Letters to the editor, January 17

The problem... Sir, - Elliot Jager's "Iran - all that we don't know" (January 16) was refreshingly honest in a media world filled with articles, books and talk show guests all claiming to be experts on Iran. For example, consider books about Iran that have appeared on The New York Times's best-seller list. Kenneth Pollack disclosed at the end of The Persian Puzzle: The Conflict Between Iran and America that he has never been to Iran and does not speak Persian. Many other authors and speakers are not even this honest. Much of the American media has become a propaganda mouthpiece for idiots and preachers of hate against Iran. Jager's approach is correct. Establish what we know and do not know. Then find real experts on Iran who can find the answers. We might discover that we are our own worst enemies. PAUL SHELDON FOOTE California State University Fullerton, California ...the solution Sir, - Unless the US, or Israel, is ready to incinerate Iran in a massive nuclear strike and physically eliminate the country, the present strategy is close to suicidal. A far better alternative would be to accept an Iranian nuclear deterrent, respect Iranian sovereignty and encourage the extension of ironclad security guarantees to Teheran. In exchange the regime would likely jettison or completely neuter Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is in way over his head and is being used by the merchant oligarchy and mullahs as a ferocious foil. They would probably also open up their economy slightly and tone down the anti-Zionist and anti-US rhetoric. A self-assured Iran with nuclear weapons is safer than an Iran close to acquiring an arsenal, or gravely unsure of its reliability. Some thinking outside the box needs to be done, otherwise millions of us may end up inside some boxes permanently. ROBERT COHEN Richmond, California Reality check Sir, - I believe it is time for a reality check regarding Iran's nuclear ambitions. First - Iran is going to have control over the entire nuclear fuel cycle and is more than likely to develop nuclear weapons regardless of the West's attempts to impose sanctions or threaten further action. The logistics of its nuclear program make it extremely difficult to take effective preemptive military action. Second - President Ahmadinejad is a temporary figurehead full of fiery rhetoric, but he in no way controls the Iranian military nor dictates to the Supreme Leader or the Guardian Council. Third - Ayatollah Khamenei would never risk launching a nuclear attack against anyone unless Iran were attacked first. He is neither stupid nor naive. He understands that such an attack would bring a massive retaliatory strike which would all but wipe out Iranian civilization. Instead of responding to the rhetoric of a former city mayor who has little influence over anything it would be more prudent to concentrate on the terrorist threat from Iran and the enhancement of intelligence collection. RANDALL LINDER Baltimore Sir, - The realities of the nuclear age, now 60 years old, do not allow much margin for error. If history is about to turn on a hinge - and to those with eyes to see the news from Iran strongly suggests this - we have only a very narrow window of opportunity to act to forcibly terminate that regime's nuclear ambitions. Or we can leave it to the survivors of some future nuclear nightmare to piece together where exactly we lost our will to influence the course of events. RON GOODDEN Atlanta Free hand to the mob Sir, - Re "Israel praises Europe's plan to refer Iran to UN" (January 13): I both laughed and cried when I heard the UN was going to decide what to do about Iran. I'm sure the neo-Nazi Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would just laugh. The UN has proven impotent in preventing dictatorships from sponsoring terrorism and committing other atrocities. That's because, as a matter of principle, it treats dictatorships as legitimate sovereign countries and grants them voting rights - despite the fact that they deny basic rights to their own citizens, which leaves the regimes free to do evil. The UN even allows brutal regimes to sit on and chair the UN Commission on Human Rights, which is tantamount to allowing mobsters to sit on anti-crime commissions. When Islamic terrorists attacked the Twin Towers on 9/11, killing roughly 3,000 people, Iran was rated as the No.1 sponsor of terrorism - not only against Israel but against the US. Since then it has been allowed to continue sponsoring terrorism, conduct a proxy war against the US in Iraq and build a nuclear bomb while its mullahs chant "Death to America" and its president calls for a new holocaust against Israel while denying the existence of the last one. Yet virtually nothing has been done to Iran to date. Rely on the UN to now do something good? The US and Israel should not wait for "global consensus" to do what's needed to eliminate this nuclear threat and an evil regime. GLENN WOICESHYN Calgary Make a start and He'll do the rest Sir, - In "The Iranian threat" (January 10) former foreign minister Silvan Shalom observes that "the world is failing to stop Teheran's nuclear drive. There should be no misunderstanding what the consequences of such a failure would be." Your editorial then ends: "If necessary, the military power of the West must be brought to bear on Iran in a classic case of collective self-defense." Partially yes, but there's an essential precondition: to get all Jews to recommit to the Torah's mitzvot. Then, as the portion of Ki tavo tells us, the Almighty will cause us to triumph over our enemies. If not, He will cause them to triumph over us. The Almighty never tells us what to do and then makes it impossible for us to do it. Rather He guarantees that if we make a start, He will do the rest. Particularly needed, initially, is a big-time organizer, rabbi, spokesman, treasurer/secretary, people with influence in the right places and a million dollars: to get registered and set up provisional headquarters for the nerve center to get the entire People of Israel recommitted to the Torah - and then get cracking! ZAEBN RAIZL Beit Shemesh Hebron history Sir, - You write about "the forcible evacuation of Jewish families living in Palestinian homes located in a former wholesale market in the city" ("IDF mulls declaring Hebron closed zone," January 16). These are not Palestinian homes, and never were, but Jewish property. The debate is over whether this property comes under the jurisdiction of the Israeli government or of the original owners, the pre-1929 Sephardi community, which originally purchased it and agreed to the present Jewish community residing there. The Arabs who once had stores there were squatters who took over that Jewish property post-1929, after the British threw out the Jewish community to "keep the peace." After 1967 they were allowed to remain, but the Israeli government eventually removed them for security reasons. The storefronts were uninhabited when, after the murder of baby Shalhevet Pass several meters from the area, they were reclaimed by Jews. The merchandise shown scattered on the ground in TV reports Sunday night as if from looted, functioning Arab businesses were old goods left behind untouched from at least four years ago. The government never had any intention of having the Arab merchants return to this area, it just doesn't like the manner in which the property was reclaimed; hence the conflict. LEAH HOCHBAUM Hebron Sir, - Perhaps I am naive, but why could you not find a statement from a Hebron resident saying, "We are only trying to protect the high ground so another Arab terrorist doesn't repeat the murder of another Jewish child such as Shalhevet Pass"? Instead, in a typical left-leaning diatribe you write that police claim settlers are attempting to create "an anarchic situation." Isn't there enough anti-Jewish sentiment in Europe and throughout the world that I shouldn't have to read it in Israel too? Is Fox News's Shawn Hannity the only remaining news source for unabashedly pro-Jewish sentiment? YAEL ABRAMOWITZ New York It's more than speed Sir, - Zelda Harris should know that it's not just speed that kills ("Vote for life," Letters, January 16). It's sitting in the left lane while driving slowly. It's moving across three lanes of traffic in the last 100 meters before an exit. It's never using a turn signal. It's using the driving lanes to cut around people waiting for left turns, and using the left-turn lane to cut around the drivers going straight. Yes, people who speed much faster than the limit should be ticketed, but so should all other violators. The danger of sudden changes and illegal moves at any speed are more dangerous than speed itself. Fines for all types of violations should be increased and handed out. Drivers in the US, Canada and Western Europe drive as fast as they do here, but accident rates are not as high. I've driven in those places and can say that while I've seen bad drivers everywhere, the driving of Israelis leaves much to be desired. It's not only speed that kills, but arrogance that makes Israeli drivers do whatever they want, whenever they want. That needs to change. DAVID TEICH Petah Tikva No land for peace Sir, - I would not renew Pat Robertson's contract for land ("Government reconsiders Robertson deal after apology," January 15). He always makes outrageous statements, and then always apologizes and gets his way. He uses religion to suit his personal agenda and he's only interested in making money at the expense of others. What Israel did is Israel's business, not Robertson's. JIM SWINEHART Wooster, Ohio Pols reap big profits Sir, - Reading "The perks of political failure" (Editorial, January 16) was made even more painful by the fact that our tax shekels pay not only for MKs' high salaries, as mentioned, but also for a slew of other benefits most of us have to pay out of substantially lower salaries: health and dental care, postage, telephones, cars, drivers, wedding and other gifts, "connection-with-the-voter" budgets for almost any gadget available, travel abroad, etc. These benefits allow our legislators and leaders to basically save all their money and build up a nice nest-egg, becoming relatively wealthy in a very short time, all under the guise of serving the people. So never mind higher education or learning a trade: The fastest way to make money in Israel is to go into politics - obviously a very profitable endeavor. GERSHON HARRIS Hatzor Haglilit