Monday, December 19, 2005

Ahmadinejad's Anti-Israel Statements Reflect Official Line

Radio Free Europe: Iran Report
Many explanations have been offered for Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad's numerous anti-Israeli statements in recent weeks. Although such speculation might be accurate, Ahmadinejad is by no means the first Iranian official to engage in Holocaust denial or to make statements denying the legitimacy of Israel. The visit of Hamas leader Khalid Mishaal to Tehran this week demonstrated once again that the Iranian leadership believes Israel is not a legitimate state.

Iranian commentators have suggested that Ahmadinejad's Israel-bashing reflects an effort at self-promotion or stems from his personal beliefs. There have also been suggestions that Ahmadinejad's views might signal an effort to connect with the least sophisticated constituencies in the country.

Denying The Holocaust

In a 14 December speech in the city of Zahedan in southeastern Sistan va Baluchistan Province, Ahmadinejad said that if the Holocaust took place in Europe and Europeans feel so guilty about it, then that is where Israel should be located, state television reported. "They have created a myth today and they call it the massacre of the Jews [the Holocaust]," he added. This speech comes on the heels of his comments on 8 December, when he said on the sidelines of an Organization of the Islamic Conference meeting in Saudi Arabia, according to Al-Alam television, that "if the Europeans claim that the Zionists were suppressed during the Second World War, they can place a part of Europe at their disposal."

The international community has widely condemned Ahmadinejad's views, but they have been defended by Iranian government officials either directly or by inference. Parliamentary speaker Gholam-Ali Haddad-Adel on 11 December defended French Holocaust denier Roger Garaudy, according to state television. "If hypothetically it is true that the Jews were oppressed in Germany, why should Islamic nations pay the price of the oppression which was committed in another continent by another country?" Haddad-Adel said.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei defended Garaudy's right to disseminate his views in a 12 May 2000 speech, according to state radio. "If a person is not affiliated to the capitalists and if one is not part of the capitalists power centers, he will not be able to speak, no one will hear his voice and he will be deprived of freedom of speech," Khamenei said. READ MORE

"There are documents showing close collaboration of the Zionists with the Nazi Germany, and exaggerated numbers relating to the Jewish Holocaust were fabricated to solicit the sympathy of world public opinion, lay the ground for the occupation of Palestine, and to justify the atrocities of the Zionists," Khamenei said in a 24 April 2001 speech, state television and IRNA reported.

Expediency Council Chairman Ayatollah Ali-Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani in a 27 October 2000 sermon cited Garaudy as a source on alleged Israeli violations of UN resolutions, state radio reported.

Judiciary chief Ayatollah Mahmud Hashemi-Shahrudi said on 16 December 1999, "Roger Garaudy was tried for carrying out a scientific research work," state radio reported. "They did so because his actions contradicted the interests of Zionism and exposed their lies."

The Hamas Line

This week, Hamas head Khalid Mash'al visited Tehran. Designated a foreign terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department, Hamas advocates the destruction of Israel. "Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it," the Hamas covenant of 18 August 1988 asserts. It goes on to say that jihad is the only solution to the Palestinian issue, and "initiatives, proposals, and international conferences are all a waste of time and vain endeavors."

The covenant warns that after conquering Palestine "the Zionists" will expand to a region from the Nile to the Euphrates. "Their plan is embodied in the 'Protocols Of The Elders Of Zion,' and their present conduct is the best proof of what we are saying."

Mash'al met with Khamenei, Ahmadinejad, Expediency Council Chairman Hashemi-Rafsanjani, and others during his stay in Tehran.

"Continuation of the resistance is the only way that guarantees the liberation of Palestine," Khamenei told Mash'al, state television reported on 13 December. His other comments resembled the views expressed in the Hamas covenant. "Compromise with the Zionist occupiers and negotiations with them will not improve the situation," Khamenei said. "On the contrary, any compromise will increase the pressure [on the Palestinian people]. We therefore conclude that victory will be achieved through resistance only."

"We will not be satisfied with anything less than the liberation of all the occupied territories, the return of all Palestinian refugees and the withdrawal of the occupiers," Mash'al replied. "And as Imam Khomeini said, Israel is a cancerous tumor, and we shall never put up with it."

Mash'al told Ahmadinejad on 12 December that Hamas appreciates Iran's stance against Israel generally and the president's "insistence on the illegitimate nature of Israel," IRNA reported. Interior Minister Mustafa Pur-Mohammadi told Mash'al that Palestine is the Iranian government's top foreign policy priority, the official "Iran" newspaper reported on 13 December.

Mash'al said on 15 December that Hamas will never recognize Israel and otherwise legitimize the actions of "Zionist occupiers," Mehr News Agency reported. Expressing gratitude for Iranian support, Mishaal said, "I thank the officials of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and in particular the eminent leader and the president of Iran, for their statements." Although Iranian officials' statements upset the West, he said, "we" see them as "courageous and right." He continued: "Nations have always supported the Iranian people because the Islamic Iran expresses their sentiments, particularly when it comes down to the Palestinian issue."

Iran has defended Palestinians' rights and they will stand by Iran, he said, and Iran and Hamas will continue their "cooperation and interaction." The cease-fire with Israel will end and resistance will resume, he said, because that is the Palestinians' right. Resistance by Hamas will continue "until the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people are recognized, and the Israeli occupation is destroyed, because we want to take back Al-Quds and the Palestinian lands." (Bill Samii)


Friday prayer leaders in Iran on 16 December endorsed the earlier statements of President Mahmud Ahmadinejad on the Holocaust. Ahmadinejad questioned the extent of the Holocaust in comments at an Organization of the Islamic Conference meeting in Saudi Arabia on 8 December, and he reiterated these comments in the southeastern city of Zahedan on 14 December. He also advocated moving Israel to Europe, if the Europeans feel so guilty about the Holocaust.

Seyyed Yusef Tabatabainejad, the Friday Prayer leader in Isfahan, said in his 16 December sermon, "The president's statements in [Saudi] Arabia and Zahedan about Israel were true and the heartfelt words of all Muslims in the world," Fars News Agency reported. Tabatabainejad added, "By killing the hard-done-by people of Palestine, is Israel trying to remedy the misunderstanding of Jews burnt in incinerators?" The cleric endorsed Ahmadinejad's proposal that Israel should be relocated, saying, "The colonialist powers that support the Israeli government and human rights must allocate a part of their own land to Israel and vindicate the rights of Palestinians."

In Mashhad, Friday Prayer Leader Seyyed Ahmad Alamol-Hoda said, "The president's message to the Organization of the Islamic Conference [OIC] summit meeting thwarted many conspiracies and draw the world's attention to Israel," Mehr News Agency reported. The cleric criticized Islamic states that intend to normalize relations with Israel. He added, "The state of Israel should be set up in Europe and it should not be in the heart of an Islamic country at the expense of the oppressed Palestinian people."

Ayatollah Ali Meshkini, the Friday Prayer leader in Qom, said, "The words of President Ahmadinezhad at the [OIC] summit [in Saudi Arabia] were quite rational and they were the heartfelt words of the people of Iran," IRNA reported. Meshkini engaged in some Holocaust denial as well, saying, "After the Second World War, Jews and Zionists, in order to portray themselves as the oppressed people and bring about a favorable situation for themselves, wrongfully spread a rumor that over six million Jews were burnt in incinerators by Hitler, Germany and Austria." (Bill Samii)


The Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on 15 December that Moscow rejects the recent remarks by President Ahmadinejad denying the Holocaust, Reuters reported. "We consider attempts to revise generally known historical facts about the Second World War, including those facts connected with the Holocaust, as unacceptable," the statement said. It argued that "speculation on these topics runs counter to the charter of the United Nations and the views of the international community." Russia's position is that "Israel is a sovereign state with the right to live in peace and security side by side with her neighbors, including with the independent Palestinian state." The news agency pointed out that this language is similar to that of previous official Russian statements issued in response to Ahmadinejad's earlier anti-Israel speeches. In related news, the EU protested to Russia on 15 December about Moscow's $1 billion deal with Teheran to provide surface-to-air missiles and other military equipment. (Patrick Moore)


Vardan Oskanian declined on 15 December to comment on recent statements by the Iranian president questioning the historical validity of the Holocaust, RFE/RL's Armenian Service and Mediamax reported. Foreign Minister Oskanian explained that Armenia has "always viewed our relations with Iran exclusively within the framework of our bilateral relations and do not comment on issues that go beyond this framework." (Richard Giragosian)


Israeli ambassador to Azerbaijan Arthur Lenk called on the Azerbaijan government on 15 December to denounce the Iranian president, ANS-TV reported. The Israeli envoy demanded that Baku adopt a strong position against the Iranian leader's latest "anti-Israeli statements," which he termed "a threat to the international community." He further warned that Iran poses a threat not only to Israel, but to the entire region, because it has "started producing nuclear weapons," and stated that Iran's "threat to the international community" is a "threat that also hangs over Azerbaijan." (Richard Giragosian)


Anonymous diplomats quoted by Reuters on 15 December said that the European Union is about to condemn recent comments by the Iranian president. Ahmadinejad recently has twice denied that the Holocaust took place, and in October he called for the eradication of Israel. A draft statement from EU foreign ministers said: "These comments are wholly unacceptable and have no place in civilized political debate." The statement also warns that the time to resolve questions about the Iranian nuclear program is coming to an end. (Bill Samii)


Government spokesman Gholam-Hussein Elham said on 13 December that a CD that purports to show President Ahmadinejad saying he was surrounded by an aura when addressing the United Nations in September is a fake, ISNA reported (see "President Says Light Surrounded Him During UN Speech,", 29 November 2005). On the CD, Ahmadinejad seemingly tells Ayatollah Mohammad-Taqi Mesbah-Yazdi that nobody blinked during his 25-30 minute speech to the General Assembly. Elham said he was at the private meeting between Ahmadinejad and Mesbah-Yazdi and no filming took place. "I believe it was a montage of the meeting and this matter must be investigated," Elham added. The spokesman went on to say that Ahmadinejad has a doctoral degree in a technological field and works 16-20 hours a day on government business. Ahmadinejad does not use "heavenly affairs" to make decisions, Elham said, adding that Mesbah-Yazdi is a religious expert and one cannot raise such issues with him. (Bill Samii)
A must read for those who think the problem in Iran rests with its President Ahmadinejad.