A tectonic shift has occurred in the Middle East, highlighting both a threat and a historic opportunity. The threat, newly revealed in its extent and cunning, is Iranian subversion. The opportunity is the chance to make progress on some of the region's fundamental problems now that, for the first time in a century, Arabs and Jews alike fully appreciate the menace in Iran's hegemonic ambitions to dominate the Muslim world. They share with the West the conviction that Iran must not be allowed to develop nuclear weapons.
Iran is no longer just an existential threat to Israel. It threatens the regimes in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and the Persian Gulf emirates and has infiltrated other Islamic states. Shiite Tehran has transcended sectarian and ideological differences to create an aggressive coalition. It includes various Sunni movements, such as Hamas and other far-left groups, all operational proxies for Iran's efforts to destabilize the Middle East and promote Iranian interests and terrorist bases.
The Iranian operation is multifaceted. Preachers in thousands of mosques have long disseminated the
Khomeinist revolutionary propaganda, but the reach is now deeper. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard controls thousands of websites and blogs. Front companies, including banks, employ thousands of locals in each targeted country. Cleverly, the Iranians finance charities, social and medical services, courses in information technology, scholarships, and cultural centers offering language classes and Islamic theology, all with the same underlying purpose. They support publishing houses and more than a hundred newspapers and magazines and control satellite television and radio networks in various languages. Then there are the political satellites: Hezbollah in Lebanon, against which Israel fought a war in 2006, and Hamas, the instigator of the recent Gaza war. They are funded, trained, and armed by Iran to conduct terrorist attacks against Israel and to sabotage any dialogue between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Even now, Iran has an outpost in Gaza, creating the potential for Iranian incitements on both Israel's southern border and Egypt's northern border, an area where there is a security vacuum.
The Egyptians have now furiously blown the whistle on the subversion against their government. They have exposed a Shiite terrorist group headed by a Hezbollah activist. Dozens of people were arrested, including some from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard, Tehran's principal vehicle for exporting revolution. The cell planned attacks on Suez Canal installations and Egyptian tourist sites in the hope of destabilizing the regime, which Iran considers vulnerable because of the age of President Hosni Mubarak and the possibility of a shaky political environment when he passes away.
Astonishingly, Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah's leader, publicly attacked the Egyptians and issued an exhortation to the Egyptian Army to overthrow the Mubarak regime. The Egyptian retort, published in the state-controlled newspaper al-Gomhouria, was blistering: "We do not allow, Oh Monkey Sheikh, to mock our judiciary, for you are a bandit and veteran criminal who killed your countrymen, but we will not allow you to threaten the security and safety of Egypt . . . and if you threaten its sovereignty, you will burn!" President Mubarak spoke out forcefully, and the Egyptian foreign minister, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, linked together the Iranian threat to Egypt, Israel, and the West in the same breath.
In addition to creating Hezbollah cells—there are probably more—Iran helps Hamas smuggle weapons into the Gaza Strip via Sudan and the Sinai. This has awakened the Egyptians to the risk to their security from the iron triangle of Iran, Hezbollah, and Hamas.
Other Arab countries are similarly aroused. Tehran hopes to see its allies sweep to power in Bahrain. The small but prosperous nation is "part of Iran," in the words of Ali Akbar Nateq-Nouri, a senior aide to Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. In Morocco, security uncovered a network of pro-Iranian militants plotting violent operations; Morocco severed diplomatic relations. In Jordan, the State Security Court has sent three people to prison on charges of spying for Hezbollah after they "monitored positions, possessed weapons, and gathered things and information that must be kept secret."