Editor’s note - Lanny Davis is a volunteer with the Israel Project, an American nonprofit group that tries to get out facts about Israel to the media. This column represents his own personal views, not those of the Israel Project.
Just suppose … hypothetically, of course: The people of Mexico elect as president a man who questions whether al Qaeda was behind the 9/11 attack, who refuses to acknowledge that the United States has the right to exist and says it should be “wiped off the face of the earth,” and who trains and funds anti-U.S. terrorists in Cuba and a Central American nation who launch thousands of rockets and missiles into downtown Miami, New Orleans and Houston, killing Americans.
And suppose this Mexican president, backed by senior officials of his government, defies a U.N. Security Council resolution by continuing to develop enriched uranium that would give Mexico the ability to make an atomic bomb. And suppose, further, that there are grounds to fear the Mexican president will secretly sell atomic bombs to anti-American terrorists he has funded or supported, including al Qaeda?
How would Americans react to such a threat? What would a U.S. government do under such circumstances?
Surely, at the very least, Americans would demand, and the U.S. government would agree to lead, a total economic embargo on Mexico - blocking all trade and all financial transactions using the U.S. banking system, and freezing all Mexican assets in the U.S. And Americans would expect their government to exert maximum pressure on friends and allies and trading partners in Europe and Asia to do the same.
And, if the sanctions didn’t work, it is hard to imagine that the U.S. would not seriously consider taking military action to prevent Mexico under this hypothetical-fact scenario from developing a nuclear weapon.
I have been very careful here in what may seem to be a far-fetched hypothetical. It certainly is far-fetched when it comes to our friendly neighbor to the south, Mexico, and I apologize for using it in the hypothetical to make my point.
But it is not far-fetched - it is stunningly factually accurate - if you substitute the name Ahmadinejad for Mexican president, Iran for Mexico, and Israel for America.
Iran’s popularly elected President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has questioned whether the Holocaust ever happened (though he has at times tried to take back his words after they were denounced throughout the world). Indeed, in public statements, he has asserted that there was a cover-up of the evidence concerning who was really behind 9/11 - just as he claims there is an ongoing cover-up on whether there was a Holocaust.
The Iranian president, without any public repudiation by the highest leaders of the Iranian theocracy, including Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has denied Israel’s right to exist as a sovereign state and has said he favored “wiping Israel off the face of the earth.” He and his government have indisputably funded and trained Hezbollah and Hamas, both of which have been branded internationally as terrorist organizations, and both intentionally have launched rockets to kill Israeli civilians.
And last week, the Financial Times reported that, in defiance of the U.N. Security Council resolution, Iran has reached a point in its nuclear enrichment program that allows it to create a nuclear bomb.
So now what is America to do about Iran’s nuclear weapons program? And does anyone expect Israel to react any differently than America would if the above far-fetched hypothetical were actually true?
President Obama indicated during his campaign and since the election that his administration would be willing to engage in negotiations with Iran to improve relations with the U.S. and to persuade it to stop its nuclear bomb development program. I applaud him for that.
But in his first prime-time press conference, on Feb. 9, Mr. Obama also said: “[Iran’s] actions over many years now have been unhelpful. … [Iran has been] financing terrorist organizations like Hezbollah and Hamas, the bellicose language that they’ve used toward Israel, their development of a nuclear weapon or their pursuit of a nuclear weapon … create the possibility of destabilizing the region and are not only contrary to our interests but I think are contrary to the interests of international peace.”