AMERICA AND ISRAEL’S PRINCIPAL FOREIGN THREAT…IRAN!
During President Bush’s first term in office, he cited three principal foreign threats, calling them the axis of evil: Iraq, Iran, and North Korea. Of these three, Iran was undoubtedly the most serious threat. This threat is owing to Iran’s aspirations and its power. For the US, Iraq was primarily a stepping-stone to address the much greater threat centered in Iran.
Iran’s aspirations run the most directly contrary to those of the USA and Israel. Among those aspirations are:
And its power is the most threatening. Although North Korea is further along in nuclear development, there is reason to believe Iran is not that far behind. Furthermore, Iran has a strong and growing population, oil resources, and is not hemmed in like North Korea. History supplies Iran with a precedent for tremendous power and glory, which provides inspiration for the Iranian population. And, although, modernists would scoff, another factor is that Persians are Japhethites, whom God has especially gifted with an ability to extend their power.
There is a plausible strategy for Iran to achieve its goals (albeit unlikely to succeed). To achieve its goals in Lebanon, Iran has been working through Hezbollah. Here is how one source describes it:
“Hezbollah is a Lebanese group of Shiite militants that has evolved into a major force in Lebanon's society and politics. It opposes the West, seeks to create a Muslim fundamentalist state modeled on Iran, and is a bitter foe of Israel. The group's name means “party of God.”” (see http://www.cfrterrorism.org/groups/hezbollah.html ) The same article goes on to say: “Hezbollah was founded as a catspaw for Iran, Middle East experts say. While Iran gave Hezbollah more funding and support in the 1980s than in the 1990s, it still often gives Hezbollah its orders and its ideological inspiration.”
Then there is Palestine. Here is how one source describes Iranian efforts there:
“Iran has taken control of many Palestinian terrorist cells from Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement, giving them funds and orders to attack Israeli targets, and even rewarding successful missions with "bonuses", according to a senior Israeli security source. For many years, Iran has given money and ideological support to radical Palestinian groups, especially Hamas and Islamic Jihad, responsible for most of the Israeli deaths in the past four years of the Palestinian uprising. But Israel believes that much of the Fatah-affiliated armed faction, calling itself the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, has now come under Iran's sway, especially in the West Bank. Scores of Palestinian attacks, accounting for roughly a third of the 98 Israelis killed so far this year, are believed to have been orchestrated by the Lebanese Hezbollah movement. The Shia group pioneered the use of suicide bombings in the 1980s, kidnapped westerners and successfully drove the Israeli army out of south Lebanon in 2000. Hezbollah is now a political party in Lebanon. "Hezbollah is a finger of Iran's hand," the senior Israeli security source said. "In the past year we can see increasing Iranian influence in Palestinian attacks on Israel. "The same people sometimes receive money both from Arafat's headquarters and from Hezbollah. If the attack succeeds in causing fatalities, they get a bonus from Hezbollah." Another security source said Hezbollah rewards Palestinian cells to the tune of $5,000 (£2,900) for each Israeli killed.”
And, finally, there is Iraq. A majority of the population in Iraq is Shi’ite. Iran probably hopes that US forces in Iraq will so crush the Sunnis, that they can eventually come in and lead a Shi’ite Iraq, and expel weary US forces. Iran has ties with a number of Shi’ite Iraqi power brokers and groups, including erstwhile American “friend” A. Chalabi. (With friends like that, who needs enemies?)
To counter these Iranian efforts, the US seems to have its own strategy:
· Create a stable Iraq and Afghanistan, under American influence, and including significant US forces. This would place the US on both sides of Iran, with little need to worry about the American flank.
· Push the UN to deter Iran’s nuclear program (at least until the US can invade Iran, after having stabilized the situation in Iraq and Afghanistan)
· Aid revolutionary efforts to overthrow the Iranian government, installing a government there more secularist in orientation and friendly to the US
· Invade Iran from both sides, if necessary, alongside Iranian revolutionary forces
One difficulty with the US strategy is that it may conclude the UN is not really deterring Iran’s nuclear program. While Iran would probably not use any nuclear capability directly, it may use it through the proxy of Hezbollah in Lebanon, plus its significant contacts in Palestine. This has only been helped by Arafat’s death. And even if it does not use its nuclear capability, it could afford to help Hezbollah more, knowing the US and Israel could not afford to attack it, without facing a nuclear response. So the US and Israel may have no choice but to face off with Hezbollah in Lebanon.
Furthermore, it may well suit the Iranians to provoke such an engagement in Lebanon, to keep American forces bogged down elsewhere, and in no shape to invade Iran. Plus, since US forces are already bogged down in Iraq- due at least to some degree to weapons flowing to insurgents, across the Iranian border- Iran may calculate that now would be a good opening to conduct mischief from Lebanon, while the US would have a harder time in responding. So the US should not be too surprised to find itself involved in military operations in Lebanon.