Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council

Iran responds to IAEA by threatening to destroy Israel... again + Australia feels the fallout

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As outlined in yesterday's update, the UN's atomic energy watchdog has just released a report that just falls short of definitively stating that Iran has a nuclear weapons program - seemingly the closest that the UN ever comes to an unequivocal condemnation of a country that is not Israel. The report has emerged amid rumours that Israel is gearing-up for an attack on Iran and is busy soliciting support from allies in the UK and the US.

Predictably, Iran did not respond with steps to assure the international community that its nuclear program is peaceful, but instead blamed an American conspiracy and then threatened to destroy Israel.

Iran denies the allegations and says the evidence used by the U.N. nuclear watchdog was fabricated by the United States and its allies. It has insisted that its nuclear program is aimed only at generating electricity and ensuring an independent fuel supply for its nuclear power plants.

... "If smoke columns rise from our nuclear facilities, then this scenario could happen in other areas," said Brig. Gen. Massoud Jazayeri, deputy chief of staff of the Iranian armed forces. "The Dimona station in Israel is the easiest target for our military capabilities," he told Iranian state television's Arabic language channel, al-Alam, on Wednesday, referring to a secret nuclear plant in the Negev Desert. He added that if Israel committed such a "folly," it would mean its "disappearance from existence." [emphasis added]

Of course, this is far from the first time that Iran has threatened Israel's existence. Just last month, for instance, the Supreme Leader said this:

"Our claim is freedom of Palestine, not part of Palestine. Any plan that partitions Palestine is totally rejected," Khamenei told the conference. "Palestine spans from the river (Jordan) to the sea (Mediterranean), nothing less."

Khamenei claimed that a two state solution would mean "giving in to the demand of the Zionists" and that it would "trample the rights of the Palestinian people" to live on their land. Khamenei also called Israel a "cancerous tumor" that should be removed. [emphasis added]

And then there was this famous remark by the Iranian President in 2005:

Iran's conservative new president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, said Wednesdaythat Israel must be "wiped off the map" and that attacks by Palestinians would destroy it, the ISNA press agency reported. [emphasis added]

It seems, therefore, that Iran's deterrence strategy against an Israeli attack is to threaten Israel with destruction, when its leaders already threaten Israel with destruction as a matter of course irrespective of the likelihood of any military action. Given the tone of current debate in Israel, this does not appear to be a particularly effective strategy. 

As to whether or not the US and/or Israel will actually strike Iran in the near future, a fascinating discussion has been happening in the blogosphere. At the Atlantic, Jeffrey Goldberg has argued that Obama is willing to launch a strike if needed.

President Obama promised to kill Osama Bin Laden. He did. He promised to withdraw American troops from Iraq. He did. He promised to kill Anwar al-Awlaki. He did. He promised to make Afghanistan the focus of the War on Terror. He did. Obama has said, repeatedly, publicly and unconditionally, that a nuclear-armed Iran is unacceptabe to him. He has said that all options are on the table. If I were the Iranians, I would take him at his word. ... I know there are plenty of people out there who believe that Obama would rather let Iran become a nuclear power than launch a military strike at its nuclear sites. I don't agree.

Goldberg's fellow Atlantic blogger James Fallows disagreedas did Commentary's Jonathan Tobin.

Goldberg's right when he notes a nuclear Iran is not just an Israeli problem. The prospect of the ayatollahs extending a nuclear umbrella over their Hamas and Hezbollah terrorist allies is a danger to the entire region and the world. A nuclear Iran poses a challenge to U.S. influence that cannot be tolerated.

Obama knows this, but the notion his belief in a nuclear free world would motivate him to launch a military strike to take out the Iranian program contradicts everything we have learned about him in the past three years. Obama's commitment to appeasing Iran and desire to avoid another war in the region would seem to trump other factors.

See Goldberg's retort HERE.

Another point to consider is the failure of the US to secure another round of UN sanctions against Iran due to Russia's repeated commitment to vetoing such efforts. Tobin argues in another post that Russia's protection is creating a diplomatic umbrella over Iran, allowing the Iranians to believe that they can act with impunity.

The Putin regime's public rebuke of the report and U.S. efforts to use it to ramp up support for more sanctions has in effect pre-empted any diplomatic solution to the world's Iranian nuclear dilemma. Iran's truculent response to the IAEA report is more than just the usual bravado from the ayatollahs. Though the Obama administration has stated that it is determined to pursue tougher sanctions, the Iranians are laughing at this vow because they know that Russia's backing gives them blanket immunity from any UN resolution.

Finally, the consequences of the increasing boldness of the Islamic Republic are being felt beyond the Middle East. The same hubris that encourages the Ayatollahs to continue their nuclear program also allows them to ramp-up their repression of domestic opposition, despite occasional international condemnation.

As Matt Siegel has outlined in the International Herald Tribune, the attendant human rights abuses are creating the flood of Iranian asylum seekers currently appearing on Australian shores.

Australia's numbers reflect an international increase in Iranians seeking refugee status. This year, for the first time since 2006, they have ranked in the top five countries producing asylum globally, according to a recent report by the office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.

"As the asylum trends report notes, there has been a large increase in Iranian asylum-seekers looking for protection in industrialized countries around the world, and the increase in Iranian arrivals in Australia is broadly in line with this trend," the U.N. agency's Canberra spokesman, Ben Farrell, said in an e-mail.

Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz