Book Review: Dean George

Indianapolis Star.

Dec. 12, 2005

Writer drops bombshells about Iran's shell game

Investigative reporter Kenneth Timmerman has been mulling over Iranian mullahs for more than two decades while covering the Byzantine world of Middle Eastern politics, terrorism and weapons proliferation. In "Countdown to Crisis: The Coming Nuclear Showdown with Iran," he produces the first-ever inside account of Iran's clandestine nuclear program.

Utilizing contacts with dozens of Iranian defectors and officials, previously classified documents, and high-level sources throughout the government and intelligence community, The New York Times best-selling author pulls the Persian rug out from the Iranian clerics who have been mobilizing to kill during four U.S. presidential administrations. Readers alarmed by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's recent call for the annihilation of Israel will take no comfort in Timmerman's electrifying book.

"The training starts at the earliest age. For the past twenty years we have marched over the American flag," Timmerman reports a former Revolutionary Guards colonel saying in 2004. "Every meeting starts by saying, 'Death to America' and 'Death to Israel.' It's not hidden. For twenty years this has been the policy of Iran."

Is it any wonder why even the Europeans are skeptical about Iran's insistence that its pursuit of uranium enrichment is solely for electricity?

Impressively detailed yet easy to understand, Timmerman blows the lid off the Iranian shell game, exposing the real probability that one of the three countries named in President Bush's axis of evil already has enough enriched material for 25 to 30 bombs. Throughout "Countdown," Timmerman drops one bombshell after another, including:

• Dramatic new evidence that Iran orchestrated the 1996 downing of TWA Flight 800 -- and that then-White House counterterrorism adviser Richard Clarke instructed the intelligence community to "back off" theories of foreign terrorist involvement because it would discredit his earlier analysis.

• Stunning new evidence of Iran's culpability in the 9/11 plot, including documents the CIA tried to withhold from the 9/11 commission because they had bungled so many earlier warnings involving al-Qaida.

• President Bill Clinton's attempt to burnish his legacy by renewing diplomatic relations with Iran and releasing their assets -- while his Treasury Department destroyed hundreds of files involving those same assets because Treasury officials testified to our own government they didn't exist.

Timmerman blows away two decades of misperceptions about state-sponsored terrorism and the U.S. intelligence community's feckless denials and deceptions. His insightful reporting provides a fascinating historical perspective on the rise of Islamo-fascism (October 1983 with the bombing of 241 U.S. Marines stationed in Beirut); the unholy alliances Iran made with North Korea, Russia, China and the infamous A.Q. Khan in efforts to build its nuclear arsenal; what its end game is and how close it is to achieving that.

"Because of significant gaps in our knowledge, the U.S. is unlikely to know whether Iran possesses nuclear weapons until after the fact," Timmerman quotes from a 1998 Washington report.

Eight years later the Iranians are playing cat-and-mouse with the International Atomic Energy Agency, spin the bottle with an assortment of terrorist groups, a game of nuclear chicken with the Israelis, and pin-the-nuclear-tipped-tail-on-the-American-donkey. In his appendix Timmerman includes 50 pages of previously classified documents and photos, many never before published, proving Iran's support of the insurgents in Iraq and Iran's nuclear intentions.

So what are we doing in Iraq if Iran is the real threat to American security? "The failure to strike back against Iran and Syria in 1983 was a dreadful mistake," Marine Col. Timothy J. Geraghty told Timmerman while discussing the 1983 Beirut bombing. "This was an act of war, and because we didn't respond, we emboldened these people to increase the violence.

"The (Bush) administration is now doing exactly what we need to be doing, attacking the enemies of freedom where they live instead of letting them attack us in our homes."