(photo credit: AP [file])
This week in Paris and London, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert heard some quite encouraging words. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said, "We are ready and will push for further sanctions against Iran. ... Economic sanctions are effective ... but they are not sufficient. So there should be more." Brown also said that sanctions should reach the point "up to where Iran stops its nuclear program."
Olmert reported that French President Nicolas Sarkozy's position regarding Iran's nuclear program was "identical" to his own. Sarkozy reportedly also told Olmert, regarding the Palestinian demand of a "right of return," that they cannot demand a state of their own and "part of your country too." Finally, Sarkozy said that "Israel's establishment is a miracle and may have been the central event of the 20th century." These are important statements, especially coming from European leaders, and particularly from France, given that country's recent role as an exaggerated advocate for Arab interests. Today's France, fortunately, seems closer to another era in its history when, in the early years of the Jewish state, Paris provided more significant assistance to Jerusalem than did Washington.
Some may see these positive pointers to a change of direction as favoring Israel, but not the cause of peace or of European interests. Others may condemn them as reducing European influence by moving too close to the United States. They are wrong on all counts.
This new wind is not just good for Israel, it will increase European influence on events in the Middle East, could help breathe new life into the peace process, and directly advance European interests. It is even good for the Arab world, since Arab countries are also threatened by the advance of Islamofascism and by the severe developmental costs their war against Israel has imposed.
The most encouraging aspect of the seeming shift is that it might just be dawning on Europe that the threat of Islamofascism is real, not some American-Israeli plot.
Further, it seems to be increasingly understood that if the current Iranian regime is allowed to obtain nuclear weapons capability, that threat would be greatly enhanced, and is likely to lead to war, nuclear terrorism and to significant setbacks for the advancement of global freedom, security, and prosperity.
While this apparent growing realization is the good news, the bad news is that it has not spread far enough and is not being acted upon fast enough. While he did travel earlier to Moscow, Olmert did not go to Berlin or Rome, where the primary European resistance to tightening sanctions against the Iranian regime exists.
It is extremely short-sighted and irresponsible for Germany and Italy to resist sanctions due to commercial interests. Even leaving security, morality and international duty aside, economically this makes no sense. Do these governments think that allowing the world's foremost terrorist regime to go nuclear will have no impact on their economies? If they fear that conflict will raise the price of oil, how do they feel about the prospect of a nuclear Iran raising oil prices at will by threatening world oil supplies?
If such financial considerations are too crass, there are plenty of moral ones as well. We are not only speaking of the burden of European history in light of open threats to destroy the state of Israel. What about Europe's claim that it too should be treated as responsible world player, and that the US should not be seen as the world's policeman?
Europe cannot have it all ways: complaining about American power while refusing to exercise its own; complaining about an American or Israeli resort to force while gutting all non-military efforts to repel the Iranian challenge.
Brown had it right: The measure of sanctions is not whether they are tighter than before, but whether they are brought to the point where Teheran will be forced to back down. There should be no daylight between London, Paris, Berlin, Rome, Washington, or Jerusalem on this. All of us will suffer if Iran obtains the bomb; we need to act together in collective self-defense.
The prospect for peace, incidentally, between Arabs and Israelis hangs in the balance. No Western government should be under any illusions: The outcome of the conflict with Iran, not this or that diplomatic effort, will be the primary determinate of whether the Arab world goes the way of beleaguered moderates, or follows the lead of Hamas, Hizbullah and al-Qaida.