Since his election to the Iranian presidency two weeks ago, ultra Islamist Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has done everything to make a strong first impression on the rest of the world.
On the nuclear issue, Ahmadinejad is planning to take a "new approach" towards Iran's ongoing negotiations with Britain, France and Germany on Iran's nuclear program. This new approach does not involve an Iranian pledge to end its uranium enrichment activities. On the contrary, it involves demanding that Europe butt out of Iran's nuclear weapons program. As Ahmadinejad said last Sunday at his first post-election press conference, "The EU should not talk to us from a proud distance and should come down from the ivory tower. The Iranian nation is a great, alert nation, and will protect its [nuclear] right seriously."
As to Iranian state support for terrorism, just a few days after his election, five former American hostages identified Ahmadinejad as one of their captors when Iranian students took over the US Embassy in Teheran in 1979 and held them captive for 444 days. Then, too, there is the Austrian intelligence allegation that Ahmadinejad was a commander in the Iranian Revolutionary Guards who organized and oversaw the execution of three Kurdish-Iranian dissident leaders in Vienna in 1989.
Speaking to The New York Sun, Iranian dissident Ahmad Batebi said last week that Ahmadinejad founded the Revolutionary Guard's Jerusalem Brigade. The unit is responsible for engineering Iranian support for Palestinian terrorism. Sponsorship of Hizbullah is also the direct responsibility of the Revolutionary Guards. Then, too, the Jerusalem Brigade is responsible for liaison activities with al-Qaida. According to a 2003 Washington Post report, the unit's members have protected senior al-Qaida terrorists such as Saad bin Laden, Osama bin Laden's son, who have been living in Iran since the US invasion of Afghanistan in the wake of the September 11 attacks.
The question is, now that he is about to be sworn in as president, will Ahmadinejan abandon terrorism and become a responsible pragmatist who understands that he has to cooperate with the West?
Speaking of the role he envisions Iran playing under his leadership, Ahmadinejad said on Friday, "Thanks to the blood of the martyrs, a new Islamic revolution has arisen and the Islamic revolution… will, if God wills, cut off the roots of injustice in the world. The era of oppression, hegemonic regimes, tyranny and injustice has reached its end. The wave of the Islamic revolution will soon reach the entire world."
In short then, the answer is no. Ahmadinejad sees his role as promoting the same platform of global jihad he has been actively participating in since 1979.
IN A nutshell, Ahmadinejad is the personification of everything that the US and its erstwhile European allies claim that the war against global terrorism is seeking to defeat. He is a religious fanatic, a terror commander with global reach who seeks to destabilize the world and he is planning a no holds barred sprint to the finish line of Iran's race to acquire nuclear weapons which, he promises, will be used to protect the entire Islamic world.
This naturally raises the question, now that the mask of "reform" has been removed from the Iranian face, what will the US and Europe do? Will they accept that there is no diplomatic way of dealing with a regime that, in selecting Ahmadinejad as president has finally admitted that it remains fully committed to the destruction of Western civilization? Or will they try to ignore the obvious and tell themselves that a deal can still be reached if the payoff is high enough? The signs are mixed but discouraging.
On the one hand, the State Department was quick to state that its investigation showed that Ahmadinejad was not among the hostage takers in 1979-1980. US spokesmen have stated that in spite of the fact that the Iranian elections were a democratic farce, the US will still deal with Ahmadinejad as the legitimate president of Iran. As well, Patrick Laurent, the European commissioner responsible for Persian Gulf Affairs said that EU policy toward Iran, "will not suffer any changes with the election of Ahmadinejad."
So, from the side of the appeasers in Europe and the State Department, the election of a global terrorist who actively seeks nuclear weapons is no reason to change policies. They are just as willing to try to appease an unapologetic terrorist as they were a covert terrorist like outgoing president Muhammed Khatami who oversaw Iran's support for international terrorism and its nuclear armament program while passing himself off to the West as a moderate reformer.
On the other hand, there are voices being heard in Washington and Europe saying that it might be possible that diplomacy has run its course in Iran. Given that the remedy these foreign policy "hawks" seek is the transfer of the Iranian nuclear issue to the UN Security Council for discussion of possible sanctions, there really isn't that much difference between the two views. Engaging Iran directly will yield no change in behavior and engaging Iran at the Security Council will solve nothing because both China and Russia will veto any call for sanctions against Teheran.
THE FACT that the US and Europe have yet to make any strong statements condemning the terrorist about to take over the Iranian government should be a warning to Israelis. We are told by our leaders that if Hamas takes over the Palestinian Authority then the kid gloves will come off. Israel will finally have the international legitimacy to really take it to the Palestinians. But the Iranian situation seems to indicate that just the opposite is the case.
If the Iranians can elect a man like Ahmadinejad to their presidency and not suffer immediate international isolation, then it is simply not credible for anyone to believe that a Hamas takeover of Palestinian society will cause any reformulation of the European and US policy towards the Palestinians.
Like Ahmadinejad, Hamas has made it absolutely clear that it is serious in its plans to transform the Palestinian Authority into an Islamist state. As The Jerusalem Post reported on Monday, Hamas, which occupies all seats on Kalkilya's city council, has banned a summer festival from taking place because it involved men and women dancing together.
All projections indicate that in the wake of Israel's planned withdrawal from Gaza and northern Samaria next month, Hamas will take over Gaza. Europe's response to this state of affairs has been to make the dialogue it has been carrying out with Hamas for the past five years public. The US response to this has been vague and contradictory. On the one hand, the Bush administration says it continues to view Hamas as a terrorist organization. But on the other hand, it is taking no action against PA chief Mahmoud Abbas for bringing Hamas into his government and extending its leadership now residing in Damascus an invitation to move to Gaza.
While it is not surprising that the EU will do everything humanly possible to continue to appease terrorists even if it has no plausible way to deny that they are in fact terrorists, that the US reaction to both Iran's new president and Hamas's increased empowerment has been so muddled is a major disappointment. It demands a reformulation of Israel's policy towards both the Palestinians and the Iranians.
Unfortunately, given the government's single-minded obsession with expelling 10,000 Jews from their homes next month, it is hard to imagine that such a policy shift will be considered.
Originally published in The Jerusalem Post.