Saturday, December 2, 2006

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has followed up his 18-page letter to President Bush earlier this year with a five-page missive to the American people.

In the earlier letter, which left the Bush White House shaking their heads with wonderment, the Iranian invited Mr. Bush to embrace Islam. That is a well-established Islamic tradition when dealing with an enemy just prior to war. If they refuse, then the Muslims are “justified” in destroying them.

The letter released Wednesday by Iran’s mission to the United Nations in New York followed a similar pattern. In it, Mr. Ahmadinejad lays out his case for America’s “injustice,” using the term no fewer than 12 times in five pages.

The concept of justice lies at the very center of the Islamic faith. Justice is considered the backbone of all creation, handed down by the Almighty. The faithful should strive to achieve justice, to “secure justice,” as Mr. Ahmadinejad puts it. Those who pursue injustice, on the contrary, are spitting in the face of Allah. Mr. Ahmadinejad claims that America, under Mr. Bush, is pursuing injustice.

But justice, in Mr. Ahmadinejad’s eyes, has little to do with the concept as we know it in America, or indeed, the Western world. Instead, it’s all about Islamization of the entire world. In making his case, Mr. Ahmadinejad does not position himself as president of Iran, but attempts to set himself up as a spokesman for all Muslims.

Iran itself barely figures in the letter. Instead, Mr. Ahmadinejad focuses on U.S. support for Israel, the U.S. occupation of Iraq, and the Bush administration’s “moral corruption,” or as he puts it, the administration pursuit of “darkness, deceit, lies and distortion.”

Students of recent Iranian history will recall that the “crime” most often used to justify a death sentence by Islamic Republic revolutionary courts during the early years of the revolution was “corruption on Earth.” This was how the regime simply eliminated its opponents or those who rejected absolute clerical rule.

Media commentators in the U.S. have picked up on the “public relations” side of the letter. Mr. Ahmadinejad calls on the U.S. to bring the troops home from Iraq, to cut off support for Israel, and to stop “kidnapping presumed opponents from across the globe” and holding them in secret prisons. He even has some advice for the new Democrat majority in Congress: bend to the Muslim agenda, or you will be tossed out of power.

Mr. Ahmadinejad repeatedly tries to appeal to Americans as people of faith, who share Islamic values. “We, like you, are aggrieved by the ever-worsening pain and misery of the Palestinian people,” he drones. “Persistent aggressions by the Zionists are making life more and more difficult for the rightful owners of the land of Palestine.”

Certainly, Americans are aggrieved by the unnecessary killing of innocent civilians, which is why most of us have little sympathy for Palestinian imams and political leaders who teach their children to strap explosives to their bodies and blow up Jews.

Mr. Ahmadinejad can’t help but trot out his old anti-Semitic saw, claiming “the Zionists” control America “because they have imposed themselves on a substantial portion of the banking, financial, cultural and media sectors.”

But to focus on these parts of his letter, however silly and objectionable, would be to miss the main point. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is not the Hugo Chavez of the Persian Gulf. He knows he soon will have his finger on the nuclear trigger.

Citing from the Koran at the close of his letter, he says that if Americans “repent” of their “injustice,” they will be blessed with many gifts. “We should all heed the divine Word of the Holy Koran,” he says.

The context of this particular verse (28:67-28, Sura “Al-Qasas,” or The Narration), is very clear. It follows a graphic description of destruction and devastation that will befall those who fail to repent of their injustice, i.e., support for Israel and refusal to adopt Islam.

It also sets out the terms of the traditional Muslim warning to the enemies of Allah. “And never will your Lord destroy the towns until He sends to their mother town a Messenger reciting to them Our Verses.” This is precisely what Mr. Ahmadinejad does in his letter.

Dump George W. Bush, allow the Muslims to destroy Israel, and adopt Islam — or else you will be destroyed. This is Mr. Ahmadinejad’s message.

Kenneth R. Timmerman is the author of “Countdown to Crisis: the Coming Nuclear Showdown with Iran” (Crown Forum) and president of Middle East Data Project, Inc.

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