Today's successors to the Persian Haman remind the world almost daily that they still want to destroy the Jewish people, but when their intended victims threaten to hit back, they run crying to the United Nations. In paroxysms of chutzpah that resemble some perverted Purim spiel, Iranian leaders have been demanding international condemnation and sanctions against Israel for taking seriously their threats to wipe it off the map with the nuclear weapons it may be developing. When Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said he wouldn't tolerate any Iranian nuclear threat and all options for stopping it are on the table, Iran filed a formal protest with the UN Security Council accusing Israel of violating international law and the UN Charter by threatening the use of force against another member state, and insisted it be ordered to "cease and desist." Iran maintains its nuclear program is purely peaceful so Israel shouldn't complain when President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says "the countdown button for the destruction of the Zionist regime has been pushed," and the commander of the Revolutionary Guards declares "the cancerous bacterium called Israel" would soon be eradicated by "radiation." Maybe that's because they recall what Israel did in 1981 to Iraq's nuclear ambitions, and more recently they heard Vice President Dick Cheney in the Middle East declare, "Iran should not be allowed to develop nuclear weapons." Cheney in the past has suggested that Israel might have to take out Iran's nuclear facilities. When they met last week Iran, not the Palestinians, was at the top of the agenda for Olmert and Cheney, who repeated America's "commitment to Israel's right to defend itself againstâ€¦forces dedicated to Israel's destruction." Cheney's tough talk was echoed by Sen. John McCain, who told Israelis that the Iranians "are obviously pursuing nuclear weapons." The presumptive Republican presidential nominee was warmly welcomed by Israeli leaders, who insist that Iran's nuclear ambitions and threats are a global problem, not just theirs. McCain, despite mixing up Shi'ites and Sunnis and confusing Purim with Halloween, was on a tour to burnish his foreign policy credentials, accompanied by Sen. Joseph Lieberman. Their hawkish attitude toward Iran struck a resonant chord in Israel, but it's a view that polls indicate is not shared by most American Jews. American Jewish voters are not as militant nor as anxious to see US military action against Iran, and they're overwhelmingly supporting Democratic contenders, Sen. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, who advocate keeping up the current economic and political pressure but also want to see more robust diplomacy. And the Bush administration has repeatedly said it will not directly negotiate with Teheran until it first ceases all uranium enrichment. THE MOST recent American Jewish Committee survey of Jewish public opinion, conducted late last year, showed Jewish respondents opposed US "military action against Iran to prevent it from developing nuclear weapons" by a 57-31 percent margin. But, according to Cheney, public opinion is meaningless. When told last week by ABC News's Martha Radditz that "two thirds of Americans" say the Iraq war is "not worth fighting," Cheney said, "So?" She followed up, "So - you don't care what the American people think?" Cheney replied, "No." Last week President Bush said Iran "want(s) to have a nuclear weapon to destroy people," particularly in the Mideast, "and that's unacceptable." He and Cheney are as certain today that Iran is pursuing nukes as they were Saddam was before they decided to invade five years and 4,000 American deaths ago. They may be right this time, but their track record undermines their credibility and undercuts international support for the anti-Iran effort. That may have contributed to the resignation - probably firing - of Adm. William Fallon, the Centcom commander, who reportedly feared Bush and Cheney were looking to settle scores with Iran before leaving office. The Iranians have cause to worry. They can't go about making threats with impunity. A State Department report this month called anti-Zionism a form of anti-Semitism and accused Arab states, some European countries and the United Nations of allowing it to fester and grow. The Iranians do more than talk about it. They are building long-range missiles to carry non-conventional warheads to any target in Israel, and they are funding anti-Israel and anti-Jewish terror globally, often through allies like Hizbullah and Hamas, and are investing a billion dollars in upgrading Syrian armaments. Military action may be the only option left that will neutralize that threat, but it is hard to see how the Bush administration - alone in a world that distrusts it and no longer believes its "axis of evil" claims, and with a bloody record of military mismanagement - can successfully accomplish it. John McCain may talk tough on the campaign trail, but if elected he will face military and diplomatic realities that will make it tough for him to use force in Iran - including the consequences of an Iraq misadventure that he vigorously supports. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who eulogized Hizbullah's master terrorist - the assassinated Imad Mughniyeh - as "pure and pious," may be the 21st century version of Haman; let's hope he meets the same fate. But if Israel is waiting for the Bush administration or the Republican who wants to continue its policies to do the job, it should think twice.