The focus on Iran





By AMIR TAHERI August 23, 2004

... Much of this war has been of the cold type. But its history also includes lukewarm and hot episodes.

The opening shots were fired in February 1979 when Khomeinist gunmen invaded 27 "listening posts" set up by the United States in Iran to monitor Soviet missile tests in accordance with the SALT II accords. The posts had been created with the consent of the USSR and as Iran's contribution to global arms reduction programs. Within weeks, all 27 posts were closed and their American personnel, briefly held hostage, expelled from the newly created Islamic Republic.

In October 1979, the Khomeinist regime and the United States appeared to be heading for an understanding when Mehdi Bazargan, the ayatollah's first prime minister, met President Jimmy Carter's national security adviser, Zbigniew Bzrezinski, in Rabat. Carter had addressed a flattering letter to Khomeini, praising the ayatollah as "a man of God." In a show of good will, Carter lifted the ban he had imposed during the revolutionary turmoil on arms exports to Iran.


For 25 years, the Islamic Republic has helped prop up various anti-American regimes, including North Korea, Syria, Sudan and Cuba, with cheap oil, cash gifts and general political and economic support.

Today, this strange war is being fought in Afghanistan and Iraq.

In Afghanistan, Tehran is supporting Ismail Khan, the "emir" of Herat, while the United States has put its chips on President Hamid Karzai. In recent months, the mullahs have helped the Hazara Shiites create a 10,000-man army within a day's march to Kabul.

To make life more difficult for the U.S.-led coalition, Tehran is also helping the Pushtun fundamentalist leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who has just concluded an alliance with the remnants of the Taliban.

In Iraq, the mullahs have a string of client groups not only among the Shiites but also in the Kurdish areas. And last month, they forged a tactical alliance with the main Arab Sunni insurgent group led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

With the mullahs determined to develop and deploy nuclear weapons, the stakes in this 25-year war are certain to rise. Regardless of who wins the U.S. presidential election, Iran is likely to emerge as the No. 1 foreign policy preoccupation in Washington next year.

Of course we have completely different policies on the table - I wait for the future...