This week marks the fortieth anniversary of Iran’s 1979 revolution. Since the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini took power, the Iranian regime has worked diligently to spread its malignancy around the world. Its influence has spread throughout the Middle East, South America, and many places we don’t yet know.
Iran’s power controls Lebanon and parts of Syria. It has built military bases close to the Israeli border with Syria. Its power extends to the Palestinians’ Gaza Strip and West Bank, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Iran has deployed terrorists or troops as far away as Venezuela and Argentina. It has committed terrorist attacks — and assassinations against regime opponents — in many other nations.
On February 1, 1979 Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini returned from a decade in exile to a tumultuous welcome. Ten days later, Shah Reza Pahlavi — in Egypt for treatment of cancer — resigned the throne.
On March 30-31, a national referendum was held and by a massive vote, Iranians chose to become an Islamic Republic. The next day, Khomeini took power and proclaimed April 1st as the “first day of God’s government.”
Khomeini explained what “God’s government” is in his book, Islamic Government. Khomeini wrote, “Islamic government does not correspond to any of the existing forms of government.… It is not constitutional in the current sense of the word, i.e., based on the approval of laws in accordance with the opinion of the majority.… It is the laws and ordinances of Islam comprising the set of conditions that must be observed and practiced. Islamic government may therefore be defined as the rule of divine law over men.”
What Khomeini established is best described by former secretary of state Henry Kissinger in his book, World Order. His analysis is compelling.
Khomeini’s concept that his government was the rule of divine law over men meant something very specific. Kissinger wrote, “When a government is conceived of as divine, dissent will be treated as blasphemy, not political opposition.”
Dissent, in the ayatollah’s context, ranges from nations opposed to Iranian conquest to individuals protesting in the streets of Tehran. All are required to be punished by oppression under Iran’s Islamic law.
Kissinger begins with the 1648 Treaties of Westphalia that settled the religious wars that had nearly destroyed Europe. The Peace of Westphalia undertook to guarantee the identities and territories of nation-states.
Kissinger wrote, “The doctrine that took root in Iran under Khomeini was unlike anything that had been practiced in the West since the religious wars of the pre-Westphalian era. It conceived of the state not as a legitimate entity in its own right but as a weapon of convenience in a broader religious struggle.”
Kissinger quotes Khomeini as having said, “We must strive to export our Revolution throughout the world, and must abandon all idea of not doing so, for not only does Islam refuse to recognize any differences between Muslim countries, it is the champion of all oppressed peoples.” That means, as Kissinger writes, an epic struggle against (again, according to Khomeini) “America, the global plunderer,” the Communist materialist societies of Russia and Asia, as well as “Zionism and Israel.”
What Khomeini described and Kissinger analyzed succinctly is an ideology that commits Iran to terrorism and violent conquest.
Kissinger concludes that Iran is a revolutionary power dedicated to overthrowing the world order based on nation-states and creating the religion-based dominance of Iran. For the past forty years, it has covertly and overtly pursued that goal.
Iran’s open aggression began on November 4, 1979, when Iranian students seized the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and held fifty-two American diplomats and embassy staff prisoner for 444 days.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who was Iran’s president from 2005 to 2013, is believed to have been one of the hostage takers.
Then-president Jimmy Carter failed utterly in his efforts to get the hostages released. The crisis demonstrated conclusively the failure of Carter’s presidency. The hostages were released on the day Ronald Reagan was inaugurated because the Iranians feared what Reagan would do.
Since then, the government of the ayatollahs has gained strength while working hard to export its Shiite revolution everywhere.
Because Khomeini didn’t trust the army left by the Shah, he established the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (the IRGC) under his direct command which is comprised of his most fervent followers. The Iranian army, air force, and navy were rebuilt along those lines.
The IRGC control the Iranian economy. Anyone doing business with Iran is doing business with the IRGC and the ayatollahs’ government. The IRGC’s “Quds (Jerusalem) Force” is its principal terrorist arm.
Khomeini and his IRGC wasted no time. Israel, responding to repeated attacks by Palestinian forces in Lebanon, invaded that country in 1982. When the Israelis withdrew, Khomeini and the IRGC helped Shiite clerics in Lebanon establish “Hizballah” — literally, the “Party of God” — as a terrorist network. Hizballah has become Iran’s principal terrorist proxy force.
(I use “Hizballah” because that is what it calls itself, not the bowdlerized “Hezbollah” used in most of the media.)
Hizballah now controls much of the Lebanese government and passes itself off as a legitimate political party there while arming for its quasi-continuous war against Israel.
After its formation, Hizballah went to work quickly. One of its suicide bombers blew up the Marine barracks in Beirut in October 1983, killing 241 Marines, soldiers, and sailors. Thirteen years later, another Hizballah bomber blew up the Khobar Towers apartments in Saudi Arabia, killing 19 U.S. airmen and wounding another 350.
Hizballah and the IRGC sought to expand their influence into South America. They bombed the AMIA Jewish Center in Buenos Aires in 1994, killing 85 and wounding many others. Their role was covered up by Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner. An investigating prosecutor, Alberto Nisman, was murdered after accusing Kirchner of covering up Iran’s involvement.
When we invaded Iraq in 2003, Iran began manufacturing and smuggling into Iraq “EFPs” — explosively-formed penetrators — which functioned with deadly effect. The explosion compressed a metal penetrator to an amazing density and propelled it penetrating the bottoms and sides of American trucks and HUMVEES. The EFP’s were used to kill hundreds of U.S. troops.
I have attended several American Spectator annual dinners, but one that sticks in my mind — held on November 12, 2003 — featured arms control expert John Bolton as guest speaker. Bolton said then that the ayatollahs’ government had been lying about its nuclear weapons program more than twenty years.
In the summer of 2006, then-Cong. Pete Hoekstra (R-Mi), chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, issued a Republican staff report that criticized our intelligence community for underestimating Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Our National Intelligence Estimates — products of the entire US intelligence community — apparently adopted the views of the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency.
Under Mohammed el-Baradei, who was the IAEA’s chief from 1997 until 2009, the IAEA was an apologist for Iran and turned a blind eye to its nuclear programs. (El-Baradei and IAEA were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005.)
Hoekstra’s report said that Iran was a “denied area,” preventing the intelligence community from gaining information necessary to reach solid conclusions. His report caused a brief media storm and was then ignored.
Last May, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu revealed a huge trove of nuclear program information stolen from Iran by Israeli intelligence. It showed, in detail, that — as Bolton said in 2003 — Iran had been lying about its nuclear weapons development.
Bolton and Netanyahu were proven right by the Israeli-produced documents. They showed that beginning in about 1997, Iran had been obtaining information on how to produce nuclear weapons under a combined covert/overt operation called “Project Ahmad.” Those documents did not show what happened in Iran after 2003, so many used that deficit to insist that Iran had ended its nuclear weapons development at that time.
In her recent congressional testimony of CIA Director Gina Haspel said that we have no evidence that Iran is still developing nuclear weapons. That is the most dangerous nonsense. We simply don’t know because we have no independent inspection rights to Iran’s nuclear sites. The IAEA is denied access to Iran’s most suspect sites so it still concludes that Iran isn’t developing nuclear weapons.
We know that Iran and North Korea are cooperating in developing both nuclear weapons and the missiles to deliver them. Why pretend otherwise? And why do we not do more to prevent Iranian activities in South America?
In 2008, the Drug Enforcement Agency began “Operation Cassandra,” a secret investigation into Hizballah’s trafficking cocaine through (and possibly from) Venezuela into the U.S., laundering money to pay for its operations worldwide, and smuggling guns. The investigation was stopped cold by then-president Obama who didn’t want it to interfere with his nuclear weapons deal with Iran. DEA was denied permission to seek indictments of Hizballah’s ambassador to Iran, a Lebanese banker who laundered Hizballah’s drug money and — according to a Politicoreport — “a central player in a U.S.-based cell of the Iranian paramilitary Quds force.”
A Quds Force cell operating in the U.S. is so obviously a serious threat to national security that it cannot be allowed to exist.
When President Trump withdrew us from the Obama-Iran nuclear deal last year, he broke with the rest of the UN Security Council’s “P5+1” group, Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany. All of those nations are still trying to preserve the agreement.
Trump revived and added to the economic sanctions against Iran that had been in effect before the Obama deal. In doing so he has brought the Iranian economy to its knees. Widespread demonstrations against the ayatollahs’ government occur almost daily in Iran. For the first time, demonstrators are heard calling for the overthrow of the regime.
Under the late and unlamented Hugo Chavez, the IRGC and Hizballah established their networks throughout the region, establishing operational bases in Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay, according to the Investigative Project on Terrorism. They are also cooperating with Mexican drug cartels in smuggling drugs into the U.S.
Last week, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that Iran and Hizballah are working hard to extend their reach in South America. He said, “People don’t recognize that Hizballah has active cells — the Iranians are impacting the people of Venezuela and throughout South America,” adding that “we have the obligation to take down that risk for America.”
So what do we do?
Trump is on the right track with economic sanctions against Iran but he needs to go much farther.
Even though our European “allies” have established a way to avoid the U.S. banking system and still trade with Iran, any European company or country doing so should be sanctioned severely.
The only way to stop the ayatollahs is to help the Iranian people overthrow them. Regime change in Iran must be an avowed policy to which we dedicate ourselves.
In 2009, the so-called “Green Revolution” in Iran threatened to topple the ayatollahs and with them the IRGC and Hizballah. Obama — already negotiating with Iran for his deal — refused to help them.
There are three things we need to do to help topple that regime. All are equally important. First, the president should declare publicly that regime change is our policy. Second, as I have written since 2006, we need to attack the Islamic ideology of Iran and other terrorist powers and networks.
Third, we need to do whatever it takes to support covertly the Iranian opposition to the regime. With funding, communications equipment, and — at some point soon, arms — they can become sufficiently strong to overthrow the odious ayatollahs.
Forty years of Iranian terror, aggression, and nuclear weapons development is too much. We have to do everything in our power to end the rule of the ayatollahs.