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Arab world's silence is deafening

A Times Editorial
Published October 29, 2005

Since coming to office in July, Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who campaigned on a platform of addressing the country's intractable corruption and unemployment, has been trying to change the subject. He did so in dramatic fashion at an anti-Zionism conference where Ahmadinejad declared that Israel should be "wiped off the map."

His vile words provoked widespread condemnation from Western governments but silence from the Arab world. And in Iran, hundreds of thousands of Iranians, including Ahmadinejad, took to the streets on Friday to support his genocidal call. It is another reminder of the danger a nuclear-armed Iran would pose to world security.

Ahmadinejad's hateful rhetoric harkens back to the days of the revolution when Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini isolated Iran and set it on a backward course. Since then, Iran's leaders have been more circumspect, working to inch the nation back toward legitimacy and into more productive associations with the West. But the moderation of its former president Mohammed Khatemi has been brushed aside by this new aggressive regime that came to power with the strong backing of the country's powerful hardline clerics.

In a speech before the U.N. General Assembly, Ahmadinejad unraveled two years of negotiations between his nation and the British, French and German governments over Iran's nuclear program. The European nations have maintained that diplomacy could forestall Iran's nuclear intentions and have urged the United States to go along. But Ahmadinejad told the United Nations flatly that his nation intended to engage in uranium enrichment in violation of the nuclear Non-Prolification Treaty. The United States has been pressing to refer Iran's nuclear program to the Security Council for sanctions but hasn't had enough support. Maybe Ahmadinejad's most recent performance will move things along.

Iran's call for destruction of the Jewish state should remind the world and Europe in particular of the forces of hate amassed against the tiny democracy. Israel recently unilaterally withdrew from Gaza, challenging its own extremists in the process. Yet the silence throughout the Arab world to Ahmadinejad's despicable words suggests that no matter what concessions Israel makes, its enemies in the Middle East will settle for nothing less than its annihilation.

One notable exception was a Palestinian official who declared that the Palestinians had recognized Israel's right to exist and rejected the Iranian leader's remarks. It was a courageous and promising gesture.

Iran is a now a dangerous nation with a radical leader. Its ambitions to obtain nuclear weapons will have to be addressed by a united world.

[Last modified October 29, 2005, 01:44:11]

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