- The Washington Times - Monday, December 4, 2006

Last week’s letter to the American people from Iran’s apocalyptic President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a strange mix of leftist rhetoric and Islamist exhortation. The journalist Kenneth Timmerman points out a fascinating and frightening possibility: That this letter is some sort of pre-war declaration by Iran in keeping with a long tradition of such declarations in Islamic statecraft. Of course, it’s also possible that this letter is just another act of intimidation — the quixotic rantings of a deluded Islamist. Either way, this is more evidence, were any needed, that no peace-loving person should want to see this man’s finger on a nuclear trigger.

Viewed in its historical context, as Mr. Timmerman does, a case can be made that the letter is a threat against the American people. Recall the May 2006 letter to President Bush urging the president’s conversion to Islam. That letter, as he wrote in The Washington Times on Dec. 3, “left the Bush White House shaking their heads with wonderment.” But it is part of “a well-established Islamic tradition when dealing with an enemy just prior to war,” he writes. “If they refuse, then the Muslims are ‘justified’ in destroying them.” The Prophet Muhammad did it to the Persian, Byzantine and Ethiopian rulers in 625 A.D. before his conquests, the practice’s apparent progenitor.

Now comes another letter, addressed “Noble Americans,” which demands “justice” from the American people. It covers the usual Islamist talking points: the supposed need to withdraw troops from Iraq, the Zionist domination of the United States and the injustice of the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. It also adds a few novel twists: Flattering the religiosity of the American people (calling us “God-fearing and followers of Divine religions”) and a direct address to the Democratic victors of the midterm elections, who are warned: “Now that you control an important branch of the U.S. government, you will also be held to account by the people and by history.”

The clearest evidence Mr. Timmerman sees of a threat is the ending Koran citation (28: 67-68), which is preceded by passages about the destruction of “infidel” towns. The quoted passage reads in part: “But those who repent, have faith and do good may receive Salvation. Your Lord, alone, creates and chooses as He will, and others have no part in his Choice.” A few lines in the preceding passages, not included in the letter, we reprint here: “We never destroyed the towns except when their people were unjust.” And: “they shall see the punishment; would that they had followed the right way!” This, following a letter which demands “justice,” is certainly suggestive.

The real-world significance of this particular letter can be puzzled over. The regime’s general hostility cannot.

We live in a world where the best-case scenario makes this just more Iranian bluster, an echo of a tradition of poison-pen precursors to war on “infidel” nations and their rulers. The fact that a merely rhetorical threat should be the better option is itself indicative.

Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad views himself, and wants to be viewed, as heir to Muhammad at the moment the Hidden Imam is about to reappear. All bets are off if and when a nuclear weapon is in this man’s hands.

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