Editorial: Deadly Serious
Jan 2, 2006 | Colin Rubenstein
Iran’s fire and brimstone president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is at it again. After eliciting widespread condemnation over an earlier statement to the effect that Israel should be wiped off the map, Ahmadinejad has stoked the fires further by casting doubt about the Holocaust. The president chose a conference in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, to present his more nuanced position on Middle East peace:
“Some European countries insist on saying that Hitler killed millions of innocent Jews in furnaces. Although we don’t accept this claim, if we suppose it is true, if European countries claim that they have killed Jews in World War II, why don’t they provide the Zionist regime with a piece of Europe? Germany and Austria can provide the regime with two or three provinces for this regime to establish itself, and the issue will be resolved. You offer part of Europe, and we will support it.”
A few days later, he repeated his denial of the Holocaust, and called for Israel’s Jews to be shipped to Alaska.
And Iran’s past history demonstrates that we dare not write off Ahmadinejad’s threats as mere words. As we noted in the last Review, in November Argentina finally identified and named a Lebanese Hezbollah member as allegedly responsible for the suicide bombing of the Argentine Israelite Mutual Aid Association (AMIA) Jewish community centre in Buenos Aires in July 1994. That attack left 85 people dead and more than 200 others injured. Moreover, Hezbollah was also almost certainly guilty of another bombing two years earlier outside the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires, which killed 29 people, mostly Argentinian bystanders.
Hezbollah is not only paid for and armed by Iran, it was founded by Iranian Revolutionary Guards, who continue to play a leading operational role in the organisation even today. These are the same Revolutionary Guards who are now increasingly in a dominant position in Iran, thanks to the ascendancy of President Ahmadinejad, who is a former Revolutionary Guards officer. It is therefore not surprising that the Argentinians want to extradite at least 11 Iranians in connection with the AMIA bombing.
As the Argentina case demonstrates, Hezbollah is not simply a Lebanese organisation, as many people assume. Hezbollah terrorist operations have a global reach, with Iranian-funded cells in 59 countries. The organisation has conducted bombings, suicide attacks, assassinations and hijackings throughout South America, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia.
Iran views terrorism as a legitimate means to promote both its strategic goals, including the elimination of Israel and the removal of pro-Western Arab governments, and its theological aim — the expansion of its brand of Islamic fundamentalism throughout the world.
The prevalence and wide support for these ideas within the Iranian regime, put together with the mounting International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) evidence indicating that Iran is determined to acquire nuclear weapons, make an extremely worrying combination.
Iran has just rejected the latest in a series of reasonable proposals allowing Iran to pursue a civilian nuclear program, which is what Teheran ostensibly wants. The sticking point in the negotiations emerged over safeguards that would make it more difficult for the Iranians to build nuclear bombs. In particular, Iran said that it will not accept a plan to move the crucial enrichment stage of their nuclear fuel cycle to Russia, where scrutiny is possible. There are also new revelations about Iran possessing nuclear bomb blueprints.
Moreover, even without Hezbollah, Teheran is undoubtedly the most significant state-sponsor of terrorist attacks in the Middle East.
All three major Palestinian terrorist organisations targeting Israeli civilians – Islamic Jihad (which carried out the latest suicide bombing in the coastal city of Netanya that left five people dead), Hamas and the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades – are these days dependent on funding and other assistance from Iran and Hezbollah. Al-Aqsa, affiliated with the ruling Fatah party but increasingly dependent on Iranian funds, issued a declaration supporting Ahmadinejad’s call for Israel’s destruction. Iran is today urging these groups to refuse to halt terror and to undermine efforts by Israelis and Palestinians to return to negotiations following Israel’s Disengagement from the Gaza Strip.
Recent reports have indicated that even now, when more than 80% of Palestinians want the current calm to continue, Iran is pushing Islamic Jihad to provoke violence by offering them $US10,000 for every rocket they launch into Israel.
But Israel is not the only state under threat from Iran. Despite the religious differences between them, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard is reportedly cooperating with al-Qaeda to the extent of allowing 25 leaders of the organisation to operate freely from Iranian territory, according to reports in the reputable German magazine Cicero last month.
Meanwhile, British PM Tony Blair has announced that British experts have determined that sophisticated bombs used against Coalition forces in Iraq were apparently manufactured in Iran from military materials. There is little doubt that there is large-scale support coming from Iran to the Iraqi insurgents who are targeting not only coalition troops, but Iraqi civilians, in massive numbers.
In the past, Iran has funded and armed other terrorist groups in Turkey, Saudi Arabia, North Africa, Europe and elsewhere. With the radical true believers of the Revolutionary Guards now in control with their former comrade Ahmadinejad as President, and the country awash in oil revenues, it is a safe bet that these efforts will only intensify in coming years.
Ahmadinejad’s genocidal declaration against Israel, therefore, should not be seen as mere rhetoric. Iran is carrying out the policy he espouses every day. Through terrorism alone Iran bears responsibility for taking the lives of hundreds of people from Beirut to Buenos Aires. If the ruling mullahs are allowed to secure nuclear capabilities, millions more would be in very real danger.
When Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad made his outrageous and criminal call for Israel to be “wiped off the map”, Kofi Annan was amongst the many who condemned that statement.
While it shouldn’t be exceptional for the senior officer of the United Nations to condemn one member’s bellicose and annihilationist pronouncements against another, decades of UN hostility, duplicity and dishonesty regarding Israel made Annan’s comments newsworthy.
His condemnation of the first of a series of abhorrent comments on Israel and Jews from Iranian leaders came in the context of two other welcome developments — the UN’s condemnation of the terrorist Hezbollah organisation for its attack on Israel and the endorsement of an international day for Remembrance of the Nazi genocide, the Shoah.
But it also came in a broader context, which at best made the condemnation an exception to anti-Israel bombast rather than a signal of a changed environment.
The United Nations not only “commemorated” an International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, but in its official ceremony included a minute’s silence for terrorist killers of Israeli civilians.
Even more offensively, the Secretary-General delivered his address at the UN headquarters in front of a “map of Palestine”, dated 1948, which not only failed to identify the existence of Israel but didn’t acknowledge the United Nations partition plan, the event being marked on Solidarity Day.
While a representative of the Secretary-General has subsequently stated that Annan wasn’t aware of the map, there can be no question that he was an active participant in an event which for all intents and purposes “mourned” the existence of modern Israel.
In what US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton labelled “one reason why many people say the UN is not really useful in solving actual problems”, the General Assembly also marked the anniversary by adopting a package of its annual anti-Israel resolutions, which included perpetuating the various anti-Israel institutions within the UN.
One of the small number of countries to stand up to the lynch-mob mentality of the anti-Israel lobby was Australia.
Andrew Southcott’s speech to the General Assembly was summarised by the UN’s office: “The singling out of one side for blame in the current situation was very unhelpful. Australia remained concerned by the high level of United Nations resources allocated to anti-Israeli activity, including the Division for Palestinian Rights and the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People…The relevant resolutions served only to distract the parties from more pressing issues and did nothing to help the peace process.”
Kofi Annan acted correctly and appropriately in condemning Iranian annihilationism. But if he is to be consistent, his next task must be to work on changing the anti-Israel culture of the organisation for which he speaks.