Spoiler of Israel-Palestinian Rapprochement is Iran
Israel’s Deputy Minister of Defense, Brigadier General (Res.) Ephraim Sneh, says more can be done by the global community to pressure Iran and keep it from going nuclear. At a forum hosted by the Institute For Contemporary Affairs (ICA) in Jerusalem on Monday, Sneh spoke of a concrete challenge to Western powers, not unlike the challenge to Israel.
“We still think that the international community has not said its last word. There is a resolution from December 24. Iran has 60 days to stop the enrichment, and if not, further sanctions will be taken. Let’s wait patiently until February 24. Around this date will be another expression of Iranian defiance, and then there will be a challenge for the international community. They are potential victims of the same Iranian dance.”
Sneh believes that global leaders have been dragging their feet. For 18 years the Iranians were hiding their nuclear ambitions. When the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) discovered Iran’s intentions, it still took another 3 l/2 years until the UN Security Council passed a formal resolution in 2006. Sneh claims that’s too long a process. He has ideas of how world leaders can strengthen sanctions the next time around.
“Iran imports 40% of its consumption of oil distillates, especially gasoline for cars. Embargo the supply of gasoline and other distillates, and it will create a very serious problem for the regime…If there is this embargo, do you believe there would be one shipping company in the world that would consider it worthwhile to bring gasoline to Iranian ports, and then, not be able to enter into any of the U.S. seaports? I don’t think so.”
In Sneh’s past duty of service to Israel’s Defense Forces (IDF), he served as Commander of the Southern Lebanon security zone and as Head of the Civil Administration in Judea and Samaria. He was elected to the Knesset in 1992. In his current capacity, as Deputy Minister of Defense, one of Sneh’s keen interests has been assessing Iran’s military and political strategies.
“Iran’s goal is to build a territorial contiguity of Iranian influence from the border of Afghanistan to the Mediterranean; a Shiite belt, or an Iranian dominated belt,” he explains.
Citing Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s spiritual obsessions, Sneh says that Israeli leaders takes Ahmadinejad’s negative declarations toward the Jewish state very seriously.
“He belongs to a school of thought, a sect, in the Iranian religious establishment which believes that the return of the Shiite Messiah, the vanished Imam of the Mahdi, is supposed to happen very soon. More than that, Ahmadinejad believes that he has a divine role in making this arrival very concrete in our lifetime, maybe within several years. His faith, his conviction, says that the Messiah, the Mahdi, will come back if there is a sort of Armageddon doomsday, a major global collision, or calamity that results in the Shiite’s governing the entire globe.” Sneh added that Ahmadinejad reportedly believes the Mahdi appointed him to be the president of Iran and made his election possible.
To date, Iran meddles in Afghanistan, and in the Kurdish areas north of Iraq. Iran has taken advantage of the collapse of Saddam Hussein’s regime and his malaise in order to build a Shiite federal state in southern Iraq. In the central government of Baghdad, Iran has infiltrated and captured several key positions, and has growing influence in that government.
Iran has also succeeded in building a strategic alliance with Syria. Sneh views Iran’s last step toward reaching the Mediterranean as having influence in Lebanon. A third of the Lebanese are Shiites, and Sneh says Iran has tried using the political power of this group to take over the Lebanese government — to dominate it, paralyze it, or do both.
“So, this is the contiguity of Iranian domination. Iraq, Syria, Lebanon. They have another direction of expanding their influence, and it is the Gulf. They are very active in Bahrain, where 70% of the population is Shiite. They are actively undermining the government there.”
Sneh made it clear what Iran’s greatest objective is: “Most, if not all of their naval exercises, are simulations of taking over the Straits of Hormuz, where most of the majority of the global oil flows. Their eye is on the wealth of the Gulf Oil. That’s why the Gulf States are terribly scared. They have good reason.”
Iran’s influence has made its way into the Gaza Strip making it difficult for Israel to move forward in peace talks with the Palestinians. While a cease-fire is in effect, being observed by most Palestinian organizations, there is at least one group in defiance of that agreement – the Iranian supported Islamic Jihad. Sneh says they are active in launching rockets into Israel every day, as well as preparing suicide bombers for activities inside Israel.
“Who pays 100% of the Islamic Jihad budget? Tehran. Plus, there’s a bonus for every Israeli that is killed in their operations. So, they have a special incentive and it seems to me that the only member of the United Nations who pays a bonus for killing civilians is Iran.”
Another organization that has continued terrorist activity today is al-Aqsa (Martyrs Brigades). Many people believe that al-Aqsa is a military wing of the Fatah. However, Sneh states that the organization gets paid, indirectly, by Hezbollah, which is an arm of Iran. He claims the al-Aqsa terror squads receive their orders from Iran.
“So, you can see the real spoiler, the tireless spoiler of Israel-Palestinian rapprochement is Iran,” Sneh explains. He adds that the long arm of Iranian terrorism extends much further than Israel and the Palestinian territories. Reportedly, the bombing of the Israeli Embassy and the Jewish Community Center in Buenos Aires in the 1990’s, was indirectly carried out by Iran.
The implications of a nuclear Iran constitute the greatest military concern for Israel today. Sneh points out that Tehran’s nuclear quest not only effects Israel, but countries throughout the world.
“Now imagine that if this regime — the powerhouse of terrorism in the region, with ambition of expansion and domination over the entire region if not the whole world – would have the power of nuclear blackmail?”
The answer to that question is the reason why Ephraim Sneh and other Israeli officials believe that everything must be done in order to keep Iran from going nuclear.
C. Hart is a 25-year veteran journalist in print and broadcast media, living in Israel since 1995, reporting on political, military and diplomatic issues in the Middle East.