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October 15, 2004
Iranians Taking Control Of Palestinian Terror

In a report that underscores the urgency of stopping Iran's nuclear-weapons program, the London Telegraph reveals that Palestinian terror groups have increasingly fallen under the influence or direct control of Teheran:

Iran has taken control of many Palestinian terrorist cells from Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement, giving them funds and orders to attack Israeli targets, and even rewarding successful missions with "bonuses", according to a senior Israeli security source.

For many years, Iran has given money and ideological support to radical Palestinian groups, especially Hamas and Islamic Jihad, responsible for most of the Israeli deaths in the past four years of the Palestinian uprising.

But Israel believes that much of the Fatah-affiliated armed faction, calling itself the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, has now come under Iran's sway, especially in the West Bank.

Even Yasser Arafat has complained about Iranian interference. The Telegraph reports that Arafat called Iranian leader Ayatollah Ali Khameini a "troublemaker," offering an unusual point of agreement between the longtime terror leader and the Israeli government. Well that he should; Iran has not only taken control of what used to be Arafat's private band of terrorists, but have also started directly supporting Hamas, one of Arafat's political opponents in the territories.

Interestingly, the intifada directed by Arafat has provided the Iranians with their opening. As Israel became more successful at isolating Arafat, the al-Aqsa cells he controlled either were eliminated by the Israelis or simply fell out of close contact with Arafat. The leadership vacuum that ensued made it easy for Iranian-backed terror movements to co-opt these ready-made bands of terrorists just waiting for an opportunity to continue killing Israelu citizens. Ironically, the more successful the Israelis got at fighting Arafat -- who started the whole intifada instead of accepting the Barak deal that would have guaranteed him a state -- the broader the opportunities got for the Iranians.

Now, four years into Intifada II, Arafat has nothing -- no state, little control over most of the West Bank and even less in Gaza, little recognition as a Palestinian leader, and deserted by his closest thugs. Even the Iranians consider him irrelevant now, working directly through his opponents and the remnants of his own faction to seize control of Palestine. Even if the West could trust Arafat as a negotiating partner for peace, which Arafat repeatedly proved false, he no longer has plenipotentiary power over the combatants.

More than ever, the path to peace in Southwest Asia goes through Teheran. Once Iraq holds its elections and stabilizes its security, Teheran must be confronted if the root causes of terror in the Middle East are to be addressed, starting with their vioations of the nuclear-weapons proliferation treaty. If we allow Teheran to go nuclear, we can kiss Tel Aviv goodbye.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at October 15, 2004 5:33 AM

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