Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: A Great Danger to the World

Since winning election in June 2005 on a platform of bringing about a “Second Islamic Revolution,” Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has called for Israel’s destruction and repeatedly denied the Holocaust. In October, the Iranian President called Israel a “disgraceful blot” and declared that it must be “wiped off the map.” In the wake of Hezbollah’s initiation of hostilities against Israel and Israel’s military operations against that Iranian proxy, Ahamdinejad declared, “The real cure for the conflict is elimination of the Zionist regime.” In addition, he has repeatedly described the Holocaust as a “myth.” The world can ill afford to stand aside while Ahmadinejad foams at the mouth so to speak. Ahmadinejad actually means what he says. If not checked, he may well gain the ability to pursue his radical vision.

Ahmadinejad is a charismatic leader. Charismatic leaders possess an often extraordinary ability to appeal to the masses in building support for their vision. It is precisely that attribute that allowed the then relatively little-known Mayor of Tehran to make a meteoric ascent to the Presidency. Such leaders can accomplish a lot during their tenure or they can bring about great harm. Adolf Hitler was one who inflicted catastrophic harm. Given his ideology and ambitions, the Iranian leader is a charismatic leader who could prove most dangerous.

He is a would-be totalitarian ruler who likely would not hesitate to use brute force to stifle domestic dissent and then later pursue his ideological ambitions through military means. He is an extremist whose career began after his joining the hardline Iranian Revolutionary Guards in 1986. The Revolutionary Guards were notorious for having carried out a brutal campaign of terror and repression against those who opposed Ayatollah Khomenei’s radical regime. During that reign of terror, executions and torture aimed at suffocating dissent were commonplace and due process was largely unknown. Now, most of Ahmadinejad’s cabinet is comprised of Revolutionary Guard elements.
During his campaign and following his election, Ahmadinejad sketched a harsh program that aimed to consolidate his power, dictate how Iranians must lead their lives, and bring about Israel’s destruction. Already, he is carrying out aspects of that program.

According to a MEMRI.org translation of Iranian news reports, he has undertaken a campaign to purge opposition from within the government under the guise of fighting corruption. He has barred state-run radio and television stations from playing Western music and offered 23 strategies to ‘improve’ Iranian television programming. In Hiterlian fashion, Iranian TV carries anti-Semitic content and other propaganda that demonizes Jews and denies the Holocaust. On May 28, 2006, The New York Times revealed, “President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is trying to consolidate power in the office of the presidency in a way never before seen in the 27-year history of the Islamic Republic, apparently with the tacit approval of Iran's supreme leader, according to government officials and political analysts here… Mr. Ahmadinejad is pressing far beyond the boundaries set by other presidents. For the first time since the revolution, a president has overshadowed the nation's chief cleric, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, on both domestic and international affairs.”

This is just a beginning for the Iranian leader. His paramount objective is Israel’s elimination and the fall of the United States. In a speech before the “World Without Zionism” conference, Ahmadinejad proclaimed that Muslims could not permit Israel to exist in the “heart of the Islamic world” and asserted that a world without the United States and Israel was attainable.

Given that the United States is currently the world’s sole superpower and Israel’s Defense Forces are the best-trained and most technologically-advanced in the Middle East, even if the difficulties both have experienced in dealing with guerrilla warfare tactics, how then could such a world be attainable? Iran’s development of nuclear weapons.

Since Ahmadinejad’s election, the Iranian Government has repeatedly asserted a non-negotiable legal right to a nuclear program. In September, a month after Iran announced that it would resume uranium conversion activities, Ali Larijani, Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council warned that international opposition would not alter Iran’s course. “Have no doubt that uranium enrichment is a national demand in Iran. Have no doubt that these pressures will not bear any results,” he declared. So far, the international community’s efforts to thwart Iran’s nuclear ambitions have met only Iranian defiance.

Should Iran complete its uranium enrichment activities, it will have gained the technological capability to create nuclear weapons. Then, only the development or acquisition of a handful of vital components would stand in the way.

A nuclear-armed Iran would likely become the world’s ultimate rogue state. Its current line of medium-range Shahab missiles could deliver nuclear warheads to Israel and parts of Europe. Later, it could develop long-range intercontinental ballistic missiles. Nuclear proliferation, possibly even the materiel for ready use in the construction of “dirty bombs,” would become a real danger. In September, Ahmadinejad pledged that Iran would share its nuclear expertise and technology with other Islamic countries. In addition, Iran remains among the world’s leading state sponsors of terrorism.

The acquisition of nuclear weapons by a state whose leader sees a world without Israel and the United States as “attainable,” openly calls for Israel to be “wiped off the map,” and pledges to spread nuclear technology and know-how throughout the Islamic world would be among the world’s gravest developments. As negotiations stretch on, the clock continues to wind toward just such a development. The time for the world’s responsible nations to set a firm deadline for Iran to terminate its nuclear program and to begin planning possible enforcement strategies, starting with curbs on Iran’s ability to sell oil on the world market, has arrived.

The longer the UN Security Council waits to enact such restrictions, the more difficult it will be to enforce such a decision. Already, Iran is reaching out to developing nations in exploring the possibility of selling them crude oil at a discounted price. If President Ahmadinejad succeeds in this diplomatic maneuver, he could well outflank the UN Security Council by gaining the support of the states that would benefit from the supply of low-price crude oil and, thereby, lock in Iran’s ability to sell oil on the world market. This is a dangerous possibility. If past experience with aggressive totalitarian leaders is representative, the Middle East and beyond could find themselves in great peril if Ahmadinejad’s nuclear aspirations are not checked.

Perhaps Bernard Lewis, who is among the world’s leading Middle East historians, best captures the magnitude of the threat an unconstrained Ahmadinejad poses. “Would the same constraints, the same fear of mutual assured destruction, restrain a nuclear-armed Iran from using such weapons against the U.S. or against Israel?” Lewis asked in a commentary published in the August 8, 2006 issue of The Wall Street Journal. He then answered his rhetorical question, warning, “There is a radical difference between the Islamic Republic of Iran and other governments with nuclear weapons. This difference is expressed in what can only be described as the apocalyptic worldview of Iran’s present rulers… In this context, mutual assured destruction…would have no meaning. At the end of time, there will be general destruction anyway. What will matter will be the final destination of the dead—hell for the infidels, and heaven for the believers. For people with this mindset, MAD is not a constraint; it is an inducement.”

With each passing day bringing Iran closer to becoming a nuclear power, its oil reserves allowing it to gain growing leverage over increasingly fuel-hungry developing nations, and its flurry of diplomatic activity aimed at tying the hands of the UN Security Council, a robust approach that targets Iran’s ability to sell oil on the world market cannot be postponed for long. Otherwise, a still avoidable dark age of Iranian nuclear power could dawn and Iran’s proxy war against Israel in Lebanon and increasing domination of Iraq offer but the first taste of such an era.

Don Sutherland has researched and written on a wide range of geopolitical issues. Don Sutherland

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