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THE CLERICAL REGIME'S OPPOSITION TO THE MIDDLE EAST PEACE INITIATIVES June 1996

"A ruler given to tyranny undermines his own sovereignty.

" Saadi-Iranian Poet (A.D. 1194-1291)

(AN ANALYSIS OF REASONS, MOTIVES, AND OBJECTIVES)

Since the founding of the current regime, as an aftermath of the 1979 Revolution, Iran has steadfastly opposed all measures of peace and reconciliation between Israel and its neighbors. The clerical regime has never visibly clarified its ultimate goals/objectives or even basic motives for this opposition. However, from its external behavior in the areas affected by the peace process, Foots on Iran is able to discern and identify five somewhat distinct objectives of its foreign policy or, theocratic and security interests. At this point in time, it is not clear to us at what cost and j ust how far the ruling clerics are willing to go to achieve these objectives. Furthermore, the importance and priority which the current Iranian regime has assigned to these objectives is not yet known. It is hoped that the future Iranian actions in the foreign policy arena will make its real intentions and objectives or motives much clearer and thus afford the international community and others concerned by this behavior, the opportunity to act accordingly to the threat posed. In this issue, Focus onIran has endeavored to give guidance tocounter Tehran's threat to regional peace, stability and security.

The five objectives we have been able to depict from the regime's external behavior include:

1) Military presence and pressure directly against Israel:
2) Fundamentalist religious leadership and credibility:
3) Radical political ideology and control, with support of international terrorism:
4) Strategic military balance in its favor: and Anti-Americanism.

These issues will be discussed later in Part B, under motives and objectives for opposition to peace. Since the beginning of this decade, Islamic Republic's external behavior in support of the above mentioned objectives and motives has been manifested in its espousal of various international terrorist activities, subversion of moderate governments, pursuit of domestic nuclear program, promotion of revolutionary Islam, and support of fundamentalist religious regimes. Ultimately this negative and misguided behavior of the clerical le adership could lead to Iran's isolation from the international community and indeed, more dangerously, the physical damage or destruction of the nation itself.

B. MOTIVES & OBJECTIVES FOR OPPOSITION TO PEACE:

1) Military presence and pressure directed against Israel: It may be assumed that the desire for regional political-military hegemony as the so-called "spokesman and leader of the Muslim World", is probably the most compelling motive for the mullahs' opposition to any Arab-Israeli peace/reconciliation. From Tehran's perspective, Israel would be the ultimate beneficiary of a peace settlement with its neighbors, especially with Syria. Rightly or wrongly, Tehran sees its alliance with Syria as a cornerstone in gaining military dominance in the region, especially against Israel's military superiority. Moreover, the "Syrian Connection" provides Iran with a credible counterforce against its inherent adversary, Iraq. By its opposition to an Israeli-Syrian peace settlement, the clerical leadership insures its pressure and control of the Hezbollah in southern Lebanon.

In this context, Tehran could no longer maintain a military relationship with Damascus because of its violent hostility to Israel. More importantly, Syria's connection with Iran forces Baghdad to cover its western frontier with military assets it would have likely deployed on its Iranian frontier. It should be noted that the Tehran-Damascus connection has no significant religious or ideological foundation. In contrast to Iran, Syria has a secular government and a predominantly Sunni populace. The Tehran-Damascus alliance has been one of military expediency.

The somewhat tenuous nature of the relationship between Syria and Iran was exhibited during the Persian Gulf war crisis of 1990-91 when Syria gave its unconditional support to the U.S.-led coalition against Baghdad. while Tehran's leaders remained silent, and even criticized the United States for its "intervention" in the region's "internal affairs". In this instance, the clerics' anti-Americanism exceeded their interest in molding to the Damascus connection and its long-standing enmity towards Iraq.

Secondly, Islamic Republic's control of Hezbollah in southern Lebanon would be virtually coming to an end in an IsraeliSyrian accord. Tehran rightly realizes that among the demands made by Israel on Syria would be the latter's abolition of the Hezbollah. For Syria, the trade-off is not too complex: the return of the Golan Heights and perhaps a demilitarized upper
Jordan Valley and both sides of the Israeli-Lebanese frontier for its recognition of, or normalized relations with Israel. Would Syria abandon its Tehran connection for the Golan? In order to assure the survivability of the alliance, the Tehran regime must endeavor to prevent the accord from ever materializing.

In order to achieve this objective, Tehran has stepped up its financial and material support of Hezbollah and has concomitantly "egged them on" to aggressive actions against Israeli forces in southern Lebanon and the bombardment of Northern Israel's Hula Valley. The loss of the "Syrian Connection" and its attendant Hezbollah control would undoubtedly end clerical Tehran's dream of a Middle East wide, political-military influence, if not hegemony. For the Mullahs'regime, the stakes are indeed high. For Iran there is another potential cause for concern. An Israeli-Syrian accord would increase Israel's political and diplomatic prestige in the region, especially in the Persian Gulf. Hezbollah's threat would be relaxed and perhaps in the distant future, it could be placed at the disposal of a friendly Persian Gulf State to counter a future Iranian threat in the region. As of the time of this writing, Prime Minister Peres is on an unprecedented visit to Oman and Qatar. This visit, a likely reaction to the Emirs presence at the Rabin funeral may presage the normalization of Israeli -Omani/Qatari relations. The presence of Persian Gulf States friendly to Israel, would be anathema to the Islamic Republic. Disruption of the peace process from Tehran's perspective, could embarrass Israeli prestige abroad, especially with potentially friendly Middle East States, e.g. Oman, Qatar, Bahrain and Kuwait. It should be noted, that as of this issue of Focus on Iran, the clerical government severely criticized Qatar and Oman. As might be expected, this was an aftermath of those countries acceptance of the recent visit by Israel's Prime Minister.

More to the point, it reflects Tehran's concern about Israel's expanding diplomatic initiatives in the Arab world as witnessed by the most friendly personal and diplomatic relations with Jordan. To re-iterate, from Tehran's perspective, scuttling of the Syrian-Israeli peace process would diminish Israel's diplomatic prestige and credibility. 2) Fundamentalist religious leadership and credibility: Islamic Republic's preoccupation with advancing the cause of Shi'ite fundamentalism centers on its Hezbollah clients in southern Lebanon and very likely the Hamas terrorists of Gaza and the West Bank. The clerical regime's long standing support of Hezbollah in particular, serves Tehran's objective of establishing a fundamentalist Shi'ite foothold in Lebanon as: 1) A springboard for further expansion in the region: 2) Putting military pressure on Israel and indirectly for Syria's support in that effort: and 3) Establishing the current regime's credibility as the leader in Islamic fundamentalism.

The viability of Hezbollah in southern Lebanon is primarily dependent on Syria for logistical and material support and on Iran for financial, moral and religious support. It follows from this triangular relationship between Iran, Syria and Hezbollah, that in order for its continuance, the peace initiative between Syria and Israel must not come to fruition. As mentioned earlier, Israel's requirement from Syria in return . for its withdrawal from the Golan Heights is Syria's abandonment of Hezbollah if not forcing the latter out of southern Lebanon.

Since the Tehran leadership is essentially of a theocratic nature, its commitment is to expand its ideological doctrine (i.e. Khomeini-ism/ Shi'ite fundamentalism). The theological reason for being and the credibility of the current government of the mullahs thus rests largely on the success of its support of client groups (e.g. Hezbollah) and its gaining control of Hamas. With its control of the Hamas group, Tehran achieves not only another significant harassing element against Israel, but perhaps more importantly, gains a potential successor to Arafat's newly formed West Bank Palestinian government. The likelihood of Hamas' ultimate victory over Arafat, has at least a 50 % chance of realization. Although much of the Islamic Republic's involvement with Hamas falls within the realm of political objective to be discussed in the following section 3, the clerics also most likely entertain the objective of introducing a strong Shi'ite presence especially among the more militant, radical and less Sunni-committed elements of Hamas. If such an adherence could be achieved, then the mullah-led regime in Tehran will have gained a notable victory in winning the "hearts and minds" of the most radical of the Middle East's population.

3) Radical political ideology:

Much similar to the preceding section, the mullahs obective of a strong presence and control of the political instruments of power in Lebanon and the emergent Palestinian State depends on its ability to disrupt Israel's quest for peace and normalized relations with its neighbors. Whereas in southern Lebanon, the Islamic regime in Tehran has quite effectively exercised political control over Hezbollah. There is little doubt
that Tehran orchestrates the selection, training, and actions of the Hezbollah leadership. It should also be borne in mind that Hezbollah not only threatens Israel and causes some perplexing problems in Damascus, but it also threatens the survival of the tenuous political structure of Lebanon itself. This is evidenced by the fact that despite all efforts, the Beirut government cannot exercise its control over Hezbollah with or without Syrian acquiescence.

One cannot but wonder if among the long range external political objectives, resides the ultimate overthrow of the moderate and the all-inclusive Lebanese political structure. It is reasonable to sunrise that the Tehran regime could make use of Hezbollah as an instrument against the Beirut government regardless of whether it succeeds or fails in disrupting the on-going peace process. If the peace process fails, Hezbollah's political-military survivability is assured with a likelilncxxl of a greater national prestige and credibility. In that event, Hezbollah, might be further emboldened to act against Beirut, especially if given unconditional support by the rttaallahs to that end. Likewise, in the eventuality that the peace initiatives succeed and Hezbollah is forced out of southern Lebanon, Tehran could opt to "relocate" Hezbollah to central or other parts of Lebanon, if not in designated quarters of Beirut itself. Indeed, if such a "relocation" should occur, Hezbollah's threat to Lebanon's government, could become a reality by its closer proximity to Beiruit's power center. One may also surmise that should Hezbollah "relocate" itself to the squalid quarters of Beirut, the ingredients for urban instability and uprisings possibly leading to another civil war would be set in place.

Islamic Republic's control of Hamas' political infrastructure may be more likely than gaining the religious affiliation of Hamas, as discussed above. Should this be realized, Arafat's Palestinian government should most certainly be in jeopardy. An Israeli-Syrian peace-normalization success would bade well for the chances of the isolation and marginalization of Hamas. This might come about as a result of a joint IsraeliSyrian-Jordanian concerted effort to combat terrorism and to support a viable Palestinian State willing to live with Israel under conditions which it can best achieve under the current political circumstances.

The radical political ideology of the mullah's regime is plain and simple one of power and rule through terror and psychological coercion or "brain washing". The suicide attacks by which innocent people are maimed and killed are inculcated in the minds of their lackey's as the "road to martyrdom" and eternal pleasure/rewards in the afterlife.

This is not the true meaning of Jihad or any Islamic teaching. It is the teaching of the extremist mullahs in Tehran, the same teaching that caused the death of thousands of Iran's young men in the irrational and senseless military attacks and operations in the recent war against Iraq.

4) strategic military balance in its favor:

The end of the war with Iraq and the defeat of that State in the Persian Gulf War has witnessed Iran's quest for redressing the region's military balance in its favor. In Tehran's perspective this means the maintenance of the "Syrian Connection", a strong and visible presence in Lebanon, and a credible threat against Israel. This posture on the Mediterranean (or the "Western Flank") would be held in conjunction with its strong military posture along the Persian Gulf (or the "Eastern Flank") and political dominance in the former Soviet Republics of Azarbaijan and Turkmen istan would assure its "Northern Flank".

The key element, the "Western Flank" can only be assured if Syria remains steadfast to its de facto alliance with Iran against Iraq (and as understood, against Israel). As mentioned earlier, this condition also prevails in regards to Lebanon via the control of Hezbollah. Iran's active presence there provides it with the logistical and terrorist base for power projection along with subversive operations in Egypt and the Mediterranean region, including its current activities i n Bosnia. Moreover, a military powerful Israel at peace with Syria, at the cost of Hezbollah, would tem-linate the hope of the mullahs in controlling the "Western Flank". Indeed, Israel's newly formed relationship with Jordan and perhaps closer antiterrorist ties with Egypt and the moderate Persian Gulf States (Oman, Qatar, Bahrain) represents the ultimate "nightmare" scenario for the current clerical regime. Iran's most potentially successful and feasible option again, is to disrupt the ongoing peace initiatives between Syria and Israel. To that end, Islamic Republic's Vice President, Hassan Habib], welll to Damascus to re-assure and pressure Assad's regime to hold fast to the ties with Tehran. Here also, it is likely that Damascus will act in its own best self-interest, i.e., The "Iranian Connection" or the "Golan Heights". Focus on Iran believes Damascus will ultimately opt for the Golan Heights with all theconsequences which that decision might entail. As a result, the mullah's subsequent course of action or available option could be critical to the regions peace and stability. This notion will be discussed in the following Part C, Iran's Options.

5) Anti-Americanism:

The clerical leadership's anti-American attitude, considered
by many as bordering on pathological, stems from the American support of the Monarchy in Iran. The four hundred and forty four day hostage-taking ordeal, is a witness to that pathological behavior. It naturally follows that, any endeavor or initiative undertaken by the United States will meet with a "knee-jerk" opposition from Tehran, regardless of its merit or advantage to Iran. For example, the U.S. led "Desert Storm" operation in every sense was beneficial to the security and political interests of Iran. Yet the short-sighted rulers in Tehran could not endorse the enterprise, not even its ostensible moral basis. Instead, they chose to criticize the United States with an incredulous rationale which was universally rejected. This action, isolated Iran even more, thus further enforcing its image of a "Pariah State" in the eyes of the international community. The quest for peace and stability in the Middle East has been a paramount U.S. foreign policy goal since the end of the 1973 Yom Kippur War. The motives for U.S. interest in this matter lie in its economic (e.g. Oil) interests, ties with Israel, support of moderate regimes, anti-terrorism, and (until 1991) opposition to Soviet ambitions in the region. Since the end of its war with Iraq, Tehran views the American policy goals as antithetical to its own as discussed in sections 1 through 4 earlier.

The culmination of peace accords between Israel and Syria at the sponsorship and initiative of the United States, would represent the ultimate foreign policy victory for Washington and an irreparable blow to the mullahs in Tehran, from every perspective. In the eyes of the clerical leadership, the "U.S. must be defeated" for all the reasons pointed out previously, but perhaps more importantly (indeed psychologically for the leadership) the "defeat of the Great Satan" must come about.

In this irrational desire for the ultimate defeat of the U.S. in the Middle East, one is reminded of Captain Ahab's pursuit and his irrational hatred and compulsion towards the great White Whale in Melville's "Moby Dick". There may be a deeper motive for this behavior in the collective psyche of the clerics in Tehran that, goes beyond the objectives and motives discussed earlier. The answer may lie in the leadership's desire to establish a Unified Middle East Theocracy centered in Tehran, a revival of the medieval Abbasid realm. If so, certainly the United States, Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, even Syria, are not likely to willingly accept such a realm as their future. If the ruling clerics are serious in their intent, it will bring ultimate disaster to themselves and to the noble Iranian nation.

C. IRAN'S OPTIONS:

Iran's options in reference to its opposition to the peace process are limited. It can either: 1) pursue opposition at all costs, 2) accept the verdict if it fails and seek other solutions, or 3) join in the pursuit of peace and stability. It hardly seems likely that (3) will be an acceptable option for the current leaders in Tehran Therefore, we must look at options (1) and (2) above. Option l) Pursuit of opposition to the peace process:

The most likely course for the current leadership, is tocontinue its opposition to any settlement between Israel and Syria until the matter is resolved to its favor ordisappoinanent If, as the Tehran ruling clerics hope, the peace initiatives fail, their rewards would be great but at high risk ultimately to the nation's security and well-being. The aftarnathofthepeace initianvefailure,islikely toembolden d -ie regime minvokefimherYkAdlattaggressionsagainstIsael,orasindicated earlier,tochallengetheBeirut govaTmcrntityelf Secondly, theTehtan leadership, may avail itself the opportunity of settling the "Israel problem" oneeand forall.Thisoould bedone through military.mack by Syriawith financial and military support from Iran, Libya or North Korea It is also probable that Iran could forge a coalition/alliance with Iraq and Syriaasarrning politicalard otherdifferenaescould be set aside fora common effort against Israel (and perhaps Jordan in the bagam).Thermhzatimofthisadmimdyextrer»epolitiA-military scenario isfiaughtwithdangernotonlytoIran itsefbut,totheprospects ofa general Middle East War with United Suites' involvement

Most assuredly, even if Syria (and Iran/Iraq) are not engaged in waragainst Israel, increased Hezbollah attack, would bring about an Israeli response not unlike 1982-83 incursion into Lebanon. The consequences of such an Israeli response cannot be guessed at now, but in any event, it could not be conducive to regional peace and stability.

Option 2) Accept the verdict of Syrian-Israeli peace accord and seek other solutions:

If the peace initiative succeeds, the Tehran leadership is faced with thedilerrmaofwithdmwingentimlyfromdie ateraof~iLtivehosflity aganst Istael,'tiek its wotuxls" of foreign policy failure and tend to other matters. Or, as it is reasonable to surmise, Tehran will seek a more meaningful political-military reconciliation with Iraq directed primarily against Israel, but with significant implications for Saudi Arabia, other Persian Gulf States and Jordan. As far-fetched as it may seem, theW'adaistpolitical structure in Syria nray "find itself threatened by such an alliance. One could reasonably expect that Tehran would employ its Hezbollah client~ against a "turn-coat" Syriawhichmade the accord with Isael The otheraltemativewithin this option is for it to totally withdraw fixxn tenvristic-military
aggressiveness on its socalled' Vlrestem Flank". Such action would bean admittance of failure to its lackeys and the world at large. Couldthisregirresurvwethefadtueofitsheavyirn+estr rltsofWhncal, ideolo9cal,andreligiouscapitalagainst theUnited States, Isael,and the peace process? The answer here is difficult to reach, since there are too many variables to consider within the Iranian domestic environment Suffice it to say that "to lick its wounds" and withdraw from the "Western Flank" combat environment, is not a likely alternative for the Tehran regime as seen from the current vantage point.

Option 3) Join the pursuit of peace and stability in the region: Thusopnonistheleast likely thecurrentradrcalregime wouldchoose, for all the masons, motives, and objectives heretofore discussed. Although this istheoption that those patrioticelementswoulddhoose for Iran, it will not be realized until those elements achieve political power in Tehran. For this reason, it is understandable why the authorities in Tehran have kept much relevant information of its anti-peace activities from the Iranian populace.

Foci ,a on Irwi, resolutely believes that no peace or stability in the region is forthcoming from this irresponsible regime. Furthermore, not only must all Iranians, in and out of the country, be made aware of the (=sequences of the current regimes opposition to the peace initiatives, but the international community must also be informed. Because, in the unfortunate event of war in the Middle East, many nations could be drawn into such a conflict Bluntly put, the international community must make itcleartotheclerical regime that it will not permit its anti-peace activities, even if United Nations sanctions are to be employed, among other measures if necessary.

D. CONSEQUENCES FOR IRAN'S ANTI-PEACE ACTIVITIES:

Nothing can come to Iran but economic and physical disaster for its irresponsible anti-peace foreign policy. It is conceivable that, should war occur, in any form or magnitude, Iran will suffer the consequences. The "consequences" would likely range from economic sanctions and blockade to bombing and missile attacks on selected economic-military targets in Iran. One only needs to look at the devastation on Baghdad, brought on by modern weapons, as to what could befall Iran's cities and industrial centers. The end result, tragically, is harm to the Iranian people and long term physical and economic destruction to the nation. The final and only true assessment of the current regime's behavior against peace is that its modus operandi is indeed not in the interest of the Iranian nation and its people. Simply said, it threatens the very survival of an ancient nation.

 



 

 

 

 


 

 






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