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41: Address Iran’s Support of Terrorism In Any Future Negotiations
Why is it important?
One of Israel’s most serious concerns about territorial compromise with the Palestinians is Iranian influence and support for Israel’s most proximate enemies, namely Hamas in Gaza and Hizballah in Lebanon. Opponents of two states frequently cite the possibility that an independent Palestine could become a base for Tehran’s proxies to act against Israel and other American allies.
U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the JCPOA (colloquially known as the Iran deal) has proven deeply controversial. However, it is now American policy, and has definitively altered relations with Iran. As the United States navigates its post-Iran Deal relationship with Tehran, it should ensure that any future negotiations with the Islamic Republic address Iranian support for terrorism directed at Israel, in order to help allay Israeli security concerns and make an accommodation with the Palestinians more viable.
Iran has long sought to “try hard to export our revolution to the world,” in the words of Ayatollah Khomeini, the clerical regime’s dominant revolutionary leader. This goal is embedded in Iran’s constitution and in the missions of organizations such as the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), a military and paramilitary organization that oversees Iran’s relationships with many substate groups.
Revolutionary ideology, however, has long taken a backseat to more strategic goals. In the decades since the 1979 revolution, Iran has used terrorism and support for militant groups to undermine and bleed rivals, intimidate the Gulf states and other neighbors, project power to make itself a player in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute and other arenas, disrupt peace negotiations that might isolate Iran and benefit Israel, and deter enemies, including the United States, that might otherwise use force against it. Iran has also sponsored terrorist attacks to take vengeance on countries that have supported its enemies, hosted its dissidents, or killed its operatives.
Distilled to its essence, Tehran’s steadfast support for Assad is not driven by the geopolitical or financial interests of the Iranian nation, nor the religious convictions of the Islamic Republic, but by a visceral and seemingly inextinguishable hatred for the state of Israel. As senior Iranian officials like Ali Akbar Velayati, a close adviser to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, have commonly said, “The chain of Resistance against Israel by Iran, Syria, Hezbollah, the new Iraqi government and Hamas passes through the Syrian highway. … Syria is the golden ring of the chain of resistance against Israel.” So long as the 78-year-old Khamenei remains in power, this hatred will justify Tehran’s continued commitment of blood and treasure to support Assad’s use of all means necessary—including chemical weapons—to preserve his rule.
Though Israel has virtually no direct impact on the daily lives of Iranians, opposition to the Jewish state has been the most enduring pillar of Iranian revolutionary ideology. Whether Khamenei is giving a speech about agriculture or education, he invariably returns to the evils of Zionism. “The Zionist regime is a true cancer tumor on this region that should be cut off,” Khamenei said in a 2012 speech. “We will support and help any nations, any groups fighting against the Zionist regime across the world.” Given Israel’s military superiority, Khamenei’s stated strategy is not Israel’s short-term annihilation, but its long-term political dissolution. “If Muslims and Palestinians unite and all fight,” he commonly says, “the Zionist regime will not be in existence in 25 years.”