Anyone paying attention to the words and actions emanating from Tehran over the last few years should be easily convinced that anything and everything must be done to stop the Iranian regime from acquiring a nuclear bomb.By DOUGLAS MURRAY
Yet even now, the international community appears unwilling to declare this rogue regime an enemy, nor to do anything—even by way of sanctions or embargoes—to stop them.
Last week the Henry Jackson Society and the Foundation for Defense of Democracies brought a range of experts together in London to address this issue. We discussed Iran’s human-rights nightmare, the regional implications if the regime goes nuclear—and what might be needed to stop it. It was enlightening, of course, but also profoundly depressing. How can it be, at this time and at this stage, that governments and publics are still not dealing with this issue with anything approaching appropriate seriousness?
Our growing inability to focus on any epochal concern in a Twittering age is certainly one reason. But another, which is too little dwelt upon, is the extraordinary campaign of lies, obfuscation and casuistry that certain politicians, academics and commentators have over the course of a decade mounted so strenuously.
Those with ears to hear might hear Mahmoud Ahmadinejad promise to “wipe Israel of the map” or “erase Israel from the page of time.” But there remains a strange chorus who try to tell us otherwise.
Anytime this fact is even mentioned, some columnist, professor or radical politician can be heard saying that the Iranian president meant no such thing. Sometimes you can publicly walk them through the translation, and they will shift their argument. “Well,” they say, “he doesn’t mean it like that.”
The argument is extended until the dissembler can hold it together no longer. At which point they invariably say, “Well of course that is just rhetoric” or “That is just for internal political consumption.” The latter suggests, of course, that although the Iranian leadership may not be genocidal, a vast proportion of the Iranian people are.
On occasion, for variety’s sake, one is informed that in any case, Ahmadinejad is merely the president and as such is not taken seriously or has no political power. When it is pointed out that even if he had no power, the Supreme Leader certainly does, and that Ali Khamenei has said exactly the same things over many years, the game of dissembling goes on.
None of this might matter if it weren’t also for the Iranian regime’s actions. For a decade we have witnessed a high-profile game of evasion by the mullahs. Uranium enrichment sites have been closed to inspectors, then re-opened. Inspections have been promised, deferred, derailed and started again. One implied or explicit red line after another has been announced, broken through and subsequently redrawn.
In recent days there has been some delight at Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi’s hint that Iran might be open to new talks on its nuclear program. But how many times have we gone through this now? After 10 years of this game, the only real development is that the government in Iran is now far closer to its ambition of gaining a nuclear bomb. And that means that both the region and the wider international community are that much closer to the nightmare threat of nuclear armageddon.
Another point made frequently by Tehran’s defenders, apologists and denialists is that the regime has never acted in a hostile manner against any other neighbors. But the merest of glances across history belies this.
So, more importantly, do recent events. Iran’s arming and funding of terrorist proxies, including Hamas and Hezbollah, are not the inventions of right-wing warmongers. They are facts, and ones that the people of Lebanon and Syria are having to live and die with.
There is, of course, the unsettling fact that if Iran does go nuclear, it will not be the last of the current club to do so. Rather, it will be the first of a new nuclear club.
But the even more pressing reason to prevent an Iranian bomb, at all available and necessary costs, was illustrated by one of our guests on Wednesday. In his remarks, Rafael Bardaji, a former national security advisor to the Spanish prime minister, relayed his tale of meeting with Khamenei some years back. Summoned to breakfast while on a visit to Iran, the Spanish guests decided to ask an ice-breaking question: Within the apparently complex power structure of contemporary Iran, what was the Supreme Leader’s job?
“My job,” Khamenei replied, “is to set Israel on fire.”
They say it. They mean it. Yet still the world refuses to take them at their word. Shame on them or shame on us?
Mr. Murray is an associate director of the London-based Henry Jackson Society.