Friday, October 28, 2005

Open confrontation with Iran no longer 'inconceivable'-Paper

The volume of reactions, news and commentaries, regarding Iranian president's comments on Isreal, is so high that I have difficulty reporting them all. The world-wide reactions continued today with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and the Vatican joining the global chorus of condemnation over Ahmadinejad's speech. Major papers around the world also have already started dissecting Ahmadinejad's unfortunate comments and their political fall-out for Iran:

Times of London:

The loud international boos that greeted the Iranian President’s inflammatory remarks are likely to be echoed in Tehran, where opponents are already describing his speech as a spectacular own goal.

President Ahmadinejad’s critics will seize on his “wipe Israel off the map” gibe as further evidence of his dangerous amateurism that is harming Iran’s relations with the outside world. His belligerent tone will certainly heighten international concerns over Iran’s nuclear programme, stoke Washington’s hostility, alienate a Europe already frustrated over the nuclear stalemate and enable Israel better to portray Iran as its gravest threat.

Mr Ahmadinejad’s strident rhetoric has got his country into trouble before. Last month he made an ill-judged speech at the UN, insisting on his country’s right to harness nuclear power.

American diplomats used his UN address successfully to lobby the board of the International Atomic Energy Agency to haul Iran before the Security Council.

That debacle prompted the clerics who run Iran to rein in their turbulent President. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader, responded by altering the country’s complex power structure. He granted the Expediency Council — an appointed panel under the sway of moderates — new authority to supervise a Government increasingly dominated by hardliners. The council is headed by Hashemi Rafsanjani, a former President and influential insider who advocates accommodation with the West, but who lost June’s presidential elections to Mr Ahmadinejad. Analysts believe that in boosting Hojatoleslam Rafsanjani’s institutional powers, Ayatollah Khamenei is trying to curtail the hardliners’ adventurism.

“Ahmadinejad’s role has been very substantially reduced,” Professor Gary Sick, a professor of Middle East politics at Columbia University, said.

“He’s been in office for a hundred days. He’s done nothing. I think people are looking around and saying ‘This guy is a disaster’. I think they [the regime] are going to isolate him and quarantine him.”

Washington Times:

If anyone had any doubts about the danger posed by a potential nuclear-armed Islamist regime in Iran -- and the need for the West to develop a more realistic approach to the ruling mullahs -- the Iranian president's call for Israel's destruction should dispel them.

Mr. Ahmadinejad's brazen call for the destruction of another country drives home once again the utter bankruptcy of the European Union's diplomacy-only approach to dealing with the current Iranian regime and its bid to acquire nuclear weapons. It should also spur the United States to revisit the decision made in March to defer to the Europeans and adopt a softer approach to Iran.

Iran also has stepped up its efforts to foment unrest in Iraq and has remained energetic in supporting terror groups to challenge the authority of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. The Iranian president's call for Israel's destruction is the latest illustration of the fact that the West's current approach to Iran has failed.

The effort to work with the Europeans was worth trying. But the Europeans' unwillingness to consider stronger steps against Iran, combined with the likelihood of Russian and Chinese vetoes at the Security Council, made the European plan unworkable. These developments should be sobering for those who have relied on diplomacy that is not backed up by a credible coercive threat.

Daily Telegraph:

Tony Blair delivered his strongest warning to Iran last night, saying Teheran would not be allowed to become a "threat to our world security".

He hinted that the West might have to resort to force. The Prime Minister said western allies would meet in the next few days to decide how to react after President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad called for Israel to be "wiped off the map". While the initial response is likely to be an intensification of diplomatic pressure, senior British officials did not rule out the possibility that they could resort to force if Iran continued on its path of radical confrontation.

Speaking at a European summit at Hampton Court, west London, a visibly angry Mr Blair said Iran would be making "a very big mistake" if it believed western leaders were too preoccupied with other issues to deliver a strong response.

Western frustration with Iran has been building up for months, particularly over Teheran's nuclear programme, its support for Palestinian radicals and suspicions that it has passed bomb-making technology to Iraqi insurgents who have killed at least eight British servicemen this year.

Mr Blair's patience finally snapped after hearing Mr Ahmadinejad's harangue at a Teheran conference entitled "The World Without Zionism", at which he declared: "The establishment of the Zionist regime was a move by the world oppressor against the Islamic world.

"As the Imam [the late Ayatollah Khomeini] said, 'Israel must be wiped off the map' … The Islamic world will not let its historic enemy live in its heartland."

UK's Daily Mail:

Not since the build-up to the invasion of Iraq has Tony Blair been so fierce in his denunciation of another country. Not since his claims about weapons of mass destruction has he been so apocalyptic in his analysis of an external threat.

Visibly angry, clearly intent on the hardest line possible without actually using the words 'military action', the Prime Minister left nobody in any doubt of his meaning.

Open confrontation with Iran, perhaps even involving armed conflict, is no longer as 'inconceivable' as Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has claimed.

Today, Mr Blair is open in his 'revulsion' for the new Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who says Israel should be 'wiped off the map'. And this time, the Prime Minister is not alone.
Yesterday, other EU leaders were unanimous in their condemnation of these 'despicable' remarks. The Americans - who have never ruled out military action - joined in. Even the Russians are dismayed. Tehran is largely isolated.

No wonder. Iran is on the verge of acquiring nuclear bombs. It already has the rockets to deliver them to Israel and parts of Europe. All attempts to persuade that country to adhere to its non-proliferation obligations have failed.

So the most terrifying of all weapons of mass destruction may fall into the hands of fanatics who want to destroy Israel. The case for concerted international action against Iran - political, diplomatic and economic - is overwhelming.