By Ryan Jones - Jerusalem Newswire - December 16, 2005
Supreme Iranian ruler Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani said last Friday that the Muslim world would win a nuclear exchange with Israel, aggravating fears Tehran's quest for atomic weapons indeed has one purpose: the annihilation of what it calls the Zionist “cancer.”
“[The] application of an atomic bomb would not leave anything in Israel - but the same thing would just produce damages in the Muslim world,” Hashemi-Rafsanjani was quoted as saying by the government-controlled Iran Press Service.
The spiritual leader, who wields ultimate power in Iran, made the comments during a prayer service in Tehran. It was the first time an Islamic leader of such prominence openly suggested a nuclear attack against the Jewish state, media analysts told the IPS.
Iran has been pursuing atomic weapons in defiance of international demands.
Concerns over Iran's nuclear efforts grew exponentially last month when President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told a conference in Tehran that Israel should be “wiped off the map.”
In an interview with Ynet Thursday, Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said he has no doubt Iran will act to completely destroy the Jewish state if its nuclear program is not halted.
Iran's leaders are “saying very clearly what the Iranians will do if they have a nuclear bomb – they would like to destroy the State of Israel,” Shalom said.
Speaking to Fox News a day earlier, US President George W. Bush said his administration also views Iran as a true existential threat to the Jewish state.
“I'm concerned about a theocracy that has got little transparency, a country whose president has declared the destruction of Israel as part of their foreign policy, and a country that will not listen to the demands of the free world to get rid of its ambitions to have a nuclear weapon,” Bush told his interviewer.
“I called it part of the 'axis of evil' for a reason,” the president added.
But neither Israel nor the US are keen to utilize military force in order to thwart Iran's destructive intentions, and have therefore turned to Europe, which enjoys amicable ties with Tehran, to diplomatically resolve the issue.
European officials vowed to deal with Iran's worrying behavior at a European Union summit that opened in Brussels Thursday, warning that the continent's patience with Tehran is wearing thin.
However, the most serious punitive diplomatic measure being discussed is Iran's exclusion from the 2006 World Cup soccer tournament scheduled to take place in Germany next summer.
Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Chairman Yuval Steinitz insists the solution lies in the threat of “brute force.”
Steinitz told CNS News Thursday he recently conveyed to officials in Washington that Iran can be prevented from obtaining nuclear weapons without the use of force, but only if the West is prepared to make it clear to Tehran that it is in fact prepared to use overwhelming military force.
“It's the only chance [to make them back down],” Steinitz said, warning that “if Iran becomes a nuclear power, it will become a global nuclear superpower.”
But Tehran has been hearing and defying Western threats for years. How the US and Europe could now convince Iran of their seriousness without actually initiating armed hostilities remains unclear.
Meanwhile, a report published by the US Army War College this week said neither military nor diplomatic efforts were going to stop Iran's nuclear weapons program.
Entitled “Getting Ready for a Nuclear-Ready Iran”, the report pointed out that “given Iran's extensive nuclear know-how and capabilities, it is unlikely that the United States or its allies can deny Iran the technical ability to covertly make nuclear weapons.”
The authors instead suggested that Israel try to set an example by first dismantling its nuclear capabilities.
They admitted, however, that Iran would likely not follow suit, leaving Israel without a deterrent in the crosshairs of a regime with both the desire and the means to annihilate the Jewish state.
The suggestion smacked of the traditional Western position that Israel risk the lives of millions of its Jewish citizens for the sake of “peace” efforts with little or no chance of success.