(Spring 1992) Iran has mounted a massive campaign against international efforts to bring peace to the Middle East. The most obvious element of this campaign is the propaganda that pours forth daily from Iran's Islamic Republic News Agency and other official state organs.
The most dangerous element is the terrorism that Iran is plotting to unleash through radical Palestinian groups that share its views and accept its sponsorship.
The immediate target is the Middle East peace process, developed through months of intensive diplomacy and thrust into the world spotlight in Madrid, where for the first time representatives of the Palestinian people, Israel, and neighboring Arab nations gathered in the same room for talks.
The ultimate target is the existence of the Jewish state. Since the revolution of 1979, Iran has held to a policy that reviles Israel as an infidel intruder in the Islamic Middle Eastand that considers the destruction of Israel a goal of the revolution led by the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Thus Iran rejects all conciliatory efforts, such as the Madrid talks, that might result in wider acceptance of Israel's right to exist.
Iranian policy statements dominated the declaration that radical Palestinian groups endorsed at a rejectionist conference conducted by the Tehran government in October. The gathering had an ungainly title, "International Conference of Support to the Islamic Revolution in Palestine," but its message boiled down to something blunt and simple, "elimination of the Zionist existence and creation of an independent Palestinian state.
Iran's Islamic Republic News Agency glutted the presses and filled the airwaves with the 28 points of the declaration and with the threats of the signatories: The Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, The Palestine Popular Struggle Front, The Revolutionary Palestinian Communist Party, The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, The Popular Liberation War Vanguards (or Al-sa'Iqah), Fatah-The Revolutionary Council, Fatah, The Islamic Jihad Movement in Palestine, The Islamic Resistance Movement (or Hamas), and The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command.
Iranian President Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani offered to "dispatch troops to fight Israel along with the Palestinians." His gesture unintentionally emphasized two embarrassing points. First, the Palestinian splinter groups represented at Tehran would need help; the mainstream Palestine Liberation Organization was represented at Madrid. Second, holding the conference in the Persian state underscored how alienated the rejectionist Palestinians have become from Arab politics.
Iran accompanied the Tehran conference utterances with ferocious statements from its own officials. Hasan Firuzaoadi, the armed forces chief of staff, declared that the armies of Islamic nations are determined to root out the illegal Zionist state. Fakhreddin Hejazi, a Majlis deputy from Tehran, vowed that a "fire of wrath will burn the Zionist rulers in Tel Aviv." He also predicted annihilation for the American secretary of state, "who is housing thousands of satans in his blue eyes."
Iran's former chief justice, Ayatollah Musavi Ardebili, said, "guerrilla warfare was needed to deal a blow on the United States. When they see that their advisors are being killed in Asia, Europe, Africa and the Arab countries they will be unable to deal with it."
Behind the rhetoric, something more ominous was under way as the Palestinians set up a secretariat in Tehran "to implement the resolutions of the conference." The resolutions called for "armed struggle," a euphemism for terrorism.
More news of how Iran plans to employ the radical Palestinians in its campaign against the peace process came not from the propaganda organs of Tehran but from Lebanon, where security sources said Iran was encouraging Islamic guerrillas in the south to mount attacks on Israel.
Lebanese officials and Palestinian sources, too, said Tehran had provided ample funds for terrorist actions and that pro-Iranian radicals were spending lavishly on weapons, communications, and logistics equipment. Sheik Ahmed Taleb, a powerful Shi'ite cleric in south Lebanon, refused to discuss Tehran's increased funding, but he did acknowledge Iranian backing for violent undertakings by Hezbollah, or Party of God, in which he is a senior figure.
Taleb said, "Tehran is handling escalating the confrontation at the political level, and the Islamic resistance is responsible for the practical escalation on the ground." The peace talks, he said, "will be the beginning of war, not peace."
Even before the Madrid talks commenced, bombs were exploding and people were dying. The threat of more violence stretches as far as Iran can reach through the worldwide network of governmental and commercial installations that it uses as advanced bases for its terrorist operations.
The Rafsanjani government, attempting to make the West believe that Tehran has seen the light of moderation, masks its own terrorist actions by blaming them on radical opponents of the government's domestic economic policies.