We've all seen it before. It's the fourth quarter of the championship basketball game. With only seconds left the winning team aimlessly passes or dribbles the ball mid-court to run out the clock. When it comes to international relations the game is not so dissimilar. With a deftness that we are accustomed to only in competitive sports, the high stakes game of international diplomacy is fast-paced and combative. With definite winners and losers, the score can shift dramatically from one moment to the next, and the leading team can lose its advantage with one misstep. That's why the coach always says, "keep your eye on the ball." That's wisdom we should all remember today as we look at the shifting balance of power in the Middle East.
Watching the changes over the last several weeks in Tunisia, Egypt, and now Libya, we see historic events taking shape. On the road to the future this moment in time offers the people of the Middle East many divergent routes. While Israel stands as the singular example of true democracy in the region we also champion the universal principles of freedom of speech and expression, freedom to worship, and equal rights for all regardless of race or ethnicity. Those who have fought and toppled their governments in an effort to secure these fundamental rights must choose their future path carefully and the international community must be vigilant, always keeping its eyes on the ball.
The context of these recent events is critical while we focus our attention on a key influential player: the Islamic Republic of Iran. Bottom-up regime change in these states brings with it great risk for future stability, especially considering the predatory tendencies of Iran. It is no coincidence that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad recently urged Middle East leaders to listen to their people and heed calls for change. For President Ahmadinejad a change in decades-old leadership offers a new opportunity for expansion, with weak or failing states serving as prime targets for a new Islamic franchise.
Prior to the recent uprisings, Iran already placed its assets around the world like a global spider web of Islamic imperialism. It is the number one state sponsor of international terrorism as the well known supporter of Hamas and Hezbollah, both materially and financially. Iran has placed Hezbollah cells in crucial parts of Africa and Latin America, perhaps not-so-suspiciously near natural sources of yellow-cake uranium. By forming connections to crime networks and drug cartels in Latin America, Iranian-backed Hezbollah is able to finance terror attacks such as the 1992 bombing of the Israeli Embassy and the 1994 bombing of a Jewish Community Center in Buenos Aires. Today, the Islamic regime is forging close ties with political leaders in Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua, and Ecuador, thereby directly challenging American influence in its own back yard.
Within days of the fall of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Iran sought to demonstrate its military reach in a pompous display of provocation, by sending warships stocked with military supplies through the Suez Canal and into the Mediterranean for the first time in thirty years. As the ships arrived in Syrian ports it is only a matter of time before more large quantities of sophisticated weaponry end up in the hands of terrorist organizations.
Iran's diversified strategy of global Islamic imperialism is designed to support a single fundamental goal: the establishment of absolute hegemonic dominance in the Middle East through the acquisition of nuclear weapons capabilities. Today, while the United Nations Security Council and international community debate the current situation in Libya, Iran continues to seek out raw sources of yellow-cake in Africa and Latin America, to enrich uranium, and to strengthen its global infrastructure operating under the banner of Islamic imperialism.
Now, more than ever, it's important for the international community to ensure that peaceful and stable governments emerge out of those recently toppled by dissatisfied societies. The world has seen the remarkable dangers that thrive in weak or failed states and Iran has shown that it is more than ready to take advantage of the new opportunities in Tunisia and Egypt. Even more crucial is the need to stay the course and maintain the pressure on the Iranian regime to cease its illicit nuclear activity. As Iran continues to refine both its uranium and nuclear technologies, this radical regime is running out the clock. To paraphrase Samuel Huntington, this is a clash between the values of democracy, human rights, as well as equality of women. If we don't keep our eyes on the ball, tomorrow might be a completely different ballgame.