When Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini returned to Iran from exile in 1979, he
declared immediately that Iran was launching a jihad. Unfortunately for him, too
many tuned out. The latest attacks on Israeli diplomatic missions abroad, which
Israel has accused Iran of perpetrating, remind us once again of the long
history of Iranian perfidity and failure of some to take their words
Then-US president Jimmy Carter, who believed Khomeini was a
moderate, learned the hard way that the sweet smile of a Southern Baptist
preacher would not melt the heart of a Shi’ite leader whose sect feels its place
in Islam and the world has been stolen. Fifty-two US diplomats were
ignominiously taken hostage for 444 days.
Iran has been fighting the “Big
Satan” (America) and the “Little Satan” (Israel) ever since. The bomb attacks in
India, Georgia and Thailand this week were all the work of Iranian agents,
perhaps with assistance from Hezbollah, the extremist Shi’ite militia that
(aside from al-Qaida) is the most destructive terror group in the
Israeli officials say Israel has strong operational and forensic
evidence (and one captured Iranian) to prove Iran’s role in the attacks on
Israelis in India and Georgia and the abortive attack in Thailand. They also say
Israel prevented half a dozen other attacks in recent months, but the scope of
Iran’s terror efforts is not new.
“Iran has been the country that has
been in many ways a kind of central banker for terrorism,” declared US secretary
of state Condoleezza Rice in 2006, stressing how Iran helped fund and train
terror in Lebanon, Iraq, Gaza, the West Bank and Israel. But Rice’s words do not
begin to give the full picture of Iran’s campaign.
Iran and Hezbollah
carried out or were involved in many savage assaults, including:
the US Embassy in Beirut in 1983, killing 60, and again in 1984, killing 24; the
attacks on US Marine peacekeepers and French peacekeepers in 1983, murdering 241
US marines and soldiers along with 58 French paratroopers.
• Aiding the
sophisticated fuel-truck attack on Khobar Towers in eastern Saudi Arabia that
murdered 19 US soldiers.
(The devices were so strong – 20,000 pounds of
TNT – that the explosion was felt in several other Gulf countries.) • The 1992
attack on Israel’s embassy in Argentina in which 29 people were killed and about
300 wounded, and the 1994 attack on the AMIA Jewish center in which 85 died –
the worst terror attack in Argentina’s history.
Like Europe’s Thirty
Years’ War (1618-1638), Iran’s war against the world has already proven very
destructive, and it may yet become even more costly, especially if Iran succeeds
in making its nuclear weapons operational.
The Thirty Years’ War that
consumed Europe was ended by the Treaty of Westphalia.
But the Iran of
the ayatollahs is not interested in a strong peace. Rather, it wants a big piece
– of the planet, particularly the fuel-rich Middle East.
zealots have been using blackmail and terror against their Gulf neighbors for
the last 30 years and there is every reason to believe they will step up their
demands as they produce more long-range missiles and demonstrate a strong naval
presence in the waterways used by oil tankers.
Iran has built and is
developing even further long-range missiles and operational capabilities beyond
the Middle East, into Europe, North America and South America.
strategic cooperation with Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez and others in South
America involves strategic resources such as uranium, weapons and
The hard fact is that Iran is pursuing something that is
not even just a “world war,” but rather what novelist H.G. Wells called a
“war of the worlds” – a war between the people of Earth and invaders from
But the Iranians are not fictional.
religious leaders feel they have the right to re-make this world in their image,
in the mold of their own world view.
IRAN IS really fighting more than
just two satans. The country’s zealots are not just fighting the US and Israel.
They are battling the Sunni community and the entire secular Western world.
Leaders in Sunni countries like Egypt and Saudi Arabia sense this, and they
tacitly supported Israel against Iran-backed Hezbollah and Iran-backed Hamas in
Indeed, the situation under Iran’s current spiritual leader, Ali
Khamenei, and President Mahmoud Ahmadinajad is probably even more extreme than
it was under Khomeini.
Ahmadinajad says it would be worth losing a
significant part of Iran’s population in order to bring about the return of the
Mahdi, Islam’s mythic savior.
Such a leader does not fit into the usual
Western playbook of a rational actor who can be deterred by usual means because
his “rational” and his rationale are not the same as ours. To pretend otherwise
is worse than Jimmy Carter believing Khomeini was moderate.
Iran’s zealots is a big job. Europe’s leaders and US President Barack Obama did
not learn from Jimmy Carter’s experience 30 years ago, preferring to engage
diplomatically or engage economically with slow-acting containment measures as
Iranian fires rage.
Obama and some European foreign ministers have
actually expended more time and energy on ways to deter Israel from attacking
Iran than they have on policies that would stop Iran’s nuclear program and its
In ancient Rome, Emperor Nero fiddled on the lyre while
Rome burned. One hopes that Western leaders aren’t being lulled by the sound of
their own music.Dr. Michael Widlanski is the author of
Battle for Our
Minds: Western Elites and the Terror Threat, to be published in March by Simon
& Schuster/ Threshold.