As US President Barack Obama makes historic overtures in attempting to foster open dialogue with Iran, the rest of world watches in optimistic anticipation. The UK's Guardian recently reported that Obama's administration drafted a letter to Iran "aimed at unfreezing US-Iranian relations and opening the way for face-to-face talks."
Iran's president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has welcomed US overtures saying that:
"The new U.S. administration announced that it's willing to bring about a number of changes and is now taking the course for dialogue. It's quite clear that the real change should be fundamental, not just tactical change, and it is quite clear that the Iranian nation will greet real changes." (CNN, February 10 )
Change or no change, residents of southern and northern Israel have reason to be wary of Iran, a country that continues to fund Hamas and Hezbullah terrorism operations.
Thanks to Iranian-produced Grad missiles and technology, Hamas now holds rockets that place close to 1 million Israelis within target range. During Operation Cast Lead, Hamas was able to strike Israel's fifth and sixth largest cities, Ashdod and Beersheba respectively, along with Netivot, Ofakim, Qiryat Gat, Yavneh, and Kiryat Malachi.
Hamas now has aspirations to target other Israeli cities, particularly Tel Aviv. Hamas's Al-Aqsa TV recently proclaimed on a program: "Tel Aviv, all our options are open." (Al Aqsa TV, January 10, 2009)
But it is not only the rockets which are worrying.
Although the Obama administration is keen on turning a new leaf with Iran, the fact remains that Iran is the "central banker" for Middle East terrorism, as former US Secretary of State, Condoleeza Rice aptly put when she spoke to the Senate Appropriations Committee on Iran's role in supporting Islamic terror in 2006.
The Iranian nation is a leading financial supporter of three terror networks; Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah. Iran transfers several hundreds of million of dollars a year to Hamas, financing the movement and its military wing, Iz Al-Din-al Qassam Brigades. When Hamas took over the Gaza Strip in 2006, Iran awarded the regime with a $50 million bonus (BBC report April 16, 2006).
The Hamas website reported on December 11, 2006 that the Iranians had given $250 million to top Hamas official and fundraiser, Ismail Haniya, of which $100 million was used to cover the salaries of Hamas employees in the social, labor and cultural ministries for a six-month period in 2007. (Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center report )
According to the IICC, Iran regards Hezbollah and Hamas as two important sources of power which Iran uses to promote its strategic goals, that of regional hegemony.
“Using Hezbollah, Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist organizations, the Iranian-Syrian axis can increase its influence in the Arab and Muslim world, pose a serious challenge to Mahmoud Abbas, harm the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority and export the Iranian brand of radical Islam to other Sunni countries, especially Egypt. From the Iranian point of view, its sponsorship of Hamas is considered as a means of establishing an Iranian foothold in the heart of the Sunni world.”
Iranians themselves fully identify with Hamas’s goals to destroy Israel, as most recently indicated when more than 70,000 Iranian student volunteers registered to carry out suicide bombings against Israel to support Hamas during Operation Cast Lead in Gaza. (AP January 5) The rush of volunteers transpired when Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei delivered a religious decree stating that anyone who carried out an attack against Israel would be considered a martyr.
Iranian schools, like Hamas, contain children’s textbooks which teach Iranian schoolchildren to hate and fear Israel. IMPACT recently published a short volume on The War Curriculum in Iran, which exposes the way in which Iranian textbooks connect the Islamic Revolution in Iran to the struggle for the liberation of Palestine.
Children as young as eight years of age learn in Iranian history textbooks that
“God willing, the day will come when all Muslims will be united, liberate Palestine and save Jerusalem from the hands of the enemies of Islam.”
Social Studies, Grade 3 (2004) p. 56
And finally, Iran’s perception of the West is just as hostile. Iranian school books equal the United States with “the Great Satan.” Westernization receives a special label in Persian, known as Gharbzadegi, which literally means being smitten with the West in a way that corrupts the soul. “Westernization is treated as an ominous danger targeting Islamic identity.” (The War Curriculum in Iranian Schoolbooks p.162)
Is it any wonder that Iran and most of its population of 74 million residents determinedly supports the Hamas regim? After all the Iranian national education system and religious institutions for the past thirty years has indoctrinated a hate education against Israel and the West.
The question is-- what will President Obama be willing to believe of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad should he engage in direct talks, as Iranian financial aid and rockets continue to strengthen Hamas and Hezbollah. And will Israel be pressured to talk to Hamas in the same fashion?