Bob Brown: Iran: The Middle East mastermind with the matches

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I have a boyhood memory of the blockbuster award-winning movie “Exodus,” staring a young Paul Newman as the leader of Jewish refugees and Palestinian Jews in their epoch struggle to establish the nation of Israel.

In commenting on the movie, my grandmother told me that her grandfather would sometimes disappear into the cellar of his house to read what I understand now was probably an English translation of the Hebrew holy book, the Torah. With the aid of research by my sister, we have discovered that the mother of the grandfather in the cellar had the birth name of Frank. As is the Jewish custom of following the mother’s religion, it appears probable that, however obscure and distant, I am the descendant of Jews.

I have never needed this connection to feel loyalty to Israel. The movie “Exodus,” while not completely historical, instilled that in me.

The entire Arab world united to prevent the existence of Israel. Critically, the United States was the first country to recognize its existence, and we have remained Israel’s steadfast defender ever since. I remain as convinced of Israel’s right to exist as I have since first seeing the movie.

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The deliberate bloody murders of whole Jewish families by the Hamas terrorists is new evidence of the hatred of Jews extending back in time for centuries. One still shudders at the horrific slaughter of Jews by Hitler’s Nazis.

The mortal fear of a recurrence of this wanton killing has remained deeply ingrained in the minds and souls of generations of Jewish people. I was poignantly reminded of this by the powerful memory of a group visit I had to Israel in 2005, arranged by the American Israel Friendship League. I have told the following story from that visit before, but it is more relevant than ever now.

As the visit drew to a close, I had the wonderful luck to be seated at the dinner table next to a member of the Israeli Knesset and a retired major general in Israel’s army. The politician was in animated agreement when the general said that America had been unwise to get militarily involved in Iraq and Afghanistan. The real threat in the Middle East was the more dominant, technically advanced and radical nation of Iran. The two agreed that Iran was motivated by a return to their historical greatness, and it was preposterous to believe that they were developing a nuclear capability for peaceful purposes.

The Knesset member concluded the conversation with the powerful observation that during World War II, the U.S. didn’t bomb the railroads we knew were carrying Jews to death camps. He made clear that if the Jewish people are threatened by annihilation from a nuclear-armed Iran, or any other source, they won’t wait for America to come to the rescue. They will preemptively destroy the threat.

Israel’s impulse to strike back against the ongoing threat to its security posed by Hamas, is as understandable as human nature. Unfortunately, it is incompatible with Israel’s other goal to free the Hamas-held hostages. An attack by Israeli ground forces to kill Hamas terrorists in their tunnels will likely result in the same fate for the hostages. The humanitarian atrocity of carpet bombing the innocent civilian population will not affect Hamas either.

Israel’s dilemma, though, is completely compatible with the destabilizing plan of Iran, with its controlling tentacles extending across the Arab world. We know that Iran is responsible for attacks on U.S. bases in Syria and Iraq. In addition, we know that Iran is a key ally of Russia and a vital trading partner of China.

This is an “inflection point” in history, as President Biden has correctly described it. The world needs to know that Iran is the mastermind with the matches poised to set the Middle East on fire.

Bob Brown is a former Montana secretary of state and state Senate president.

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