July 23, 2006 | The New York Daily News
Iran Pulls the War Strings
Make no mistake. Israel's raging war with Hezbollah is more than a battle between the Jewish state and a fanatic Islamist enemy. It is a bloody, ruthless struggle whose outcome could determine the future shape of the entire Middle East – both Arab and Israeli.
Hezbollah's Iranian masters have two intertwined goals – one short-term, one long-term. The first is to stir up enough trouble to divert global attention from Iran's determination to build a nuclear weapon. The second is connected to the bitter, centuries-old rivalry between the two primary branches of Islam – the Shiites and the Sunnis.
Shiite Iran wants nothing more than to stab itself into the heart of the largely Sunni Muslim-Arab world and take control of it. Vali Nasr, a professor at the Naval Postgraduate School and an expert on the Shiite revival, warns that the whole Middle East is at risk of a “sectarian conflict between Shiites and Sunnis.”
I agree with those Mideast experts who warn that Tehran's real goal is to create what Jordan's King Abdullah calls a “Shiite crescent,” an Iranian-led band of nations stretching from Pakistan through Iran to Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and ultimately Palestine. This Shiite empire would try to dominate and rule the entire Middle East. Israel, which Iran's extremist President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has frequently sworn he wants to “wipe off the map,” would be the immediate target. But the true full aim would be an Iranian hegemony that would eventually eclipse and take over such moderate, pro-Western Sunni Arab states as Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
That, in Iranian thinking, would severely hobble America – second only to Israel in Tehran's list of hates. Let's not forget that Iranian-backed Hezbollah's first major attack was the 1983 bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, which killed 241 people.
There are mystical elements to Teh.ran's evil goals as well. As former Israeli Chief of Staff Moshe Yaalon pointed out in a New Republic article last week, the mullahs hope “ultimately, to provoke the return of the Hidden Imam, the central figure of Shia eschatology, and thereby usher in a Muslim messianic age. To achieve these goals, Iran is willing to support just about any terrorist organization that will confront the West.”
Right now Tehran's chief Arab ally is Damascus. While Syria is largely Sunni Muslim, its minority Alawi sect – a Shia offshoot – has run the country for 30 years. The Syrians have allied themselves closely with Iran and supply Hezbollah in hopes of slithering back into Lebanon on their tails. Palestinian Hamas is also Sunni, but its major supplies come these days from Tehran and as part of its determined war on Israel, Hamas has sold its Sunni hearts to the Shiites.
The ultimate irony is that in the current war the Jewish state is defending the Arab world as well as itself and Western interests.