After years of refusing to see Iran’s aggressive intentions, most sensible observers of things Middle Eastern now recognize that the most important terrorist organizations, from Islamic Jihad to Hezbollah and Hamas, are essentially Iranian proxies. Figaro this weekend carries a story bluntly headlined “Iran Behind Hamas’ Grad Missiles,” and flatly states that Hamas military commanders have been trained in Iran and Syria to use the deadliest missiles in their inventory. The battle of Gaza is therefore the second between Israel and Iran in two and half years, the first being the 2006 conflict with Hezbollah (which, lest we forget, was kicked off when Hamas kidnaped three Israeli soldiers).
It follows that Iran could well lose this battle, and defeat is very dangerous to a regime like Tehran’s, which claims divine sanction for its actions and proclaims the imminent arrival of its messiah and of the triumph of global jihad. If Allah is responsible for victory, what can be said about humiliating defeat? The mullahs are well aware of the stakes, as we can see in their recent behavior.
For some time now, the regime in Tehran has shown signs of urgency, sometimes verging on panic. Of late, the mullahs have organized raucus demonstrations in front of numerous embassies, including those of Egypt (with chants of “Death to Mubarak”), Jordan, Turkey, Great Britain, Germany and today (imagine!) France. These demonstrations were not mere gestures; the regime’s seriousness was underlined on Sunday, the 4th, when it offered a million-dollar reward to anyone who killed Mubarak (the Iranians called it a “revolutionary execution”). Significantly, the announcement came at a rally of the Basij, the most radical security force in the country, at which the Revolutionary Guards official Forooz Rejaii spoke. The Egyptians take it seriously; they have been on alert of late, looking for the possibility of a Mumbai-type operation in Cairo or elsewhere.
At the same time, the regime intensified its murderous assault against its own people, most notably hanging nine people on Christmas Eve, and assaulting the headquarters of Nobel Prize Winner Shirin Ebadi.
This intense tempo of activity bespeaks alarm in Tehran, which is fully justified by a number of setbacks. First of all, the dramatic drop in oil prices is devastating to the mullahs, who had planned to be able to fund terrorist proxies throughout the Middle East, Europe and the Americas. Suddenly their bottom line is tinged with red, and this carries over onto their domestic balance sheets, which were already demonstrably shaky (they were forced to cancel proposed new taxes when the merchant class staged nation-wide protests). No wonder they seize on any international event to call for petroleum export reductions. Just today they called for a drastic reduction of oil shipments to all countries that supported the Israeli military incursion into Gaza.