The Implications of a Nuclear Iran

, March 25, 2007

Vol. 6, No. 26     March 25, 2007

  • Iranian President Ahmadinejad belongs to a school of thought which believes that the return of the Shiite messiah – the Mahdi – is supposed to happen very soon. Ahmadinejad believes he has a divine role in making this arrival concrete in our lifetime, maybe even within a few years.
  • Iran’s aspiration is to build a Shiite- or Iran-dominated belt from Afghanistan to the Mediterranean. Iran is meddling in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Lebanon. In addition, Iran has its eye on the oil wealth of the Persian Gulf, and the Gulf states are scared.
  • Tehran pays 100 percent of the Islamic Jihad budget and gives a bonus for every Israeli murdered. In addition, through Hizbullah Iran pays the Al Aqsa Brigade, which belongs to Fatah in name only.
  • Iran imports 40 percent of its consumption of refined oil products. An embargo on gasoline could create a very serious problem for the regime. In addition, Iran is dependent on the flow of money and credit from Europe, which could be severed.
  • While Israel may be the first victim on Iran’s list, it won’t be the last. The ideology of the Iranian regime despises the entire culture which Europe and Israel share.
  • The Iranian people would prefer a different regime, but they do not see a glimmer of support from outside. The international community is evasive and aversive to confrontation with the regime. The people see that the Western democracies prefer to court the regime rather than confront it.
 

Ahmadinejad’s Messianic Challenge

Iranian President Ahmadinejad belongs to a school of thought which believes that the return of the Shiite messiah, the Vanished Imam or the Mahdi, is supposed to happen very soon. More than that, Ahmadinejad believes he has a divine role in making this arrival concrete in our lifetime, maybe even within a few years. His faith and convictions say that the messiah, the Mahdi, will come back only if there is a sort of Armageddon, a doomsday or a major global calamity, as a result of which the Shiites will govern the entire globe.

When he was mayor of Tehran, Ahmadinejad paved a broad boulevard in the city for the Mahdi to drive on. He is making concrete preparations because he is serious. His actions and declarations are a result of his messianic beliefs, and the elimination of the Jewish state is an indispensable part of the doomsday which must precede the arrival of the Mahdi. More than that, Ahmadinajad says the Mahdi actually advised him to run for president and made his election possible.

Iran considers itself to be a rising global power – not just a regional power. Ahmadinejad has said: “We are the rising sun and the United States is the setting sun.”

Iran’s concrete aspiration is to build a Shiite- or Iran-dominated belt from Afghanistan to the Mediterranean. Iran is already meddling in Afghanistan, and succeeded in taking advantage of the collapse of Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq in order to build a Shiite state in the south, which very clearly is under direct Iranian influence. Iran has infiltrated and captured several key positions in the central government of Baghdad, and thus has a growing influence there. Iran is also involved in the Kurdish areas of northern Iraq to discourage a Kurdish national movement there and in Iran. It has succeeded in building a strategic alliance with Syria. The last step to enable Iran to reach the Mediterranean is Lebanon. A third of the Lebanese are Shiites, and Iran is trying to take over the Lebanese government by using the political power of the Shiites in Lebanon.

Another direction of expanding Iranian influence is in the Persian Gulf. Iran is very active in Bahrain, which is 70 percent Shiite, seeking to actively undermine the government there. Most of Iran’s naval exercises simulate the takeover of the Strait of Hormuz where most of the world’s oil flows. Iran has its eye on the oil wealth of the Persian Gulf, and the Gulf states are scared. Iran wants to overthrow all the reasonable, moderate Arab regimes. If it succeeds, it will have the power to stifle the flow of oil to the world.

 

Iran’s Palestinian Connection

The Palestinian organization most active now is Islamic Jihad, which every day violates the ceasefire by launching rockets at Israel, and which plans suicide bombings inside Israel. Tehran pays 100 percent of the Islamic Jihad budget and gives a bonus for every Israeli murdered. Iran is the only member of the United Nations that pays a bonus for killing civilians.

In second place for Iranian-subsidized terrorist activity is the military wing of Fatah – the Al Aqsa Brigade – which belongs to Fatah in name only because it has been bought by Hizbullah, which is an arm of Iran. Hizbullah pays the Al Aqsa Brigade, but the orders and money come from Tehran – the tireless spoiler of Israeli-Palestinian rapprochement.

Finally there is Hamas, now heading a democratically-elected Muslim Brotherhood government. Iran has promised Hamas $250 million to buy arms and pay those who use them. The weapons come from Sudan and enter Gaza through Sinai.

 

The Long Arm of Iranian Terrorism

The long arm of Iranian terrorism has not only reached Israel, but was also responsible for the bombing of the Israeli embassy and of the Jewish community center in Buenos Aires. To illustrate the reach of Iran, in the early 1990s, a United States destroyer launched a ship-to-air missile that accidentally shot down a civilian Iranian airliner with 120 innocent casualties. Years later, the wife of the commander of the ship was assassinated in a shopping mall in Los Angeles by a bomb put under her car. Iran found her on the West Coast of the United States.

Iran has a gruesome record on human rights. In addition to suppression of the press, no opposition candidate can run for election, and terrible punishments are meted out in their religious courts, such as amputations and death by stoning.

Now imagine that this regime, this powerhouse of terrorism – with the ambition of expansion and domination over the entire region, if not beyond – would achieve the power of nuclear blackmail. How would life in this region look, not only to Israel but to other countries as well? That is why we believe everything should be done to prevent this.

 

What Can Be Done?

More can be done with regard to sanctions against Iran. Iran imports 40 percent of its consumption of refined oil products, especially gasoline for cars. An embargo on gasoline could create a very serious problem for the regime. In addition, Iran is dependent on the flow of money and credit from Europe, which could be severed. These are two ideas which could make a difference. Is there a shipping company in the world that would consider it worthwhile to bring gasoline to Iranian ports and then not be able to enter any U.S. seaport?

While Israel may be the first victim on Iran’s list, it won’t be the last. The ideology of the Iranian regime despises the entire culture which Europe and Israel share.

The Iranian people are dissatisfied and would prefer a different regime, but they do not see a glimmer of support from outside. The international community is evasive and aversive to confrontation with the regime. The people see that the Western democracies prefer to court the regime rather than confront it.

The Iranian people have not been seriously encouraged to take their fate in their own hands, as was the case in Ukraine. The previous ruler of Ukraine was far less dangerous to the world than Ahmadinejad. He did not produce nuclear weapons or send terrorists to other countries, but there was a very clear message from the Western democracies to the Ukrainian people that if they removed him they would have Western backing. The Iranian people do not hear such a message. The Iranian people will decide when and how to change the regime, and this cannot be imposed from outside.

 

After the War in Lebanon

The war in Lebanon was not a smashing victory for the IDF, but we succeeded in changing the reality in southern Lebanon. For the first time in thirty years the Lebanese army is on every inch of Lebanese territory, re-enforced by an effective international force, the new UNIFIL, which is different from the old UNIFIL.

The Lebanese people now understand what happens when other countries turn its territory into a springboard against Israel. There is not a single Arab leader who wants his capital to look like south Beirut after its treatment by the Israeli air force. This is a deterrent.

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Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Ephraim Sneh was first appointed Deputy Minister of Defense in 1999 and was reappointed in 2006. This Jerusalem Issue Briefis based on his presentation at the Institute for Contemporary Affairs in Jerusalem on January 15, 2007.

Dr. Ephraim Sneh

Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Ephraim Sneh served as Israel's deputy minister of defense. He is currently the chairman of S. Daniel Abraham Center for Strategic Dialogue at the Netanya Academic College.