(photo credit: AP [file])
President Moshe Katsav has warned the people of Iran that their radical regime, with its insistent drive for a nuclear capability, poses a grave danger to global peace and security and is leading them toward the abyss.
In an interview with The Jerusalem Post ahead of Independence Day, the president sent a message to Iranians stressing that "Israel is not against the Iranian people," and that he himself had "great love for Persian culture, Persian history."
Potentially, the Iranian-born president said, Iran enjoyed oil revenues that could ensure a high standard of living and quality of life for its people. But instead of using that money to alleviate poverty, distress, illiteracy and the other economic and social problems facing many of his citizens, Iran's "fanatical, extremist president" Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his regime were investing all of their resources in developing a nuclear capability.
Moreover, Katsav said, there was no existential threat to Iran, and therefore there would be no basis for an Iranian claim to require a nuclear capability for self-defense.
Katsav, who came to Israel with his family as a five-year-old in 1951, characterized Ahmadinejad's regime as "the most hostile" since the Islamic Revolution of 1979 and branded it "an enemy and a danger to the internal situation in Iran and a danger to peace and security in the world. The Iranians, to my sorrow, are either too scared or don't recognize the reality and therefore don't see the regime leading them to the abyss."
A nuclear Iran would constitute a threat "to Europe, to Israel, the Persian Gulf countries, Saudi Arabia and the Hashemite Kingdom," he said.
The president noted that, for years, the West had hoped that internal Iranian pressure "would ultimately bring Iran closer to the West... But in the last year it's become clear that the notion of positive change was a Western illusion. The reformists didn't prevail."
In a similar vein, the West had hoped that diplomatic efforts would deter the Iranian nuclear drive. But "Iran simply led Europe astray."
"The Iranians pretended to want trade agreements," he said, "but they didn't slow in the slightest their plans to reach a nuclear capability. In my opinion, they aim to reach the day when the world will say, 'Too bad, they've already got it.'"
Even after Ahmadinejad's recent announcement that Iran was enriching uranium, Katsav noted, there was no international outcry. "I imagine that in the inner rooms of the Iranian regime they are falling over with laughter at how they are moving step by step toward their goal and how the free world is hesitant and weak," he said.
The president stressed that he was not calling for military action against Iran but rather for a "forceful stance" to deter the nuclear program. The West, he said, needed to say "enough" and "acknowledge that the diplomatic effort has failed. Why don't they open their eyes?"
"We can't have Iran cheating the world, behaving with contempt," he said.
"Everyone thinks that we Israelis, when we speak of standing firm against Iran, are talking of military action. That is not the case," said Katsav. "I think that a resolute, unhesitant stance by the free world is precisely what will avoid military action. Those who want to avoid military action must now take a forceful stance against Iran."
(The full interview with President Katsav will appear in the Post's Independence Day supplement.)