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Ayatollah: Hezbollah will respond to attack on Iran

Ayatollah Jafar Shoujouni. (Photo by Kristin Dailey, The Daily Star).

TEHRAN: Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah has said Hezbollah will destroy Tel Aviv if Israel attacks Iran, an Iranian ayatollah told The Daily Star.

Ayatollah Jafar Shoujouni, a senior Shiite scholar and prominent member of Iran’s Combatant Clergy Association, said Nasrallah made the remark during a two-and-a-half hour meeting with the Hezbollah leader in Lebanon about three months ago.

During the meeting Nasrallah told him, “I am a cadet of Ayatollah Khamenei’s school,” said Shojouni.

Nasrallah also expressed gratitude toward the late Grand Ayatollah Mohammad-Taqi Bahjat, crediting the recently deceased Iranian religious leader’s prayers for Hezbollah’s victory in the 2006 war, adding that his resistance group would retaliate against any Israeli attack on Iran.

“If Israelis come near Tehran, we will destroy Tel Aviv,” Shojouni, who was Bahjat’s only student for eight years, quoted Nasrallah as saying.

Western and Israeli analysts have warned that an Israeli attack on Iran could draw Hezbollah retaliation, but officials in the resistance group have never acknowledged or denied this publicly.

Shojouni said Nasrallah is a cause of honor, not just for Lebanon, but also for all Islamic and Arab countries.

“Because Israelis are afraid of him and his people, we must thank him, and Iranians are protecting him for this reason,” he said.

“Israel is afraid of this sayyed, son of Zahra, and it shows because Israel has forgotten what was once its slogan, which is that they will have the lands from the Euphrates to the Nile River. It shows that they are so afraid of Hezbollah that they have forgotten about all of these things,” Shojouni added.

Speaking about the unrest in neighboring Syria, one of Iran’s closest allies, the ayatollah said that the Assad family’s control of the Syrian presidency for four decades was “not correct.”

“These sort of 40-year presidencies will lead to dictatorship, and it is so,” he said, arguing that Syria should instead “follow the path and methods of Iran,” by holding elections for a new president every four to five years.

However, he warned that Israel and Western countries were seeking to exploit the turmoil in Syria to their own advantage.

“On this point I say with certainty, Syria is not Libya. In Libya, oppression led to an awakening of the people, but in Syria, Israelis and Americans have made this problem in the name of the people … I think they wish to open the door of Syria with NATO force. Of course, Iran won’t allow this to happen,” he said.

“In the Iranian overview, Syria is on the front line against Israelis, and even Hezbollah in this case is connected with us [geographically] through Syria,” he said. “We agree with any kind of protests or internal reform aimed at improving the situation of the people. [But] our goal is that Zionists not use these protests as a way to inflict damage on Hezbollah and Syria’s resistance.”

Shojouni said the uprisings that are currently raging elsewhere across the Arab region are “definitely” Islamic movements, calling them “an Islamic tsunami” sent by God.

“Yes, this movement is Islamic, and yes, these people want Islam. In their mind they are all doing this because of their religion, not a financial or economical aim, not because of money or worldly things,” Shojouni said. “It is like God willing things, because God has sent an Islamic tsunami to these countries.”

Shojouni also said he had anticipated the uprisings in Egypt and Libya when he had visited those two countries just two years after the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran.

After that visit, he reported to Iran’s revolutionary leader Imam Khomeini that he had detected a feeling of growing discontent among the young people of Egypt and Libya, as well as admiration for the Iranian Revolution. He described this situation as “smouldering embers,” saying: “They had been ready for revolution from that time.”

He said the United States, Europe and Israel had supported dictators in the region and continue to back leaders “who are like puppets for them.”

He pointed to the West’s silence about human rights in Saudi Arabia as an example of double standards, noting that the country does not hold free elections, nor does it allow women to exercise basic rights such as the right to drive.

“In Iran, 33 years after the Islamic Revolution, we have had 33 elections … but [the West] only talk about human rights only against us and they don’t say anything about Saudi Arabia, which is humiliating and disrespecting women,” he said.

Shojouni said that all Arab leaders who bowed to Western and Israeli interests would eventually face a day of reckoning.

“Look and see if you could have even guessed what we saw happen to Mubarak; we saw him in a cage, this shows that God will humiliate such people,” he added.

On the subject of Iranian politics, the ayatollah admitted that support for President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had significantly waned, however he added that there was a consensus among senior religious leaders in the Islamic Republic to keep him in office until his term expires.

Shojouni said that dissatisfaction with the president stemmed primarily not from Ahmadinejad himself, but rather from the “deviant group” around him, individuals who he compared to “porcupines.”

Shojouni referred specifically to Ahmadinejad’s chief of staff, Esfandiar Rahim-Mashaei, who he called a “Malijak,” or court jester.

“This head of his office is saying things that are not related to his job or his knowledge at all,” said Shojouni.

“He is saying things about the teachings of prophets, correcting problems with Israelis, the Persian model, Cyrus the Great, Iranian ideology and lots of other things – he only seeks controversy and tensions,” he added.

Shojouni said Mashaei’s behavior was “damaging the dignity of Ahmadinejad,” adding: “We can’t understand why he keeps this Malijak. Our heart is pained for this reason.”

Shojouni said that previous Iranian presidents had suffered the same negative influence within their inner circles, adding: “It’s a pity that Ahmadinejad has got this disease.”

Shojouni also noted that support for Ahmadinejad plummeted dramatically in April after the president boycotted his work for 11 days in protest against Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s decision to overrule his move to dismiss Intelligence Minister Heidar Moslehi.

“I must say with all of my apologies, that the 11-day absence is still quite unclear … I think he must give a clear explanation of that absence and he must explain why he didn’t follow Wilayat al-Faqih [the system of rule in Iran in which the supreme leader has final authority]; still he has not done so,” Shojouni said.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on September 27, 2011, on page 1.

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