Khomeini declared that the last Friday of the holy month of Ramadan
-- 28 October this year -- would be marked as Qods Day (Jerusalem Day).
Qods Day has been celebrated faithfully since then, not only in Iran
but in countries with sizable Shi'a Muslim minorities, and it has
become a ritualized outpouring of hatred directed at Israel. If this
hatred was restricted to an annual rally, it could be dismissed as a
meaningless display. However, because of Iran's alleged support for
terrorist organizations and suspicions that it is developing nuclear
weapons, many in the international community are concerned.
Against Normal Relations With Israel
to state radio, in his 21 October sermon at the Tehran Friday prayers,
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said that Qods Day is especially
important this year for several reasons, one of which is that some
Islamic states are normalizing their relations with Israel -- he
described this as "the conspiracy instigated by the Americans, the
Zionists, and some of their allies." Khamenei discouraged this
normalization process and suggested that countries do this just to
please the United States.
Khamenei is not the only Iranian
official to speak out recently against normalized relations with
Israel. President Mahmud Ahmadinejad told his cabinet in Tehran on 24
October that Israel's effort to normalize relations with Muslim
countries is a "new Zionist plot," state radio reported. Ahmadinejad
said that "Muslim nations will not let it do so on international Qods
Day." Two days later, Ahmadinejad told a conference on "A World Without
Zionism" in Tehran that any government that normalizes its ties with
Israel will encounter the wrath of the Islamic umma (community), the
Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) and state television reported.
Former President Hojatoleslam Mohammad Khatami said in a 25 October
speech at Ayatollah Khomeini's shrine that Iranians should participate
in Qods Day rallies to show their solidarity with the Palestinians and
to protest "the great oppression of our time," Mehr News Agency
reported. Khatami said Palestinians are the biggest victims of
state-sponsored terrorism at the hands of Israel.
Also on 25
October, the Assembly of Experts, an elected body of 86 clerics,
encouraged Muslims to participate in the Qods Day events and show their
adherence to the ideals of Ayatollah Khomeini, Mehr News Agency
reported. The Assembly of Experts statement discouraged Muslim states
from normalizing relations with Israel. Hojatoleslam Ali-Akbar
Mohtashami-Pur, secretary-general of the International Conference to
Support the Palestinian Uprising (Intifada) series and a founder of
Lebanese Hizballah, said in a 22 October interview in Tehran that
Islamic countries' establishment of links with "the Zionist regime"
(presumably Israel) is a crime, Mehr News Agency reported. He referred
specifically to Bahrain, Pakistan, Qatar, and Turkey as being in the
process of normalizing their relations with Israel. He said Jerusalem
and the Al-Aqsa mosque are under threat, and Islamic countries should
be holding a summit on this issue.
More Than Just Talk?
is doing more, however, than just talking tough. According to the U.S.
State Department, which designated Iran a state sponsor of terrorism in
January 1984, Iran helps terrorist groups secure funding, weapons, and
materials, and it provides them with safe areas from which they conduct
operations. The State Department identifies Iran as the most active
state sponsor of terrorism in its most recent annual report -- "Country
Reports on Terrorism," released by the Office of the Coordinator for
Counterterrorism on 27 April 2005. That report notes Iranian
interference in Iraq and Tehran's refusal to identify Al-Qaeda members
it claims to have in custody. The State Department report notes Iran's
"high-profile role in encouraging anti-Israeli terrorist activity," and
it notes Tehran's support for "Lebanese Hizballah and Palestinian
terrorist groups -- notably HAMAS, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the
al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of
Iranian officials acknowledge
helping these organizations, and Tehran sees them as liberation
movements. The help Iranian officials admit to is only of the political
and moral kind, and when accused of supporting terrorism they level
counteraccusations and claim that Iran is the biggest victim of this
Moreover, representatives of
Hizballah, Hamas, and similar organizations sometimes participate in
Qods Day rallies and other events in Iran, and Iranian officials
sometimes meet with them in Beirut, Damascus, and elsewhere. For
example, Hamas representative Abu Osama Abd-al-Moti said at the 26
October "A World Without Zionism" event in Tehran, "With your help and
support and the support of the entire Islamic nation, our people can
remain steadfast and confront Israel and America until this cancerous
gland is removed," Al-Manar television reported.
only does Iran provide assistance to terrorist organizations, it has
encouraged its own citizens to become suicide bombers. In May 2004, an
organization called the Headquarters for Tribute to the Martyrs of the
Global Islamic Movement began recruiting suicide bombers in Iranian
cities. This organization is affiliated with the Islamic Revolution
Guards Corps, and in December 2004 it commemorated the 1983 suicide
bombing of a U.S. Marine Corps barracks in Beirut, in which 241
Americans were killed. According to the martyrs' headquarters, the
prospective suicide bombers would operate in Iraq and Palestine.
is, however, no evidence to date of any actions by Iranian suicide
bombers. That is not because suicide bombings -- which are referred to
as martyrdom operations -- are being discouraged by Iranian officials.
During a 1 May 2002 speech, Supreme Leader Khamenei said, "It is the
zenith of honor for a man, a young person, boy or girl, to be prepared
to sacrifice his life in order to serve the interests of his nation and
his religion. This is the zenith of courage and bravery....
[M]artyrdom-seeking operations demonstrate the pinnacle of a nation's
honor," state radio reported. In a 24 August speech at the headquarters
of the paramilitary Basij, Khamenei said this organization is a model
for the rest of the Islamic world. He added, "That is why America and
its agents are trying to defame jihad and martyrdom and question such
supreme values," state television reported.
to concern about Iranian intentions are suspicions of Tehran's nuclear,
biological, and chemical weapons programs, which were described by U.S.
intelligence community leaders in testimony before the U.S. Senate
Select Committee on Intelligence in February and the Senate Armed
Services Committee in March. Iran's missile inventory -- particularly
the Shihab-3 medium-range ballistic missile, which has a 1300-kilometer
range, and the development of a 2000-kilometer version -- are also
cause for concern.
Given this record, the comments of President Ahmadinejad
on 26 October are especially worrisome. He described Israel as a
"disgraceful blot" that should be "wiped off the map." One could
perhaps dismiss the president's statement as bluster or rhetoric as he
was paraphrasing Ayatollah Khomeini's previous comments
on Israel. But Ahmadinejad's comments came shortly before a suicide
bomber in the Israeli town of Hadera killed five people. Palestinian
Islamic Jihad -- one of the groups sponsored by Iran -- took credit for