Day By Day

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Sharon Blinks, Ahmedinejad Rants

On Sunday the Times reported that Israel was planning military strikes against Iran's emerging nuclear capability. Just why this was leaked is a matter of speculation, but it was clearly a response to recent threats made by Iranian president Ahmadinejad who has called for Israel to be "wiped off the map." Well, we're now at stage two of the facedown, and Ahmadnijad shows no tendency to back away from his extreme statements.

AP reports:
TEHRAN, Iran - Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has reiterated his doubt about the Holocaust and called on Muslim nations to take a proactive stand on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, state media reported Tuesday.
Read it here.

But Sharon is backing away from the Times story.

The Scotsman reports:

ISRAEL yesterday denied that it was planning to launch an attack on Iranian nuclear installations in March.

But it did not rule out using force if international diplomatic efforts to prevent Tehran from gaining nuclear weapons capability failed to bear fruit.

Read it here.

So what are we to make of this?

For years now, as Iran's drive for nuclear weapons has become increasingly obvious, there have been attempts on the part of the "international community" to dissuade that nation's radical leaders from their purposes. All have failed. Statements of "concern" and even "strong concern" from UN officials have been no more effective in Iran than elsewhere. The long-awaited democratic revolution in Iran failed to materialize. The American invasion of Iraq, while it may have given the Mullahs pause, ultimately failed to dissuade them as Iraqi "insurgents" [many of them funded by Iran] and disapproval from the "international community" imposed limits on America's ability to operate freely in that region. Some critics have even argued that America's invasion of Iraq spurred Iran to greater efforts to obtain a nuclear arsenal. Hopes then focused on EU diplomatic and economic pressures, but these "soft" alternatives once again failed to deflect Iran's government from its course.

The election of Ahmadinejad precipitated the current crisis. He is something of an anomalous figure. The first President since the Islamic revolution who was not also a cleric, he has been seen by some naifs in academia and at State as an indication that Iran is moving away from its theocratic past.

But the new President is no secularist. In fact, he seems in many of his pronouncements to be nothing less than an Islamist radical. What he represents, more than anything else, is a repudiation of politics as usual, which for a generation has been dominated by a corrupt alliance of Shiite theocrats and middle-class business interests.

Ahmadinejad's base, it would seem, is among the poor and marginally employed young people who have not benefited from the past thirty years of Islamic rule. In power he has consolidated his rule in classic despotic ways, purging moderates from all branches of government and replacing them with his devoted followers, while at the same time rallying the nation against an external enemy [Israel] and an imminent threat [US invasion] to justify extreme measures.

We have seen this movie before and nobody yet has written a happy ending for it.

So what is a responsible leader like Sharon to do? He can threaten military action, but now that Iran has upped the ante, if he does not follow through with effective and disabling strikes he simply plays into Ahmedinejad's hands.

The US is trying to get the whole matter referred to the UN Security Council, but that will probably be worse than useless. Protracted debate between the UN and Iran will simply provide cover for Ahmadinejan's radical agenda. On the other hand, a UN resolution authorizing force might legitimate multi-national actions to contain Iran. But, so long as Russia and China, and an stunningly corrupt France sit on the Security Council, no serious resolution will be forthcoming.

And what if Sharon does strike, with either active or tacit cooperation from US forces in Iraq? Well, the Islamists will have a field day with that one.

As I said, there are no good outcomes to this movie.

Stay tuned..., this one is gonna get really nasty.

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