First published in Times of Israel
Iran’s ambassador to Lebanon, Mohammad Fateh Ali, recently promised that Iran would award $7,000 to the family of every Palestinian terrorist involved in the present wave of individual attacks in the West Bank, and $30,000 to any family of terrorists whose home is demolished by Israel.
The Iranian promise must be seen against the backdrop of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s directive, in his speech of 23 July 2014, to arm “the West Bank …like Gaza” in order to destroy the “heartless and child-killer [Zionist] regime.”
Khamenei issued the order towards the end of Israel’s “Protective Edge” operation in Gaza, when he realized it would be difficult to rearm the isolated Hamas with Egypt’s stranglehold on the Strip and decided to cast his lot with the Palestinians in the West Bank, hoping that the smuggling of non-sophisticated short-range rockets would threaten the Israeli heartland and help foment a third intifada.
His order was immediately echoed by Majlis National Security and Foreign Policy Committee member Ismail Kowsari and the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC)’s second-in-command, Brigadier General Hossein Salami, who declared by the end of November 2014 that “the sons of the West Bank and Gaza Strip will join hands” and transform the West Bank into a “hell” for the Zionist regime. The Tehran regime saw the situation as a golden opportunity to advance Khamenei’s strategy of arming and radicalizing the Palestinians.
The obvious way for Iran to provide military support to Palestinians in the West Bank is via a terrorist infrastructure based in Jordan and also involving Hezbollah operatives.
And in fact, in July 2015 Jordan’s military court sentenced eight men to prison for conspiring to commit major terror attacks by Hezbollah against US, Israeli and other targets in Jordan using machine guns and homemade explosives. Earlier cases involving Hezbollah in Jordan were much smaller in scale and focused on cross-border attacks on Israel. Targets included US troops helping Jordan fend off possible assaults from neighboring war-stricken Syria, Starbucks coffee outlets in the Jordanian capital Amman, the Israeli embassy and Jordanian diplomatic missions abroad. The cell members were arrested in May, weeks before Iran concluded crucial negotiations with Western powers on its nuclear program and rehabilitating Tehran into the international community.
The same month, Jordan’s security forces arrested a man in northern Jordan with both Iraqi and Norwegian citizenships with purported links to an Iranian group on suspicion he planned to carry out terror attacks in the Kingdom. According to a security source, based on the quantity and type of seized explosives, the thwarted attack would have been the most serious terrorist act in Jordan in the past decade.
Already during the Second Intifada (2000 – 2005) Iran and Hezbollah were heavily involved in trying to fan the flames of violence.
In November 2001, Jordan arrested three Hezbollah operatives who attempted to smuggle Katyusha rockets from Syria to the West Bank, an operation that was proudly acknowledged by Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah.
In January 2002 the Israeli navy seized the Karine-A ship, which carried 50 tons of weapons including short-range Katyusha rockets, antitank missiles, and powerful explosives. The ship was loaded with weapons by the Iranians and Hezbollah while in transit in Yemen. The smuggling attempt, which could have led to an even worse level of violence, violated agreements between the Palestinian Authority, then under the leadership of late Yasser Arafat, and Israel and produced a serious crisis in the relations between the U.S and the PA.
When Israel succeeded in mitigating the wave of suicide bombings, members of the al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, the military wing of Fatah, revealed that Hezbollah was offering to pay for attacks aimed at shattering the fragile truce with Israel, before the Israeli disengagement from Gaza planned for July 2005. They had received payments of up to $9,000 sent by Hezbollah to the West Bank for attacks against Israel during the past four years. They knew the money came from Iranian intelligence and the Revolutionary Guard.
Interestingly, during the same period, Iraq’s dictator Saddam Hussein also encouraged suicide bombing attacks against civilians in the West Bank. Iraq had established a differential payment scheme in which families of suicide bombing operatives received a considerably larger sum of $25,000, while other families that have suffered a death received $10,000. Iraq provided these monies through the local Ba’ath Party-affiliated Arab Liberation Front (ALF) during well publicized open events.
Those who would see the present Iranian policy of arming West Bank Palestinians as a purely Israeli concern should take note of a decision by the Iranian state-run media outlets to add $600,000 to a bounty imposed in a 1989 fatwa by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini for the killing of British author Salman Rushdie over publication of his book “The Satanic Verses.” An Iranian religious organization originally offered $2.7 million reward to anyone carrying out the fatwa and in 2012 it increased the amount to $3.3 million. Now the semi-official Fars news agency published a list of 40 news outlets kicking an additional $600,000 into the pot, honoring, as they put it, “the 27th anniversary of the historical fatwa to show it is still alive.”
Allocating funds to reward Palestinian terrorists and bring about the murder of a world-renowned author are just two of the uses Iran has found for the 100-150 billion dollar flood of cash it has begun to receive following the lifting of sanctions as a result of the nuclear deal.
The views expressed in this publication are solely those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT).