- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 13, 2006

Iran’s motives

Israeli Ambassador Daniel Ayalon yesterday accused Iran of masterminding terrorist attacks on his country to advance its goals of dominating the Middle East and distracting attention from its nuclear program.

The Lebanon-based Shi’ite militant group Hezbollah is supported by both the theocratic regime in Iran and by the authoritarian government in Syria, he said. Meanwhile, Israel also is fighting Hamas terrorists on the Gaza Strip.

“If Iran and Damascus … through their proxies are successful in the Middle East, no one, but no one, on this globe will be safe,” Mr. Ayalon warned at a luncheon at the National Press Club.

The ambassador said Israel was provoked into war after Hamas kidnapped an Israeli soldier three weeks ago and Hezbollah seized two Israeli soldiers and began firing rockets into the northern part of the Jewish state this week.

“The Middle East is in a very critical juncture, a historic juncture, a dangerous juncture,” Mr. Ayalon said. “This can go on, further deteriorating, or it can stop.”

He said Iran has two goals in its efforts to destabilize the region.

“One is its continued desire for domination in the Middle East” to spread a “backward, totalitarian” form of Islam, he said. “The second goal is to divert attention from its nuclear activities … which they are feverishly advancing as we speak.”

Mr. Ayalon defended Israeli attacks on airports and other targets in Lebanon, saying the Lebanese government has failed to send troops to clear out Hezbollah strongholds.

Israel sees “no distinction between terrorists and those who harbor them,” he said.

“By allowing [Hezbollah] to operate a state within a state, Lebanon has shirked its responsibilities to their own people,” he added.

Two Democratic members of Congress who attended the lunch expressed strong support for Israel’s military offensive.

Rep. Brad Sherman of California criticized European leaders who complained that Israel’s military response to the attacks is “disproportionate.”

“You could call Israel’s response disproportionate only if you think they should do more,” said Mr. Sherman, the most senior Democrat on the House International Relations subcommittee on international terrorism and nonproliferation.

Rep. Gene Green of Texas said, “I’m here today to condemn Hezbollah and Hamas” and “fully support Israel’s actions to defend itself.”

Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, president of the Israel Project, which sponsored the luncheon, said, “Israel is under siege.”

Susan Weinberg, president of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington, which co-sponsored the event, said Israel “not only has a right to respond to these crimes, but it has an obligation to do so.”

“The entire international community should join Israel in demanding that the kidnapped soldiers be safely returned to their homes and families,” she said.

Saudi in New Orleans

The ambassador from Saudi Arabia visited New Orleans this week to view the damage from Hurricane Katrina and to pledge continued support from the desert kingdom.

“Through humanitarian aid and other support, the Saudi people have lent a helping hand as New Orleans restores its place in the world,” Prince Turki al-Faisal said.

“I am here to see firsthand what impact there has been and to see how we, as members of the global community, can better prepare for natural disasters and other events that impact all humans across the earth.”

Saudi Arabia, one of the largest donors to the hurricane victims, reportedly contributed $100 million in relief aid.

Prince Turki said he is “encouraged by returning signs of life to this area.”

“The people of Saudi Arabia stand with the people of New Orleans as they revive this great city,” he said.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

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