By Kenneth R. Timmerman
Published November 4, 2005
Senior U.S. officials will tell Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice today it is not yet time to refer Iran's case to the U.N. Security Council for further action.
They will suggest the Iranian leadership has been taken aback by the strong international reaction to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's recent statements that Israel should be "wiped off the map" and is ready to compromise.
As a sign the leadership is moving in this direction, they will note former president Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani's "conciliatory" comments in Tehran last week. (Mr. Rafsanjani argued that instead of wiping Israel off the map directly, Iran should support the "right" of return of Palestinians to Israel and let them do the job by voting Israel out of existence -- a freedom neither he nor Iran's ruling clerics is willing to grant their fellow Iranians.) Given these signs of "moderation," the United States should allow the European Union "more time" to negotiate with Tehran, these officials will urge.
These arguments not only wrong; they are dangerous.
(1) Mr. Ahmadinejad's comments on Israel are the consensus view among Iran's leadership, not an extremist view.
The Revolutionary Guards Corps, from which Mr. Ahmadinejad emerged, regularly parades Shahab-3 missiles in Tehran with large banners that read, "Israel must be wiped off the map."
Photos of these displays have appeared repeatedly in the Iranian press and the international media. Until now, they have been virtually ignored.
Iran designed the Shahab-3 with Israel in mind. Iran did not need a 800-mile range missile to hit Iraq, where shorter-range Oghabs and SCUDs on hand in 1988 did the trick quite well. Nor does Iran have any reason to design a longer-range missile capable of hitting Turkey or the Central Asian Republics.
This regime has consistently put the destruction of Israel and its main ally, the United States, at the very center of its ideology and policies.
(2) Mr. Rafsanjani's "moderate" views are exaggerated. Iran analysts have consistently misrepresented Mr. Rafsanjani as a "moderate" and as "pro-Western," a man we can "deal with."
In fact, Mr. Rafsanjani restarted Iran's nuclear weapons program in 1986, by hosting a nuclear technology conference and personally inviting Iranian nuclear scientists in exile to return. He continues to be the program's staunchest supporter.
On Dec. 14, 2001, Mr. Rafsanjani gave the Jerusalem Day sermon at Tehran University, and openly boasted Iran could wipe Israel off the map with an atomic bomb. "The use of an atomic bomb against Israel would destroy Israel completely, while [the same] against the world of Islam [i.e., Iran] would [only] cause damage," he said.
March 6, Mr. Rafsanjani told a two-day international nuclear technology conference in Tehran that Iran would not give up its nuclear technology under any condition. "Definitely we can't stop our nuclear program and we won't stop it. You can't take technology away from a country already possessing it."
(3) The Iranian regime has used the negotiations to complete its nuclear facilities.
Just as Iran said it was preparing to remove International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) seals on its nuclear plants in August 2005, former Iranian negotiator Hosein Musavian revealed on Iranian TV the negotiations with Europe were a sham from the start, meant to "buy time" for Iran to complete its nuclear facilities: "Thanks to our dealings with Europe, even when we got a 50-day ultimatum, we managed to continue the work for two years. Today, we are in a position of power."
Allowing Iran to buy more time will only guarantee its additional progress toward nuclear weapons capabilities. The U.S. cannot risk allowing the world's most flagrant international terror sponsor to become a nuclear weapons-capable state.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice should instruct the U.S. ambassador to the IAEA, Greg Scholte, to strongly urge the IAEA Board of Governors on Nov. 24 to refer Iran's case to the U.N. Security Council, where further steps can be taken to compel compliance with its nonproliferation obligations.
Referring Iran to the U.N. Security Council is no guarantee but it is the necessary next step if the world community is to get serious about enforcing treaty obligations and stopping the spread of nuclear weapons to terrorist states.
Kenneth R. Timmerman is author of "Countdown to Crisis: the Coming Nuclear Showdown with Iran," Crown Forum.
Copyright 2005, Kenneth R. Timmerman