Commentary Magazine


Contentions

Israel’s Iranian Allies of Convenience

If politics makes strange bedfellows, wars make even stranger ones. That has always been true for all nations and is no less the case for the state of Israel in our own day. Beset by a world of Arab and Islamic foes, it has taken its allies wherever it can find them. A generation ago that meant a cozy if embarrassing relationship with apartheid-era South Africa. Those critics of the Jewish state who wish to make much of this should remember Nelson Mandela was happy to embrace the support of the Soviet Union and totalitarian Cuba. Today, with an Islamist regime in Iran threatening not just the security of Israel but the existence of the nation via a nuclear weapons program the world has been powerless to stop, Israel has reportedly found another set of unsavory allies: the People’s Mujahedin of Iran (also known by their Farsi acronym MEK), a dissident group that has been labeled a terrorist organization by the United States.

According to a report from NBC News, U.S. officials believe Israel has employed members of the People’s Mujahedin in harassing the Iranian government and its minions. While the group denies it is involved with Israel, it is difficult to doubt the truth of the allegation that the Iranian dissidents have been receiving Israeli training and have been used to carry out attacks on Tehran’s nuclear program, in particular the assassination of Iranian scientists. While Jerusalem’s critics will call this hypocritical and illegal, their qualms won’t impress many Israelis.

Israel is, after all, locked in a conflict with an Iranian regime that has made no bones about its intentions. Just last week, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei repeated the standard Iranian line about Israel being a “cancerous tumor” that must be eradicated. Coming from a man who leads a regime based on religious fanaticism and which is dedicating massive amounts of the country’s resources towards achieving its nuclear ambitions, this is no idle threat. Under these circumstances, Israel is entirely justified in using whatever means it has to prevent Khameini’s government from achieving its genocidal ends. The MEK may be an unattractive ally, but with its Iranian members and infrastructure of support inside the country, it is an ideal weapon to use against the ayatollahs.

This is not just the standard and cynical argument about the ends justifying the means but rather an entirely defensible strategy in which a vicious and tyrannical government’s foes become legitimate allies in what is for all intents and purposes a war. Israel’s alliance is no more nor less moral than that of the United States and Great Britain with an even worse set of criminals than the MEK: Stalin’s Soviet Union. To those who say it is immoral to use those who have employed terrorism, the only reply can be that it would be far worse for Israel’s government to allow such scruples to prevent them from carrying out actions that might stop the Iranians from going nuclear. Indeed, those who cry out against the possibility of Israeli or American air strikes on Iran to demolish nuclear facilities cannot at the same time criticize covert actions that could theoretically obviate the need for the use of force on that scale. Moreover, in a conflict in which Iran has served as the chief sponsor and source of funds and munitions for the Hezbollah and Hamas terrorist groups, it is ridiculous to expect Israel to unilaterally decide using unsavory friends should be beyond the pale.

The MEK are allies of convenience and, just like many wartime allies in other conflicts, share only a common enemy with Israel. But however nasty they may be, Israel need not blush about using them. For a democracy at war, the only truly immoral thing to do would be to let totalitarian Islamists like those in Tehran triumph.