LONDON, April 17 (UPI) -- Back in January as the heat went up in the confrontation of the world and Iranian regime over its clandestine nuclear program we heard the Iranian regime's repeated threat to close the Strait of Hormuz.
This reminded me of a provocative incident between the Iranian regime's speedboats and the U.S. Navy in this strategically important shipping lane back in 2008. At that time, I wrote an opinion article in the Navy Times arguing that, to any experienced naval officer, the actions of the Iranian boats were at best extremely provocative; at worst, they may have had some quite sinister undertones, with the Iranian regime testing the waters for further bullying.
Fortunately the West didn't budge and Iran was forced to come back to the tables.
Now that Istanbul talks proved to be another attempt by Iran to buy time for its nuclear program, other options must be explored more vigorously.
The Iranian mullahs have been responsible for more than 450 terrorist operations and the terrorism of the regime has been a two-pronged activity that has targeted Iranian dissidents and human rights activists as well as Westerners and foreign nationals.
Former FBI Director Louis Freeh, at a conference in Paris on Jan. 6, said that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps was responsible for, among other things, the murder of 19 U.S. airmen at Khobar Towers in June of 1996, a Hezbollah operation conducted with the funding, guidance and planning of the IRGC's Quds force which is the external terrorist arm of the administration.
Moreover, let us not forget the Iranian regime's assistance to the Syrian dictator's crackdown on anti-regime protests in that country and terrorist activities in Iraq and all throughout the region has shown once again that the Iranian regime is the central banker of International terrorism and the main obstacle in the way of a peaceful settlement in the Middle East.
The record of the senior military officers in the Iranian navy shows that they are highly incompetent and often exaggerate their capabilities. Iranian navy maneuvers near the Strait of Hormuz at the end of last year and the beginning of the year was a clear proof.
There are two navy forces in Iran, the Islamic Republic of Iran Navy, also known as the Iranian navy, is the naval warfare service branch of Iran's armed forces. And then there is IRGC navy, which the naval branch of the IRGC, much better founded than IRIN and under direct command of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.
Consequently, its "military strength" is constituted of asymmetric warfare and violence through proxies and terrorist groups. This is exactly the tactic that is being used by the IRGC's Quds Force tasked with exporting the "Islamic revolution" to Iraq, masterminding attacks on coalition forces until they were driven out and now concentrate on attacks on democratic and nationalist Iraqis to project Iranian power and influence in the neighboring country.
A measure to this end is the Iranian regime's pressure on the Iraqi government to close Camp Ashraf, home to 3400 members of the Iranian opposition group the People's Mujahedin of Iran) in Iraq. The participation of the IRGC's Quds Force in the aggression against the defenseless residents in Camp Ashraf is well-documented and is perhaps the best sign of the regime's inherent internal weakness in that it cannot even tolerate 3,400 defenseless dissidents close to its border.
The sham re-election of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the summer of 2009 sparked a popular unrest that left the Iranian regime on the verge of collapse.
The regime's officials have repeatedly admitted that the PMOI played a major role in these popular uprisings.
The PMOI, a member of the broader coalition National Council of Resistance of Iran also revealed the first Iranian enrichment site at Natanz in an August 2002 news conference in Washington. In addition they drew attention to the Fordow site, near Qom, in a December 2005 news conference long before Western intelligence revealed the secret in September 2009.
The Iranian regime began enrichment operations to 20 percent at this site, hidden deep in a mountain, bringing condemnation from the United States, United Kingdom, France and United Nations they called the decision a troubling step contrary to its obligations under multiple international resolutions by the United Nations and the International Atomic Energy Agency.
In April 2006, the former commander of the IRGC, Maj. Gen. Yahya Rahim Safavi, described the Strait of Hormuz as "the economic lifeline" of the West and said it could be used to "put pressure on Iran's enemies." Today this threat has become a reality.
The U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, U.S. Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, in an interview aired on the CBS program "Face the Nation," said, "They [Iran] have invested in capabilities that could, in fact, for a period of time block the Strait of Hormuz."
U.S. President Barack Obama's top military adviser, Dempsey added should Iran try to close Hormuz, the United States "would take action and reopen" the waterway.
The remarks highlight that U.S. and EU sanctions against the Iranian central bank and its oil sector should have come sooner such as when the Iranian regime tested the waters for future attacks back in 2008.
Instead, the Iranian regime has used the oil money and the time to mobilize and arm its forces with the latest weaponry pursuing cutting-edge missile technology. This is in reality the unfortunate byproduct of failed diplomacy and appeasement increasing the chances of a military confrontation between the West and Iran in the Persian Gulf; a war that nobody desires and is hardly believed to be able to solve the ultimate issue of stopping Iran's clandestine nuclear program.
When we note that the theocracy in Teheran lives off the possibility of a war with the West, using it to garner support which it would otherwise not have, and more importantly using it as a pretext to further suppress the population thus reducing the chances for popular protests for democracy and freedom to escalate, the question remains as to what can be done to stop Iran's nuclear drive and its hegemonic goals in the region. There is a clear option; a democratic change from within.
One of the major issues facing the international community during the Arab Spring has been the lack of reliable and organized opposition to compliment and channel the popular dismay against dictatorial rulers.
In Iran this catalysis exist already; the international community has only to unleash it by removing the obstacles that were put in their path as a consequence of the failed policy of appeasement.
So instead of another military conflict in the region the West should support the third way, the path to a democratic, free, secular and non-nuclear Iran as pronounced by NCRI President Maryam Rajavi in 2004 in European Parliament; no appeasement, no war, support for a democratic change in Iran by the people and their organized resistance movement. Time to listen to this wise advice has clearly arrived; no more of it must be wasted.
(Lt. Cmdr. Esmaeil Abnar is a retired Iranian navy officer who served for 18 years in the Shat al-Arab waterway prior to 1979. Abnar was born near the Shat al-Arab in the port city of Abadan in Khuzestan province.)
(United Press International's "Outside View" commentaries are written by outside contributors who specialize in a variety of important issues. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of United Press International. In the interests of creating an open forum, original submissions are invited.)