by Daniel Carmon
Special To The Jewish Week
Last month the world followed the dramatic events in Iran, in the aftermath of the elections there. Almost 30 days have passed since the brutal crackdown on the protesters, yet no one can offer an analysis that would suggest where this wounded society is heading. The short term, at least, looks bleak to all those who hoped a real change for that country was imminent.
Apparently these two events, separated by time and geography, have nothing in common. Or do they?
Two separate investigations held in Argentina on the bombings of the Israeli Embassy and the AMIA center implicate Iran as the mastermind, while Hezbollah was the executioner. In fact, Argentina’s chief prosecutor has accused the highest levels of Iran’s government of being behind both bombings. Western intelligence services and anti-terrorist experts agree. Although separated by time, both devastating attacks were more of the same: two chapters of a larger story, two expressions of the same fanatical ideology of the Iranian regime. Iran made the decisions and ordered both attacks. Hezbollah, with the help of local agents, carried them out.
The multitude of demonstrators in Tehran last month contested the results of the elections, extolling their moderate “reformer” leader, Mir-Hossein Moussavi. Reformer? Moderate? Moussavi is not a new face to Iranian politics, as he served as prime minister between 1981-1989. During his tenure he is believed to be one of the founders of the Hezbollah terrorist organization that has been Iran’s long arm in Lebanon and elsewhere. Another prominent political figure in Iran, now characterized by some as “moderate,” is former president Hashemi Rafsanjani. International arrest warrants have been issued for Rafsanjani and many other Iranian officials for their role in the bombing of the AMIA Jewish community center. Is this the potential new leadership that will bring change to Iran?
Since it came to power, in 1978, the extreme Islamic regime in Tehran has made no secret of its intentions. It spews out anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli vitriol and has vowed to wipe Israel off the map. But Israel is not the only target for its hate. Iran’s regional ambitions go much further. While its official spokespersons and representatives at the United Nations are lecturing us on the need to combat terrorism, their country continuously supports, trains, finances and equips Hezbollah and Hamas. Promoting instability in Lebanon, violating Egyptian sovereignty and threatening security and calm along Israel’s northern border and in Gaza are only part of the Iranian grand scheme: exporting its extremist vision throughout the region.
Iran’s dangerous efforts to develop nuclear capabilities must be viewed in this light. It is for the international community to seriously evaluate the poor record earned by this regime: the use of international terror, the threat to regional stability, the support of extremism. At the same time, let us not forget, Iran’s own citizens are victims of this extremist ideology and are subject to a level of repression unimaginable in liberal, democratic societies. Public executions, including of minors, are on the rise. So is the stoning to death of women. And amputation as punishment is a source of judicial pride.
Can the world trust such a regime?
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has infamously denied the Holocaust, while he is clearly preparing the next one. His country’s nuclear development programs and activities bluntly violate United Nations resolutions and are a slap in the face to the international community. A recent report of the UN nuclear watchdog agency declared that Iran was significantly ramping up its nuclear enrichment program. Iran’s nuclear ambitions threaten regional stability, constituting a real growing threat to every nation on earth. These fears are common knowledge throughout the United Nations and the international community, and are not confined to the discrete diplomatic discourse. Many of Israel’s Arab neighbors share the same concerns.
This is not “just” a lesson in recent history, and the 15th anniversary of the AMIA bombing is not only a day for reflection. This is a wake-up call. Iran of 15 years ago is, in many ways, the very same Iran of today: same extreme ideology, same hate-mongering, same leaders. There is however one alarming difference: Iran is much closer to having the capacity to inflict far greater destruction.
As we commemorate the bombing of the AMIA Jewish center in Argentina and remember the victims, the nations of the world should be looking carefully at the past while trying to secure a better tomorrow. They should learn to keep their eyes wide open in any dealings with Iran. This is not the time for
self-deception or naïve ventures. The consequences of getting it wrong are too great. The risks, if taken, should be very well calculated.
Ambassador Daniel Carmon is deputy permanent representative of Israel to the United Nations.