Friday, October 28, 2005

Amir Taheri Explains Iran

Amir Taheri has an important column in today's NYPost explaining what lies behind the recent threat against Israel by Iran's President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
[W]ith the [Iran-Iraq] war's end in 1988, the mullahs reverted to their original anti-Israel posture. For years, the Islamic Republic waged a proxy war against Israel via the Lebanese Hezbollah and several Tehran-financed radical Palestinian groups, including Islamic Jihad.

Yet Ahmadinejad has gone several steps further — presenting the destruction of Israel as a major goal of his government. Why?

One reason may be his desire to distance himself as far as possible from his predecessor, Muhammad Khatami, and from Hashemi Rafsanjani, the powerful mullah-cum-businessman who still heads a key faction within the regime.

Ahmadinejad has criticized the "softness" of Khatami and his mentor Rafsanjani, which led to "a decline in revolutionary spirit." Thus the new stand on Israel may be part of a package of measures to revive the regime's original radical message.

Another reason may be Ahmadinejad's belief that Israel is preparing to attack Iran's nuclear sites as part of a broader U.S. plan against the Islamic Republic. He may thus be trying to mobilize Iranian and Arab public opinion for the coming showdown.

But the real reason for Ahmadinejad's Jihadist outburst may well be his deep conviction that it is the historic mission of the Islamic Republic to lead the Muslim world in a "war of civilization" against the West led by the United States. One of the first battlegrounds of such a war would be Israel.

Since his election in June, Ahmadinejad and his "strategic advisers" have used a bellicose terminology as part of their program to put Iran on a war footing. In the past few weeks, the regime has been massively militarized with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Ahmadinejad's main power-base, seizing control of almost all levers of power.

According to Gen. Salehi, one of Ahmadinejad's military advisers, a clash between the Islamic Republic and the United States has become inevitable. "We must be prepared," Salehi says. "The Americans will run away, leaving their illegitimate child [i.e., Israel] behind. And then Muslims would know what to do."

The war talk has given the Iranian economy the jitters, prompting the biggest crash ever of the Tehran Stock Exchange.

Remarkably, the new foreign policy aimed at provoking war with Israel and America has never been properly debated in the parliament, or even within the Cabinet. Some of Iran's senior diplomats, speaking anonymously, say they, too, have not been consulted.

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