With the dust having settled from the recent unrest in Lebanon as a new, national-unity government takes office, we need to recognize a very troubling evolution is occurring in the Middle East. There is a disease being spread by Iran.
In 1979 when the Shah of Iran abdicated power, Jimmy Carter’s ineptitude paved the way for the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini to seize power and install a theocratic regime. That regime quickly began spreading its ideology of radical Islamism through terror. It is a disease-like ideology that gained strength as Khomeini fostered an Islamic revolution, like the French Revolution two centuries earlier, in which followers of the government one day became victims the next.
Thousands of Iranians died as the Ayatollah directed his extremist venom of hatred, intolerance and violence toward his victims. These included both non-believers as well as fellow Muslims who did not believe in Khomeini’s extremist interpretation of Islam. He created a generation of like-minded Shi’a Islamists. Today, the disease is an epidemic raging within the region — and Iran remains its breeding ground.
As Iran became the first nation-state infected with this disease, Supreme Leader Khomeini sought a mandate empowering him to spread it worldwide. Iran’s constitution was written to allow this. Contrary to the constitution of any other nation state in the civilized world, Iran boasts one with extraterritorial authority and but one purpose — to export its Islamic Revolution outside its own borders. Having demonstrated his lack of respect for international law by seizing the US Embassy in Tehran and taking American diplomats hostage in 1979, Khomeini held no reservations about using an extraterritorial mandate. It was used in 1988 as authority to order the execution of British novelist Salman Rushdie for his allegedly blasphemous work against the Prophet Muhammad entitled “Satanic Verses.” The title refers to verses, initially delivered by Muhammad as part of the Koran, but which he later retracted. (Apparently, while Muhammad was capable of making a mistake, one dare not tell an Islamist that.)
Once Iran had its constitution in place, Khomeini only lacked a “carrier” of the disease to effect its transmission. Not wishing to attract condemnation by solely using Iran’s holy warriors on such an extraterritorial mission, the Ayatollah saw his first opportunity in 1982. It arose in Lebanon where democracy there had marginalized Shi’a influence for decades. Israel invaded Lebanon to evict the PLO for firing rockets into northern Israel. With the help of more than a thousand members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, Khomeini helped organize and finance a Shiite terrorist organization known as Hizballah, the so-called “Party of God.” Iranian clerics provided supervision, forming the Islamic Resistance in Lebanon to fight the Israeli occupation. Fueled by Khomeini’s venom and beholden only to Tehran, Hizballah grasped the Supreme Leader’s long term plan to accelerate confrontation between the Muslim world and the West. Thus, from these early roots, Hizballah was Iran’s puppet army, enforcing Tehran’s will and exporting Islamism outside Iran’s borders.
Since 1982, Hizballah has done Tehran’s bidding in Lebanon, gradually eating away at its democratic infrastructure, in sync with Syria which wielded influence via a troop presence there from 1975-2005. When Syria was forced to withdraw its troops by the Lebanese, Hizballah moved to fill the power vacuum and keep Islamic extremism alive. Throughout the rollercoaster ride of intermittent violence and peace in Lebanon, while efforts to disarm various militia groups have succeeded, they have failed for Hizballah — again at Iran’s urging.
Iran has used Hizballah to do its bidding on other occasions as well:
— Iran’s battle cry of “Death to America” became Hizballah’s — with numerous acts of terrorism against US targets over the years being funded by Tehran. Prior to 9/11, Hizballah had killed more Americans than any other terrorist group.
— In 2006, as pressure mounted on Tehran from the international community to stop its nuclear arms program, Iran saw an opportunity to use Hizballah to redirect world attention. Instructed to conduct operations into Israel to kidnap Israeli soldiers, Hizballah triggered a 33-day military conflict.
— Once Iran provided Hizballah with a financial backbone, the group looked beyond the borders of Lebanon to promote its terrorist policies. Its leader, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, who took control of the organization in 1992 and claims to be a descendant of the Prophet Mohammad, is fully committed to the “annihilation” of Israel, which he calls a “cancerous entity.”
The first month of his leadership resulted in the bombing of the Israeli embassy and Jewish community center in Buenos Aires — successfully conducted only as a result of assistance from Iranian intelligence. Nasrallah believes Jews, anywhere in the world, are legitimate targets. He has said, “If they (Jews) all gather in Israel, it will save us the trouble of going after them worldwide.” Hizballah has been described as serving as “a role model for terror groups around the world (including) al Qaeda.” In the aftermath of 9/11, Nasrallah parroted Iran’s description of the US as “the Great Satan,” stating that “Regardless of how the world has changed…Death to America will remain our reverberating and powerful slogan…” He continues to encourage worldwide suicide bombings against the West, indoctrinating young children to perform this service.
Where Hizballah lacks the influence and/or presence to serve as Tehran’s proxy, Iran has turned to other carriers to spread the disease. Shiite Muslim cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and his Mahdi army play this role for Iran in Iraq’s struggle for democracy. In Afghanistan, Iranian financial and logistical support has turned the Taliban into a carrier of the disease, where yet another democracy is threatened. Despite victorious elections in the Palestinian territories, Hamas is a carrier on behalf of Iran. For as long as such extremist hatred, intolerance and violence is spread by Iran and its willing carriers, democratic nations are not immune.
Ironically, Khomeini first exposed Iran to this disease in 1979 — the same year the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), widely accepted as the sole cause of AIDS, also manifested itself. The medical community’s failure to diagnose HIV early on as an epidemic led to the deaths of tens of millions of people. But in the aftermath of its diagnosis, we have witnessed a worldwide effort to fight the disease and educate the public about it. The same cannot be said of the effort to fight — or even educate the public about — Iran’s deadly disease.
How many democratic nation states will be lost before we do?