click here to jump to start of article
Join Our Newsletter

Get latest articles and videos with Jewish inspiration and insights​

Proxy Terrorism from Iran

Proxy Terrorism from Iran

It's time to bring the fight against terrorists to the countries that arm and fund them.


In the summer of 2000, Russian President Vladimir V. Putin told me a story that I have been unable to get out of my mind. We were meeting in the Kremlin, and I raised the grave danger facing the world from the transfer of missile technology and nuclear material to the Iranians. In Putin's view, however, the real danger came not from an Iranian nuclear-tipped missile or, for that matter, from the lethal arsenal of any nation-state.

"Imagine a sunny and beautiful day in a suburb of Manhattan," he said. "An elderly man is tending to the roses in his small garden with his nephew visiting from Europe. Life seems perfectly normal. The following day, the nephew, carrying a suitcase, takes a train to Manhattan. Inside the suitcase is a nuclear bomb."

The threat, Putin explained to me a year before 9/11, was not from this or that country but from their terrorist proxies -- aided and supported quietly by a sovereign state that doesn't want to get its hands dirty -- who will perpetrate their attacks without a return address. This scenario became real when Al Qaeda plotted its 9/11 attacks from within Afghanistan and received support from the Taliban government. Then it happened again this summer, when Iran was allowed to wage a proxy war through Hezbollah in southern Lebanon and northern Israel. But this time, the international community's weak response dealt the global war on terror a severe blow.

Five years ago, after 9/11, such a lack of culpability seemed inconceivable. That was when President Bush abandoned the conventional approach to fighting terror by vowing that the United States would henceforth make no distinction between terrorists and regimes that support them. You are either with us or you are with the terrorists.

In the pre-9/11 world, regimes were rarely held responsible for the actions of terror groups. Now the Taliban regime was being held accountable.

This was critically important for two reasons. First, it recognized that international terrorism relies on the support of sovereign states. It is regimes, after all, that give terror groups territory on which to train, arm and indoctrinate their members, and regimes that provide them critical financial, diplomatic, logistical and intelligence support.

Regimes that support terror groups do have a return address and are rarely suicidal.

Second, although shadowy terror cells are difficult to eradicate fully and suicidal fanatics impossible to deter, the regimes that support terror groups do have a return address and are rarely suicidal. Thus, holding the Taliban responsible for the actions of Al Qaeda, and elevating the logic for doing so to a central principle in the war on terror, greatly enhanced deterrence. Every single regime was immediately put on notice.

Fast forward five years. Hezbollah launches an unprovoked attack on Israel. It is clear that Hezbollah is a proxy of Iran. It is public knowledge that Hezbollah receives more than $100 million a year from the Iranian regime, as well as sophisticated weapons and training.

Yet Iran has paid no price for its proxy's actions. No military strikes on Iranian targets, no sanctions, no threat whatsoever to Iranian interests. On the contrary, in the wake of the war, there have been renewed calls in the democratic world to "engage" Iran.

Symptomatic of the moral myopia in the West is a farce worthy of Orwell: Former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, under whom students were tortured after a 1999 crackdown at Tehran University and whose rule was marked by the continued stifling of dissent, spoke Sunday at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government on "Ethics of Tolerance in the Age of Violence."

The Iranian regime's intentions are clear. It calls for "wiping Israel off the map" and tells its followers to "imagine a world without America." It seeks to dominate the Middle East. By failing to hold Iran accountable for its brazen support of Hezbollah, the free world has undermined a central pillar in the war on terror and given the Iranian regime a huge weapon for achieving its ambitions. Now the mullahs know they can attack a democratic country with impunity.

Considering the apocalyptic fanaticism of Iran's leader, it is an open question whether the current regime in Tehran is capable of being deterred through the threat of mutually assured destruction. But given how the world has responded to Hezbollah, the point may be academic. For surely Iran would be better served by using proxies to wage a nuclear war against Israel. And if there is no accountability, why stop with Israel?

The road to a suitcase bomb in Tel Aviv, Paris or New York just got a whole lot shorter.

This article originally appeared in the LA Times.

September 16, 2006

Give Tzedakah! Help create inspiring
articles, videos and blogs featuring timeless Jewish wisdom.
The opinions expressed in the comment section are the personal views of the commenters. Comments are moderated, so please keep it civil.

Visitor Comments: 7

(7) Retlaw, October 1, 2006 5:00 AM

naivity of the western world

you are right. the western world is naive, materialistic and afraid to stand up against the spirit of mullahs. When do we see that a real dialog with mullahs is useless and not possible?

(6) ray, September 21, 2006 3:09 PM

history repeats itself

you're right. but the western world is afraid to start world war III.
they mistakenly hope that somehow the islamic problem will simply go away.

(5) BaBaldy, September 19, 2006 2:30 PM

I imagine his speech

'Tolerance and non-violence are wonderful ideals to strive for,what can I say "it aint easy".

(4) Allesandra..., September 18, 2006 4:49 PM


Why didntt the Harvasrd alumnae boycott the past Itanians speech at Harvard... why did they allow it at all!!??Certainly they are blind or misinformed , had Sharon turned up years ago to speak at Harvard.. what do you think would have happenned..Iran is the next Iraq, as the bad guy in the street,

and as for Lebanon their two facedness, while containing all the while a Terror candidate in their Government, and allowing them to prolifwrate in the South is truly 2 faced, cowardly and culpable... Democracy and Eligibility in the U.n.. should be subjected to Terms and conditions... and where are Koffie Annans outcries and condemnations on the aforementioned issues... nowhere to be seen of course...

(3) JMS, September 18, 2006 2:40 PM

Just a thought

From "The Book of Our Heritage" (Sefer ha-Toda'ah) by R' Eliyahu Kitov zt''l:

"R' Yitzchak taught: In the year in which Mashiach will be revealed, all the nations of the world will be in conflict with each other. The king of Persia [modern-day Iran] will quarrel with the king of Arabia and... And the king of Persia will destroy the entire world"

Square brackets and abbreviations added by me.

Vol. 2 pp1012-1013

See All Comments

Submit Your Comment:

  • Display my name?

  • Your email address is kept private. Our editor needs it in case we have a question about your comment.

  • * required field 2000
Submit Comment