Friday, 2 May 2008

Words of Concern

The present election campaign of the Democrats in the US has led to unpleasant mud-wrestling mainly driven by Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton. But in pleasing or appeasing her potential voters Clinton recently used too strong expressions on what she would do with Iran if becoming the next president. It is a conditional phrase, of course. If…, then…. So, the question in an interview in ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Tuesday, April 22, 2008 was what she would do if Iran would attack Israel with nuclear weapons.

"I want the Iranians to know that if I'm the president, we will attack Iran (if it attacks Israel).

"In the next 10 years, during which they might foolishly consider launching an attack on Israel, we would be able to totally obliterate them.

"That's a terrible thing to say but those people who run Iran need to understand that because that perhaps will deter them from doing something that would be reckless, foolish and tragic."

In the meantime, Tehran has complained bitterly. Iran's deputy ambassador to the United Nations has sent a letter to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and the president of the Security Council expressing Iran's condemnation of "such a provocative, unwarranted and irresponsible statement."

Election campaigns are election campaigns, and the present series of primaries and caucuses which seem to go on and on have damaged already both parties, Obama's and Clinton's as well. When I look back, only a couple of weeks after the current Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had been elected, he used strong words, too. On October 25, 2005, on a conference called “World without Zionism”, he said certain sentences which have completely damaged his and the Theocracy’s reputation for a very long time, even putting his country and people at a high risk for a military attack by Israel and/or the US.

It was ironically the Iranian IRIB news which printed the headline of its main article the next day: Ahmadinejad: Israel must be wiped off the map. That caused, of course, lots of fears and concerns among Jews, Americans, and Europeans as well. In particular when considering the actively promoted nuclear program of the Islamic Republic which most believe is not entirely for peaceful purposes. The New York Times translated the speech a couple of days later, using the horrible prophecy again:

“Our dear Imam (Ayatollah Khomenei) said that the occupying regime must be wiped off the map and this was a very wise statement. We cannot compromise over the issue of Palestine. Is it possible to create a new front in the heart of an old front. This would be a defeat and whoever accepts the legitimacy of this regime (Israel) has in fact, signed the defeat of the Islamic world. Our dear Imam targeted the heart of the world oppressor in his struggle, meaning the occupying regime. I have no doubt that the new wave that has started in Palestine, and we witness it in the Islamic world too, will eliminate this disgraceful stain from the Islamic world. But we must be aware of tricks.”

But what did he really say? Mr. Ahmadinejad’s original phrases disappeared in the meantime from the President’s office website, which is a pity. Jonathan Steele, in an article published on June 14, 2006 in The Guardian, used the following translation: "… the regime occupying Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time", which definitely means something else.

Governments come and go (and in particular that currently in Iran will sooner or later vanish, too). Steele’s analysis is worth to be taken seriously. The not really diplomatic speeches of Mr. Ahmadinejad (not to mention his intolerable organization of a ‘Holocaust Conference’ in December 2006 in Tehran) should, of course, be analyzed in great detail. But when it comes to war or peace, think twice before attacking! If you like war in Iraq, you’ll love war on Iran, as the Physicians for Social Responsibility cynically write.

It is high time now for the Iranian people to make very clear that they won’t preemptively attack Israel, neither with conventional nor with nuclear weapons. My experience tells that diplomacy is something where Iranians are real masters. Take advantage of your virtues!

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