Sunday, December 18, 2005

Iran trying to keep tension high

Ali Akbar Dareini, St. Paul Pioneer: Anti-Israel comments are ploy, experts say
Remarks by Iran's hard-line president that the Holocaust was a myth and Israel should be "wiped off the map" are not just wild comments by a novice leader, but part of a strategy to keep anti-Israel sentiment alive in the Middle East, analysts said Saturday.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose comments have drawn international condemnation and ratcheted up tensions in a volatile region, is also trying to revive the radical fervor of Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution after eight years of rule by a more moderate Iranian government. READ MORE

"The man is still living in 1979 and believes Iran represents a revolution more than just a state," said Mustafa Alani, director of security studies at the Gulf Research Center in Dubai. "He believes (verbally) attacking Israel, which was a key principle of the revolution, will serve Iranian interests in the region more than polite, rational policies."

Ahmadinejad, who took office in August, caused an international outcry in October by calling Israel a "disgraceful blot" that should be "wiped off the map."

World leaders also condemned him in recent days for calling the Nazi slaughter of Jews during World War II a myth. Ahmadinejad added that if the Holocaust did happen, then Israel should be moved to Europe or North America, rather than making Palestinians suffer by losing their land to atone for crimes committed by Europeans.

Further, Ahmadinejad's rejection of U.S. and European calls to curb Iran's nuclear program has raised suspicions that Iran is trying to build atomic weapons in violation of its commitments under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

Despite Tehran's repeated insistence that the nuclear program has only the aim of generating electricity, Israeli officials and politicians have openly discussed the possibility of attacking Iran to cripple its nuclear development capabilities.

Iranian democracy activists — and some conservatives — say Ahmadinejad's words are hurting the country, but his anti-Israel rhetoric resonates with militants in the hard-line camp, including Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

But Khamenei, who has the final say on state matters, has implicitly supported Ahmadinejad, saying armed resistance, not negotiation, is the way to deal with Israel.

Lawmaker Emad Afrouq said the president's comments are "part of a strategy" to influence opinion about Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories, not to lay the groundwork for war with the Jewish state.

"The bottom line is he wants to keep anti-Israeli sentiments alive," Afrouq said. "He doesn't think of military action."