- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 28, 2003

In several statements made by U.S. leaders lately, Iran’s regime has been accused of harboring al Qaeda and targeting the U.S. role in the whole region. Some within the Beltway speak of a clear and present danger to America, paving the way for a few congressional leaders — including Sen. Joe Lieberman, Connecticut Democrat, and Rep. Porter Goss, Florida Republican(and others) — to hint at destabilizing the ayatollah regime.

This sudden reminder of the second member of the “axis of evil,” as painted by President Bush’s State of the Union address of last year, has a direct reason. According to U.S. and Western intelligence, the Pasdarans, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, are said to have absorbed Osama bin Laden men in their country. And despite the denials by Iranian government officials that al Qaeda is not welcome and the assertions by its Foreign Ministry spokesman, Hamid Reza Asefi, that Iran has arrested some of its members, the charge remains the same.

The Islamic Republic, at least the Khamanei branch of it, is harboring Sunni jihadists, even if the dominant ideology of the institutions is Shi’ite. What brings Tehran’s fundamentalists closer to Washington’s arch enemies is precisely that — their ideological anti-Americanism.

The radical mullahs of Iran may have crossed the red line with the United States when they allegedly granted support to the perpetrators of the Riyadh suicide attacks. But this is only the tip of the iceberg. The mentors of the republic, not always in harmony with its three branches of power — mostly influenced by the reformists — nor really representing its youngest masses, have always had, and are still developing, jihadist plans for the region and the world.

When Ayatollah Khomeini toppled the shah in 1979, his new regime chose the path of global jihad, in a Shi’ite version. Imam Muntazeri, the ideologue of the international Islamic revolution, constructed this terror-producing doctrine. It claimed the Islamic republic has a role beyond imposing its ideology on its own people (at the expense of human rights and religious freedom). Mr. Montazeri and his Pasdarans were set on “exporting” this revolutionary jihad into other parts of the Middle East and using irhab (terrorism) as a means of policy. The main Satan to be attacked — other than the Soviet Red Satan and the little Israeli Satan — was obviously the Greater American “Devil.”

Its architects measured the success of the mullah regime, with victories scored against Washington. It debuted with the U.S. Embassy hostage crisis in 1980, passing by the 1983 Marines massacre and the embassy bombings in Beirut, the hostage-taking during the 1980s, all the way to the terror attacks in Buenos Aires and the Khobar Towers in the 1990s. Iran’s jihad against Crusaders (Americans) and Jews predated — and possibly inspired — al Qaeda’s drive. Tehran, 16 years before Kabul’s Taliban, has established its own weapon of mass terror: Hezbollah.

In the 1980s and the 1990s, the mullah’s jihad plans were on the offensive. Purify Iran from its liberal elements. Establish a strategic alliance with the Assad regime in Syria. Create and sponsor Hezbollah. Undermine the Western presence in Lebanon and the Arab world, and sink the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians with Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

With the collapse of the Soviet Union and the spread of global interaction, the regime felt the first spasms of the decline to come. Students on its own campuses have been demonstrating for the last four years against the clerical establishment.

After September 11, America was reversing its policies in the region. It is coming back, but with a dangerous agenda to local dictatorships: democracy and human rights. Besides, the winds of change are blowing too close to home. Infidel forces are helping the Karzai government to de-Talibanize inAfghanistan and bringing various factions in Iraq, including the Shi’ites, to de-Ba’athise. Washington is going after the Sunni jihadists, and may well continue after the Shi’ite jihadist. At least that is how it is seen from Qum, Iran’s radical headquarters.

So what is the response of the radical mullah?

Their Jihad plans are as follow:

• Support actions against the Kabul government and facilitate attacks against U.N. and U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan

• Incite against any coalition government in Iraq and inspire strikes against American and British personnel in Iraq

• Finance Hamas and Islamic Jihad to undermine the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians and kill the road map

• Further arm Hezbollah and drag Syria into its alliance obligations

• Harbor al Qaeda and assist it in its suicide attacks in the region and beyond

• Block reforms inside the country, embarrass the reformists and suppress the democratic elements within the Republic.

This six-point plan is what the mullahs have been implementing to undermine the new Middle East. It is up to the United States and the coalition against terrorism to contain this jihadist onslaught, and with the help of the Iranians, roll it back.

Walid Phares is a professor of Middle East Studies at Florida Atlantic University and an MSNBC analyst.

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