President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s visit to Lebanon today marks not only a historic point for the Islamic regime in Iran but also its victory over Israel and the West in gaining control of Lebanon. This reinforces for the Iranians that their philosophy of radicalism and strategy of terrorism have big payoffs.
Just a few years into the Iranian revolution of 1979, supreme leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini ordered the Revolutionary Guards to take the fight to the Americans and Israelis and expand their operation in Lebanon. I was a member of the guards then and was told that the Shiite militias of the Amal Movement did not have the courage and the commitment to Allah to fight the Israelis and that there was a need for a more aggressive force committed to martyrdom and the destruction of Israel and America. This was when the guards created Hezbollah by sending hundreds of their officers into Lebanon along with planes loaded with arms and explosives.
The guards recruited aggressively in Lebanon, bringing recruits to Iran to train them at the guards’ bases or sending them for training to Syria or other countries. They even did some preliminary training in Lebanese mosques. Nearly half of this training was dedicated to inculcating ideology and driving home how Allah mandated martyrdom for the glorification of Islam. This effort created Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah and soon led to terrorist acts like the bombing of the U.S. Marine Barracks in Beirut, where 241 U.S. servicemen were killed. Four years after this suicide bombing, Mohsen Rafiqdoost, then minister of the Revolutionary Guards, boasted, “Both the TNT and the ideology which in one blast sent to hell 400 officers, NCOs and soldiers at the Marine headquarters were provided by Iran.”
In response, America packed its bags and left Lebanon. This action marked the beginning of the Islamic regime’s dominance in the Middle East because it fostered the rulers’ conviction that Allah was behind them and that they could cause even a superpower such as America to kneel. The clerics and the guards became emboldened, expanding their terror network and infusing it with the martyrdom ideology set on destroying Israel and bringing down the West.
Through Hezbollah, many Americans were taken hostage, tortured and killed. Among them were William Francis Buckley, CIA station chief in Beirut, whose body was not returned until several years after his murder; Robert Dean Stethem, a U.S. Navy diver aboard TWA Flight 847, whose body was dumped on the tarmac at Beirut International Airport; and William Richard Higgins, U.S. Marine Corps colonel serving on a U.N. peacekeeping mission in Lebanon. The guards also committed or abetted the Pan Am bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1989; the 1994 Jewish Community Center bombing in Buenos Aires; and the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia.
The radicals ruling Iran successfully derailed every peace initiative between Israeli and Palestinian authorities by having their proxies carry out suicide bomb attacks that drew responses from Israel. They used this same strategy in 2006 when the regime learned that the George W. Bush administration was ready to take action against the Revolutionary Guards. To divert attention, they used Hezbollah to attack Israeli forces and take the wounded hostage. This resulted in the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war in which hundreds of civilians on both sides lost their lives. Iranian rulers claimed victory and then provided hundreds of millions of dollars for Hezbollah to rebuild. They rearmed Hezbollah with more than 40,000 long-range, high-payload rockets despite U.N. Resolution 1701, which called for the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Lebanon and the disarmament of Hezbollah.
Today, Hezbollah, a terrorist group, is much stronger than ever before. It plays a significant role in the Lebanese government, and it is determined in its goal of the destruction of Israel and the demise of the West. Mr. Ahmadinejad’s victory lap in Lebanon is therefore a sign that terrorism and radicalism are winning over freedom, democracy and humanity.
The radicals in Iran are continuing their human rights violations. They are killing Iranian men and women fighting for their freedom. They are arming Taliban and al Qaeda terrorists who are killing our soldiers in Afghanistan. They are training Shiite militias and arming them in Iraq. They are providing arms and training to Hamas. They are inciting uprisings in Bahrain and Yemen. They are forming alliances and expanding their terror network through Venezuela. They are doing the same in Eritrea, where soldiers, ballistic missiles, submarines and naval vessels have been deployed to Assab to threaten the shipping lines and facilitate the move of terror cells into other parts of that region.
Meanwhile, the West continues to provide legitimacy to terrorism and the terrorists’ criminal activity by maintaining its policy of appeasement and negotiation.
The lesson is that as long as the West continues to move its lines in the sand and as long as we turn our back on our principles in an effort to negotiate a solution with the Islamic regime in Iran, the terrorists will become more emboldened in their mission of raising the flag of Islam in all corners of the world. If Mr. Ahmadinejad’s photo op in Lebanon is not a wake-up call for Western leaders, then once Iran has its nuclear weapons ready, it will be too late to stop the ambitions of a government that truly believes in a new world order, one in which Israel will no longer exist and America will no longer be the superpower it once was.
Reza Kahlili is a pseudonym for an ex-CIA spy who worked in Iran. He is author of “A Time to Betray” (Simon & Schuster, 2010).