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How Khomeini Planted The Seeds For Hamas' Holy War 45 Years Ago

Whom should we blame for the death and destruction in Gaza: terrorists, Israel or 'warmongers' beyond them, notably the Tehran regime that envisaged, decades ago, a regional war as the prelude to spreading its "Islamic revolution."

photo of a young cleric talking into the ear of the Ayatollah

Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979 in Tehran


Updated Nov. 3, 2023 at 1:45 p.m.


War has spread like wildfire, first in Ukraine and now the Middle East, as the world looks on aghast. It becomes increasingly difficult now to discern between good and bad, as we're forced to watch the abject sight of ordinary people, and especially children, killed or weeping amid the ruins.

Yet in spite of the anguish, we must be clear-eyed about the source of this calamity. Ordinary Iranians in particular knew in their hearts, from the very moment we learned of the Hamas attack on Oct. 7, that it could be traced back directly to the regime that calls itself an "Islamic Republic," led by a supreme leader busy pursuing a particular and sinister agenda of his own.

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Inciting opinion against Israel and exploiting the grief of millions around the world are part of the ploy to distract the world from the Iranian regime's involvement. Hysterical reports viewed by a vast, unquestioning public convey a simplistic message: Israel is ultimately to blame for the carnage.

But we need to sift through the narrative of commentators, and distinguish between hard politics and a sense of humanity. When certain people lambast the Israelis for killing civilians but adopt a muted position toward Hamas doing the same, we clearly cannot take their humanitarian rationale at face value.

There is a glaring contradiction there, rooted in ideology. They might invoke the respective numbers of victims of course, as Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei did soon after the initial attack. Sure, he said, some civilians had died — but consider how many people the Israelis have killed in the past, he declared to his devotees in Tehran.

But can you "measure" good, bad and worse with numbers? More Palestinians have died, certainly, from Israel's fire power. If Hamas had the same weaponry, how many would it have killed by now? Would it have refrained from killing as many as it could? Have its patrons in Tehran not stated for decades a desire to "wipe Israel off the map"? The revolutionary mullahs are not horrified then — in principle at least — by the idea itself of carrying out of a massacre.

Guterres blind spot

Many Western media, including those not unduly hostile to Israel, see the root of this particular war in the longstanding occupation of Palestinian lands and the harsh conditions Israel has imposed on the Palestinians. Broadly, this was the position of the UN Secretary-General António Guterres in recent declarations.

But did the bitter conflict over land that has lasted for over half a century prompt the assault on October 7, with its marked savagery? Rather we should attribute it to more recent developments, notably the decision of several Arab states to recognize and establish diplomatic ties with Israel. They seemed to have concluded that negating Israel's existence was no longer useful to their sovereign and business interests, or even to the Palestinians.

Officially at least, these states had made the Palestinian cause a foreign policy axiom for decades — but it had led them nowhere. Perpetual tensions are bad for economies; and indeed, an Iranian regime that cares little for the economy, is the only regional state that sees benefits in violence. It has devoted decades to fomenting and fanning troubles wherever it could.

Its short-term aim in this war is to drag the Arab states into this fire, and reduce Iran's own international isolation, perhaps even boosting its legitimacy among the Arabs. With its systematic inability to manage its economy and assure Iranians a modicum of prosperity and lawful living, it must provoke regional turmoil to mask its own brittleness, incompetence and the opprobrium it faces at home.

Three fighters from he Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, sit on the roof of a car with rifles during a military parade.

July 19, 2023: Fighters from the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, take part in a military parade.

Yousef Mohammed/ZUMA

Rely on God

In the long term, it is pursuing its project to spread Islamism or that brand of pseudo-religious zealotry concocted by the late revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. As Khomeini and his followers have said on several occasions, the big goal is to "unite" the Islamic community and form a vast Islamic state that would then take on the world!

If you think these are just boastful fantasies and not to be taken seriously, it must be said, Iranians thought much the same before 1979. We too made the mistake of dismissing his vows to create an Islamic government. An obsessive vision of the Shah as our enemy, turned us into the pawns and foot-soldiers that helped Khomeini reach his goal.

Those unfamiliar with, or puzzled by the views of the likes of Khomeini and his successor, Khamenei, are bound to misinterpret their goals and underestimate their resolve. Yet as Khomeini told a delegation from Kuwait visiting Tehran soon after the revolution, his goal to make the world "Islamic" was simply to follow the path of the Prophet Muhammad (who died in the 7th century). He told his visitors the prophet "was just one man, but he overcame his enemies with God's help," implying Muslims could act similarly in modern times.

The powers of this world "are as nothing before God," the Ayatollah declared, saying that Muslims (believers) would "overcome everything" if they "rely on God."

Or, as he said in plainer terms another time: "there ain't a damned thing the Americans can do about it." His quip became a favorite and oft-quoted slogan of the regime. Yet the Islamists of this world — both the Sunni and Salafist variants that have some things, if not everything, in common with Iran's Shia revolutionaries — have relied more on extreme violence than their faith in God, to attain their goals.

photo of a boy near pool of blood

A Palestinian boy Fridayafter an Israeli bombing in Gaza City

Saeed Jaras/APA Images via ZUMA

Tears for Gaza

So, besides the arms and money Tehran has channeled to groups like Hamas, perhaps its greatest contribution to this war is in the premise of fomenting war, particularly with Israel, as a prelude to mobilizing Muslims for that bigger goal of global dominance under the banner it calls "No God but God."

We must single out those who prefer war to diplomacy, as a policy tool.

Again, you might think such words were the product of the zeal of the early revolutionary years. Yet just recently, one of Iran's top air-force officials said he hoped these "traitors of our time" (the Israelis) would soon die to allow the "flag of No God but God" to fly over the world. If it wasn't a direct quote, it certainly followed the Khomeini style manual.

There is no war without civilian deaths and destruction of cities. Extreme suffering for civilians is a natural consequence of war. So in looking for culprits, we must single out those who prefer war to diplomacy or even bargaining, as a policy tool. It almost makes no sense to blame the soldiers, for once war begins, brutality, murders and "excesses" are inevitable. But if you insist on doing so, you must first identify those who specifically target civilians, by using them as shields or turn premises like schools and hospitals into arms caches or trenches.

And what do we make of those Iranians of the Left who have turned on Israel as they always did? One could understand the logic of their unremitting hostility to Israel during the Cold War as a member of the Western alliance, which they saw as a reactionary block opposed to the "progress" of socialism. Today however, refusing to yank themselves out of their past, some Iranian communists have decided to see the likes of Hamas, Islamic Jihad or Hezbollah as the new faces of global progress!

At best, that is to repeat the mistake of the millions of Iranians who refused, in the frenzied months of 1978, to see what Khomeini, Khomeinism and Islamism were about. At worst, this is to knowingly coddle the cruel regime in Iran.

But ultimately, Iran's youth have shown that they are sick of the old, anti-imperialist discourse, as shown by the soccer fans pulling down a Palestinian flag at a stadium soon after the Gaza attack, or car drivers loudly tooting their horns in Tehran, just when authorities had asked people to keep a moment's silence for Gaza.

For who can finally stomach the shamelessness of a regime that weeps for Gaza, and hangs its own citizens?

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FOCUS: Israel-Palestine War

What Are Iran's Real Intentions? Watch What The Houthis Do Next

Three commercial ships traveling through the Red Sea were attacked by missiles launched by Iran-backed Yemeni Houthi rebels, while the U.S. Navy shot down three drones. Tensions that are linked to the ongoing war in Gaza conflict and that may serve as an indication as to Iran's wider intentions.

photo of Raisi of iran speaking in parliament

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi at the Iranian parliament in Tehran.

Icana News Agency via ZUMA
Pierre Haski


PARIS — It’s a parallel war that has so far claimed fewer victims and attracted less public attention than the one in Gaza. Yet it increasingly poses a serious threat of escalating at any time.

This conflict playing out in the international waters of the Red Sea, a strategic maritime route, features the U.S. Navy pitted against Yemen's Houthi rebels. But the stakes go beyond the Yemeni militants — with the latter being supported by Iran, which has a hand in virtually every hotspot in the region.

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Since the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel, the Houthis have been making headlines, despite Yemen’s distance from the Gaza front. Starting with missiles launched directed toward southern Israel, which were intercepted by U.S. forces. Then came attacks on ships belonging, or suspected of belonging, to Israeli interests.

On Sunday, no fewer than three commercial ships were targeted by ballistic missiles in the Red Sea. The missiles caused minor damage and no casualties. Meanwhile, three drones were intercepted and destroyed by the U.S. Navy, currently deployed in full force in the region.

The Houthis claimed responsibility for these attacks, stating their intention to block Israeli ships' passage for as long as there was war in Gaza. The ships targeted on Sunday were registered in Panama, but at least one of them was Israeli. In the days before, several other ships were attacked and an Israeli cargo ship carrying cars was seized, and is still being held in the Yemeni port of Hodeida.

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