Opening a security conference in Tehran on July 8, Iranian President Mahmoud
Ahmadinejad exhorted the Islamic world to mobilize against Israel and "remove
the Zionist regime." The nations of the region are growing furious, he said. "It
will not be long before this intense fury will lead to a huge explosion."
Four days later, Hezbollah terrorists staged a raid across Israel's northern
border, kidnapping two Israeli soldiers and killing eight more. Over the next
day, more than 120 rockets rained down across northern Israel. Among the
communities struck was Haifa, Israel's third-largest city and home to its
busiest port and a large oil refinery. It was the first time rockets fired from
Lebanon had penetrated so far into Israel; Haifa had been thought to be out of
Israel replied to Hezbollah's artillery barrages and hostage-taking with a
military invasion, much as it did in Gaza last month in response to incessant
rocket fire and the Hamas kidnapping of Gilad Shalit. In short order, Israel's
warplanes struck Beirut's international airport, Hezbollah's offices, and two
Lebanese army bases; the Israeli navy put Lebanon under a blockade.
And so by week's end Israel was at war again, this time on two fronts against
two of the most lethal terrorist forces in the world. Except that the real enemy
confronting it is not Hamas and Hezbollah. Terrorist organizations cannot
function without state sponsorship, and no state anywhere sponsors more Islamist
terrorism than Iran.
Was it just a coincidence that Ahmadinejad's prediction of "a huge explosion"
came only days before Hezbollah's assault across the border and its
unprecedented attack on Haifa? Or did the rabid president of the evil regime
that bankrolls Hezbollah with an estimated $200 million a year know what was
coming? It was Iran that supplied Hezbollah with its immense arsenal of
artillery rockets. When Hezbollah launches them at Israel, it is doing the
bidding of its patron.
The same is true of Hamas, which is likewise financed by Iran. The top Hamas
mastermind held a press conference in a Damascus ballroom last week, where he
extolled the Syrian regime that shelters him. Syria is in turn protected by
Iran, with which it signed a military cooperation pact in June. So it came as no
surprise when Ahmadinejad warned Israel not to extend its military offensive to
Syria, and threatened "a crushing response" if it did.
Israel has to repair its deterrent threat, which was weakened by the unilateral
retreats from Gaza and southern Lebanon and by too many listless responses to
terrorist provocations. A sustained assault into southern Lebanon, one that
leaves Hezbollah in shards and Israel's northern border at peace, would be
welcome evidence that the old Israel is back. And it would represent a
significant victory in the worldwide war against Islamist terrorism.
Gaza, Hezbollah, Iraq, Al Qaeda: It is all the same fight. "No one should have
any lingering doubts about what's going on in the Middle East," writes JWR contributor Michael
Ledeen, an expert on terrorism and Iran. "It's war, and it now runs from Gaza
into Israel, through Lebanon and thence to Iraq via Syria. There are different
instruments, ranging from Hamas in Gaza to Hezbollah in Syria and Lebanon and on
to the multifaceted `insurgency' in Iraq. But there is a common prime mover, and
that is the Iranian mullahcracy, the revolutionary Islamic fascist state that
declared war on us 27 years ago and has yet to be held accountable."
Twenty-seven years ago was 1979, the year that Islamist radicals loyal to the
Ayatollah Khomeini invaded the US embassy in Tehran and held dozens of American
diplomats hostage for the next 444 days. Washington's response was weak and
feckless, as it would be time and again in the years that followed. Only after
9/11 did the United States finally acknowledge that it was in a war with
militant Islam and begin fighting back in earnest. But not against Iran, which
continues, unscathed and unrepentant, to stoke the terrorist fires. Its goals,
unchanged since Khomeini's day, are to become the dominant power in the Middle
East, to create Islamist regimes worldwide, to annihilate Israel, and to kill
We will never win this war, Ledeen and others argue, until the Iranian theocracy
is brought down. That does not have to mean military action. Our aim instead
should be to empower Iran's restive population, which is largely pro-Western and
moderate. Give them as much support as possible, much as the Reagan
administration did for Lech Walesa and Solidarity in Poland and let them find
the means to reclaim their government for themselves.
Israel may be able to inflict a punishing defeat on Hezbollah, but regime change
in Tehran will require American resolve. Will we muster that resolve before
or only after the mullahs get the bomb?