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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