, as can be seen from their attacks on Israeli diplomats, Iran is willing to conduct and facilitate attacks within the sovereign territory of any nation, which could add to the quantity of aggrieved parties.

What if Iran’s nuclear goals are strictly peaceful and they just want to use uranium for energy?  Simply stated, the West isn’t willing to allow a nuclear Iran.  Conversely, Iran isn’t going to give up their nuclear program.  There is no common ground.

I still have many friends in uniform and it is they and their families who will bear the greatest burden of this inevitable future I see.  However, it is necessary for the continued existance of Israel, the U.S., and Western society to prevent Iran from a nuclear program, whether that means a small, concerted effort, or large amounts of troops on the ground.

Will Israel, the U.S., or the West allow Iran to “go hot”?

Kenneth Depew | University of St. Thomas (TX) | @DepewK