Iran: The Real Problem

While Daily articles in the past few weeks have addressed Israeli and Palestinian issues, and in particular, what we as Stanford students can do to help resolve the conflict, none have dealt with the primary obstacle to Palestinian statehood. Columns about the tragedies of the conflict have ignored Iran’s efforts to perpetuate it. If Stanford student groups like SCAI intend to improve the Palestinian situation, they ought to stop demonizing Israel for its counter-terrorism measures, and start drawing attention to the Iranian regime that funds the very terrorists whose actions make peace impossible. The Iranian threat has now reached a point where, if it remains unchecked, the foundations of fanaticism will be permanently secured, and peace will cease to be a possibility.

The Islamic Republic of Iran has been funding terrorist organizations since the early 1990’s in order to undermine the authority of western nations and assert itself as a superpower. President Ahmadinejad has brought this fanaticism to new heights. He has publicly denied the Holocaust, called for the destruction of Israel, and supported terrorist organizations. In 2006 alone, Ahmadinejad’s government funneled $120 million to fund Hamas. American intelligence recently suggested that Iran is funding insurgents in Iraq and contributing to civil war in the region.

Iran has also been fomenting conflict on the Lebanese border. Hezbollah, which receives up to $100 million a year from Iran, uprooted Southern Lebanon, constructed training and firing grounds, accumulated Iranian-made rockets and munitions, and was even trained by Iranian militia. The world witnessed the consequences of these actions when Hezbollah provoked a war this summer that claimed the lives of many Lebanese and Israeli civilians.

Iran continues to radicalize Southern Lebanon, as the Lebanese government has reported to the U.N. in despair, by providing Hezbollah with rockets and other weapons despite a U.N. Security-Council approved arms embargo against Hezbollah. Iran has rendered the democratic government of Lebanon toothless, its leaders too fearful of an Iranian backlash against Lebanese cooperation with Israel or the West, and too impotent to confront a growing army in Hezbollah.

Why doesn’t Ahmadinejad respond to the appeals against terrorism like those of Mahmoud Abbas, who has complained to foreign nations about Iran’s intervention in internal Palestinian affairs, and who has sent aides to press Hezbollah to stop providing funds to Palestinian terrorist groups? Why doesn’t he invest this money, instead, in building a successful Palestinian society, or restoring the lives of the Southern Lebanese?

The angry jihadist who straps himself with an Iranian bomb or holds Lebanese civilians hostage in the same room as Iranian Katyusha rockets is led to believe that Iran is the great benefactor of the Arab world, providing the stateless with arms and the families of martyrs with food. Yet what the terrorist doesn’t know is that Ahmadinejad does not want Palestinian statehood, and is funding terrorism to render a Palestinian state in the region impossible.

Ahmadinejad believes in a particular sect of Shi’ism that preaches the dawn of Muslim world domination after the apocalypse. By funding terrorists, he strengthens the hand of fundamentalists who undermine the reconciliation of the Arab-Israeli conflict and he catalyzes his vision of a standoff between the East and the West. Although suicide bombers may not know it, they are sacrificing their own people’s livelihood to fuel the dream of a lunatic.

Ahmadinejad does not consider Palestinian statelessness a cost of apocalypse, but rather an end in itself, because he is a racial elitist. Not only is he deeply anti-Semitic and anti-Western, but he is also anti-Arab in that he believes Iranians are ethnically superior to all Arab nations. Iran seeks to restore itself as the regional hegemon, and understands that a radical Islamic nation can only dominate in a region whose nations are radicalized and lack stability.

Along these lines, Iran has put pressure on Lebanon and Egypt, two moderate Arab governments that have, after a half-century of painstaking wars and compromises, recognized Israel’s sovereignty as a nation, to renounce their claims. In October 2005, he said, “Any state that recognizes Israel will burn in the fire of the Islamic nation’s fury.”

Arab governments have fortunately understood that Iran is a threat to their national autonomy, as well as to regional and international stability. Iran’s development of a nuclear bomb would, however, completely reshape the political environment and require, not simply coerce, Arab governments to radicalize.

Even if Iran were not to use a nuclear weapon, Arab fundamentalists would be empowered to use unprecedented measures. What would terrorists be willing to do knowing they have the support of a nuclearized nation? What would prevent these weapons from slipping into their hands, just as missiles are slipping past a U.N. arms embargo with ease? What would an apocalyptic government be willing to do? Would Ahmadinejad refrain from using a bomb for fear of retaliation? What other nations would seek a nuclear weapon?

Iran’s quest for nuclear weapons has already sparked Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates to make statements signaling they are exploring nuclear programs of their own. Iran is the player responsible for igniting Arab radicalization and proliferation on a growing scale.

It is imperative that those of us on campus who seek the longevity of the Palestinian people or hope for peace in the Middle East understand that fundamentalism is the biggest threat to dreams of peace. It is imperative for those who doubt Israel to see that Israel is a democracy built on fairness, pushed to radical measures by its fanatic neighbors. It is imperative that Arab nations work with Israel to put out the fire growing in Iran and in the hearts of the irrational, for the sake of peace.

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