Without Vision, There Will Be No Victory
In October, at a conference held in Tehran suggestively entitled "The World Without Zionism," President Ahmadinejad called for Israel to be “wiped off” the map. To make sure that his message was well understood, in December he publicly stated that the Holocaust is a "myth" and repeated his call that Israel be moved out of the region. "They have invented a myth that Jews were massacred and place this above God, religion and the prophets. The West has given more significance to the myth of the genocide of the Jews . . . If you have burnt the Jews, why don't you give a piece of Europe, the United States, Canada or Alaska to Israel . . . why should the innocent nation of Palestine pay for this crime?"
Ahmadinejad is not the first, and certainly not the last Muslim to call for Israel's destruction. Hamas has called for the same thing in its charter (go to: http://www.palestinecenter.org/cpap/documents/charter.html). Khaled Meshaal, a key leader of Hamas, opined that Ahmadinejad's public statements against Israel were "courageous." Those of us who hoped to see a more civilized, reasonable and moderate Hamas after its entrance on the political stage will have to wait longer than anticipated.
EU leaders in Brussels strongly condemned Ahmadinejad's anti-Israel comments. The United States, Canada, Australia, the Vatican and the UN publicly condemned the Iranian president's declarations. Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said: "Attempts to revise the commonly accepted facts of World War II, including with regard to the Holocaust are unacceptable.”
This time, as also was the case in October, the preferred response in Arab and Muslim countries to such alarming (to say the least) statements was not surprisingly a deafening silence. Their silence can be interpreted in two ways, none of the two being the best option:
1) Arab and Muslim leaders completely agreed with President Ahmadinejad, and in this case there is nothing they wanted to add or take away.
2) They may not completely agree with the Iranian President, but they felt compelled to side with him, either because of some sort of Islamic solidarity or simply because of their immediate interests in the region.
In an era of humane and technical development, anti-Semitism, bigotry and racism should have no place in the world. Therefore, in this particular case, silence was far from being the right answer.
However, there was a country that did respond. The response came only after few days of silence, but better late than never. The Saudi Ambassador to the United States, a former head of foreign intelligence, declared that the Holocaust was a "horrific genocide" and, "as far as Saudi Arabia is concerned, that's an historical fact, you cannot deny that, and people should move forward from that.”
The reaction of Prince Turki al-Faisal was largely ignored by media, but it is of particular interest given Saudi Arabia’s decades-old enmity toward the Jews and Israel. The ambassador’s balanced remark does not annul the extreme anti-Semitic sermons preached by some of the Saudi clerics in the Kingdom and outside it, but it is a public stance worthy of being remembered.
At a time when Iran is in need of internal reformation and modernization, Ahmadinejad lacks the answers to solving the problems and instead attracts public sympathy through his radical rhetoric against the United States and Israel. Surely, President Ahmadinejad voiced what he believes. In this respect, his words can be seriously taken as such. What still remains blurry is whether this chain of declarations will lead to precise actions against US interests in the region and against the very existence of Israel or if they were solely intended for internal consumption. It is crucial to make sure we have got the right message before taking any action against Iran.
President Ahmadinejad is believed to be devoted to the cult of the 12th Imam, the Shiite savior better known as the Mahdi, whose return would usher in an apocalyptic revolution of the oppressed over the forces of injustice. Hopefully, Ahmadinejad does not intend to create the apocalyptic momentum by using the nuclear power Iran will soon have, despite the EU3's (Germany, France and the UK) efforts to stop it.
As President, Ahmadinejad is subordinate to Ayatollah Khameini, the country's supreme ruler, and to the council of religious clerics - which controls the armed forces and the nuclear program. Basically, the radical mullahs will control Iran’s nuclear power. If their ultimate goal is to destroy Israel and rearrange the pyramid of powers in the region and the world, then the problem is deadly serious and without too many peaceful options. However, since Iran insists that its nuclear activity is only for peaceful means, why would it not be satisfied with wind or solar power technology? I am sure the EU and the US would be more than willing to assist Iran’s efforts in this respect.
In the past, Iran conducted quite a lot of back door meetings and arrangements with Israel and the US. Back then, the leadership of the country seemed more pragmatic and reasonable. Now, it’s an internal struggle between the conservatives and ultra-conservative mullahs to dominate Iran. With Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as president and with deputies who were once commanders of the Revolutionary Guards, the hard-line extremists control Iran's domestic and foreign policy. It looks like the conservatives have the upper hand these days, while the reformists are sidelined but not yet defeated.
Should Israel take preemptive steps against Iran? Israel did it with Iraq in the 1980s, but this time such a strike might create more damage than actual good. Assuming that Israel would attack Iran, the Shiite worldwide would support Iran and react as violently as possible against Israel and whoever sides with it. Furthermore, countries such as Turkey, Egypt and Saudi Arabia would hasten to produce nuclear weapons to retaliate against Israel. The world’s countries would have to choose sides - either them or us.
On the other hand, the United States is not in the position to enter into a military confrontation with Iran - at least not until it solves, one way or another, the unstable situation in Iraq and the tensioned relationship between Syria and Lebanon.
By being openly confrontational with Iraq, Iran, and Syria, the US struggle against terrorism will take the back seat, thus further endangering the Occident. Such a risky move would give Russia the opportunity of getting back in the superpower game, with good chances of winning the first place if it aligns itself with the radical Islamic world.
The leaders of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, all members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) asked for a Middle East free of nuclear weapons and called on Iran and Israel to join them. It is unlikely that Iran or Israel will respond positively to this request. However, it is important to see Arab and Muslim leaders demonstrating that they feel responsible for what happens in their region.
A high level of vision and flexibility is a must on all sides. Otherwise, we will all find ourselves in an apocalyptic situation from which there is no exit. In the end, no one will win, but all will suffer.