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October 31, 2019 6:25 am

Underestimating Iran’s Threats to Israel and the Wider Middle East

avatar by Bob Feferman

Opinion

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani shakes hands with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan in Tehran, Iran, October 13, 2019. Photo: Official Presidential website/Handout via REUTERS.

After the Iran nuclear deal was completed in 2015, the American news media significantly decreased its coverage of all things related to Iran. As a result, some Americans may have jumped to the conclusion that the nuclear deal solved all of our problems with the Islamic republic.

Unfortunately, with few exceptions, most pundits in the news media highly underestimate the threat to peace in the Middle East, and American allies such as Israel, from Iran and its proxies.

On October 25, Israeli newspapers ran headlines quoting Israeli army Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi, who said, “On both the northern and southern fronts, the situation is tense and fragile, and could deteriorate into a confrontation.”

There was little mention of this development in the American media.  Yet the problem goes much deeper.

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Last year, CNN’s Fareed Zakaria hosted Elliott Abrams, former Undersecretary of Defense, on his Sunday morning talk show, The Global Public Square. In a discussion about Iran, Abrams pointed out, “Their hatred of Israel does seems to be irrational.” Zakaria instinctively responded, “I would argue that’s actually a clever public relations ploy of trying to win some Arab mass support. They don’t do very much about it.”

The facts tell a much different story. Iranian leaders are indeed obsessed with the destruction of Israel, and they dedicate unlimited resources to this end.

On September 30, Major General Hossein Salami, commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) said, “We have managed to obtain the capacity to destroy the imposter Zionist regime. This sinister regime must be wiped off the map and this is no longer … a dream (but) it is an achievable goal.”

And Iran’s obsession with the destruction of Israel has had deadly repercussions, not only for Israelis but for the people of the Middle East. The tragedy of Syria is a prime example.

Since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war in 2011, the world has largely ignored Iran’s central role in the Syrian tragedy. Today, there are more than half a million dead Syrian civilians and more than six million refugees for three reasons: Iran, its loyal proxy Hezbollah, and Russia.

Iran provided the brutal regime of Bashar al-Assad with massive financial support and an endless supply of ammunition and weapons. With the help of Hezbollah, Iran has recruited, trained, and deployed thousands of foreign fighters to Syria from Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan.

Over the past several years, Iran has been working to build a military infrastructure in Syria, in part to create a platform to launch a future war against Israel. Israel has been pushing back against this effort with hundreds of air strikes against Iranian targets inside Syria.

In a 2018 article in The Atlantic, titled “Iran’s Real Enemy in Syria,” Karim Sadjapour, one of America’s leading experts on the Middle East, addressed the question of Iran’s motivations in Syria. He wrote: “Tehran’s steadfast support for Assad is not driven by the geopolitical or financial interests of the Iranian nation, nor the religious convictions of the Islamic Republic, but by a visceral and seemingly inextinguishable hatred for the State of Israel.”

The implications of his statement are profound: The leaders of Iran helped to destroy one country so that they could pursue the destruction of another country. Iranian leaders are guilty of aiding and abetting the Syrian regime in committing war crimes including the bombing of hospitals and the torture and murder of some 100,000 civilians in Syrian prisons.

And all this was done while an indifferent world remained silent.

Iran’s obsession with the destruction of Israel is also a key factor that explains why there is still no peace between Israelis and Palestinians. After the signing of the 1993 Oslo Accords between Israelis and Palestinians, the government of Iran did everything possible to literally blow up hopes for peace.

Between 1993 and 2008, no less than 168 Palestinian suicide bombers exploded themselves on Israeli buses, in restaurants and shopping malls, and elsewhere. These suicide bombings, and other terror attacks, killed 1,000 civilians and wounded many thousands more.

Although Palestinian terror groups provided the hateful ideology and the suicide bombers, it was the government of Iran that provided some of the means to commit mass murder by providing weapons, funding, and training to Palestinian terror groups, especially Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

Today, Iran continues to provide Hamas and Islamic Jihad with some $100 million dollars a year in financial support, which provides the means for Hamas and Islamic Jihad to manufacture rockets in Gaza. Since the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, terrorists from Hamas and Islamic Jihad have fired more than 10,000 rockets at Israeli civilians, including 3,800 rockets during Operation Protective Edge in the summer of 2014.

None of Iran’s support for Gaza goes to developing civilian infrastructure, only to the infrastructure of terror.

Finally, there is the threat to Israel from Hezbollah, the Lebanese terror organization backed by Iran, that explains the growing tension on Israel’s northern border.

Since the 2006 Lebanon war, Iran has supplied Hezbollah with some 130,000 rockets and missiles. What makes the current situation so explosive is the ongoing efforts of Iran to upgrade the accuracy of this vast arsenal through an initiative called “the precision missile project.”

All of the information mentioned above is readily available to the media, including on the website of United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI). Yet, with few exceptions, leading analysts in the American media have failed to connect the dots that accurately describe Iran’s threats to Israel and the Middle East. The result is an American public that often fails to fully comprehend the horrific human cost of Iran’s deadly activities.

Bob Feferman is Outreach Coordinator for the bipartisan advocacy group United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI).

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