Hot debate under way in Iran
- Last Updated: 12:33 AM, February 22, 2012
- Posted: 11:26 PM, February 21, 2012
Has the time come for Iran to destroy Israel?
With “Supreme Guide” Ali Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad promising to wipe Israel off the map, the question is being debated in Khomeinist political and theological circles.
Khamenei has recently claimed that, under his leadership, the Islamic ummah is heading for victory against Israel and the United States. Implicitly comparing himself with the Prophet Muhammad, Khamenei asserts that his victories will be as great as those of the founder of the faith at Badr and Kheibar.
The battle of Badr (624) resulted in the expulsion of “pagan forces” from the region of Medina, where Muhammad ruled. Khamenei believes that, with the United States retreating from the Middle East, his Islamic Republic is about to score as great a victory.
The battle of Kheibar (629) brought the destruction of the last Jewish state in the Arabian Peninsula. Plainly, Khamenei believes the destruction of Israel is more than a theoretical possibility.
Several Khomeinist theoreticians have delivered sermons aimed at giving the “destroy Israel” debate some direction. Among them are ayatollahs Ahmad Khatami, Ahmad Jannati and Muhammad-Taqi Mesbah-Yazdi.
One key question is finding a theological basis for total war against the Jewish state.
Traditional Shiite theologians assert that jihad is not permitted except in self-defense or when the existence of Islam as a religion is in danger. On that score, no war against Israel would be allowed, because the Jewish state hasn’t attacked Iran and clearly doesn’t threaten Islam’s existence as a religion.
To address that problem, a theologian from the holy city of Qom has published a pamphlet arguing that Israel must be destroyed (although an adviser to Khamenei’s office, Ali Reza Forqani says the tract is not “binding on the Iranian government”). His arguments are based on citations from the Koran and tracts by the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic.
Forqani insists that any attack on Israel should be aimed at “exterminating its Jewish population,” singling out Tel Aviv, Haifa and Jerusalem as places to be “totally destroyed.”
He envisages a first wave of missile attacks from Iran, possibly using chemical and bacteriological warheads, and a second wave from sites controlled by Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza. He also recommends attacks by Iranian warships stationed at the Syrian port of Tartus, near Israel.
According to Forqani, the war to destroy Israel should be launched before the end of Ahmadinejad’s second and final term as president in 2013. Perhaps he fears that Ahmadinejad’s successor might not prove as keen to wage war against the Jewish state.
Forqani is part of a circle linked to German neo-Nazis through Muhammad-Ali Ramin, an Ahmadinejad adviser. The circle runs the Web site Aleph and has been campaigning for total war against Israel since 2005.
Despite attempts by Khamenei and Forqani to push the “destroy Israel” idea higher on the Iranian agenda, the idea of war against the Jewish state enjoys virtually no popular support in Iran. Neither is able to cite any plausible reason as to how “wiping Israel off the map” might serve Iran’s national interests.
In comparing himself to the prophet, Khamenei makes three mistakes:
First: Swamped by flattery, he deludes himself into believing that he’s the supreme leader of the world’s estimated 1.3 billion Muslims. Yet Shiites represent only 15 percent of all Muslims — and Khamenei has never been accepted as a religious leader of Shiites. He’s the political leader of a faction in the Khomeinist movement, itself a minority in Iran.
Second, Khamenei confuses modern times with Muhammad’s epoch 1,400 years ago, when one could wipe a Jewish state off the map without anyone outside that patch of the Arabian desert even noticing.
His third mistake is to believe that the United States has disappeared from the Middle East for good, as did the “pagan” Qureishi emirate of Muhammad’s time.
A victim of hubris generated by criminal delusions, Khamenei may yet lead Iran into wars that the overwhelming majority of Iranians don’t want. If he does, it could spell the end not of Israel and/or America, but of his regime.Follow @NYPostOpinion