Iran’s war on the world

The ayatollahs are not interested in a strong peace, but a big piece – of the planet, particularly the fuel-rich Middle East.

Argentina bombing of Israeli embassy 311 (R) (photo credit: Reuters)
Argentina bombing of Israeli embassy 311 (R)
(photo credit: Reuters)
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 seriously.
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 world.
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:
• Destroying 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.
Iran’s religious 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.
Its strategic cooperation with Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez and others in South America involves strategic resources such as uranium, weapons and intelligence.
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 another world.
But the Iranians are not fictional.
Iranian 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 2006.
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.
Beating 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 terror plans.
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.