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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.

Feedback

This article states: "IAEA head Mohamed ElBaradei said that Iran was ‘a few months’ from producing enriched uranium once the Natanz facility comes online." But a quote from the original "Independent" article is slightly different: "Once Iran’s Natanz enrichment installation is fully operational, ElBaradei said the country could be 'a few months' away from producing a nuclear weapon." So isn't ElBaradei saying that the enrichment would start as soon as Natanz is operational, and then it would be a few months until they could have a weapon?

Yes. That's exactly what ElBaradei is saying. That is also what the Israelis are saying.

What I attempted to show is that the two differ in that the Israelis believe Iran is already capable of enrichment (either at Natanz or elsewhere) and therefor could have weapons material in-hand by March '06. ElBaradei believes that this capability is still two years out.

Just for consideration, it is also worthy to note that ElBaradei said the same thing about North Korea just months before they announced their first nuclear weapon.

This whole brohaha over Ahmadinejad's Holocaust denial shows how little knowledge there is even at the highest levels of Western governments of the nature of Muslim societies, especially with regard to Middle East. The belief that the Holocaust either didn't happen or was vastly exaggerated, along with similar paranoid fantasies, is widely believed in the Middle East. It is not something that scholars over here in the West like to talk about. I had no idea how widespread the paranoid conspiracism was until I lived over there and started talking to people. The belief that Jews were behind the 9/11 attacks is another example.

But think about it - why is Ahmadinejad saying these things? It is because he knows they are widely believed, and he knows it will garner him support for his agenda in the Arab world. This is why he first made the statement at the Mecca conference.

I share your frustration that Iran's nuclear designs haven't elicited similar concern, but the real scandal here, in my mind, is that otherwise well-educated leaders in the West have no idea whatsoever what they are dealing with when they deal with the Middle East. Their ignorance is palpable.

I respectfully disagree, Kirk.

The real scandal is that Iran is building a nuclear weapons program and we simply don't know how far along they are as those same leaders seem to just watch, unwilling to confront the danger.

Whether they understand the ignorance that Ahmadinejad plays to or not is secondary to the prospects of a mushroom cloud over Tel Aviv, Port Elizabeth or Port Long Beach.

One is more urgent than the other.

I understand your point. In terms of sheet threat, the nuclear program is clearly the key issue; if they have a nuclear weapon, then all previous Iran-sponsored terror attacks would pale in comparison to a nuclear attack.

At the same time, it is the underlying worldview which makes the possibility of a nuclear Iran so bad. India and Israel have nuclear weapons, but the free world isn't concerned with that because these are democracies attempting to deter the mass killing of their own people. We cared about India's nukes mainly because it encourages Muslim countries like Pakistan to develop them.

Likewise, were Iran to develop nuclear weapons only to evolve into the kind of constitutional democracy that the regime's opponents seek, then a nuclear Iran, while still not desireable, would be bearable. But possession of nukes by the current regime, or by an Islamist regime in Pakistan were Musharraf overthrown, would be a nightmare.

In other words, I don't think that Iran's potential nuclearization and the underlying ideological issues are so separate. I don't think it is a matter of Ahmadinejad being ignorant; he may know that what he is saying is nonsense, I don't know, but what matters is what it means about the mental world that our enemies inhabit. With the Soviets it was sufficient to contain, pressure and wear them down until the regime collapsed. That will not do here, but to understand why requires understanding of the enemy.

That brings us back to the point about Western leaders not having a real clue as to who they are dealing with here. So you are certainly right that viewed independently Iran's nuclearization is more pressing than Ahamdinejad's ignorance, but the fact that they are surprised by his statements tells us something about why they don't seem too concerned about the nuclearization issue that you emphasize.

Steve:
I think that the confusion was introduced in my original comment; what I meant to say is that the fact that Ahmadinejad is making these statements is not a scandal, since they merely voice widely-shared beliefs, but the fact that Western leaders are unaware of this. Compared to the mere fact of him making these statements, Western ignorance is more outrageous. But then I contrasted it with the issue you raised relating to the nuclear program, so it was an inartly worded point.

I understand what you are saying, Kirk, and do not necessarily disagree. It was worded just fine. I simply view it as an argument for either yesterday or tomorrow. Today does not allow for much energy in that direction.

My point is that, while yours is valid, the issue of the Iranian Nuclear Crisis has now reached a point where worrying about what Western leaders do or do not understand and/or appreciate is a luxury we simply do not have.

It is a long-view concern that must be shelved until after the immediate crisis is abated, with or without any Western leader and their given misunderstandings.

The President of Iran saying what half the Arab street says may not be news to some. But, the world's leaders have to condem his statements and warn him. No other action is allowable or expected.

There is lots of midnight oil burning at various capitals and their warrooms.

But the fact is, every option winds up being forced to take actions that either will just make the situation much worse or entail actions that their militarys say that they don't have the boots, equipment and supplies to accomplish at this time.

An air war against a country the size of Texas wouldn't accomplish the mission. Besides, the American people and certainly most of the American pols would not give permission or their blessings to a war that would take years and more years to accomplish the nation building after the war.

It would make Iraq look like it was easy as pie.

If Iraq is attacked, it will have to be completely destroyed. Anything less will give the Islamic world the excuse to declare all out war against anyone not a "true believer". In other words a bloody world war in every major city in the world.

Arabs and Persians only understand and respect death and descruction. If they are completely destroyed as a nation they will have the excuse they need to maintain their pride. They will say, "No one could have survived and won, we did our best our pride is safe".

Otherwise they will try and kill us forever, even if it is one by one.

Papa Ray
West Texas
USA

Arabs and Persians only understand and respect death and descruction??? That kind of ignorance is comparable to Ahmadinejad's. It's commments and generalizations like that that make myself, an American in the Middle East, embarrassed.