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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

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Rahimi’s ravings suggest Iran isn’t rational

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“Iranian First Vice-President Mohammad Reza Rahimi condemned Zionists for inciting global drug trade and addiction in a bid to annihilate non-Jewish communities in accordance with talmudic teachings.”

So began a June 26 report by Iran’s Fars News Agency of the vice-president’s speech at an international anti-drug conference in Tehran that was co-sponsored by the UN. 

In his story about this speech for the June 30 Globe and Mail, Paul Koring noted that Rahimi “also accused Zionists of starting the 1917 Russian revolution (although he said they managed to avoid a single Jew being killed), murdering black babies and various other nefarious schemes.”

According to the New York Times’ Thomas Erdbrink, who reported on the event from the Iranian capital, despite the outlandishness of Rahimi’s remarks, all a European delegate could muster (even though he refused to be identified either by name or country), was a mealy-mouthed comment: “This was definitely one of the worst speeches I have heard in my life. My gut reaction was: why are we supporting any co-operation with these people?” He answered himself in consistent fashion: “If we do not support the United Nations on helping Iran fight drugs, voices like the one of Mr. Rahimi will be the only ones out there.”

Needless to say, there are no reports of any UN official or European delegate speaking up at the event. Their silence should be as disturbing as Rahimi’s comments.

A Reuters report carried in the National Post observed that Rahimi’s remarks “seemed unusually inflammatory to western delegates.” Appropriately, this prompted a Post reader to ask in a letter to the editor: “Have we reached the point where the anti-Jewish ravings of Iranian leaders have become so common that it takes something extraordinary… to even ‘seem’ unusual?”

After all, the “usual” inflammatory comments, such as Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s Holocaust denial, barely cause a stir.

When UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon finally issued a statement about Rahimi, the most he could manage was to call on Iranian officials “to refrain from these kinds of statements,” while expressing “deep regret,” not condemnation, at such “expessions of hatred and religious intolerance.” Last week’s CJN editorial called Ban’s comments “craven, pusillanimous and entirely inadequate.”

On June 28, Canada’s foreign minister John Baird condemned Rahimi and said that “Canada hopes the international community joins us in speaking out against, and utterly rejecting, such ridiculous and antisemitic assertions.”

The point, however, is that Rahimi’s remarks, along with those of other Iranian leaders, are not just ridiculous. They are, as history has proved time and again, profoundly dangerous.

Rahimi’s remarks also remind us that no one should rest assured that Iran’s leaders are “rational actors,” as many western academics and pundits believe. These experts, after all, like to claim that Iran’s leaders would not launch nuclear weapons against Israel in a first strike, since they would not want to “commit suicide’’ by inviting an Israeli nuclear retaliation. 

One of the most recent examples of this attitude is Kenneth Waltz, professor of political science at Columbia University. In his article “Why Iran Should Get the Bomb” (the cover piece in the July/August 2012 issue of Foreign Affairs), Waltz confidently maintained that “Iranian policy is made not by ‘mad mullahs’ but by perfectly sane ayatollahs who want to survive like any other leaders. Although Iran’s leaders indulge in inflammatory and hateful rhetoric, they show no propensity for self-destruction.” 

Really? 

The strategic analyst Walter Russell Mead reminds us (in his American Interest blog) how unfounded a Waltz-like assumption is.

“Jew-hatred is an irrational passion that overmasters common sense and destroys the ability to perceive one’s own best interests… True, risking a retaliatory nuclear strike requires an unusual degree of paranoia and hatred, but enough Israelis have enough historical memory of the irrationality that Jew-hatred brings in its wake that it’s unrealistic to expect Israel to accept an Iranian bomb no matter how rational the experts say the mullahs really are.”

 

Paul Michaels is director of research and media relations for the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs.

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