Thank you very much for inviting me to speak today in your meeting. I would like to focus my attention on the threats of Islamic fundamentalism and terrorism which is suffered not only by our allies and friends in the Middle East but also by our people in Europe and USA. At the start I want to summarize in two points what is in my opinion the best policy option for us to confront Islamic fundamentalism:
The first is that Daesh must be completely defeated but the elimination of Daesh requires ousting Bashar Assad from power as he is the polarizing figure which prevents reconciliation in Syria and for Iran to continue with its destructive policy in the region. He is also the key figure for Hezbollah to remain a destructive force in Lebanon.
The second is that in parallel to what I just said we need to take out the ideological and institutional roots of Islamic fundamentalism.
Now I would like to elaborate a little bit.
The recent rise of Daesh is very much thanks to Bashar Assad, declaring war on his own people, especially the Sunni majority, making the young repressed Syrians be easily attracted to extremism. When Daesh emerged in Syria, it began killing the moderate Syrian opposition forces or the Free Syrian Army. Assad did not bomb or attack any of the targets belonging to Daesh. So the moderate Syrian opposition which was fighting against government forces, with no real backing from USA or western powers, had to fight against Daesh at the same time.
Another interesting news which has come out recently is that in the past weeks, government officials of US, France and Turkey have confirmed that the Bashar Assad regime has been buying oil from Daesh.
So one can say that at least till a few months ago, Daesh was not only tolerated by Assad but in fact they cooperated in a certain way.
Now the question is who has been the main power to prevent Assad to fall? The answer is Iran. Syria is at the moment the regional front of Iran. This is not an opinion but a reality which has been repeated many times by the top leaders of the Iranian regime. Iran went that far to get its puppet Hezbollah in Lebanon to enter Syria to save Assad.
Simultaneously to the war in Syria and even much earlier, the government of Nouri Al Maleki in Iraq began purging the Sunnis. Many young Sunnis became unemployed and humiliated in Iraq. In the 8 years of Maliki, many Sunni tribes who had before defeated and expelled Al-Qaeda from their provinces were repressed by Maleki and were easily recruited by Daesh because they saw no hopes of change. The support of American Administrations for Maleki in these 8 years was indeed a great mistake.
So thanks to Iran which backed Assad in Syria and Maliki in Iraq, Daesh managed to grow and become strong. Daesh has found the opportunity to expand and consolidate and it will not be destroyed with Assad in power.
Assad’s financial resources are always restored by the Iranian regime. One can say that the mullahs of Tehran, through Bashar Assad, finance indirectly the genocides by Daesh.
My recommendation is to give backing to the Free Army of Syria and push for the expulsion of foreign troops, specifically the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) from Syria and Iraq.
Therefore when we talk about fighting against Islamic fundamentalism, the current regimes of Iran and Syria have been sources of the problem and they cannot be part of any solution.
The roots of Islamic fundamentalism are in Iran. It does not matter whether we are talking about Shias or Sunnis. Of course they have some differences. But if one thing is clear is that fundamentalism under the name of Islam – whether the Shiite version (embodied in the absolute rule of clergy) or the Sunni version as practiced by Daesh – is the enemy of humanity.
Iranian regime ever since Khomeini came to power has become the main trouble maker in the region. Their explicit goal is to wipe out Israel. We well remember the speeches by Ahmadinejad. Even the so called moderate Rouhani, when he was recently interviewed by French Channel 2 TV, said that Israel has no legitimacy at all. Iran has been the main sponsor of Hamas. Iran formed the Hezbollah in Lebanon. The ideological father of Hezbollah is Ayatollah Khamenei, the current supreme leader in Iran.
The mullahs have been trying to become nuclear and it was only after the Iranian resistance, the NCRI, exposed two secret nuclear sites in August 2002 that the world realized about their nuclear ambition. Quite contrary to the regime in Tehran, this same opposition has continuously condemned the calls for the destruction of Israel and it was indeed the first Muslim movement which supported the two states solution and fully backed the Oslo agreement.
So the conclusion must be that if we really want to have a peaceful Middle East and a stable region and to take out the roots of Islamic fundamentalism, we need to have a democratic change in Iran, something very similar to the Soviet Union when Moscow had a central role of backing communist parties in the world with its many branches. But when Soviet Union crumbled and Moscow lost that central role of providing material and moral backing and inspiration to communist regimes all over the world, many of these disappeared or became extremely weak. We are convinced that if we had a normal democracy in Iran, many Islamic fundamentalist groups in the region will soon dry out, both Shias and Sunnis.
I have said to our Israeli friends many times that the main problem for the future and security of Israel is the Iranian regime and it is essential that the Israeli political elites and people be aware of this fact.
As I have followed the issue of Iran for a long time I can say that Iranian regime has relied on three factors to survive: Number 1 is the internal repression which even under this so called moderate president Rohani has resulted in the hanging of over 2000 people, most of them political opponents. Number 2 is the Iranian regime’s efforts to get hold of a nuclear bomb. Number 3 is its export of terrorism and fundamentalism.
Our Israeli friends have been focused on the second point which is the nuclear program and we share their concerns about the very weak agreement of 5+1 with Iran and it is quite clear that without the pressure by Israel, this rather unsatisfactory agreement would have been much worse. But the issue of exporting terrorism and fundamentalism does not receive the attention it should get. Hamas and Hezbollah are of course confronted but the source of these groups which is the Iranian regime is less dealt with.
Twenty years ago there was a debate on a question: When Iranian missiles will reach Tel Aviv or other cities in Israel? But today not only the mullahs have got long range missiles to hit Israel but their agents and militias are in the close distance of attacking its territory with mortars and rockets.
So by just attacking Hezbollah or Hamas, the situation will not change unless we do something about the Iranian regime. Now that at least we have a nuclear deal, the issue of Iranian regime’s meddling in the region and terrorism has to be in the priority.
In relation to Syria, there should be no doubts whatsoever that when Assad is toppled, since it will cut off the hands of the mullahs in Lebanon and Syria, it will be definitely to the long term interests and benefits of Israel and its security.
Peace and stability for Middle East and especially for Israel will never be reached as long as there is a theocratic dictatorship in Tehran. So Israel should support a regime change not only in Syria but also in Iran. In the case of Iran I mean effective political action. The appeasement policy of the West in these years has helped the mullahs to survive despite the fact they are hated by a large part of the Iranian society.
So I conclude by emphasizing that we should actively work together to fight Islamic fundamentalism and for the downfall of Assad and at the same time work for a democratic change in Iran as the real solution for security and stability in the region.
Thank you very much.