- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 26, 2004

Thirty-five years ago, when in a jurisprudence course in Najaf, Ayatollah Khomeini boasted that Khoms (a religious tax equivalent to one-fifth on property or income) from Baghdad’s Bazaar was adequate to run the affairs of the Islamic world, he wanted to affirm that assuming power on his part cost very little but benefited the public at large.

However, no one, not even me, attending his course as a student at the time, had any idea that some day Khomeini’s covetous design on Baghdad, not to mention Tehran, would emerge as the principle foreign policy objective of the theocracy that he erected a few years later.

Several years after, as Khomeini’s despotic views became more evident, I chose to disassociate myself from him. That meant I had become an infidel and Khomeini sentenced me to death in absentia.

My classmates in Najaf then and the power brokers in Tehran now are trying their utmost to exploit the crisis in Iraq to realize Khomeini’s dream not only to give the regime in Tehran some permanence, but also to impose their fundamentalist reign on Iraq.

That prospect would represent a catastrophe for the civilized world and Muslims across the globe. The Iranian experience is a case in point. Since the onset of Khomeini’s rule, the face-off between two Islams came to the forefront of Iranian political landscape. The mullahs were challenged by tolerant and democrat Muslims who rejected fanaticism.

Khomeini realized that the tolerant Islam was the antithesis to his brand of Islam, prompting him to shun the democrat Muslims, namely the People’s Mujahideen, the main Iranian opposition movement. The vast majority of the 120,000 people executed in Iran in the past quarter century were members and sympathizers of this group.

From day one, the fundamentalists in Iran found the export of crisis and expansion as the only way to counteract their popular illegitimacy. Article 11 of Iran’s Constitution stipulates, “All Muslims are one nation and the Islamic Republic of Iran is duty bound to rest its general policy on the unity of Islamic nations and undertake efforts to realize the political, economic and cultural unity of the Islamic world.”

Owing to many historical factors, including a majority Shiite population, Iraq was the most strategic target. Despite an eight-year war, Khomeini failed to make his dream of “liberating Jerusalem via Karbala” come true. He died in 1989, but his disciples have followed suit.

Subsequent to the Iraq war, the clerics saw a window of opportunity. Months before the fall of Saddam Hussein, the clerics devised a two-pronged strategy under the guidance of SupremeLeaderAli Khamenei. One was to expand seemingly benign charities, clinics and health-care centers. The other was to spread clandestine armed cells in order to deliver military blows to the coalition forces and be in position to fill the vacuum of power quickly in case the United States left Iraq.

Four agencies — the Revolutionary Guards, the Ministry of Intelligence and Security, the state radio and television, and the clergy network — have been coordinating their meddling in Iraq.

The West has mistakenly tried to minimize the scope of Iran’s meddling. The reality on the ground depicts an entirely different story. Thousands of Iranian operatives have already crossed into Iraq. The mullahs have also sent tens of thousands of weapons and millions of dollars to that country.

“Iranian intrusion has been vast and unprecedented since the establishment of the new Iraqi state. The Iranians have penetrated the country’s sensitive centers and set up many intelligence and security centers in Iraq,” warned Iraqi Defense Minister Hazem Shaalan in an interview with the Arabic language daily Asharq Al-Awsat on July 20.

If the mullahs were to succeed, not only the people of Iraq, but also other regional states would fall victim to religious fascism.

The policy of appeasing Tehran by ignoring its egregious human-rights abuses, drive to procure nuclear weapons and sponsorship of terror has been a dismal failure. The West even kowtowed to Tehran’s biggest demand: blacklisting the People’s Mujahideen. This policy has only strengthened the most anti-Western and extremist faction of the ruling theocracy, while disarming of the People’s Mujahideen has been the biggest help to the mullahs in advancing their goals in Iraq.

It is now time for decisiveness against Tehran. The fate of Iran and Iraq are intertwined as never before. The vision of a stable, tranquil Iraq without a halt in Tehran’s meddling is naive and a recipe for disaster, since it would hand the entire region over to the fundamentalists on a silver platter.

Conversely, the mullahs’ defeat in export of fundamentalism to Iraq would deprive it from a strategic lever and profoundly impact the developments in Iran and beyond. Everyone, including the Iranian and Iraq people as well as tolerant Muslims would be the main beneficiaries.

Ayatollah Jalal Ganje’i, a prominent dissident ayatollah based in Paris, is chairman of the Committee on Religious Freedom in the National Council of Resistance of Iran. Several members of his family, including his son, have been executed by the clerical regime.

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