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Trouble in Iran

Below I print two articles concerning the latest rhetoric from Iran . What I find concerning is the detected underlying fatalism in both camps. Is war inevitable? See also an earlier article here:

Taken from the Times 28th Oct 05
Blair hints at military action after Iran's 'disgraceful' taunt
By Philip Webster, Political Editor

President's call for Israel to be 'wiped off the map' is condemned by leaders across the world

TONY BLAIR gave warning last night that the West might have to take military action against Iran after worldwide condemnation of its President's call for Israel to be "wiped off the map". Ending a one-day European Union summit, the Prime Minister called the explosive declaration by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Wednesday a disgrace. Promising discussions with Washington and other allies over how to react, Mr Blair said that he had often been urged not to take action against Iran. But he added: "If they carry on like this the question people will be asking us is — when are you going to do something about Iran ? Can you imagine a State like that with an attitude like that having nuclear weapons?"

It was the first time Mr Blair had even hinted at military action and his words are likely to alarm Labour MPs. Mr Blair, clearly angry at the President's outburst, said that there were people in Iran's leadership who believed that the world was sufficiently distracted that it could not afford to focus on the nuclear arms issue.  "They will be making a very big mistake if they do that. Those sentiments are completely unacceptable," he said. "I have never come across a situation in which the president of a country has said they want to wipe out another country. That is unacceptable."

Mr Ahmadinejad's words triggered international condemnation, with Israel demanding Iran's expulsion from the United Nations. "A country that calls for the destruction of another people cannot be a member," Ariel Sharon, the Israeli Prime Minister, said. Russia, which has been helping Iran to develop its nuclear programme, called the words unacceptable. Kofi Annan, the UN Secretary-General, expressed dismay. The Bush Administration demanded that Iran behave as a responsible member of the international community. Unlike the US , the E.U has always emphasised the need to engage Iran diplomatically, but it also abandoned its more cautious stance yesterday. "Calls for violence and for the destruction of any state are manifestly inconsistent with any claim to be a mature and responsible member of the international community," the leaders said in an agreed statement. Iran's chargé d'affaires in London was called to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to be told of Britain's outrage. Iranian diplomats were subjected to similar protests in other capitals.

Mr Blair said of Iran: "Their attitude towards Israel, terrorism and nuclear weapons is not acceptable. If they continue down this path people are going to believe that they are a real threat to world security and stability. I feel a real sense of revulsion. It shows how much some of these places need to reform themselves. How can we build a more secure world with that type of attitude? It is a disgrace." The E.U leaders said that the President's comments would cause concern about Iran's role in the region and its future intentions. That his comments were made on the same day as the attack on Israeli civilians at Hadera only reinforces the lesson that incitement to violence, and the terrorism it breeds, were "despicable and unacceptable acts", they said.

Britain, France and Germany have been responsible for handling the EU's relations with Iran in international forums, and have been notably careful in their diplomatic language, particularly in reference to the prospect of any military action against Iran . By contrast, Washington has conspicuously refused to rule out such action. But fears in Western governments have grown since the removal last June of Mr Ahmadinejad's predecessor, Mohammad Khatami, who had been much less hostile to Israel and of whom both Tony Blair and Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, had hopes of a better relationship. His successor, the former mayor of Tehran, was an unknown quantity to the West. On Wednesday he made his hardline views clear when he cited the founder of Iran's Islamic revolution, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini: "As the Imam said, Israel must be wiped off the map."

Fears about Iran's nuclear ambitions have been augmented by worries about its activities in Iraq, where it has been suspected of supporting insurgents. There have been reports that high-ranking members of al-Qaeda have been allowed to roam freely in Iran. Tehran has denied any link to or support for the terrorist group.

'Anybody who recognises Israel will burn in the fire of the Islamic nation's fury [while] any [Islamic leader] who recognises the Zionist regime means he is acknowledging the surrender and defeat of the Islamic world . . . As the Imam said, Israel must be wiped off the map'
President Ahmadinejad


Iran condemned over anti-Israel call
Taken from Aljazeera: Thursday 27 October 2005 .

Shimon Peres: 'Iran poses a clear and present danger'


 A call by the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for Israel to be wiped off the map has sparked widespread condemnation, with Israel urging Iran's expulsion from the United Nations. France, Spain , Britain, Canada and Australia condemned the Iranian leader's remarks and the European trio said their foreign ministries would summon Iranian envoys and demand an explanation.

On Wednesday at a conference in Tehran entitled: The World without Zionism, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Israel's establishment was "a move by the world oppressor against the Islamic world".  "As the Imam said, Israel must be wiped off the map," he added, referring to Iran's late revolutionary leader Ayatollah Khomeini. Reacting to the comments in an open letter to Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon, Deputy Prime Minister Shimon Peres said Iran posed a "clear and present danger". "We must submit a clear cut request to the UN secretary general (Kofi Annan) and the Security Council to obtain Iran's expulsion from the United Nations," Peres said. Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said he believed the Iranian leaders comments reflected an effort by Tehran to "buy time ... so it can develop a nuclear bomb."

European reaction

Responding to Ahmadinejad's comments, French Foreign Minister Phillippe Douste-Blazy said in a statement that "if these (reported) comments are true, they are unacceptable. I condemn them with the greatest firmness."  In Madrid the Spanish Foreign Ministry said " ... Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos has expressed his rejection in the most emphatic terms and has decided to urgently call in the Iranian ambassador to ask him for an explanation". In the UK, a British Foreign Office spokesman described the Iranian leader's comments as "deeply disturbing and sickening."  "We have seen in Israel today the horrible reality of the violence he is praising," he said, referring to a Palestinian bombing in the Israeli town of Hadera that killed five people and wounded 30. "Saying Iran wants to wipe Israel from the map will only heighten concerns about Iran's nuclear ambitions ... We will be protesting to the Iranian charge d'affaires," he said.  Canadian Foreign Minister Pierre Pettigrew told reporters "We cannot tolerate comments of such hatred, such anti-Semitism, such intolerance. And these comments are all the more troubling given that we know of Iran's nuclear ambitions."

Muslim states warned

Ahmadinejad's comments were the first time in years that such a high-ranking Iranian official has called for Israel's eradication, even though such slogans are still regularly used at government rallies.  "Anyone who signs a treaty which recognises the entity of Israel means he has signed the surrender of the Muslim world," Ahmadinejad said. "Any leaders in the Islamic umma who recognise Israel face the wrath of their own people."  Ahmadinejad, a veteran of Iran 's hardline Revolutionary Guards, took office in August after scoring a landslide win in a June presidential election. His tone represents a major change from that of former president Mohammad Khatami, whose favoured topic was "dialogue among civilisations" and who led an effort to improve Iran's relations with the West.

Profile: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

The man who said: "We did not have a revolution in order to have democracy," Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has turned out to be a dark horse in Iran's presidential race.

Ahmadinejad on Saturday broke off from the pack to capture second place and a spot in next week's runoff race for president.   Just two years ago Ahmadinejad, 49, was a little-known figure in Iranian politics. Then he became Tehran 's mayor, put there by the rigidly conservative city council.

He is a former Islamic Revolutionary Guard commander, unabashedly conservative and loyal to Iran's Supreme leader Ayat Allah Ali Khamenei.  He is seen by many who voted for him as one ready to stand up to the United States. "I picked Ahmadinejad to slap America in the face," Mahdi Mirmalek said after casting a ballot for the Tehran mayor.

US embassy siege

As a young student, Ahmadinejad joined an ultraconservative faction of the Office for Strengthening Unity, the radical student group spawned by the 1979 Islamic Revolution and staged the capture of the US Embassy.
According to reports, Ahmadinejad attended planning meetings for the US Embassy takeover and at these meetings lobbied for a simultaneous takeover of the Soviet Embassy.

In a wide-ranging interview with the state run Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) just days before Friday's elections, Ahmadinejad slammed the United Nations as "one-sided, stacked against the world of Islam".  He opposed the veto vote by the five permanent members of the UN Security Council.

Wanting the veto

"It is not just for a few states to sit and veto global approvals. Should such a privilege continue to exist, the Muslim world with a population of nearly 1.5 billion should be extended the same privilege," Ahmadinejad was quoted by IRIB as saying.  "Global equations undergo changes, this is their nature, and today the Muslim world is the poorest of the global powers," he told IRIB.   He called for greater ties with Iran's neighbours, an end to visas between states in the region saying: "People should visit anywhere they wish freely. People should have freedom in their pilgrimages and tours."  He defended Iran's nuclear power programme and accused "a few arrogant powers", a reference meant to include the US, of seeking to limit Iran 's industrial and technological development.

Unpolished style

Ahmadinejad graduated in civil engineering from Iran University of Science & Technology.  He is best known for his simple attire and unpolished style. One of seven children, he was born to a middle-class family in Garmsar, a neighbourhood southeast of Tehran.  When Iraq invaded Iran, Ahmadinejad volunteered for military service, joined the Revolutionary Guards and was considered a daring soldier, participating in several military operations deep within Iraq, according to information posted on his website.  With the war behind him, Ahmadinejad went into politics, was appointed governor first of Maku in northwestern Iran and later governor of the newly created province of Ardabil.

Tehran 's mayor

Two years ago hardliners installed him as Tehran's mayor. After just two years as Tehran mayor, Ahmadinejad was nominated for World Mayor 2005, a UK-based site aimed at raising the profile of mayors worldwide "as well as to honour those who have served their communities", according to the site. Of the 550 mayors nominated via email, Ahmadinejad made it to a finalist of 65 mayors, of which only nine are from Asia. The finalists are apparently determined by the quality of the comments attached to the nominations.