Iran, Not ISIS, Is The Real Menace

By Alon Ben-Meir

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
April 7, 2015



Whereas the international focus today is on how to counter violent extremism, which is behind many of the violent conflicts sweeping the Middle East, the real destabilizing power and sponsor of terrorism in the region and beyond is Iran. Unlike violent extremists and religious fanatics such as the Islamic State (IS), which can be degraded and even destroyed, the same cannot be said about Iran. Tehran continues to export its revolutionary zeal by supporting terrorism and radical organizations such as Hamas and Hezbollah, providing direct financial and military assistance to radical Shiite militias, and maintaining through subversive activities its strong hold on Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon.

In an effort to convert Yemen into another Iranian satellite in the Arabian Peninsula, Iran was quick to exploit the war-torn country by providing logistical support, money, and military hardware to the Shiite-leaning Houthis.

  Iran, whose ambition is to become the region’s hegemon, is gradually consolidating its gains and firmly progressing toward achieving its national objective by whatever means, including the use of force, insurrection, and terrorism.

Given Iran’s long, rich history of magnificent past achievements, its natural resources, geographic location, enlightened population, and still-untapped potential, one would think that Iran would have chosen to project ‘soft power’ to achieve its desired regional prominence.

The Mullahs, however, chose a different path because they recognize their own shortcomings as a revolutionary regime that lacks a defined national identity, and as a predominantly Shiite state suspected and even reviled by Sunnis in the region and beyond.

In addition, fearful of regime change and concerned about an organized domestic opposition that would attempt to overthrow the regime, the Mullahs concluded that Iran’s revolutionary zeal is the only path that will secure its foothold in the region.

Given the inherent animosity and distrust between the Shiites and Sunnis that was revived in the wake of the 2003 Iraq war, the Mullahs know that they will be rejected by the Arab world and their brand of revolution will not be acceptable.

This also explains why Iran, with or without a final agreement on its nuclear program, remains committed to acquiring nuclear weapons to deter other powers from attacking it and also be in a position to subordinate other states in the area.

Moreover, because of Iran’s desire to distract the attention of the international community from its mischiefs, it has systematically exacerbated regional conflicts not only in its immediate vicinity (Bahrain, Yemen) but also further away, especially the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In sum, in spite of the economic hardships and domestic and international pressure, the Iranian regime hijacked the country’s human and material resources in its effort to become a regional powerhouse. Tehran will simply not stop exploiting every opportunity and using heinous means to achieve its objectives unless confronted by major players in and outside the region.

To understand how far Iran would go, its constitution says it all. The preamble states that it “shall pave the way for the perpetuation of the Islamic revolution within and outside the country… [and seek] to lay the ground for the creation of a single world nation…the army will be entrusted with the task not only protecting and preserving our borders, but also an ideological mission…Jihad in the name of God and the world.”

  Although President Obama’s eagerness to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons is admirable, the fact that the “Parameters for a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action” regarding Iran’s nuclear program, which was just concluded in Lausanne, is not linked to Iran’s threatening behavior is troubling, as Iran will continue to feed into the region’s violent turmoil.

It is understandable that because of domestic opposition, national pride and what would have been interpreted as indirect admission of its subversive activity, Tehran adamantly refused to link the easing of the sanctions to anything else but the nuclear program.

That said, Iran cannot have it both ways. There is no better time for the US to insist quietly that the extent and the speed of easing the sanctions will be linked not only to Iran’s compliance to the provisions of the agreement, but also to its behavior.

The Arab states, who recently announced the formation of a unified Arab military force, must now demonstrate their capability to form robust, combat-ready forces, equipped with the most modern military hardware that can be projected anywhere to deal with any threat in the Middle East.

Iran will take such a military force seriously only if the joint command demonstrates the resolve and credibility to engage any enemy, including Iran, to prevent encroachments into Arab territory.

  Saudi Arabia, who is engaged in a proxy war against Iran in both Syria and Iraq, made an extremely important strategic move to bomb Houthi encampments in Yemen. This was necessary and timely to send a clear warning to Iran that the Arab states will not tolerate its continued infringement and are intent to stop it.

The European Union, which is eager to resume business with Iran once the agreement on its nuclear program is finalized, must also link future business contracts, purchases, and transport of Iranian crude oil and gas to Iran’s behavior.

The EU and the US must insist that Iran, who has tremendous leverage on the Assad regime, modify its stance on Syria and play a constructive role to assist in bringing a political solution to end the tragic civil war. By being part of the solution, Iran can maintain--if not strengthen--its influence in Syria.

  Having a common strategic interest to check Iran’s regional intrusion and blunt its efforts to acquire nuclear weapons, Israel and the Arab states should continue to share intelligence and even collaborate if directly threaten by Iran.

The nuclear deal may in fact embolden Iran to continue its subversive activities. But it can also allow Iran to turn a page in its relations with the international community and harness its huge human and material resources to become a constructive player on the global stage.

Dr. Alon Ben-Meir is a professor of international relations at the Center for
Global Affairs at NYU. He teaches courses on international negotiation and
Middle Eastern studies.                             Web:  

This writer must be crazy Netanyahu's brother. Iran has the right to exist and the Palestinians as well. Go peddle your misguided ideas somewhere else.
Moses at 08:09PM, 2015/04/06.
Sylvester Moses
Methinks, the writer has a right to his opinions on this topical issue, and we can weigh in with ours absent the name calling.
Sylvester Moses at 01:50PM, 2015/04/07.
Sylvester Moses
Well, weighing in on the weighty worries of war and peace in that religious nucleus of the world is all we can do for no one has solutions to satiate every faction relevant to the issues. But we must keep trying and hoping that there will eventually be a Middle Eastern Union as promising as the European Union which, if it’s any comfort, is still a work in progress after almost four hundred years of the bloodiest hostilities imaginable amongst and between some of those very European powers.

Which brings us to Iran and nuclear weapons: first, the world should be ridding itself of them instead of new states joining the “nuclear club”. Second, Iran is Persia (a once formidable empire which thirst for territorial gains remains unquenchable), and a change of name and religion haven’t altered that acquisitive DNA, or the hubris of ancient dominance. Nonetheless, it’s urgent that stultifying sanctions that target non - military assets in that country ought to be lifted, because the Iranian people shouldn’t be punished for the misbehavior of temporary governors.

Reference Israel and the Palestinians, the Rubicon has been crossed, the two - state proposition is unstoppable. But Hamas, Hezbollah, etc. who swore to extinguish the state must retract the vows in a manner that not only guarantees her existence, but ensures the safety of Jews wherever they may be. Meanwhile, Israel keeps its present nuclear armament as an assurance of its protection against those existential threats. And rather than be put off by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, this is the time for Europe and the US to engage the region in order to, at last, find a mutually satisfying solution to peace.

Sylvester Moses at 09:56PM, 2015/04/07.
Sylvester Moses
By the way, "non -military assets" refer to any critical material or equipment not part of Iran's weaponry nuclear program.
Sylvester Moses at 01:34AM, 2015/04/08.
Paul Jeebah Albert
Mr. Sylvester Moses: You remarked that the Palestinians and Iranians have the right to exist. While your statement is true, Dr. Ben-Meir did not state anywhere in the essay that Palestinians and Iranians do not have the right to exist.

His essay clearly explains the imperialistic fervor of the Iranian Mullahs and the menace that it is bringing on the country’s economy and its people. These observations and findings are not some randomly selected opinions from an ill-informed individual. His insights, wealth of knowledge and experience that he brings to this topic falls within the realm of conventional wisdom; they corroborate the consensus of the national security agencies of some of the most powerful nations on earth, and the observations and facts from luminaries and organizations that are focused on global issues.

When you compared Dr. Ben-Meir to the Israeli Prime Minister, Mr. Benyamin Netanyahu, you casted doubts on the minds of readers as to whether you truly understand the underpinnings of the geopolitical dynamics of the Middle East. If you were to read the essay titled, “Netanyahu revealed his duplicity, demagoguery, and deceit”, published by this web site, you would not have made such an unfair characterization of him.

Dr. Ben-Meir writes with objectivity in mind. He skips the insults, preconceptions, and biases that often accord a lot of what is written and published on our sites.

I wonder can we rise above the level of disagreeing with one another without being impolite and verbally violent

Paul Jeebah Albert at 02:37PM, 2015/04/10.

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