Defense Update - News Analysis by David Eshel

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Ahmadinejad Statement: ‘Clear and Present Danger'

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad shocked the world when he called for Israel to be "wiped off the map." World reaction was prompt. But Iran insists. Just how much of a threat does the Iranian leadership pose to Israel and the world?

In an Oct. 26 speech at a conference in Tehran, Admadinejad reportedly expressed a wish that Israel be destroyed, quoting the late Ayatollah Khomeini’s comment: “Israel must be wiped off the map.”

It is possible to dismiss Ahmadinejad's words by saying that there is nothing new in them, and that the entire world knows that Iran elected an extremist president who is a direct heir of Ayatollah Khomeini. But it seems that conventional response to these statements calling for Israel’s liquidation could encourage others to make light of Iran's ability to carry out its threat. This is doubly true with regard to a president who insists on his country's right to enrich uranium and expects the world to believe that Iran has no intention of arming itself with nuclear weapons. In fact, the words of the Iranian president seem especially sinister in light of Iran's relentless ambition to develop nuclear arms and long-range delivery platforms. Indeed, less than three months on the job, Iran's zealous president made several highly controversial diplomatic gaffes, his latest, certainly his strangest faux pas, if it was one.

"There is no doubt that the new wave of attacks in Palestine will wipe off this stigma Israel from the face of the Islamic world " urged the Iranian president to his followers gathering in Tehran in demonstrations are being held as part of annual Al-Quds (Jerusalem) Day protests. In weird coincidence, his fiery rhetoric backlashed only hours later when disrupting a short period of calm, a Palestinian suicide bomber slipped into a line at a fast food stand and blew himself up in a crowded outdoor market in the northern Israeli town of Hadera, killing five and critically wounding scores of other civilians. Israeli officials responded: “Iran is a clear and present danger”.

Iran has supported several violent Palestinian groups, especially the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), which claimed responsibility for the Hadera blast, saying it was revenge for Israel's killing on its West Bank leader Luay Saadi. The State Department's office of counter-terrorism in its report on international terrorism clearly established that the Palestinian Islamic Jihad receives funding from Iran.

Non-proliferation experts expected Iran is to be cautious wanting to get through the November 24 board of governors' meeting of the UN watchdog International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA. In a resolution on September 24, the Vienna-based IAEA threatened to refer Tehran to the UN Security Council over its nuclear program, which the United States claims is a cover for weapons development.

Their assessments backfired last Wednesday, when Ahmadinejad's outspoken performance last Wednesday placed Iran firmly on the path of confrontation with most of the Free World. "The danger of such a radical statesman is that by knotting religious beliefs with the nuclear issue, it makes for an explosive issue that will detonate in the face of all Iranians," an Iranian analyst told Asia Times Online (ATO).

Leading Middle East experts are finding difficulty in explaining Ahmadinejad’s bizarre statements and especially its timing, which must bear rather unfortunate on Iran’s international standing. The populist leader's comments, reported by the state-run media, come at a time when Tehran is already under considerable pressure over its suspect nuclear weapons ambitions and alleged involvement in attacks on British troops in Iraq. One theory regards Syria’s internal dissension starting to spill over into neighbouring Iran, which has maintained close ties to Syria since the return to Iran of the late Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979. Both nations under considerable stress could be trying to close ranks against future American led pressure. In fact, Syria’s president Bashar Assad has taken a similar trend some weeks ago, urging Palestinian guerillas to increase their attacks on Israel.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a veteran of Iran's hardline Revolutionary Guards, took office last August after scoring a landslide win in a June presidential election. A virtual nobody on Iran’s national scene, Tehran mayor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, 49, was picked by Iran’s radical Islamic leaders and swung ahead of the presidential race to deal “the heaviest psychological blow to Iran’s enemies.” His tone represents a major change from that of former president Hojjatoselam Seyyed Mohammad Khatami , whose favoured topic was "dialogue among civilisations" and who led an effort to improve Iran's relations with the West.

Mr. Ahmadinejad has kept a tough stance against attempts to limit Iranian nuclear technology. Soon after he took office in June, Iran resumed the processing of uranium, in defiance of the United Nations. In an unyielding address before the United Nations General Assembly last September, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad rebuffed attempts to rein in his country's nuclear program, railing against the United States as an aggressor and restating a compromise proposal that had already been rejected. But there are already first signs that the clerics are being concerned with their new protegee’s radical attitude. "It is exactly for this reason that Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, realizing his mistake in promoting Ahmadinejad, placed the pragmatic and experienced Hashemi Rafsanjani above him in order to repair the damage the new, inexperienced but zealot Muslim might cause to the regime”, an Iranian analyst wrote in ATO. He was referring to the recent decision by Khamenei to transfer some of his immense and unlimited power to the Assembly of Discerning the Interests of the State (ADIS, or Expediency Council), which is headed by Rafsanjani. According to a new regulation, the ADIS will have the power to supervise the regime's macro-policies and long-term plans and projects, a power that had belonged to the Supreme Leader. This means that all the theocratic regime's three powers - legislative, judicial and executive - must submit their planning and policies to the 32-member, leader-controlled ADIS for approval before implementation. Until this change, ADIS's main role was to mediate between the Council of the Guardians (CG) and the majlis, or parliament, as the 12-member, leader-controlled CG is in charge of both vetting all candidates in all elections and making sure that laws passed by the majlis are in conformity with Sharia law. The increased powers given to ADIS could be interpreted as a clear warning to Ahmadinejad and the Revolutionary Guards who provided him with millions of votes, against trying to wrest any powers from the clerical establishment.

Meanwhile the Western powers are taking a fierce attitude in response to Ahmadinejad’s unprecedented unrestrained rhetoric. The US said the president's remarks proved the accuracy of Washington's fears. "I think it reconfirms what we have been saying about the regime. It underscores the concerns we have about Iran's nuclear intentions," Scott McClellan, the White House press secretary, said. Mark Regev, an Israeli foreign ministry spokesman, said: "Unfortunately this is not the first time that we've heard such an extremist message from the Iranian leadership. I think there is a growing understanding in the international community that the regime is not Israel's problem alone, but a problem the entire international community must grapple with." Israel views Iran as its main security threat in the Middle East. Defence minister, Shaul Mofaz, has said Tehran could be capable of developing a nuclear weapon within months and that there is a need for urgent action to prevent that. He said the Iranian comments gave Israel justification for urging the world to take a tougher stand against Iran and refer its nuclear programme to the UN Security Council. Prime minister Ariel Sharon said Todday, (December 1st) that Israel is making all necessary preparations to handle such a situation; warning that a nuclear Iran poses also threat to Arab world and other western countries. Israel has already issued thinly veiled threats against Iran's nuclear programme if diplomatic efforts should fail and is buying 500 "bunker-buster" bombs from the US for its long range fighter-bombers that could be used to destroy underground facilities. IDF Intelligence Chief speaking at the Knesset Foreign& Security Committee, assessed that by next April, if not stopped by energic action, Iran could achieve a nuclear option through a point-of-no-return time table.

Thus, after all is said and done, if there is a silver lining in Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's warning , it is that it will be more difficult for people in the West, especially in Europe, to delude themselves into thinking they are dealing with so-called pragmatists or reformers who want to end the clerical dictatorship that has brutalized the Iranian people.

In the words of one commentator: "Can you imagine a state like that with an attitude like that having a nuclear weapon?"


  • People of ahmadinejad's ilk who are the "children of the revolution" grew up with this anti-american and anti-israeli propaganda, its been ingrained in the psyche. This ideology which is the biggest and most important pillar of the islamic revolution, justifies and gives credibility to the regime.
    How much of it they really believe in and how much of it is for internal propagnada consumption is hard to say. But it appears its the former.
    Ahmadinejad which is not a man of politics can't be compared to a man like khomeini, the foudner of the revolution. Khomeini was a politician and understood the limits of iran's power and held back when iran was about to engage the US navy in the 80's.
    Ahmadinejad and his extremist cabinet may not do so this time and might feel iran is ready this time.

    By Anonymous, at 3:50 PM  

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