How many times in the past sixty odd years have we heard some Arab leader or another say in reference to Israel “We will drive them into the Sea? In recent years we’ve seen a reduction of the more inflammatory remarks from heads of state; usually pronouncements like this are now the preserve of leaders of groups like Hamas or Islamic Jiad.
In a region where most countries are now trying to establish western ties, why than would the leadership in Iran decide to make such an overtly public declaration of hatred. I hadn’t noticed any stories announcing that competition had been opened for the title of number one pariah state, but I guess since the fall of Saddam’s regime the role has been going begging.
Maybe the Iranian government just could never stand being seen as second best to that secular pig-dog running Iraq, and they want to show the world how a “real” Muslim state goes about isolating itself from the civilized world. Iran hasn’t been the model of a democratic societie for quite some time. Prior to their experiment with Holy Fascism they were under the benevolent thumb of the Peacock throne. Given that history it should come as no surprise that they are now bucking for the “Doesn’t Play Well Others” award from the United Nations.
The past ten years have seen Iranians flirt briefly with a moderate government and a genuine swing in public opinion toward a more liberal society. But it was too early too soon and the Ayatollahs weren’t ready to step down from their autocratic ways. For stolid inflexibility on social issues the only match these guys have are the current crop in the Vatican and some of the more deep fried Southern Baptists.
Not surprisingly t they managed to get their people “elected” and are now in complete control again. If anyone doubted their new found zeal the last Summer Olympics in Athens insured that no one was left wondering. When an Iranian wrestler ended up in the same draw with an Israeli he withdrew rather than risk being contaminated by close contact with a Zionist devil. Obviously the man had no choice in the matter, and it was either that or risk sever punishment when he returned home.
Iran claims to be building a state that will be home to true believers. Those who talk of them as trying to turn back the clock to the middle ages have got it wrong; it wouldn’t be so bad if that were what they were genuinely trying to do. If you look at history the Islamic rulers of the Ottoman and Moorish empires that spanned the globe from Istanbul to Spain and the Balkans were actually far more tolerant of other religions than the equivalent Christian empires.
Other faiths were free to practice their beliefs as long as they accepted the rule of the sultan and publicly abided by the laws of Islam. For Jewish people this was not that difficult as their dietary laws are identical and they share similar attitudes about modesty. For the most part Jews were, if not able to thrive, at least not be in persistent fear of death and persecution under Muslim rule.
It was only as the Sultans were forced to relinquish their hold on Europe and the Christian kingdoms advanced, that organizations like Spanish Inquisition began to flourish. So the Iranian government’s claim to be restoring traditional Islamic living is false. Like any religion, there has always been a fringe element of extremists in the Islamic world, and unfortunately the people ruling Iran right now are some of the worst.
With the Middle East stumbling towards peace, tiny baby step after tiny baby step, and parties on both sides of the Arab and Israeli divide trying to find a way out of the hole they’ve made for themselves, Iran faces the possibility of being isolated from their Arab neighbours. Egypt, Jordan, and the Palestine Authority have all recognised the state of Israel; Lebanon is up in arms against Syria, and has always been sympathetic to the west. This leaves Iran with only Syria, a few of the emirates and the terrorists groups as their only allies.
Taking their statement of driving Israel into the sea into that context one can see it as a rallying cry to the troops in an attempt to see who they really have as allies in the region. Syria may not wish to get embroiled in anything that risks outright confrontation with the west. The simple fact of the matter is they need the cash that only the G-8 can provide to remain afloat.
Iran is already fighting it out with North Korea for the number one spot on the list of pariah’s in the eyes of most western governments, so what harm does this statement really do to them in the international community? Their reputation can’t really get any more tarnished than it already was. So to them the risk was minimal.
Of course there’s also the very real possibility that they are being deliberately provocative to see how far they can push the world community. They know that the American armed forces are stretched to the limit right now, in terms of ground troops so the chances of this developing into open warfare are slim. But even so that still might be their goal.
Maybe they feel that if they push the American’s into acting they will be able to rally enough support to their side that the Middle East could just disintegrate into a firestorm of unrest again for another decade. It is imperative that no one acts rashly in these circumstances, because that’s probably what they want.
No one has any true idea of their nuclear capability, although it seems unlikely they have any actual warheads yet, that does not mean they can’t produce them in the near future. There are probably still enough floating around on the open market that they could even pick up a few for a bargain prices if they so chose. This means we can’t ignore them and hope they will go away.
We can ignore their provocative language. Maybe hit them with a sanction or two, but give them little or no ammunition for their propaganda weapon. Don’t let them paint themselves the victim of western oppression and generate sympathy amongst some of the borderline Muslim states and populaces. Instead of moving against them assist the Palestine Authority in its attempts to establish their state and provide real hope in the region. Help them and the Israelis police their borders so that terrorist attacks can become a thing of the past. Which will in turn cut back on Israel’s retaliatory raids into Lebanon and other regions.
The best solution to the inflammatory comments right now is to concentrate on ensuring the success of the new Palestinian government, and show real commitment to the peace process as well. Trust and faith are commodities in high demand but short supply in the region. Rectifying that problem will go a long way towards defusing Iran.