Iran is at the center of the emerging war between the terrorist organizations Hezbollah and Hamas against Israel. Far from being a typical or recurrent Middle East crisis, this shooting war risks the future of Israel’s survival as a nation, as well as the security of a continuing U.S. presence in the region. Through its dual surrogate terrorist organizations of Hezbollah and Hamas, Iran has begun its war to destroy Israel and to remove the U.S. from the Middle East.
As I noted in writing ”Atomic Iran,” Hezbollah traces its roots to Najaf in Iraq. Najaf is an important site for Shiite Islam. Here is buried the Imam Ali, whom Shi’ites consider the first convert of Muhammad and the rightful successor to the Prophet. Ayatollah Muhammed Hussein Fadlallah, the spiritual leader of Hezbollah, studied in Najaf when he was in exile from Lebanon. There he met Ayatollah Khomeini, who was also in exile, from the Shahs Iran. Even today, Iran continues to fund Hezbollah, to the tune of some $250 million a year.
There are conflicting reports as to whether a drone equipped with a bomb or a C-802 cruise missile hit the Israeli missile ship off the coast of Lebanon. Either way, the evidence points to Iran. The C-802 cruise missile is today an Iranian-made weapon, built on the design of Chinese cruise missiles that Iran bought from China during the Clinton administration. Beginning in December 2005, Iran launched a series of war games in an attempt to demonstrate the country’s military prowess, signaling to the world a willingness to resist military steps that might be taken against the nation’s nuclear program. In March and April 2006, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard carried out their own military exercises, demonstrating their experimentation with several Iranian-improvised weapons, including drone-type devices similar to those the first reports attributed to damaging the Israeli missile ship. Iran has reportedly supplied Hezbollah with long-range missiles.
Hezbollah’s use of what amounts to ”signature” Iranian weapons provides additional evidence that Iranian Revolutionary Guard members remain on-site in Lebanon to provide Hezbollah technical weapons assistance.
Hamas is a Sunni organization that owes its origin to the Muslim Brotherhood formed in Egypt in the 1920s. With the fall of Saddam Hussein, one of the primary financial backers of the Palestinian movement, Tehran stepped in to provide Hamas funding that would no longer be coming from Iraq. Then, in January 2006, after Hamas won the recent Palestinian Authority parliamentary elections, Iran stepped in to provide funding when international organizations and the U.S. and Israel balked at providing funding to an admitted terrorist organization committed to the destruction of Israel.
From the 1950s, until Anwar Sadat experienced a change of heart and decided that Islam could co-exist with the Jewish state, Egypt had led the war to wipe Israel off the map of the Middle East. Now Iran has taken up that mission. President Ahmadinejad, since his election in June 2005, has engaged in a rabid anti-Semitic rhetoric unheard from a head of state since the days of Adolph Hitler.
Now, with Israel surrounded by Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in control of the Palestinian Authority, and with the ultra-conservative clerics backing Ahmadinejad in Iran, we may just have reached an historic moment where a war could seriously threaten the ability of Israel to survive. The threat grows more severe each day, as Iran continues to make progress enriching uranium, undeterred from developing a nuclear weapon that could be delivered by the Shahab-3 missile.
Hezbollah and Hamas today have to be seen as proxy terrorist organizations for the terror masters in Tehran. The current crisis was precipitated by an increasing intensity of rocket attacks on Israel by Hezbollah and Hamas. The timing was almost too convenient not to suspect that Tehran wanted to take the focus off the nuclear program, especially after Iran missed the July 12 deadline taken by the ”Five +1” nations (the permanent members of the Security Council, plus Germany) to accept the U.N.-offered incentive package to resume the Iranian self-imposed moratorium on uranium enrichment.
As long as this current radical regime remains in power in Iran, we are assured of continuing anti-Israel, anti-U.S. terrorism coming from Tehran. Ahmadinejad has openly declared that his mission is to engage in a second Iranian revolution, completing the work begun in 1979 by Ayatollah Khomeini. A great deal of the ”insurgency” we are experiencing in Iraq is a direct result of terrorists sent across the border by Iran in an attempt to fulminate a Sunni versus Shiite civil war that might just derail once and for all the democracy process the U.S. has pursued since forcefully removing Saddam Hussein from power.
Now, Iran and Syria have formed a mutual security defense pact which binds Syria even more firmly to Iran as a client state. Syria has yet to abandon the ambition to control Lebanon through an expanding Hezbollah that is showing increasing strength as a force within the government of Lebanon.
Simply put, the major source of trouble in the Middle East remains Iran. The success Israel has dealing with Hezbollah’s current aggression against Israel will determine not only the future security of Israel, but also the future of the U.S. presence in the Middle East. If we could remove the current Iranian regime through peaceful change, there would be no more Hezbollah and no more Hamas to sow terrorism and violence throughout the region and the world. Iran supports Syria financially, relying on Damascus to manage Hezbollah in Iran and to assist in sending terrorists into Iraq.
The Middle East will remain in turmoil as long as the current Iranian regime remains in power. Ahmadinejad and the ultra-conservatives who back him will continue to push to develop nuclear weapons and we have no reason today to expect U.N. sanctions will exert any meaningful pressure to the contrary. Iran continues to swear ”Death to Israel” and ”Death to America,” even after Egypt, Jordan, and even Saudi Arabia have largely reconciled to live with Israel in the Middle East and with a continued U.S. presence in the region.
This is not a war Israel has started, but if the war continues to expand, we can expect the conflict to end up as a war not against Hezbollah, but as a war with Iran. The world has never had a more urgent moment than now to unite diplomatically to control and contain Iran.
This is a message President Bush must hear. The true enemy of Israel and the U.S. today is not Hezbollah, Hamas, or Syria – the true enemy has been and will continue to be Iran, as long as the Islamic Republic of Iran remains the regime in Tehran.
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