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A demagogue in Iran - -

By Editorial

A Demagogue in Iran

Published: October 29, 2005

"As the imam said, Israel must be wiped off the map." Thus spake Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, president of Iran, to 4,000 students gathered for a conference on "The World Without Zionism." The imam he was citing, of course, was the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Then Mr. Ahmadinejad added his own words: "Anybody who recognizes Israel will burn in the fire of the Islamic nation's fury."

Such vicious blather against Israel is still prevalent, alas, across much of the Islamic world. But for some time now, it has been largely restricted to Islamic radicals and terrorists. Most Muslim leaders, even those openly hostile to Israel, have come to understand that openly calling for the obliteration of a nation is unacceptable in international discourse, not to mention dangerous, stupid and despicable. But not Mr. Ahmadinejad, the handpicked president of Iran's ruling clerics. At the United Nations last month, he spouted much the same kind of bile, establishing himself firmly as a demagogue.

The trouble is that Iran has a nuclear weapons program that the combined efforts of the United States, Britain, France, Germany and the International Atomic Energy Agency have failed to halt. Mr. Ahmadinejad, moreover, has every reason to think that everything's going his way. Iran is riding high on soaring oil prices, the United States has neutered Iran's greatest enemy, Iraq, and both Russia and China are prepared to block any serious move toward sanctions in the U.N. Security Council. So why not indulge in some real vitriol?

Perhaps no one can now pretend that Iran has no hostile motives for its nuclear program. Britain, France and Germany were right to call their ambassadors back from Tehran (Washington doesn't have one there). Tough diplomacy must continue to curb Iran's nuclear aspirations, but there must be no illusions about the ideologue presiding in Iran.

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