Crisis in Gaza
WUSA TV Interview with Mr. Jafarzadeh, January 7 2009
Foreign Affairs Analyst and Iran Expert
Mike Walter: In discussing the developments in Gaza we have with us Alireza Jafarzadeh, a Middle East expert and author of The Iran Threat. Let me ask you about, where do we stand now? A lot of people have been saying that Iran may be involved; there may be some mischief behind all of this. What’s your take on that?
Alireza Jafarzadeh: Well, certainly Iran is heavily involved. The fact that a senior official of the Iranian regime you just mentioned, Ali Larijani, who is a former chief nuclear negotiator of Iran, he’s the Speaker of the Parliament, he’s very close to the supreme leader Ali Khamenei, he’s traveling to Damascus trying to broker peace, is very much telling itself. Iran is not an Arab country, has no borders with any of the conflicting parties, yet they’re right in the middle of this. The whole purpose is to ensure Hamas and other parties who are one way or the other involved in the conflict of the support coming from Tehran, encouraging them to continue their fight without giving in. And also, Tehran has been very vocal in urging a lot of Arab countries and populations to participate and help escalate the violence. They’re saying that all of the resources of the country—and I think by resources they mean also arms—should be provided to escalate the violence because they see this as a big fight in the region that could, at the end of the day, give bigger leverage to Iran and their proxy groups in the region, and that leverage can be useful as far as Tehran is concerned.
Mike Walter: I want to touch on that for just a second, but an interesting thing that you brought up and I’d like to have you maybe amplify on that: we’re hearing now that some of the rockets may be coming from Lebanon. Do you think that is because of the urging of Iran? As you said they’re suggesting others get involved, and does this have implications that we may be seeing even more people involved in this conflict?
Alireza Jafarzadeh: Well, senior Iran officials and key players in Tehran have made it very clear that they talk specifically about the missile capabilities of the players in the region. The former commander of the Revolutionary Guards who continues to be a major player said that the real missile capability of Hamas is yet to be displayed, and he talked about other players who would weigh in. So, I think if you put all of them together, that would translate into Iran backing a number of countries, organizations, and parties in the region who are interested in escalating the violence there.
Mike Walter: Now, and you were mentioning that Iran has its own issues; now talk to me about that, and this may be one of the reasons that this is going on.
Alireza Jafarzadeh: Certainly, the reason that Tehran is involved in all of this, and they want to be right at the center of it is because it serves their purpose. The reason it serves their purpose is that by getting involved, it could give them the upper hand in the region; it could give them a much bigger say that would offset the trouble that Tehran is facing internally. As we speak, there’s a lot of dissent going on in the country, especially on the part of the younger generation: women, student organizations who are raising their voice against the entirety of this regime. They want an end to the rule of the clerics in Iran and they want to see a democratic system. That’s why Tehran wants to say, “Okay look, we have a bigger, more urgent problem on our plate, and we are going to deal with the developments in Gaza, we’re going to deal with the developments in the region; trying to put aside the more urgent, real issue, which is the desire of the Iranian people to change the regime and establish democracy and human rights in the country.
Mike Walter: Alireza, thank you for coming in and talking to us; we’d love to have you back again, very illuminating…
Alireza Jafarzadeh: Thank you very much.