Monday, November 23, 2015

Don't forget Iran - Prof. Eyal Zisser

by Prof. Eyal Zisser

It is an unfortunate twist of fate that the world is ignoring the threat posed by Iran for the sake of fighting the lesser Islamic State threat.

The Paris terrorist attacks sparked unprecedented shock around the world. A global mobilization effort is underway, with the goal being to crush the head of the Islamic State snake and prevent the group from carrying out further attacks.

But we must not forget the terrorist attacks conducted by Iran and Hezbollah in recent decades. These attacks have claimed far more victims (including American, French and Israeli nationals) than Islamic State attacks have. Just two decades ago, Iran, with the help of Hezbollah, blew up the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association (AMIA) building in Buenos Aires, killing 85 people. Two years prior to that attack, 29 people were killed when the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires was bombed. And a decade earlier, nearly 300 U.S. and French soldiers were killed in simultaneous suicide truck bombings in Beirut. 

According to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's way of thinking, there was logic behind some of these attacks. But even Kerry would admit the bombing of the AMIA building in Buenos Aires was a terrorist attack in every sense of the term, except for the fact that the intended victims were Jews. 

Since then, Iran has changed its terrorist tactics -- it now specifically targets Israelis. The most recent Iran-Hezbollah attack was the July 2012 Burgas airport bombing, in which five Israeli tourists and a Bulgarian bus driver were killed. 

Yet since the signing of the nuclear deal this past summer, the world has viewed Iran as a legitimate player with an important role to play in efforts to solve the problems of the Middle East -- first and foremost, the Syrian civil war. A solution involving Iran could see Syrian Bashar Assad stay in power, despite the fact he killed thousands of his own people with chemical weapons.

Since Assad is a rational man who understands his interests and therefore does not order attacks around the world, the international community appears to have no problem letting him continue to kill his own people, as long as this helps anti-Islamic State efforts gain momentum. 

But Iran's growing international legitimacy is an incomprehensible phenomenon. Iran has missiles that can reach most of Europe and a nuclear-armed Iran would pose a far greater threat to international security than Islamic State. 

The Iranian regime works to promote its own interests. In recent years, reformist voices in Iran have called for a change of direction. A majority of the Iranian public does not identify with the regime's radical policies. Nevertheless, the bottom line is that the hard-line camp led by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the Revolutionary Guard set the tone in Iran.

What is the difference between Islamic State propaganda videos and the chants of "Death to America" and "Death to Israel" on the streets of Tehran? Is there a difference between an Islamic State terrorist and a terrorist backed by Iran and Hezbollah? The difference is largely tactical. It is easier to deter Iran, as it has a wider range of interests than Islamic State. But the threat posed by Iran to Israel, for example, is no less than that posed by Islamic State.

In fact, Iran is more dangerous. It is an unfortunate twist of fate that the world is ignoring the threat posed by Iran for the sake of fighting a lesser threat.

Prof. Eyal Zisser


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

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