The Shahab-3 missile, seen here during Iran's 2012 “Great Prophet” military exercise. The Shahab-3 is a medium-range ballistic missile capable of delivering nuclear weapons. Credit: Hossein Velayati via Wikimedia Commons.

By Moshe Phillips

On November 4, 1979 Iranian militants seized control of the US embassy in Tehran and kidnapped over 50 Americans. These hostages were held captive for 444 days. Iran has been at war with America for 45 years, but the thing is the overwhelming majority of politicians, Democrats and Republicans, have failed to see Iran as the enemy it is and the struggle we are in as the war that it is.

The 320 weapons fired at Israel on April 13 are part of this war too. Iran’s leaders hate America just as much as they hate Israel. This is evident when they chant, “Death to Israel, Death to America.”

In addition to the invasion of the American embassy in Tehran and the taking of hostages, two other attacks on Americans by Iran must be remembered.

On April 18, 1983, the U.S. Embassy in Beirut was bombed and 17 Americans were murdered. 46 other murder victims were Lebanese or citizens of other nations including 32 who worked at the embassy. Hezbollah carried out the attack and a US court found Iran’s government responsible.

Later the same year and also in Beirut, on October 23, 1983, the US Marine Corps barracks was bombed and 241 US military personnel were murdered along with 58 French military personnel. The suicide bomber was an Iranian.

Just a few months later the U.S. forces left Lebanon. Retired U.S. Marine Col. Timothy Geraghty, who was on the ground in Beirut in 1983, has said “Bin Laden was inspired by the success of the simultaneous coordinated suicide bombings in ’83.” [Source:]

If Israel does not eliminate the existential threats from Iran and Hamas quickly, how many Bin Laden’s (G-d forbid) will be created?

A possibility for the American myopic condition regarding Iran could be we are suffering from historical amnesia around these pivotal early events that are central to understanding the form and contours of the current Iranian regime’s war against the U.S.

Americans may rightly be accused of longing to forget parts of our histories that make us uncomfortable and Iran’s war against us may be another example of this.

Another reason as to why we don’t see Iran as being at war with us may be because Americans are a good people and a decent people, and we assume other nations are–at their core–like ours, far too often even when given enormous amounts of evidence to the contrary. We just can’t understand why another nation would hate ours.

Lastly, it’s possible that because the threat to our shores from the ayatollahs in Tehran are so far away, and the average American actually knows so little about Iran, that leads us to the false idea that there’s no state of war between their nation and ours.

The thing is, Israelis have deep respect and warm feelings for America and this often leads to blunders on the part of its leaders. But Israel and America are different and live in far different parts of the world. America made mistakes with Iran and has, so far, not paid much of a real price. But Israel cannot afford to keep kicking the Iran / Hezbollah / Hamas can down the road: it does not have the strategic depth America has by virtue of the Atlantic and Pacific. Nor does it have the vast natural resources and the third largest population on the planet. If there’s one thing that Israel should have learned on October 7th, and that should have been reinforced on April 13th, it is this: its neighborhood is getting rougher and will only grow more so by the hour without plans for real victory. Deterrence can only get you so far.

(Moshe Phillips is a commentator on Jewish affairs whose writings appear regularly in the American and Israeli press.)


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