Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW)/日本からの意見

Concern about the Resumption of International Terrorism by the Shiites
HIRAYAMA Kentaro / Former NHK commentator

March 6, 2007
It is reported that the U.S. Central Command (at Tampa, FL), which is in charge of all operations in the Middle East, is seriously studying the feasibility of air strikes against Iran. The BBC, which had obtained the information from an unidentified source, commented on possible attacks, using an animation model, assuming that Iran goes ahead with the development of nuclear weapons and/or Iran's hostile military actions against the American forces in Iraq are confirmed.

This may be part of the on-going psychological warfare by the Bush administration against Iran, the deployment of two Carrier Battle Groups in the Persian Gulf, the reinforcement of ground troops, the search of the Iran Mission in Iraq, the arrest of Iranian staff members, the public exhibition of weapons and parts Iran allegedly supplied to anti-American armed elements, as well as the release of a 'hit list' of Iranian agents engaged in hostile activities against the U.S. It is feared that this series of cases, may lead to an incident escalating into a full-scale war between the U.S and Iranian forces. The British newspapers reported that Israel was sounding out the American government on the possibilities of the Israeli Air Force flying over Iraqi territorial air to bomb Iranian nuclear facilities. The often-reiterated statements by Bush administration high officials that the U.S. would not rule out the possibility are also causing an amplification of this sort of anxiety.

Under such circumstances, I was attracted to the announcement made by the American Embassy in Iraq that they had arrested and were interrogating, as one of their security measures, a Shiite member of the National Assembly by the name of Jamal Jafari Muhammad. The embassy spokesman explained that the man was suspected of being involved in the 1983 blasts of the French and American embassies in Kuwait.

In Lebanon in 1983, in the wake of the Israeli invasion and the retreat of Palestinian guerrillas in the previous year, multi-national troops, let by Anglo-American forces, were engaged in the maintenance of law and order as well as the training of the Lebanese Army. Following the bombing of the American Embassy in Beirut in April allegedly by Shiite extremists, bomb-loaded trucks drove into the French and American barracks in October, leaving 290 officers and soldiers dead. This resulted in the pull-out of multi-national forces.

In the mid-1980s, frequent abductions and air hijackings involving Europeans, including Americans and Frenchmen, occurred mainly around Beirut and Shiite terrorism incidents followed one after another even outside the Middle East. Islamic terrorism seemed to be monopolized by the Shiites and, every time an incident happened, it was rumored that Iran was behind it. It may be considered that the above-mentioned terrorist bombings of the embassies in Kuwait were in the same line.

The situation, however, changed drastically in the 1990s. The Sunnis'"Holy War fighters," including Osama Bin Laden, who had been fighting the Soviet forces in Afghanistan with the support and blessings of the U.S., suddenly turned their anger on America. Meanwhile, most large-scale Shiite terrorism, though not all, disappeared.

It can be said that the main reasons for this change are that the Iran-Iraq war ended, and the Iranian motivations to retaliate or restrict the actions of the Americans and French who had given assistance to Iraq (under Sadam Hussein) have largely diminished, and that Syria, with America's tacit approval, terminated the civil war in Lebanon by armed intervention during the Gulf War in return for cooperation with American forces. All of which have brought back a kind of order to the region.

But the United States, because of attacks by Hezbollah, a Lebanese Shiite armed para-military on the Israeli force remaining in south Lebanon through the 1990s, and Iranian assistance to the Islamic groups such as Hamas in Palestine, which started collaboration between Hamas and Iran, designated the latter as "terrorism supporting country." The U.S. government has continued economic sanctions based on domestic laws, and in 2002, the Bush administration declared Iran, Syria and North Korea an "axis of evil."

After the 9.11 incident, the American forces deployed in the Middle East, invaded Afghanistan and destroyed the Taliban regime, which was actually a "source of concern" in a security sense for Iran as well. They then pushed into Iraq and overthrew Sadam Hussein, who once invaded Iranian territory.

This also led to the beginning of a new regime headed by Shiites, of which Iran was a de facto beneficiary and so, in Afghanistan, Iran secretly supported the activities of American troops. They even suggested discussing with American authorities the restoration of order and security, as well as the assistance of reconstruction in post-war Iraq. However, this suggestion was rejected by Vice-President Richard B. Cheney and other neo-con leaders in America. Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's grandiloquence that denied the Nazi-German Holocaust and said that Israel would be wiped off the map was in itself a dangerous provocation. Looking at the present situation this way, we can understand the American irritation and frustration over Iran's way of "betting on all horses" including the anti-American militia led by Muqtada al-Sadr.

But almost all Shiite terrorism in the 1980s seems to have been rather "reactive" or "defensive" in nature with the Iran-Iraq War and the Israeli invasion of Lebanon as backdrops and different from the global and ideological anti-American terrorism symbolized in the person of Bin Laden and his followers. The opinion and influence of high-ranking priests that a full-scale armed conflict with the U.S. should be averted to keep the Islamic regime safe in Iran carries considerable weight and should not be ignored.

Bush's hard-line policy, hung up on the formation of "the encirclement of Iran by moderate Sunni Arab states plus Israel," blaming Iran alone for all the messy troubles in Iraq, Palestine and other Middle Eastern areas, neglecting the bi-partisan report to Congress (the Baker-Hamilton Report) proposing dialogues with Iran and Iraq, somewhat resembles the "China card" politically taking advantage of the Sino-Soviet quarrels during the latter part of the U.S.-Soviet Cold War era. It may work, but the risk is also great. We need not be reminded of the Iranian leadership's warning that, should Iran be attacked, they "would retaliate against American interests in every part of the world." Needless to say, the risk includes the nightmare of a resumption of international terrorism by Shiites as in the 1980s.

It should also be remembered that, even in the historical process of the Cold War, there was a period called "détente" which played an important role in the termination of the Cold War itself.

The writer is former NHK commentator.
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

平山健太郎 / 元NHK解説委員

2007年 3月 6日






一般社団法人 日本英語交流連盟

English Speaking Union of Japan > Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW) > Concern about the Resumption of International Terrorism by the Shiites