Tikkun Olam: the Hebrew phrase for repairing a broken world and making it a better place.
Some analysts argue that Iran’s new president will bring a positive change, and moderation, to Tehran. But this is not a time for such complacency. Instead, it is a time to recognize that a nuclear-armed Iran would make an already-broken world a much more dangerous place. And we must take action now to prevent this from happening.
To understand why a nuclear-armed Iran would be so dangerous, it is important to understand the ideology of the regime. The guiding theory of the 1979 Islamic Revolution, led by the Ayatollah Khomeini, is a concept that he called “velayat-e faqih” (the rule of the jurisprudent). Khomeini believed that a Muslim nation must be ruled by a religious cleric who is the only legitimate authority on interpreting Islamic law.
Yet, Khomeini also believed that the Islamic Revolution should not be limited just to the borders of Iran. Rather, he saw it as the duty of Iran to “export” its ideology abroad.
In a 1979 speech, Khomeini said, “We shall export our revolution to the whole world. Until the cry ‘There is no god but Allah’ resounds over the whole world, there will be struggle.”
This mission to export the regime’s violent ideology explains its support for terrorists groups. It is what makes the regime so dangerous, even without nuclear weapons.
Take for example the Lebanese organization, Hezbollah, created by Iran in the early 1980’s. Even the short list of Hezbollah acts of terror is stunning. Hezbollah carried out the 1994 attack on the Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, assassinated former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in 2005, and fired 4,000 Iranian rockets into northern Israel in the summer of 2006.
In July 2012, Hezbollah operatives attacked a bus filled with Israeli tourists in Bulgaria, killing six people.
Recently, we have seen Hezbollah fighters, together with Iran, provide massive support for the regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria, which has slaughtered more than 100,000 civilians while an indifferent world watches in silence.
In response to the newest reports of the use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime, Ari Shavit wrote in Haaretz, “If civilians can be gassed to death in 2013, we face the end of the world that purports to be moral and enlightened.”
Adding a nuclear weapon to this equation would make things so much more dangerous. As Reza Kahlili, a former member of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, wrote, “The radicals ruling Iran have long believed that obtaining the nuclear bomb will make them untouchable and will facilitate the expansion of the Islamic movement in the region and the world in bringing the West to its knees.”
U.S. Congressman Brad Sherman of California warned of a nuclear-armed Iran, saying “…you already have terrorism from Iran. Now imagine terrorism with impunity”.
It is important to remember that the people of Iran are not the problem: in fact, they are the primary victims of this brutal regime. According to the February report of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran, “…there continue to be widespread systemic and systematic violations of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran.”
The report expressed concern about “the widespread use of torture” by Iranian authorities. The regime is also notorious for the horrific practice of public hangings from building cranes: 58 of them in 2012.
Short of a military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities that everyone hopes to avoid, what non-military actions can we support to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons?
Over the past five years, the non-partisan advocacy group that I am a part of, United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI), has been warning of the dangers of a nuclear-armed Iran, and working to prevent this nightmare. Through its campaigns, UANI has pressured dozens of major multinational companies to end their business in Iran, thereby providing more leverage for the diplomatic efforts to reach a negotiated solution.
As the nuclear clock ticks, we want to pressure more companies to leave Iran, and force the regime to choose between having a nuclear weapon and having a functioning economy.
It is time to understand that there is an inextricable link between the human rights situation in Iran and the threat Iran already poses to world peace. A regime that murders its own children will not hesitate to murder the children of other countries. We see this in Iran’s support for terrorist organizations, and in the massive support provided by Iran and Hezbollah to the regime of Bashar al-Assad. A nuclear-armed Iran would feel emboldened to do even worse.
Supporting peace is a supreme act of Tikkun Olam. But as Eleanor Roosevelt reminded us, “It isn’t enough to talk about peace. One must believe in it. And it isn’t enough to believe in it. One must work at it.”
That is why working to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran is indeed an act of Tikkun Olam.
Bob Feferman is Outreach Coordinator for the non-partisan advocacy group, United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI).