He did it again. Less than three months on the job, Iran's zealous president made another diplomatic gaffe, which may cost his country dearly. Calling for Israel "to be wiped off the map" will not only make negotiating over nuclear power more difficult, it will further isolate Iran as a pariah state.
The question is: Was this the rhetoric of a political novice or words from a man of action?
The answer is both, but experts say that the Supreme Leader Ali Khameini is not likely to allow the words to translate into missiles on Israel.
"He sincerely believes that if Iran were vigorous then Muslims could achieve this objective," said Patrick Clawson, the deputy director of research at the Washington Institute for Middle East Policy. " But the supreme leader and many others in the regime do not share the perspective of the Ahmadinejad crowd."
Venomous rhetoric against Israel is not new to Teheran.
It was common since the Islamic revolution in Iran in 1979, but not considered problematic by Israel during the 1980s. At that time, Jerusalem saw Teheran as its strategic ally against Baghdad. Israeli decision makers made a clear distinction between rhetoric and action.
In the '90s, Shimon Peres began depicting Iran as a major threat to Israel and Iran ratcheted up the rhetoric.
But when Muhammad Khatami became president in 1997, he put a lid on anti-Israel rhetoric by top officials so that it would not escalate to confrontation.
He was succeeded this summer by Ahmedinejad.
According to an Iranian-American expert on Iranian-Israeli relations, the problem is that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a political novice with a streak of ultra-nationalist tendencies.
"I think [Ahmadinejad's statement] certainly is a diplomatic blunder," said Trita Parsi, a Middle East specialist at Johns Hopkins University.
"This is an inexperienced politician who has yet to understand the consequence of his statements,"said Parsi. "That's clear from his statements at the UN, which caused Iran great damage."
Ahmadinejad is a conservative ideologue who beat the more moderate and more experienced Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani by a landslide in July on a help-the-poor anticorruption platform.
But he has gotten off to an unsteady start.
First he flopped in the Majlis. The parliament, which was filled with his supporters, rejected a number of his choices for cabinet ministers.
Then he gave a speech at the UN, which came at a critical time when his country was being threatened over its nuclear program. But the speech, according to Parsi "was more like a Friday prayer in Teheran than an attempt to address the international community at the UN [General] Assembly."
It came as little surprise to many that shortly thereafter the spiritual leader and over all ruler of Iran, Khameini, gave the Expediency Council, which is headed by Rafsanjani, "supervisory" powers over all branches of government, including the presidency. In other words any policy made by Ahmadinejad must approved by Rafsanjani.
"That's the way that limits on the presidents were put in the past," said Clawson. "Let's hope it works this time."
Send us your comments >>
Andrew, Nairobi, Kenya
: The statement was very bad, it shows inexperience. More so the Arab/Pakistan axis want to scare people from knowing the Islamic religion and what it says about other religions. The end result being that they will be using religion as a shield for their criminal activities like slavery, terrorism etc. In any case there is no Islamic republic existing today , the names they use are just for show.
Alex, Saginaw, MI, USA
: Let's not forget this fool as well as the fools in Lebanon are also calling for the destruction of the US.
I am thankful for a president that recognizes this fact.
Matthew Bright, Mexico City, Mexico
: I think there's far too much analysis going on here as far is speculation with regard to whether this Ahmadinejad of Iran has nationalist tendencies or if he's a political neophyte who hasn't learned to weigh his words. I think it would be wise to consider the possibility that the man is speaking literally, which is a rather frightening development when one considers these people are well on their way toward obtaining nuclear weapons.
I think the radical Muslims who are hell-bent on destroying Israel need a reality check. This could be accomplished if every time a bomb kills or wounds Israeli citizens, a bomb should go off somewhere in Iran and Syria. After all, these countries are providing logistics, training, funds and weaponry to the terrorists, so it's only just that Israel responds to these attacks in the same way they would if said countries were to launch a missile strike from their own territory.
As things stand now, the people responsible for these attacks on Israeli civilians are doing so with impunity. They should know there's a price to pay, before Israel finds itself having to respond to a nuclear strike.
: I think Israel should finish with the nuclear ambiguity and let whoever know that they would be severe consequences for their acts and the option of destroying doesn't really exist.
James Smith, UK
: To Ilana Rosen, UK
You have not spared me your propaganda - there was a Palestinian state in 1967 even if it was called something else but hey you still refer to them as Palestinians (so you are instinctively recognizing the truth!) and British Mandate Palestine existed so your logic is entirely false.
You can't justify your destruction of Palestine by mere semantics! For that is the worst kind of propaganda.
If it was merely no mans land that you took in 1967 then there would be no fuss today but as things stand you wiped out the last part of an internationally recognized Palestine that had East Jerusalem as its capital. No bending of words can alter that reality.
As I said before, if you live by the sword, you die by it so make peace and return the stolen land or suffer your inevitable fate - it only takes one successful suicide bomber with a backpack nuke to wipe Israel off the map.
Steve, TX, USA
: Hate begets more hate. And inflamed rhetoric to zealous unemployed masses can only invoke strong condemnation.
The Middle East has plenty of blame to pass around including of course the US and UK. However ill-conceived tactless remarks only stir the cauldron of hatred and never ending violence in this region which bodes ominous for the survival of mankind.
A serious error in political judgement beyond "Bushism", ignorance, and blunders.
Robert Mann, Herkimer, NY, USA
: I do believe Iran is crazy. The Arab appetite in wanting to destroy Israel is ridiculous. I came to the conclusion those in the Arab world suffer from memory loss. Didn't Israel get attacked again and again and repel the attacks again and again? Israel is there. Will be there. And no one in the world can change that. I support Israel 100 percent and hope for their eternal survival. You have plenty of friends in the US.
Chuck, San Diego, USA
: Today the Iranian president once again confirmed his statements from Wednesday, continuing his call for the destruction of the state of Israel. Iran is sponsoring the Hizbollah and Palestinian terrorists as well as apparently allowing Al Quada assassins such as Bin Laden's sons to comfortably stay n the country. But worst of all, they are rapidly pursuing the development of a nuclear bomb under the guise of developing additional sources of electricity. Source of electricity for a country with the world's second biggest reserve of oil? I don't think so. Much destruction and misery of the World War II could have been prevented had there been a leader with the intestinal fortitude to smash Hitler's Germany before it became too late. We are in a similar situation now. We cannot allow the crazed Islamofascists to go on like this. There are only two countries in the world that have the moral fortitude, the will and the means to smash the Islamofascists. They are Israel and U.S.A. It's time to take out the Islamofascists everywhere, Iran, Syria, Hizbolah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and in our midst. We didn't start this fight but let's make sure we finish it. Let's ensure a bright future for our children and protect all that is near and dear to us.
James Foty, USA
: I would have to agree that he seems to be a very inexperienced politician. His words sound like he is a man of action, but I do not believe that is the case. He just wants to scare everyone into some sort of submission which is never ever going to happen. I think the international community should slowly pursue talks with them, and at the same time seek to punish him for his statements.
: We can discuss the past all we want. What remains is that we are here today. Israel and Palestine need to learn to co-exist. US/UK troops should be at home with their families. Einstein, (a Jew) said you cannot prepare for and try to prevent a war at the same time. I am an Iranian American and let me tell everyone here...people in Iran could care less about Israel! They could care less about Palestine. Every Iranian remembers how the Palestinians cheered for Saddam's attack on Israel...Yes, the Saddam who chemically burnt their sons and daughters and maimed hundreds of thousands. The Palestinians are spineless whores who will go to bed with anyone who might fight their war for them. If you are not an Iranian know this: Iranians remember that Arabs financed the Iraqi slaughter of their brothers and fathers. Politicians spew words and bombs, and regular people pay with the lives of their loved ones.
Ilana Rosen, UK
: I have one or two things to say to James Smith, UK (comments 27 October):
If he would stop for a minute and think rationally, he would see that, far from destroying the Palestinians, Israel would actually approve of a two state solution - but the Palestinians must end the violence first.
As for Israel being demonized by the Palestinians - it was always like this, and has been since 1948. The Palestinians are masters of twisting the truth. A taste of their own medicine - when did Israelis strap bombs to themselves and murder civilians?
I do not wish to spare him from "propaganda" about there never having been a Palestinian state, either. He should get his facts right - there never was a Palestinian state before 1967 - it was Trans-Jordan. He can dream on if he thinks Israel will return to the pre-1967 borders with no guarantees at least regarding the cessation of violence.
James Smith, UK
: Israel and Iran are as bad as each other. Its okay for Israel to destroy Palestine and brutally oppress their people and deny them voting rights (even Iran allows everyone to vote even if it ain't a fair election) whilst Palestinian sympathizers like the Iranians are demonized for wanting to give Israel a taste of their own medicine - seems like double standards.
And please spare me your ridiculous propaganda about their never being a Palestinian state - there was in 1967 and you wiped it off the map!
If there is any justice in the world then the 1967 border will be restored and peace even with the Iranians will become possible but wait Israel would rather have a destructive nuclear war than to let that happen - so your leaders have already sealed your fate. If it ends in nuclear annihilation then yes you have no one to blame but yourselves.
Karim Lari, Iran/Armenia
: It is obvious that Ahmadinejad is working to destroy the Iranian regime from the inside. He is a planted agent told to start a war and paid well to do it. Blair is the one who's talking most about it. And Iran and Israel are both the victims.
Leland Somers, Clearwater, USA
: I think Ahmadinejad's statement was not a "faux pas" at all, but more on the order of a Freudian Slip. This comment exposes the ugly underbelly of centuries old anti-Semitism that is part and parcel of Islam wherever it is found. There is no way to make something that is indelibly anti-democratic, anti-pluralistic and anti-modern be other than it is. This is a religion/culture that still supports slavery and the utter oppression of women. To see what the ideal Islamic state looks like, look at Saudi Arabia. Israel needs to wipe out Iran's nuclear program since no one else has the guts to do it.
H. Ali, Ottawa, Canada
: I am amazed about people that bend and shape history the way it suits them and yet are cheeky enough to talk about the ignorance of others, and I know these people when you confront them with the reality of things they come up with the classical "hate" accusation. I wonder have they lied to themselves so much that they have finally believed what they said? Sometimes I think that they are not even worth talking to, but to these "wise" guys I am going to present just one statistic: in 1948, when the state of Israel was declared, 89% of the Jews in Palestine were European immigrants, that officially owned 6% of the land and that constituted one third of the total population.
So long "wise" guys!!
Greg Harris, San Diego, CA, USA:
Forget about the arguments about Saddam's WMD (which never were satisfactorily settled). People don't understand the broader strategic reasons the Iraq war was necessary. Iran is becoming a real threat to not only the region, but the world as well. They openly state they intend to strike both Israel and the US and are pursuing both the nuclear weapons and the missile technology needed to do it. Imagine how the world will be affected once they start lobbing nukes around. Iraq must be tamed in time to allow it to be a base of operations against the insane leadership of Iran in the near future.
Inacio Gino, Maputo, Mozambique:
The Iranian leader is calling for his own destruction. He should not play with Israel. Of course he should not mess with others without a cause. Wait and see, soon he will be no more.
Debbie Hameister, Melbourne, Australia:
When I first saw the TV live show via Dubai World News with the banners shouting out "Rid the world of Zionism" I felt a terrible sinking in the pit of my heart that this nightmare of a thought was actually blatantly being said with no shame or regard for its consequences, but as a show of defiance and arrogance to try and impress the media and the world...
But what is more arrogant is to now say that this was not meant as it was perceived by Iranian Ambassadors worldwide when they were called to task in various countries about the comments and argued it was not meant as it sounded...
How insulting to think we are all deaf dumb and blind and could not read the banners floating above that moron's head?
We should be grateful that he is such an idiot and definitely look into his nuclear situation...
How droll to put your cards on the table when you are being investigated... But I have now decided instead of being intimidated by the monstrous comments I am going to turn myself to the G-d we all believe gave us our land and remember the final decision will always be with him...
So what have we to worry about??
Michael Ross, San Diego, CA, USA:
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's recent statement "to wipe Israel of the map" is a declaration of war on Israel. Israel should target him for assassination and take him out, just like all the other terrorists trying to destruct Israel.
The man is crazy; That is hardly the etiquette or the logic of a leader of a nation to announce what Iran's president did. What were Iranians thinking when they voted him into the office?
Luchi, Canada: As an Iranian born and raised in Iran, and being aware of Iranian politics, Ahmadinejad's comment doesn't strike me as something new .Everyday politics in Iran are rife with anti-Israeli and anti-American rhetoric. As a matter of fact, they love to be reprimanded by Europe or America. What they don't like is being ignored as nonexistent, that is to say, not being able to show to Iranian people that they have enemies.
Paul Ryall, Sydney, Australia:
Re: Grant Hughes - I suppose that the "Elders of Zion" is a true account of the intentions of the Jewish people. I am constantly amazed at the ignorance portrayed by a great many supposedly intelligent people. The concept of a Palestinian state achieved fruition via the formation of the Kingdom of Jordan - or was this part of a Zionist plot too? A sovereign nation that calls for the destruction of another sovereign nation serves a purpose that can only be interpreted as aggressive, and by mere suggestion would appear to condone such action against itself as well. Would Iran be so willing to suggest such a thing in regards to the activities of a renegade state? For example herself, which is so vigorously pursuing nuclear technology. Comments such as those uttered by the elected head of a nation should be quickly and vehemently condemned by all intelligent people and not justified by some spurious assumptions. In the words of my countrymen "You are a few cans short of a six-pack."
Alex, San Diego, USA
: Ahmadinejad's is a fine representative of the Islamofascists worldwide and a good choice for a head of an Islamofascist republic. The world stood silent when Hitler made his threats and then carried them out. Those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Let's hope the powers that be, i.e. the US and Israel, are listening and as we speak somewhere plans are being made, finalized and rehearsed to deal with this clear and present danger. The islamofascist mullahs of Tehran, their Hizbollah and Palestinian proxies and Syrian assassins are smarting for a fight. Let's oblige them, wipe the scourge from out midst and have 1000 years of peace. Don't kid yourself we either wipe them out once and for all or have our kids living and dying under the yoke of the Islamofascists.
Richard Makover, Houston, Texas
: I would recommend that you brush up on your history just a bit before you show your ignorance. Nobody "wiped Palestine of the map" for a simple reason that no Palestine ever existed. The Jews have returned to their own homeland which the Arabs occupied for centuries. The Palestinian descent into barbarism, and mayhem owes much to the support of misinformed people like you. Their inability to to say "yes" to offers of Palestinian state is a sad reminder of all the opportunities they missed and with the help of people like you will miss in the future. Their state is getting further and further from their reach. However, there is no need to "demonize" Iran. It is doing an excellent job by itself. The statements of Iranian president are not simply in "poor taste" as you would like us believe. They are a danger to the stability of the civilized world. So spare us your sanctimonious remarks.
Allen Goldberg, Bexley, OH, USA
: Seems like everyone's conveniently forgotten that the UN partition plan created both a Palestinian and an Israeli state. Additionally, Gaza and the West Bank were both at times controlled by Egypt and Jordan, respectively. Where was the effort on the part of these nations to created a state for their Palestinian brothers?
Now, regarding right of return--another convenient omission: roughly the same number of Jews were forcibly exiled from their Arab homelands following the creation of the state of Israel, as Palestinians supposedly displaced by Israel's creation. Not only were they exiled under threat (and often reality) of localized pogroms, but their property was seized by the governments of their former homelands, as well. What of the right of return of these Jews to their former homelands? And what of the return of their stolen assets? Furthermore, the truth behind the so-called "displacement" of Palestinians is often overlooked or intentionally ignored.
As the newly-founded Israel's Arab neighbors prepared to attack her in the War of 1948, they encouraged Palestinians to leave their homes to avoid the fighting, and then, following a swift Arab victory and the driving of the Jews into the sea, they could return not only to their land, but the land and property of the defeated Israelis as well. When the war didn't go as planned for the Arabs, many of these Palestinians were left "high and dry." This is, of course, a reality of war. But one must remember who initiated this war, and what their intentions were. Had the Arabs chosen to accept the UN partition plan, instead of attempting to massacre an entire nation, there would indeed today exist a Palestinian state, side-by-side with it's Israeli neighbor. When omissions, outright lies, and slander begin to take the place of verifiable fact, one's argument begins to suffer.
: The United States and Israel cannot let this blatant terrorist threat stand, they will do what they say eventually, unless we ACT first!
Avraham Grossbaum, Jerusalem, Israel
: Grant Hughes' Faux Pas: "Israel['s] creation in 1948 wiped Palestine of[f] the map." This statement contradicts know and verifiable historical facts. The United Nations decided on 29 Nov 1947 to divide the British Mandate of Palestine (the area between the Jordan and the Mediterranean Sea) into two states, one for Jews and one for Arabs. The Jewish community accepted the decisions and the borders, while the Arab rejected it and went to war in an attempt to wipe the Jewish state off the map. They failed, and Israel finished the war holding more territory that allotted it by the U.N. plan. However, the Arabs still held the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, precisely the area that they claim now for a Palestinian state. Why was no Palestinian state established then in 1949? Palestine was wiped off the map by the Jordanian annexation of the West Bank (which was recognized by two countries, U.K. and Pakistan). The Egyptians, who adminstered the Gaza Strip until 1967, did not allow the Palestinians any sort of self-rule. You are free to voice your opinions (within the limitations imposed by the Jerusalem Post's Reader Submissions Posting Policy), but not to fabricate facts and mislead others.
Faux pas?! Certainly a distasteful comment but not outside of the realm for many who dear not speak the painful truth. Israel creation in 1948 wiped Palestine of the map. The daily brutalization of the Palestinian people is a constant reminder of this fact. Yes - the comment was in poor taste but Israel is no position to assume any high moral ground. The world is now awaiting for American Neo-conservatives and the Israeli government's push to isolate and further demonize Iran. Thus, the Middle East opera continues; Act V, Scene IV.
Y. Ben-David, Rehovot, Israel:
Adolf Hitler, in a speech in January 1939, several months before the start of the Second World War, stated bluntly that in the event of war, the Jews of Europe would be destroyed. Just like today, everyone said, "he doesn't mean it literally", "he made a mistake", "this doesn't represent what Germans really feel", etc. In other words, everyone was afraid to confront the actual meaning of what he said and found excuses to ignore it. This is what this article is doing with this modern, express threat. They claim in the article that it "'doesn't really express what the Iranian leadership thinks". I am afraid that it does, in fact it reflects what much of the Islamic world, including the so-called "moderate Palestinians" think. The very existence of a "dhimmi" Jewish state is an affront to Islam and no believing Muslim can ever reconcile himself to any Jewish state, no matter how small it is. It may be that elements in the Iranian leadership feel that it might hurt Iran's diplomatic position to say this explicitly, but they certainly agree with the sentiments. I should also like to point out that he stated this after Sharon destroyed the Jewish communities of Gush Katif. Sharon, Peres and the Left feel that if Israel makes enough gestures by destroying Jewish communities, the Arab/Muslim world will reduce its hostility. In fact, Sharon's despicable act only INCREASES their hostility and makes them think that more terror will cause Israel's ultimate collapse to come sooner, as Iran's President stated. It is time for everyone to wake up and see that Israel's appeasement of Arab/Muslim terror is a disaster.
Jay Grossman, Monsey, NY, USA:
The Europeans reacted quickly to this outrage. But I can't help wonder why we haven't heard from Kofi Annan. If PM Sharon had issued a call for the destruction of a member state of the UN, I doubt there would have been any time lost before Annan issued a condemnation and a call for an emergency meeting of the Security Council to sanction Israel.
I guess we can infer from Mr. Annan's silence his true feelings towards Israel. Either that or he is simply ineffective in standing up for what's right.
Jonathan, Marseille, France:
I don't think Iran would dare throw a nuclear missile on Israel. I think Israel has the capability to use their anti-missile system. If Iran managed to do damage to Jerusalem it would be to wipe the Temple Mount off the map. I think the Moslem world would not tolerate such an action from Iran.
Adina Kutnicki, Ridgewood, NJ:
With all due respect to Mr. Clawson, Israel cannot afford to "wonder" if, or when, Iran intends to wipe them off the map.
Everyone who has not been living in a cave understands that they are acquiring nuclear weapons for use, and NOT for electricity.
With this knowledge in mind, Israel's leaders would be insane to trust that they are not genocidal in their intent, but would also be derelict of their duties not to implement plans to counter Iran's very clear intentions.
In this regard, with the utmost urgency and seriousness, Sharon must consider implementing "Project Daniel", as presented by the eminent international law expert Professor Louis Beres. This plan was studied both by Sharon and Bush.
Gambling that Israel will not turn into a mushroom cloud is not an option.
Lior, London, England:
So, how does Ahamdinejad think he will "wipe Israel off the map" without bitter bloodshed? With growing Westernization and an increasingly educated population - the vast majority of which is of fighting age - it surprises that he won the presidential election at all. But if he has forgotten, the young Iranians have not that a bitter war was fought with Iraq a little under a generation ago and they have no intention of doing the same. To lead Iran into a war with Israel - or America - would entail arming and training the bulk of the Iranian population that hates the rule of the ayatollahs and would, sooner rather than later, turn into a revolution against them. The Iranian regime dare not risk it - which is why they seek a nuclear military capacity, which represents war in the hands of the select and trusted few. Stop the nuclear build up - but do not fear a conventional war. Ahmadinejad doth protest too much.
Huub Schaab, Netherlands:
Iran's president may have played into Israel's hands. Faux pas or not, it shows the true face of Islamic fascists of his kind. It is high time for all freedom-loving countries to show the world in deeds not just words, how to put an end to this threat.
Patrick Clawson neglected to mention that Rafsanjani threated Israel with nuclear annihilation two years ago. Therefore, Ahmadinejad, who calls for genocide, will be supervised by the oh-so-tolerant Rafsanjani, who also called for genocide. What a fabulous system of checks and balances!
Sid Hale, Massapequa Park, New York, USA:
Living in the United States and in the comfort of my own home I am bewildered that a leader of a nation such as Iran can be permitted to spew this much hate is appalling. Not far from where I live is The United Nations building and I pray that in the next few day's someone from other nations will speak out about Iran's Presidents remarks and at the same time defend Israel. The other side of the coin is what to do with the Palestinians. How can Israel coexist with a nation that has no backbone and is not willing to exist with Israel, is beyond me. Our only hope is that G-D will come up with a solution.
No one took Hitler at his word early on. These people "mean business." Do you not think they might not engage in a suicide mission, at the national level, to promote their Muslim agenda? I think they would. They must be stopped immediately, by whatever means necessary.