There are some in the West who do not want to see reality.
They hope against hope that a miracle will occur and that the ayatollahs will turn into liberals fighting for democracy and human rights. But there are two compelling reasons as to why this will not happen.
The first is the fanatic ideology of the Shia regime.
The second is the enormous amount of money that has been poured into the nuclear program and into terror operations round the world.
The Iranian regime is based on the legacy of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who launched the Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979, set down its principles and passed them to his successor, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
The two main points of that legacy are first, that the country be ruled by a religious authority (velayat-e faqih, or guardianship of the Islamic jurists), and second, that the Islamic Revolution led by him be permanent. These are the ideological pillars of the Iranian regime. The supreme leader of that religious authority does not have to be the most respected cleric in the land, just an imam, but he is above the elected president and the parliament.
He is assisted by the Council of Guardians which sees to it that the laws of the land are strictly in concordance with Shari’a. By permanent Islamic revolution, Khomeini and his successor meant not only that Iran will forever be ruled by a cleric authority, but that the Iranian model of a Shia regime must be exported first to the countries of the Middle East and then to the United States, a symbol of the decadence of the West and referred to as “the Great Satan.”
The term “permanent revolution” was coined by Leon Trotsky, who wanted to export his ideology to the whole world. He thought that if only Russia was communist, it would not be able to stand alone against an hostile world and would eventually succumb.
Khomeini held similar views regarding the Shia Islamic revolution he was creating in a predominantly Sunni Arab world; this is why he acted already in 1982 to create Hezbollah, which was intended to be his spearhead in the Middle East and on Israel’s northern border.
To establish their regime, the ayatollahs did not launch economic and social reforms to improve the living conditions of the people who had fought to topple the shah. In fact, they established the Guardians of the Revolution, a quasi-military militia fanatically devoted to the leader which was to enforce the Islamic Revolution.
Not only that, they let the Guardians take over large segments of the economy as well as the security apparatus and the intelligence services. Furthermore, during the 1980-88 war with Iraq, the ayatollahs created a new paramilitary organization, the Basijis, which today has an estimated one million members and plays a major role in the survival of the regime.
However, the tool that was to ensure the victory of Iran and strike terror in the hearts of its Sunni neighbors such as Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states, as well as to help export the Islamic Revolution, was the country’s nuclear program. A program which had been started by the shah but was stopped when Khomeini took over, because the West withdrew its support, and because in the beginning Khomeini was not convinced he needed it.
Then came the war with Iraq; Saddam Hussein did not hesitate to use chemical weapons and the Iranians came to the conclusion that they needed nuclear weapons to protect and develop the Islamic Revolution. Iranians opposing the regime made public the existence of atomic plants in 2002. The world discovered that uranium was being enriched in Natanz and plutonium was being produced in Arak.
Both plants had been built under conditions of utmost secrecy – in violation of the Nuclear Non- Proliferation Treaty, of which Iran is a signatory.
It became clear that the country had chosen a nuclear option, and other facilities came to light later. Among them is Parchin, where implosion techniques were allegedly tested. It has been suggested that the Iranian nuclear program is the largest in the world. At the same time, Iran has been developing missiles which can carry nuclear heads as far as Europe, today, and the US in the not so distant future.
Meanwhile, Tehran had been strengthening its ties with Syria, through which it supplies funds and weapons to Hezbollah; that organization has thus become a strategic player in the region and threatens Israel.
It even helps Hamas with money and weapons, missiles included.
Then there are the Iranian terror operations around the world – from the deadly attacks against the Jewish community in Argentina in 1994 to the attempted assassination of the Saudi ambassador to the United States last year.
The combined cost of the nuclear program, the creation of the Revolutionary Guards and the Basiji militia, assistance to Syria, to Hezbollah and to Hamas and financing terror worldwide has reached monstrous proportions. Some say billions of dollars over decades, leaving almost nothing for developing the country in spite of the considerable sums derived from the sale of its oil.
The regime of the ayatollahs, focused on keeping the Islamic Revolution alive and exporting it, cannot give up its nuclear program which has become the cornerstone of its policy.
Deprived of the threat of acquiring nuclear capability, it would lose its influence abroad and would be forced to address the lack of development and of civil liberties, all while explaining to the people why the country’s assets had been squandered in vain. It would mark the beginning of the end for the Islamic Revolution.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu knows very well the situation in Iran and the nature of the regime there, and spoke accordingly to US President Barack Obama and to the UN last week. In spite of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s rhetoric of reconciliation, the regime has no intention of deviating from its fixed goal.
Unfortunately, the West has no stomach for a new confrontation and desperately wants to believe the “moderate” tone adopted by the new Iranian president. Tehran knows it only too well. Hasn’t it been procrastinating for 15 years while pretending to conduct negotiations in good faith? To paraphrase the words of the Prophet Jeremiah: There are none so blind as those who will not see.
The writer, a fellow of The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, is a former ambassador to Romania, Egypt and Sweden.