Sunday, November 13, 2005

In his State of the Union message to Congress on Jan. 29, 2002, President Bush attacked Iran in these words:

“Iran aggressively pursues these weapons [of mass destruction] and exports terror. … States like these, and their terrorist allies, constitute an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world. By seeking weapons of mass destruction, these regimes pose a grave and growing danger. They could provide these arms to terrorists, giving them the means to match their hatred. They could attack our allies or attempt to blackmail the United States. In any of these cases, the price of indifference would be catastrophic.”

Three years later the axis of evil, represented by Iran, is on the march more boldly and arrogantly than ever in its quest for a nuclear weapon. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, elected last August, described openly the other day why Iran needed a nuclear weapon in announcing “Israel must be wiped off the map.” Mr. Ahmadinejad spoke for the Iranian government when he called for Israel’s destruction. In fact, Iranian Foreign Minister Manoucher Mottaki told the state-run television “the comments expressed by the president are the declared and specific policy of the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

Not even in the worst days of the Cold War did anybody propose the United States or the Soviet Union be “wiped off the map.” Mr. Ahmadinejad’s genocidal sloganeering has been condemned by the U.N. Security Council, the State Department, both houses of Congress, French President Jacques Chirac, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, the European Union, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Australia, Russia and others.

In Iran, Mr. Ahmadinejad’s words “inspired” a parade in downtown Tehran with signs reading “Death to Israel, death to America,” “Every Iranian is an atomic bomb.” The last slogan is reason enough for the deepest concern in Western chancelleries over Iran’s continued search for nuclear weapons and uranium enrichment.

Demonstrators in the Tehran parade carried a large picture of Mr. Ahmadinejad emblazoned with his quote, “Israel must be wiped off the map.” They burned Israeli and U.S. flags and effigies of President Bush and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Some demonstrators wore a traditional Palestinian kaffiyah headdress, symbolizing their readiness to fight Israel.

This is not the first time that Iran has threatened to wipe Israel off the map. On Dec. 14, 2001, President Ali Rafsanjani threatened Israel with a nuclear attack in these words:

“If one day, the Islamic world is also equipped with weapons like those that Israel possesses now, then the imperialists’ strategy will reach a standstill because the use of even one nuclear bomb inside Israel will destroy everything [in Israel] while it will merely harm the Islamic world.”

Israel is a democracy. Israel is a member of the United Nations. Israel’s existence is as legitimate as that of other U.N. members. As such, Israel warrants the protection — military, economic, political — of any other member nation.

President Ahmadinejad has issued a fatwa that legitimates any terrorist act against Israel. And we know from Iran’s terrorist history that its agents deliver on their government’s threats.

The Iranian regime imperils peace in the Middle East, and the EU should stop pretending EU appeasement policies will tame Iran’s mullahs. The mullahs are after the bomb; they are enemies of Iraq coalition forces. Since Mr. Ahmadinejad ascended to the presidency, Tehran’s nuclear negotiations with France, Germany and Great Britain have stalled because Iran won’t suspend its nuclear fuel cycle, the precursor to obtaining an atomic bomb.

Condemnation of Mr. Ahmadinejad’s fatwa by the Security Council is fine, but is Israel supposed to wait until it suffers a nuclear attack via surface-to-surface missiles Iran already possesses? The words of ex-President Ali Rafsanjani I quoted above and the words of President Ahmadinejad are not only ultimatums to Israel, they are ultimatums to the democratic world. It is time to consider a naval blockade against Iran and a boycott of Iran oil shipments until that nation withdraws its formidable and realistic threats against a democratic state.

Arnold Beichman is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University.

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