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Setting the record straight after Ahmadinejad's U.N. speech

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad addressed the U.N. General Assembly on Wednesday.

The infuriating spectacle of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad addressing the United Nations rematerialized this week – on Yom Kippur of all days. As ever, he pontificated with hatred and spectacular lies.

In response, every year, Iranian exiles, human-rights activists, Jewish communal leaders, and other concerned groups from throughout the world come together to set the record straight in forums such as this and through peaceful protests in the streets of New York City adjacent to the United Nations and capitals throughout the free world.

In the midst of a hotly contested presidential campaign and a still weak economy, it is understandable that despite our fervent protests, most Americans are too busy going to work, shuttling the kids to soccer practice, or caring for aging parents to follow the latest inane pronouncement of Ahmadinejad or the alarming International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report with the laser attention that we advocates would like to see. 

Still, given the magnitude of the danger that Ahmadinejad’s regime presents to not just the United States or to Israel, but to the entire world, it is worth recalling, for at least this week, the dreadful record that Ahmadinejad has amassed since Iran’s president last held court at the United Nations one year ago.

He has: 1) moved Iran closer to illicitly developing the ultimate weapon of mass destruction; 2) continued shameful persecution of Iran’s political dissidents, as well as religious and ethnic minorities; 3) enabled the slaughter of thousands of innocent civilians in Syria; and 4) continued the Islamic Republic’s ongoing genocidal threats and terrorist provocations against Israel.

Little doubt about nuclear-weapon pursuit

There is little doubt that Iran is illicitly pursuing a nuclear weapon. For example, on Sept. 13 the IAEA overwhelmingly passed a resolution that articulated “serious concerns” about Iran’s nuclear program and rebuked Iran for defying U.N. Security Council resolutions to suspend uranium enrichment. The IAEA also called on Iran to allow its inspectors access to evidence that it is pursuing weapons technology. In addition, senior American diplomats have recently accused Iran of “systematically demolishing” a nuclear facility to “remove evidence of its past activities.”

While the horrific images of the martyred Neda Agha-Soltan and the 70 plus other peaceful civilian protestors murdered by the Ahmadinejad regime or the 115 prisoners executed by Iran in the immediate wake of the stolen 2009 presidential elections sadly continue to recede from our collective memory, the persecution of Iran’s brave dissidents and religious and ethnic minorities continues unabated. To wit, in its 2012 World Report, Human Rights Watch reported that in 2011 the Iranian government “continued targeting civil society activists, especially lawyers, rights activists, students, and journalists.” 

Moreover, Freedom House observed that “a newly published United Nations report has highlighted the extent to which the regime’s policies have also degraded the country’s already poor human rights conditions during Ahmadinejad’s tenure. Presented to the UN Human Rights Council earlier this week, the document amounts to a damning indictment of the Iranian regime.”

Perhaps most shocking: Iran's role in Syria

Perhaps the most shocking development since last year has been the prominent role that Iran and Ahmadinejad have played in the slaughter of innocent civilians in Syria. Just a few days ago, Reuters revealed that, according to a Western intelligence report, “Iran has been using civilian aircraft to fly military personnel and large quantities of weapons across Iraqi airspace to Syria to aid President Bashar al-Assad in his attempt to crush an 18-month uprising against his government ...”  It is estimated that since March 2011 more than 26,000 people have died in the Syrian conflict.

While Ahmadinejad’s hateful rants against Israel and the Jewish people over the years have been well documented, it is worth noting the most recent threats launched by Iran’s president against Israel. For example, just in August 2012, Ahmadinejad was quoted as saying, “You want a new Middle East? We do too, but in the new Middle East ... there will be no trace of the American presence and the Zionists.” Additionally, a few weeks earlier, Ahmadinejad claimed that “Anyone who loves freedom and justice must strive for annihilation of the Zionist regime in order to pave the way for world justice and freedom.”

Bipartisan consensus in U.S.

Fortunately, despite these many provocations from Ahmadinejad, there has been a strong bipartisan consensus in Washington, D.C., and here in Minnesota that patience with the Iranian regime is coming to an end. Monday’s official White House response that “President Ahmadinejad's comments are characteristically disgusting, offensive and outrageous [and] they underscore again why America’s commitment to the security of Israel must be unshakeable and why the world must hold Iran accountable for its utter failure to meet its obligations” were particularly heartening. 

So too, was the overwhelming recent approval by Congress of the Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act of 2012, which among other things deemed Iran’s national oil company to be an agent of the regime’s most ruthless military branch. 

At home and abroad, the Iranian regime presents a clear and present danger to its citizens and the world alike.

Steve Hunegs is the executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas. Pirouz Irani is a member of Minnesota Iranian-Americans for Democracy in Iran; "Pirouz Irani" is a pseudonym which the author is compelled to use to protect family members who still reside in Iran.

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Comments (5)

A few questions here

1. Which country called Iran, along with Iraq and North Korea, part of "the axis of evil"?

2. What happened to Iraq, and which country led the offensive?

3. Which country has military operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Persian Gulf, and the Central Asian "Stans," effectively surrounding Iran with hostile forces on all sides ?

4. What country thus surrounded would NOT try to develop nuclear weapons?

Is the U.S., already overextended and deeply in debt, supposed to embark on yet another Middle Eastern war? (It's telling that some of the most fanatical deficit hawks, the ones who want to cut Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and every other program that helps instead of kills people, are rarin' to attack Iran.)

It is not the U.S.'s job to fight Israel's battle for it. It is reprehensible for Netanyahu to play "let's you and him fight" with the U.S. and Iran. If Netanyahu is so intellectually and morally bankrupt that he can't think of any way to unite his multicultural and not always internally cohesive nation than to start a war, then I hope the Israelis can come to their senses and dump him before he does any more damage.

I am no fan of the Iranian government. It is harsh and repressive and run by religious fanatics, but sadly, its level of repression is not unusual in the world, and it is not uniquely evil. It's not a place that needs to be "cleaned up." It is not attacking anyone, and it's only a matter of time before the more liberal younger generation takes over.

Iran is the heir to a 4000-year-old civilization, largely made up of related ethnic groups, not an artificial creation like Iraq. Its youth resent the mullahs and their Puritanical laws, but a U.S. attack would turn them into instant patriots. Iran, unlike Iraq, could actually fight back.

If Netanyahu's determination to attack Iran prevails in the Israeli government, then I would be utterly opposed to any U.S. assistance. I support Israel's right to exist, but not its apparent determination to commit suicide. I might be supportive of my friend, but if he's about to jump off a cliff, I will try to dissuade him, not jump off with him.

The war drums roll

Iran is blocking inspection of its Parchin site which suggests the kind of explosives research needed for an implosion type nuclear weapon. As with the other nine countries who have some kind of nuclear weapon, it is unlikely that Iran would ever use one. No one has since Nagasaki because of mutually assured destruction(MAD). One US Ohio class sub with Trident missiles could reduce Iran to the Stone Age. Not to mention Israel which bristles with nuclear weapons.
Let's not send LSTs ashore in Iran until we have paid for Iraq and Afghanistan.

What exactly is it

that you would have the U.S., indeed the world, do?

That's not a rhetorical question, by the way. Do you advocate war? Further sanctions? Embargo?

What, also, would you ask of Israel? Of other Middle Eastern nations?

Perhaps you can start by detailing exactly what you believe to be "the magnitude of the danger that Ahmadinejad’s regime presents[.]"

What the writer wants

is to have Uncle Sam attack Iran while Netanyahu holds his coat.

Big Brother

I'm afraid that we should be worried about the US's use as Big Brother to Israel. While I respect the reason the modern Israeli state was made, and that it is a holy land for the Jews, I also realize that the lands of Israel are holy to many different religions. By creating and protecting Israel as we have, the results have been a Little Brother acting with impunity because Big Brother has the bombs. That's not how it was supposed to work. At some level, it's time to ignore Iran's saber rattling as it's drown out by Israel's saber rattling. That little strip of land that has become the symbol of a wall between Israel and the rest of the Muslim Middle East has been nothing but an excuse to violence at a level that rivals that which created modern Israel in the first place. It has been hard to distinguish Netanyahu and Ahmadinejad in their words and actions. Each needs to be the better man and the better leader in their own country. Neither is viewed as anything more than bantams of questionable scruples by their allies, I'm sure. But if either flexes their muscles too much, Big Brother's going to have to a significant amount of protecting and that's the last thing the world, let alone the US needs right now.