Can any moral person seriously support the revolutionary Islamic regime in Iran?
It murders dissidents, takes westerners hostage for cash or in order to free imprisoned terrorists, hangs homosexuals, imprisons women for failing to wear the hijab, and condones their public beating. Iran sacrifices its own people’s well-being for the sake of exporting violence throughout the world, spending massive amounts of money arming Hezbollah and militias in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen, and of course pursuing the development of nuclear weapons and long-range missiles. The government is also massively corrupt, making the lives of Iranians even harder.
One particular aspect of this evil regime that understandably attracts my attention is its explicitly articulated intention to destroy the Jewish state in which I live, and commit another genocide against the Jewish people. The repetition of “death to Israel,” “Israel is a cancer,” and threats to “wipe [Israel] off the map,” the encirclement of our country by heavily armed proxy militias, and the development of weapons of mass destruction, are signals that we ignore at our peril. If there is any meaning to the slogan “never again,” this is it.
Two important lessons from recent Jewish history guide Israeli policy toward Iran: a) when they say they are going to kill you, believe them; and b) when they actually do try to kill you, almost nobody will come to your aid.
The international community, led by the US, acted to sanction Iran in the framework of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT) that Iran had signed and then violated. Later, under President Obama, the US and several other Western countries negotiated the JCPOA, an agreement that removed sanctions in return for the Iranian regime’s promise to abide by rules that were intended to delay their acquisition of nuclear weapons. The Iranian negotiators exploited the Western desire to obtain an agreement to ensure that the end product was weak, unenforceable, and in the end would legitimize Iranian nuclear armament rather than preventing it. At the same time, the Obama Administration released $1.3 billion in cash to Iran. $400 million of it was delivered on pallets loaded with Swiss Francs and Euros, and used to fund Hezbollah and other terrorist proxies.
Israel had opposed the JCPOA from the beginning, and PM Netanyahu even braved Obama’s anger by speaking against it at a joint session of Congress. Later, President Trump took the US out of the JCPOA and re-imposed sanctions. His strategy of “maximum pressure” on the Iranian regime might have ultimately brought about the surrender of the regime on the nuclear issue, or even its collapse. But Joe Biden has indicated his intention to return to the less confrontational approach of the Obama Administration – appeasement of Iran at Israel’s expense. This is unfortunate, for given the attitude of the Iranian regime, the only form of diplomacy that can succeed is that which is carried out at economic or literal gunpoint.
The opinion in Israel, held almost unanimously across the responsible part of her political spectrum, is that it will not be possible to live with a nuclear Iran, and that it will ultimately be up to Israel to prevent it. And that is why it is reasonable to assume that Israel was behind the targeted killing of the head of Iran’s military nuclear program, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh. Israel’s policy for at least a decade has been to employ means short of war, such as cyberattacks, sabotage, and targeted killing of key individuals, to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons.
I find it somewhat ironic that opponents of Netanyahu’s and Trump’s policies toward Iran often accuse them of wanting war. It should be obvious that allowing Iran to come within striking distance of a nuclear weapon would guarantee military action by Israel against Iran; if it can be prevented by clandestine actions and economic pressure, so much the better.
This is why I wonder at the motives of some of the critics of Israel’s actions, who favor a return to the failed appeasement policy of the Obama Administration. For example, Peter Beinart tweeted that Fakhrizadeh was killed to “sabotage [Biden’s] top foreign policy initiative in the Middle East.” Ben Rhodes, Obama’s advisor, called it “an outrageous action aimed at undermining diplomacy between an incoming US administration and Iran.” J Street’s president Jeremy Ben-Ami said that it was “an attempt to sabotage the ability of the incoming Biden administration to re-enter the [JCPOA] as well as the chances of further diplomacy…”
My first response is to tell them “not everything is about you.” Israel doesn’t care about Biden’s desire to distinguish himself by reversing Trump’s Mideast policy, and to mollify the AOC-Tlaib-Omar left wing of his party, which wants to see Israeli blood even at the expense of strengthening an enemy of the US. We don’t care that Rhodes, one of the architects of the Obama appeasement plan, is again outraged by Israel’s attempts at self-defense, as he and his boss were throughout their eight years in power. These things are of domestic American concern and irrelevant to Israel.
One does wonder why they all (and many others) seem to have adopted the same talking points. One remembers Rhodes’ “echo chamber” when the Iran deal was first brought up. And one begins to suspect that there is a hidden hand – that of Barack Obama? – behind them. Perhaps that’s best left for another post.
Regardless, the objective of Israel’s actions remains the same as it has been for decades: to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons. And I expect that we will take advantage of the time left before the change of administrations to continue to advance toward that objective.