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Iran’s declaration of war must not go unanswered

The pretense has ended. The gloves are off. Iran’s Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan has openly threatened to destroy Saudi Arabia, except for Makkah and Madinah, if it “does something ignorant.” Can there be any statement more ignorant or more foolish than this, when threatening the Kingdom equates to placing all the Gulf states and the entire Arab and Islamic worlds on alert?

He must be the most intellectually challenged man on the planet to underestimate the military and economic power of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), and to imagine that it would stand aside. Tehran would be the first city to be obliterated after firing its first missile or dropping its first bomb.

The ayatollahs and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) are nothing but midgets poking a regional giant armed with some of the most sophisticated weaponry known to man. They must be inclined to suicide to warn a strong, stable nation such as Saudi Arabia in this vulgar fashion. You would think Tehran has enough to worry about domestically without stirring an international hornet’s nest.

Iranians are suffering from a depressed economy because the country’s wealth is being spent on weapons and militant proxies. Human rights abuses, oppression of minorities and a virulent drug culture constitute a depressive environment that kills human dignity, free expression and hopes for a better life.

Iran prefers to embrace terrorists and terrorist organizations in Lebanon and Iraq to further its territorial and ideological ambitions, than to nurture its own citizens. This untenable situation is partly our fault. Arabs have been in denial for far too long. We have overlooked Iran’s verbal provocations, dismissing them as mere fiery rhetoric for domestic consumption.

Even as Iran’s tentacles tightened around Lebanon, Syria and Iraq, we permitted the mullahs to believe they are powerful enough to threaten us and get away with it. We should have discontinued all diplomatic relations, trade agreements and bilateral meetings years ago.

Those who negotiated the nuclear deal with Iran, including former US President Barack Obama’s administration, must also accept their share of the blame for a narrow deal that was not conditional on an end to Iran’s regional aggressions.

I was appalled to see Iranian President Hassan Rouhani revel at European red-carpet receptions when Tehran’s Lebanese mini-me Hezbollah was slaughtering Syrians, and when Iranian weapons were being dispatched to Houthi murderers in Yemen.

All strands of the Iranian opposition — from Persian dissidents to members of downtrodden minorities such as Ahwazis, Baluchis, Christians, Jews, Baha’is, Zoroastrians and others — should be encouraged, funded and armed to cleanse their lands from primitivism.

Khalaf Ahmad Al-Habtoor 

Conversely, Donald Trump warned Iran that “there is a new president in town,” vowing not to “sit by” as Tehran pursues its military ambitions. “Iran is playing with fire. They don’t appreciate how ‘kind’ President Obama was to them. Not me!” Trump once tweeted. It is gratifying to see that he has prioritized the Kingdom as the first stop on his upcoming presidential foreign tour. We will see if his response to Iran’s warning will match his words.

I feel deeply sorry for the Iranian people. They traveled the world like kings until the 1979 revolution, which was hijacked by the devilish former Supreme Leader Ruhollah Khomeini with the help of Western intelligence agencies. Although there were some disputes, Gulf nationals enjoyed close relationships with Iranians for decades during the reign of the shahs.

Iranians are good, peaceful people, but they are afraid to speak out against their persecutors. Those who have mustered the courage to stand up against their repressive government have been imprisoned, tortured or hanged. Following the birth of the Green Movement in 2009, when hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets to protest rigged elections, more than 10,000 demonstrators were arrested and more than 100 killed.

To quote US journalist Eli Lake, writing under the heading “Why Obama Let Iran’s Green Revolution Fail,” published by Bloomberg: “Obama ended US programs to document Iranian human rights abuses. He wrote personal letters to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei assuring him the US was not trying to overthrow him. Obama repeatedly stressed his respect for the regime in his statements marking Iran’s annual Nowruz celebration.”

I believe most Iranians would welcome Arab and international assistance in ridding them of an autocratic regime that penetrates every aspect of their lives and abandons millions to abject poverty.

Now that Iran has declared its enmity in no uncertain terms, we must be resolute in taking action. The time for self-delusion is over. I am relieved that Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman understands what is at stake. “We will not wait until the fight is inside Saudi Arabia and we will work so that the battle is on their side, inside Iran, not in Saudi Arabia,” he recently said.

I have been warning for many years that the mullahs’ end game is control over Islam’s holiest cities. I believed the intent of Iranian officials when they said one day the Persian Empire would be reconstituted.

I did not doubt for a moment that Ali Saeedi, Khamenei’s representative to the IRGC, meant what he said when he told commanders that the coming of the 12th imam cannot occur unless Iran is an instrumental player in effecting major regional changes. This medieval regime tries to portray itself as rational before the community of nations, but the core of its ideology is messianic and apocalyptic.

Former Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi gets it. During a meeting with the chairman of the National Council of Resistance of Iran’s (NCRI) foreign affairs committee concerning upcoming elections, Terzi agreed that whichever candidate wins, Iran’s policies will still be “driven by a messianic vision of domination in the whole region and beyond.”

I anxiously await the day when this poisonous regime implodes. Meanwhile, all strands of the Iranian opposition — from Persian dissidents to members of downtrodden minorities such as Ahwazis, Baluchis, Christians, Jews, Baha’is, Zoroastrians and others — should be encouraged, funded and armed to cleanse their lands from primitivism. I pray that Iranians will work to cultivate an open door to the 21st century and preserve our region from a devastating conflict. Together, with the help of God, we can prevail.

 

Khalaf Ahmad Al-Habtoor is a prominent UAE businessman and public figure. He is renowned for his views on international political affairs, his philanthropic activity and his efforts to promote peace. He has long acted as an unofficial ambassador for his country abroad.