In my column today, "Iran's Final Solution Plan," I suggest four reasons why the same old Iranian threat to obliterate Israel, enunciated by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Oct. 26, suddenly prompted an international uproar (Ahmadinejad's personality, his going on to repeat the threats, his enlarging on them, and the imminence of his government deploying nuclear weapons). Patrick Clawson writes me with a fifth important reason for the greater alarm:
For twenty-five years, the Islamic Republic of Iran has insisted that statements by the two supreme leaders, Khomeini and Khamenei, such as the Rushdie decree, are merely the opinions of a religious leader, not the policies of the government. That was the basis for Tony Blair accepting the Iranian government's promise not to kill Rushdie even as Khamenei insisted that the order against Rushdie remained in effect.
Ahmadinejad has no knowledge of or interest in these diplomatic niceties. When he - as president - repeated the words of the supreme leader, he therefore created a storm. Note also, along these lines, that most of the critical statements from around the world focus on the issue of one government threatening another one. These diplomatic distinctions really do matter to government officials.
And here is a sixth reason: in the speech, Ahmadinejad threatens the elimination of the United States as well as Israel:
"I must say that you have chosen a very valuable title [World Without Zionism] for your gathering." He added that "Many are sowing the seeds of defeat and despair in this heavy battle between the Islamic world and the infidel front, wanting to dishearten the Islamic world." Ahmadinejad, explaining that such people are using words like "it's not possible" and/or "could it be," said, "They say, ‘How could we have a world without America and Zionism?' but you know well that this slogan and goal is obtainable and definitely feasible."
The Persian original:
وي افزود: خيليها در اين نبرد سنگين بين دنياي اسلامي و جبههي كفر دايما تخم ياس و نااميدي ميپراكنند و ميخواهند در دل دنياي اسلام را خالي كنند. احمدي نژاد با بيان اين كه اين افراد الفاظي چون "نميشود" و يا "مگر ميشود؟" را به كار ميبرند گفت: اينها ميگويند "مگر ميشود دنياي بدون آمريكا و صهيونيسم را شاهد باشيم؟" ولي شما به خوبي ميدانيد كه اين شعار و هدف يك هدف دست يافتني و حتما شدني است.
Comment: Ahmadinejad's ambitions are even greater than Ayatollah Khomeini's. The latter hoped Mikhail Gorbachev would lead the Soviet Union to Islam but did not have the audacity, even in 1989, to imagine the U.S.S.R. actually disappearing. (November 1, 2005)