IRAN’S PRESIDENT IS A MENACE. In October, he said Israel should be “wiped off the map.” Last week he called the Holocaust a “myth.” A nation led by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad needs to be kept as far from nuclear weapons as possible.
“They have created a myth that Jews were massacred and place this above God, religions and the prophets,” Ahmadinejad said in a speech in the Iranian city of Zahedan that was carried live on state television. Denunciations from the U.S. and numerous other Western nations quickly followed. But Muslim nations need to join the chorus.
News media in many Arab nations reported Ahmadinejad’s statement, but without the condemnation it demands. Muslims may object to Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and its treatment of Palestinians, but the Arab world knows that 6 million Jews were killed during World War II. And they know Israel is here to stay.
Ahmadinejad’s anti-Semitism is isolating Iran. The former Tehran mayor was elected president in June with the strong support of religious fundamentalists, who have steered the country down the wrong path since the 1979 revolution that ousted the shah.
The Iranian leader has stacked his Cabinet with hard-liners but has met some resistance even from conservatives in parliament, who rejected his first three nominees for oil minister.
Last week, Human Rights Watch called for an investigation of Intelligence Minister Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejei for possible involvement in the killing of a dissident. The group also said the new interior minister, Mostafa Pourmohammadi, was implicated in human rights violations. Pourmohammadi was a top Intelligence Ministry official from 1987 to 1999 while ministry agents “systematically engaged in extrajudicial killings of opposition figures, political activists and intellectuals,” according to a Human Rights Watch report.
Ahmadinejad’s predecessor struggled with little success to counter the influence of deeply conservative clerics who control the country’s political life. The current Cabinet should raise fears even among nations traditionally opposed to U.N. Security Council sanctions, such as Russia and China, that Tehran will convert nuclear power plants to weapons production. Iran has already started to refine uranium; the next step would be enriching uranium so it could be used for either energy or weapons. If Iran gets nuclear arms, it would threaten not just Israel but the stability of the region, possibly prompting other countries, such as Saudi Arabia, to match Iran’s arsenal.
Britain, France and Germany have taken the lead in trying to persuade Tehran to scrap its nuclear ambitions, and more talks are scheduled this week in Vienna. Ahmadinejad’s denial of the Holocaust and call for destruction of Israel should sound alarms far beyond the Middle East and Europe; the U.N. needs to be ready with sanctions if Tehran refuses to yield on atomic weapons and open all its nuclear facilities to international inspections.