July 18, 2006 | Commentary on Middle East
My stomach churned and my breath grew shallow as I read his emotional letter describing the carnage when scores of U.S. Marines were pulverized by a single terrorist in Beirut. The man who would one day become my husband was on bridge watch aboard the USS Joseph Hewes, patrolling the gunline just off the beach that fateful day in 1983.
"The number of black body bags on nearby Iwo Jima grows larger every hour," Andy wrote. "Yet, people continue to play on the beach, seemingly oblivious to the smoldering bodies and terror around them."
Our young men in uniform were in the region, not in time of war, but as part of a multi-national peacekeeping force. When all the bloodied and mangled bodies were counted, the world learned that 241 U.S. servicemen had been murdered in a single barbaric act of terrorism orchestrated by Hezbollah -- the same Hezbollah cowards that are tormenting and terrorizing Israel some 23 years after Andy penned those words.
Hezbollah has always hated Israel and the United States. According to Heritage Foundation Middle East expert James Phillips, since Iran founded the violent gang in 1982, its primary objective has been to spread their blood-soaked brand of "revolution," to mobilize Lebanese Shiites and to sponsor "terrorist surrogates" to attack Israel and the U.S.
But, as Phillips explains, their current attacks on Israel are specifically calculated to distract attention from the debate over Iran's nuclear program. Iran is the power behind Hezbollah, providing them with arms, money and training. The long-range Katyusha rockets fired last week at Israel's northern port of Haifa, for example, were provided by Iran's Revolutionary Guards.
Today, points out Heritage Senior Research Fellow Ariel Cohen, "Hezbollah is a subcontractor of Iran in the Gaza Strip, teaching Hamas advance terrorist tactics, including tank attacks and soldier kidnappings. Hezbollah does not operate independently. Its remote control is in Tehran, and it also coordinates tactically with Syria, where Khaled Meshal, the paramount leader of Hamas, resides."
Another goal of the latest attacks, Cohen adds, is to prove that Iran and its Shiite allies are the leaders in the struggle against Israel and the U.S. -- not al Qaeda. Plus, he says, Hezbollah wants to split the Group of Eight, or G-8, between those who support Israel (primarily, the U.S.) and those who would express support for the Arab cause:
"The Iranian leadership believes that such a split would prevent the G-8 from coordinating a joint position on the U.N. Security Council sanctions, may encourage Russia to veto any anti-Iranian resolutions in the Security Council, and will diminish pressure against Tehran in the Middle East and beyond. This is a model of the new, 21st century 'war by proxy,' the first war in which Iran instigated and directed a massive attack against Israel."
The United States must continue to strongly support Israel's right to self-defense. "It is vitally important that we stand with Israel, shoulder to shoulder, during this critical battle against radical Islamic terror," writes Joel Rosenberg, best-selling author of The Last Jihad. The U.S., meanwhile, has an important role to play as well.
Specifically, James Phillips writes, "the United States must forcefully respond to Iran's provocative and hostile foreign policy in supporting terrorism and seeking to acquire the most terrifying weapon, a nuclear bomb. Unfortunately, if Iran does acquire a nuclear capability, it will become even more aggressive in supporting terrorism in the Middle East and beyond."
Phillips lists several ways that the United States can address this situation. Officials should:
The Heritage Foundation has a wealth of material to help make sense of both the violent history and the most recent attacks on Israel.
Another good source, Phillips says, is danielpipes.org. Pipes, the director of the Middle East Forum (a think tank that, among other things, is "working for Palestinian acceptance of Israel"), is an internationally recognized analyst and the author of numerous articles and books. He has also assembled a bibliography specifically tailored for those hoping to "better understand the current crisis of Islam." In addition, Phillips recommends the work of Martin Kramer, a fellow with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Kramer's Web site offers "alternative readings of Islam and the Arab world."
Not unlike the families who frolicked along the Beirut beaches, too many decent, hardworking Americans are oblivious to the bloodied bodies and terror in Israel. We must understand that it's only a matter of time until the acts are again directly focused on us.
It is critical that the United States does everything within its power and ethics to thwart the continual development and support of Iranian Hezbollah terrorists. Two decades later, the souls and families of those 241 U.S. servicemen and countless others still await justice. How many more victims will we tolerate?
Rebecca Hagelin is a vice president of The Heritage Foundation and the author of Home Invasion: Protecting Your Family in a Culture that's Gone Stark Raving Mad.