Ahmadinejad Gets The EU's Attention
New German Chancellor Angela Merkel called Ahmadinejad’s remarks about Israel and the Holocaust ‘incredible’ heading into the European Summit in Brussels. It seems that Iranian President Ahmadinejad has, with his latest utterances, finally gotten the attention of Europe after statements of wiping Israel off the map, denying the Holocaust happened and suggesting Israel be moved to Europe or Alaska.
“I cannot avoid saying that this damages bilateral relations and puts a strain on the negotiations over the Iranian nuclear programme,” he [German Foreign Minister Steinmeier] told the parliamentary committee on foreign affairs Wednesday.
Foreign ministers at the EU summit formalized German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier’s earlier remarks as part of a broader statement on the Middle East Thursday.
A summit statement drafted by EU foreign ministers said of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s statement that the Nazi mass extermination of Jews was a myth: “These comments are wholly unacceptable and have no place in civilised political debate.”
It also voiced grave concern at Iran’s failure to remove suspicions about its nuclear intentions and said: “The window of opportunity will not remain open indefinitely.”
That Europe has not reacted as strongly to Iran’s nuclear deeds as they have to Ahmadinejad’s recent inflammatory words greatly frustrates many. With the dubious and arguably haunting nature of Iran’s nuclear program, such words have been warranted long before Ahmadinejad referred to the Holocaust as a ‘myth’. The unseen clock continues to tick as Iran creeps closer to nuclear weapons material production-capable.
There is a discrepancy between the two shortest timetables offered on that unseen clock. IAEA head Mohamed ElBaradei said that Iran was ‘a few months’ from producing enriched uranium once the Natanz facility comes online. But the IAEA also believes that Natanz is about two years from that point.
This is obviously where the IAEA and Israeli intelligence part ways, as Israel has been adamant lately that Iran will be capable of producing the enriched uranium in about three months from now without the two year wait.
There has been some back and forth on whether Israel has been preparing for a strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities come March, when Israel says Iran could start enriching uranium for weapons-ready material. However, Israel denies any Iran attack plans are in the works.
President Bush called Iran a ‘real threat’, reiterating one of the reasons why he referred to Iran as part of an ‘Axis of Evil’ in his 2002 State of the Union address after the al-Qaeda attacks of September 11, 2001.
Capping a day of worldwide condemnation provoked by Tehran’s latest anti-Israel gibes, Mr Bush said that he was “concerned about theocracy that has little transparency, a country whose president has declared the destruction of Israel as part of their foreign policy”. “I called it (Iran) part of the ‘axis of evil’ for a reason,” Mr Bush said. “It’s a real threat.”
It is quite possible that Europe no longer bristles at such a characterization, though one written statement from an EU summit certainly does not ensure that. But if this is the case, it will be very interesting to see how the Iranian nuclear crisis is handled from this point and whether the EU can drag the IAEA and the United Nations Security Council along with it.