President Ahmadinejad, elected in June, was addressing a conference in Teheran entitled "The World Without Zionism", attended by about 3,000 conservative students, who chanted: "Death to Israel!" and "Death to America!"
"The establishment of the Zionist regime was a move by the world oppressor against the Islamic world," he said. "As the Imam [the late Ayatollah Khomeini] said, 'Israel must be wiped off the map'… The Islamic world will not let its historic enemy live in its heartland."
And there we have it, ladies and gentlemen; the leopard has shown his spots, and the move towards another crisis has been made.
It has always been my contention, unlike some, that we could not continue without any action in the Middle East. Whilst condemning Bush for his interference in Iraq (and Afghanistan*, of course), people tend to assume that, had we done nothing, we could have carried on much as before. This is not the case.
The Middle East has not been standing still over the last 50 years; indeed, Araby used to be a liberal, fun-loving place. Anyone remember those old films from the 40s and 50s, with the scantily-clad, dusky maidens? Staple of the Carry-On movie they were, but this archetype could not have been created—and appreciated—had it never been a common sight. It was the discovery of oil, especially in Saudi Arabia, which enriched the Middle East—with little effot on their part—and allowed the spread of radical Wahabi Islam and its attendant miseries and threats.
Let's be absolutely clear on this; Islamism is a system of control. It is no coincidence that all of the Middle East is ruled by despots. Islam is the system that enables absolute rulers to control their populations. If all that you can concentrate on is the daily grind, with secret police listening to your conversations, when shall you organise a revolt? There are distinct parallels with Communism here: keep the people at subsistance level and they will not plan revolution, only the source of the next meal.
Islam, or any religion, adds an extra control; Christianity in the Middle Ages (a point of development that most people in the Middle East are essentially at) promised, as one of my history teachers used to put it, "jam tomorrow"; don't fret that your life on earth, in the here and now, is miserable, live a life that Islam would be proud of—bow down to God and bear your misfortunes with fortitude—and you shall have your reward, your jam, in heaven. At some later date, you will be happy; but for now, the misery is the will of your God, not your rulers, so bear it without malice. All religions do this: they all offer "jam tomorrow", as long as you are a good boy. It is noticeable that, as religion has declined in the West, we have been more concerned with having our jam today, thank you very much, and far less concerned by the possible jam in a hypothetical, and far from proven, afterlife.
Anyway, I digress; let me get back to the main point, which is Ahmadinejad's threats. I have been writing for some time about my admiration for those running Iran's foreign policy: I think that they have, as far as their own security is concerned, played a blinder.
Given this, I find it hard to believe that theyshould drop the ball at this stage. In all of my suppositions, I have stuck to the theme of theIranian regime preventing, at all costs, the invasion of their country by the Coalition Against Terror (CAT for short!). They have supplied weaponry and know-how to the Iraqi insurgancy; they allowed Britain, France and Germany to believe that they had been successful in halting Iran's nuclear programme by diplomacy (thus handing the Europe ancien countries a stick with which to beat the US); and they have now, to the indignation and embarrassment of those same countries, restarted their nuclear programme. They have now been stalling for time, demanding that more countries become involved in the discussions before they will consider stopping the programme; NPT inspectors maintain that many questions remain unanswered about the programme.
If my surmises are correct, and they may well be the pie-in-the-sky that I disclaim them as, then there can be only one meaning to this ostensibly unguarded comment. That Iran feels that it is now unassailable; but they have ensured that state over the last couple of years by tying the CAT down, both logistically and politically, in Iraq. So what has now changed?
There can be only one thing; that Iran's nuclear weapons programme is far more advanced than we first thought. I expect an announcement any day...
*No one seems to mention Afghanistan any more: I wonder why?