Why Iran's Anti-Semitism Matters

(Atlantic) Jeffrey Goldberg - Iranian leaders, and in particular the supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, do not specialize in nuance. They are people theologically committed to the destruction of Israel. Quotes such as this one from Khamenei help lead me to this conclusion: "This barbaric, wolflike, and infanticidal regime of Israel which spares no crime has no cure but to be annihilated." If you're paying attention, you will see that bringing about the end of the sovereign Jewish state in the Middle East is a paramount political and theological mission of the Iranian regime. If, in the post-Holocaust world, a group of people express a desire to hurt Jews, it is, for safety's sake, best to believe them. Secretary of State John Kerry's understanding of the regime's anti-Semitism is somewhat different from mine. He told me Iran is dangerous to Israel "at this moment" but that the true intentions of Iran's leaders when it comes to Israel are unknowable and irrelevant. I was troubled by what I took to be his unwillingness, or inability, to grapple squarely with Iran's eliminationist desires. Last week I asked President Obama: Does the Iranian leadership seek the elimination of Israel? The president said: "I take what the supreme leader says seriously. I think his ideology is steeped with anti-Semitism, and if he could, without catastrophic costs, inflict great harm on Israel, I'm confident that he would. But as I said, I think, the last time we spoke, it is possible for leaders or regimes to be cruel, bigoted, twisted in their worldviews and still make rational calculations with respect to their limits and their self-preservation." I'm glad that Obama understands that the supreme leader seeks to do great harm to Israel. He told me last week: "The anxieties of the American Jewish community are entirely understandable. Those are amplified when there appears to be across-the-board opposition inside of Israel, not just within Likud, but among other parties. And some of that is emotional - in a legitimate way. You don't like dealing with somebody who denies horrible things happening to your people or threatens future horrible things to your people. Some of it is based on legitimate concerns about what an economically stronger Iran could do to further enhance their support of Hizbullah." The risks here are huge: The administration, and supporters of the deal, are mortgaging the future to a regime labeled by Kerry's State Department as the foremost state sponsor of terrorism in the world, and a regime that seeks the physical elimination of a fellow member-state of the UN and a close ally of the U.S. as well. Given that there is so much risk and uncertainty in what the U.S. is doing, it would be useful for the administration to make absolutely clear that it understands the nature of the regime with which it is dealing.

2015-08-12 00:00:00

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