On Oct. 15, the Globe and Mail reported the results of a recent Ipsos Reid poll of Canadian and American perceptions about, among other things, threats to international peace and stability.
According to this survey, in a ranking of the greatest global threats, Canadians placed international terrorism first, famine and food shortages second and a nuclear-armed Iran third. Not surprisingly, given the lingering effects of 9/11 and subsequent disclosures of other terrorist plots that have been thwarted, Americans listed international terrorism as the greatest threat, but they placed a nuclear-armed Iran second. (Though they’re less directly affected, it’s significant that Canadians share the same concern.)
Still, one might wonder if Iran would rank even higher on the concern index in Canada if Tehran’s ties to international terrorism were better understood – in short, if the dots were connected.
Perhaps this is what Americans have more clearly grasped since the U.S. State Department several years ago listed Iran as the world’s principal sponsor of international terrorism. Iran’s nefarious acts extend from Asia to Africa to South America and even to the United States itself. Just last year, American officials uncovered an Iranian plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the U.S. by blowing up a popular Washington restaurant he frequents – a terrorist act that would have resulted in mass civilian casualties.
Mansour Arbabsiar, an Iranian-American charged in that plot, pleaded guilty in a Federal District Court in New York City on Oct. 17 to conspiring to commit an act of terrorism. Arbabsiar admitted to having worked with Iranian military officials. A co-conspirator also charged in the case, Gholam Shakuri, who is believed to belong to the Quds Force, remains at large. (The Quds Force is the lead unit of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps tasked with planning and carrying out terrorist attacks abroad.)
In addition, Iran provides logistic, financial and military assistance not only to movements such as Hezbollah in Lebanon and Islamic Jihad (and previously to Hamas) in Gaza, but also to insurgent groups in Afghanistan (and previously in Iraq) that have carried out attacks on western multinational forces. Iran is also active even in Egypt through its sponsorship of jihadist groups operating in the mostly lawless Sinai.
Currently, Hassan Nasrallah’s Hezbollah fighters are busy, along with Iranian Revolutionary Guards, helping to keep President Bashar Assad’s beleaguered Syrian regime alive. Susan Rice, American ambassador to the UN, told the Security Council last week that “Nasrallah’s fighters are now part of Assad’s killing machine, and Hezbollah’s leaders continue to plot with Iran new measures to prop up a murderous and desperate dictator.”
At the same session, Israel’s ambassador to the UN, Ron Prosor, challenged Nasrallah’s claim that he’s defending Lebanon against Israel: “Today on the streets of Homs, Hama, and Damascus, we see that Hezbollah’s army is far more preoccupied with butchering their Arab brothers and sisters in Syria… Ahmadinejad and Nasrallah sit on Bashar al-Assad’s advisory board, offering the Tyrant of Damascus guidance on how to butcher the Syrian people more efficiently. Together they form what I call a ‘trio of terror.’”
According to the British newspaper the Telegraph (Oct. 17), Hezbollah escalated the fighting by using its military bases in the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon to fire rockets on positions held by the Free Syrian Army across the border in Syria. That also means hitting villages and killing civilians.
Returning briefly to the nuclear issue to further connect the dots mentioned above, we should note that a nuclear-armed Iran could equip any one or more of these terrorist groups with tactical nuclear devices (or even a “dirty” bomb) to use against Israel or any number of other targets. Given that Iran itself wouldn’t have to launch a nuclear bomb (though it would have the capacity to do so), the regime’s ability to wreak devastation would be manifold – and, unless checked, remains profoundly dangerous.
Paul Michaels is director of research and senior media relations for the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs.