The American Interest

Trouble With Iran

Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declared on October 26 that “Israel must be wiped off the map.”  Invoking the words of Ayatollah Khomeini, he told an audience of 4,000 cheering students that a new conflict in Palestine would soon remove “this disgraceful blot from the face of the Islamic world.”

The statement, made in the midst of an ongoing controversy concerning Iran’s nuclear program, caused an international outcry.  Iranian diplomats in Europe and at the United Nations tried to limit the damage by presenting Ahmadinejad’s words as ritualized rhetoric.  Within days, however, his government announced the recall of 40 senior ambassadors and heads of diplomatic missions, including Iran’s envoys to London, Berlin, and Paris, who had been involved in months of delicate negotiations with the European Union on the nuclear issue.

Ahmadinejad’s toughness parallels a growing determination in Washington to deal firmly with Iran, and to do so regardless of the ongoing imbroglio in Iraq.  President George W. Bush has said repeatedly that he retains “all options” in preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, including military force.  That is what some strategists in Washington had wanted all along.  Their goals were apparent in Mr. Bush’s inclusion of Iran in his “Axis of Evil” address in February 2002: to effect...

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