IRANIAN PRESIDENT Ebrahim Raisi met with Syria’s President Bashar Assad at an Organization of Islamic Cooperation summit in Riyadh, this past Saturday.(photo credit: Iran’s Presidency/West Asia News Agency/Reuters)
Radical Islamic ideology remains strong throughout the region and will once again wash up on the shores of the United States and its allies in Europe if it goes unchecked.
I’ve given many talks at universities and interviews since I returned from Israel, where I was when this war began. The one question that comes up more often than others is what happens the day after Israel defeats Hamas. Will Israel have to re-occupy Gaza to ensure its security and minimize the chance of a counterinsurgency? Although that is indeed a critical question, there is an even more crucial question to ask regarding American and Israeli security interests.
What about Iran?
If all the United States learns from this war is that our primary ally in the region cannot live next to a jihadist terrorist entity, then this will be a wasted opportunity.
The crucial lesson the US needs to learn from this war is that Iran is the primary cause of instability in the Middle East. Unless we figure out what to do about that, radical Islamism, whether Shi’ite or Sunni, will remain in ascendency.
From arming, training, and financially supporting Hamas and the more significant threat to the North, Hezbollah, to the Houthis in Yemen, to the IRGC-trained militias in Syria and Iraq, to the Iranian-supported terrorists in the West Bank, many with American blood on their hands, Iran has been for many years the prime mover behind the strife and radicalization of the Middle East. As former prime minister Naftali Bennett said, you have to attack the head of the octopus, i.e., Iran, not just its jihadist proxy tentacles.
This war should be an inflection point not only for Israel but for America and the West. Radical Islamic ideology remains strong throughout the region and will once again wash up on the shores of the United States and its allies in Europe if it goes unchecked. Whether it be Persian Shi’ites of the Islamic Republic of Iran who support Arab Sunnis (Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad) or Arab Shiites (Hezbollah), they are bursting with hatred of America and Jews, very much like the Palestinian protestors on college campuses. Their shared goal is to undermine the West. Their strength is their faith in an all-consuming radicalized ideology that demands unquestioning obedience. The Biden administration is unwilling to state the obvious because it will require dealing with Iran as it is, not a nation they can ignore. This month, the supreme leader said that when you chant “Death to America,” it is not just a slogan but a policy. The Twelver Shi’ite Iranian regime is beyond reform.
Ways to change
HOWEVER, THE good news is that there are ways to change course if our leaders can muster the political will with moral clarity.
American policy should be pro-Iranian people, supporting their desire for regime change. We should make amends for ignoring their repeated efforts to topple their government, which serves not only their interests but ours as well. When the administration ignores Iranian-directed attacks against US soldiers in Syria and Iraq, it is understood by the jihadists, whether Sunni or Shiite, as American weakness. You cannot placate or appease radical Islamists, whether in Gaza, Tehran, or Lebanon. Iran is a rational actor if you understand their long-term Islamist Shi’ite strategy.
We had clarity in defeating ISIS. When 11,000 civilians were killed in Mosul over nine months to eradicate ISIS from that city, the anti-Jewish protesters on American college campuses were not up in arms, causing mayhem in the streets. Just as they didn’t protest the hundreds of thousands of Arab children killed by the Syrian genocidal dictator during their civil war – their anger and hatred are selective.
Our leaders need to be candid with the American people. Despite our best efforts, Iran remains the leading state sponsor of terror, a stone’s throw from a nuclear weapon, which will make our current problems in the region seem trivial.
Just as Israel was mistaken in thinking it could buy off Hamas by allowing hundreds of millions of dollars of Qatari money to reach Hamas, America cannot appease and change Iranian behavior with tens of billions of dollars of sanctions relief.
This war is a defining moment for American leadership in the world, as well as an existential one for Israel. America cannot keep kicking the can down the road with Iran; it is time to step up to the plate and call out Iran for what it has been since the Islamic Revolution of 1979, a source of evil in the world.
President Biden, just as Ronald Reagan did when he labeled the Soviets an evil empire, it is time to do the same with Iran and change American policy accordingly.
This article appeared in the Jerusalem Post on November 15, 2023.
The writer is the director of MEPIN (Middle East Political Information Network). He regularly briefs members of Congress and their foreign policy aides. He is the senior security editor for The Jerusalem Report.