The Associated Press reported on July 27 that in defiance of any international monitoring of its program, Iran had broken seals put on its equipment by the IAEA, the United Nations nuclear watchdog agency. On the same day in London, The Times warned that Iran was only “months away” from having the capability to enrich uranium for a nuclear bomb. With the American officials disclosing that last February IAEA inspectors found P-2 centrifuge parts, which are more suited to making weapons than the P-1 parts that Iran has confirmed it possesses, there can be little doubt about the mullah's intentions.
Obviously, a nuclear-armed Tehran would be cataclysmic for the democratic world (particularly the state of Israel). What is less apparent are the devastating effects of such an eventuality on Iran's own culture and civilization. The Islamic bomb would give a great boost to Arab and religious extremism, while at the same time dealing a severe blow to the hopes of salvaging a Persian Iran whose cultural references sharply differ from its Arab neighbors.
Granted basic human freedoms and relieved from the frenzy fomented by the Ayatollahs, there can be no question that the allegiance of the majority of Iranian citizens is to values and sentiments represented by cities like Shiraz and Isphahan, rather than Mecca and Jerusalem.
Getting their hands on the nuclear bomb would help the clerical rulers plunge Iran yet deeper into regional conflicts where, by nature, it does not really belong. As Reuel Marc Gerecht has argued, obtaining nuclear weapons fits in well with the “grand objective of the Iranian mullahs to use them as leverage to enhance their security and sphere of influence throughout the Middle East.”
Reaching nuclear capability will give a freer hand to the fanatical regime to further undermine the country's national identity. It will strengthen those repressive forces that have been assaulting the human rights and cultural independence of Iranian citizens since the inception of the revolution. In other words, what is a dream for the ruling clergy, can only translate into a hideous nightmare for the Iranian nation.
At the heart of the nuclear issue lies the dual purpose of sworn animosity of the Islamic Republic against the state of Israel on the one hand, and the mullahs wish to perpetuate their illegitimate rule on the other. The vast resources of Iranian natural wealth, instead being directed to alleviate poverty within the country and invested in badly needed development projects, are poured into the coffers of Lebanese and Palestinian militia groups and used for arming and financing terrorist operations around the globe.
The anti-Jewish campaign of the Islamic Republic is utterly repugnant to the attitude Iranians have adopted towards the nation of Israel throughout their long history. It was deeply ironic last month when UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) listed the tomb of Cyrus the Great in Pasargadae as a world heritage site. At a time when Iran is known as a member of the Axis of Evil, and the most active sponsor of international terrorism, the image of Iranian heritage that the world honors and commemorates is of a country whose founding monarch put together the first human rights declaration, the articles of which guaranteed the right of religious practice in general, and the freedom of Jewish people in particular.
The ill-will towards the Jews therefore goes hand in hand with the hatred today’s clerical regime displays against the continuity of Iranian national values and traditions. Let us not forget that scores of Iranians are arrested every year for observing festivals that date back to the pre-Islamic period. The hostility of the mullahs towards Israel, as Roger Howard has stated, is “directed not only towards Israeli policies but, in many cases, towards the rights of the Jewish state to exist at all.”
Ayatollah Khamenei, the supreme leader of the Islamic Republic, has time and again asserted that the only way to solve the Middle East crisis “is to destroy the Zionist regime.” The most effective way to accomplish such a result is by a nuclear bomb. Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani the powerful ex-President does not make any bones about such deadly projects. Reassuring his audience about the dangers of nuclear confrontation with the Jewish state, he tells them that comparing with the “devastation” of Israel by a nuclear bomb, a retaliation (that is if they are still there to retaliate) will only cause a scattered “damage” to the far greater population of the Islamic world.
On the face of such open threats to its security, Israel has every right to a preemptive strike. Prime Minister Sharon has declared that it will constitute a state of war for any country hostile to Israel to acquire a nuclear bomb. As a matter of fact, the state of war between the Islamic Republic and the state of Israel has existed for a long time, albeit unilaterally. The mullahs pay $50,000 to the family of every suicide bomber attacking Israeli targets. This figure is twice the amount offered by Saddam Hussein for such terrorist attacks. A considerable chunk of the budget of the country is allocated for killing Jews inside Israel – and throughout the world. The bombing of the Jewish Center in the capital of Argentina in July 1994, which resulted in the death of 85 people and the injury of more than 200, is only one instance of this ongoing war. The high officials of the clerical regime who masterminded this carnage spent $10 million only to bribe the Argentinian officials to keep quiet about the Iranian role in this attack.
The efforts of the Islamic Republic against Israeli interests are only matched by the government's relentless persecution of the Iranian people. The Islamic Republic remains at the top of the list of violators of Amnesty International and other international human rights agencies. The mullahs’ obsession with the Arab-Israeli issue has been exploited to justify internal repression. Portraying the Islamic faith as in danger of annihilation by American “imperialism” and Israeli Zionism, the mullahs trample on the rights of individual Iranians in the name of saving Islam and securing the freedom of the Palestinian people.
Like other empty rhetoric of the regime, the support for the “Palestinian struggle” however has been regarded by the Iranian population as political cant devoid of any reality. Ruhollah Khomeini’s 1979 creation of a “Ghods Day,” rallying in support of the Palestinian cause to “liberate Jerusalem,” was odd and alien to Iranian sensibility. Roger Howard, attending rallies held on the Ghods Day, managed to talk to students on university campuses, who tell him in private that Arab-Israeli dispute is “nothing to do with us.” He writes:
In mid-June 2003, students held a series of large rallies at Tehran University that called not only for more democracy in Iran but also for the government to “forget about Palestine and think of us.”
The “liberation of Jerusalem” and the extermination of Israeli Jews has been an aspiration for Iran's revolutionary fascists and the Islamic-Marxists urban guerrillas who were shut off from the reality of Iranian worldview in training camps sponsored by Yasser Arafat and Muammar al-Qaddafi. Their mission was to fight the Shah and impose a mindset on Iranians that was totally incongruous with their country’s tolerant culture and long established humanitarian tradition.
The failure of their relentless propaganda is evident in the way Iranians turn to Israeli radio for reliable news and trustworthy information. Traveling in Iran in 1999, I was amazed that a local official in Hamadan, who was frequently mouthing the government's line about the Zionist enemy, took me to his orchard and proudly showed off his walnut tree. “It is the very best,” he said. “It has been brought in from Israel you know.” The very best of Israel has also been imported from Iran: Israeli President Moshe Katsav and the Defense Minister Lt. General Shaul Mofaz were both born in Iran.
This strong affinity with between the two nations has enabled the Israelis to look beyond the crimes of the present regime and exercise great military restraint towards Iran. This restraint should continue until all other peaceful options are probed and exhausted. An Israeli attack on Iranian soil, albeit on selected military and nuclear targets, would be used by the mullahs as welcomed propaganda to rally the national sentiments at a time when Iranians are most united in their hatred of the Islamic regime. It should be kept in mind that the destruction of the regime’s nuclear facilities will only serve as a temporary patch on a dangerous infection. What Iran desperately needs is an opportunity to emerge from the long nightmare of the clerical tyranny.
This can happen with the mobilization of international efforts to isolate the mullahs and strengthen internal forces truly representative of Iran’s cultural heritage and national identity. To search for those forces we need to go no further than the most popular Iranian national figure today: Reza Pahlavi, the son of the late Shah of Iran, who leads a political campaign from his exile in the United States to hold a free and fair national referendum on the political future of his country. He represents the modern voice of a cultural tradition that is distinctly Iranian in its broadmindedness and humanity. His campaign which embraces all political groups and unites Iranians under one democratic agenda is not only the best means of stopping the terrorist regime in Tehran to threaten the world with nuclear weapons, but its success will be the most effective preemptive strike at the heart of the forces of violence and instability in the region of Middle East.
- “Iran denies uranium centrifuge is part of plan to build a nuclear bomb,” Paul Harris, The Observer. August 1, 2004.
- Iran in crisis? Nuclear Ambitions and American Response. Roger Howard. (Zed Books, 2004).