by Jonathan S. Tobin
Iran’s apologists and others seeking to head off the effort to stop Iran from attaining nuclear weapons have been doing their best to portray the Islamic Republic as a reasonable nation run by rational persons. The goal of these arguments is to assure the world that the ayatollahs and their minions can be trusted to keep their word if the West negotiates a deal that would allow the Iranians to keep a peaceful nuclear program. Others go so far as to assert that a nuclear Iran would not be a threat to the West or Israel because its leaders are neither suicidal nor really bent on Israel’s actual destruction. But the problem with the Iranians is that their ideology of hatred is so deeply embedded in their political culture that they can’t help but undermine the efforts of those seeking to polish their image even when the world is watching.
That’s what happened yesterday when the United Nations convened an international anti-drug conference in Tehran. At the event, Iran’s vice president greeted the delegates by telling them the key to understanding the plague of the illegal drug trade was, you guessed it, the Jews and Judaism. Vice President Mohammad-Reza Rahimi said the Talmud, a sacred text of Judaism, was responsible for the spread of drugs because it instructs its adherents to “destroy everyone who opposes the Jews.” As the New York Times reported from the conclave, European diplomats who came to make nice with the Iranians were “shocked.” But even this display was not enough to convince the West to connect the dots between this open display of hate and Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
Rahimi’s speech was actually par for the course when it comes to Iranian discourse about Jews and Israel. Tehran is now one of the world centers of anti-Semitic propaganda. It shouldn’t be surprising when the second in line to succeed the Holocaust-denying President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says things like this:
The “Zionists” are in firm control of the illegal drug trade, Mr. Rahimi said, asking foreign dignitaries to research his claims. “Zionists” is Iran’s ideological term for Jews who support the state of Israel.
“The Islamic Republic of Iran will pay for anybody who can research and find one single Zionist who is an addict,” Mr. Rahimi said. “They do not exist. This is the proof of their involvement in drugs trade.”
Mr. Rahimi … told stories of gynecologists’ killing black babies on the orders of the Zionists and claimed that the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917 was started by Jews, adding that mysteriously no Jews died in that uprising.
He also said the Talmud teaches Jews to think they are a superior race. “They think God has created the world so that all other nations can serve them,” he said. Halfway through his speech, Mr. Rahimi said there was a difference between Jews who “honestly follow the prophet Moses” and the Zionists who are “the main elements of the international drug trade.”
But the Western impulse willing to believe such statements are aberrations or irrelevant to policy is still stronger than common sense.
A European diplomat said afterward: “This was definitely one of the worst speeches I have heard in my life. My gut reaction was: why are we supporting any cooperation with these people?”
But the diplomat, who declined to be identified by name or country, defended his presence at the conference. “If we do not support the United Nations on helping Iran fight drugs, voices like the one of Mr. Rahimi will be the only ones out there,” he said.
At the conference, Antonio De Leo, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes representative in Iran, praised the Islamic Republic as a “key strategic partner in the fight against drugs.”
But though it is true the Iranians want to halt the flow of drugs across their border from Afghanistan, the persistence of belief in the idea that Tehran is a rational actor on the international stage is the real obstacle to stopping their nuclear ambitions. So long as Western nations are prepared to treat Iran’s government as a normal partner in trade and diplomacy, it will be impossible to muster support for a genuine effort to isolate them or to place sufficient pressure on Tehran to give up its nuclear dream.
Though Western sanctions on Iran will be increased at the end of the month, such displays as this week’s drug conference in Tehran have convinced the ayatollahs they can defy the West with impunity. Three rounds of failed sessions of the P5+1 talks after similar failures in the past have not been enough to persuade the Obama administration the “window for diplomacy” is already closed.
But even were a deal of some sort were concluded, there is no reason to believe that an Iranian government so besotted with delusional anti-Semitic conspiracy theories could be expected to observe a treaty or to stop its drive to create a weapon with which to threaten the existence of the “Zionists.”
Rahimi’s speech is yet another warning that any diplomat tasked with negotiating with the Islamist regime has been sent on a fool’s errand.Jonathan S. Tobin
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