This week, I attended a conference in Rome, jointly sponsored by the International Council of Jewish Parliamentarians and the World Jewish Congress. The two-day event was the brainchild of the chairperson of the ICJP, Fiamma Nirenstein, a member of the Italian Parliament and the vice president of its foreign affairs committee.
The topics of discussion were Europe, Iran, and the Arab uprisings.
Jewish members of European parliaments — including Nirenstein herself — described the frightening rise of anti-Semitism in their respective countries, attributing it to the use of Israel as a scapegoat and a “cover,” or a marriage of the two. One thing that was agreed upon, even among panelists with differing political views, was that the delegitimizing of the Jewish state has become an acceptable form of discourse that once would have been frowned upon, if not completely taboo.
Regarding Iran, the prognosis was even bleaker. Author and Iran expert Michael Ledeen, from the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, expressed disgust at the fact that no American administration since that of Jimmy Carter — whose presidency saw the ouster of the Shah and the ushering in of the Islamic revolution more than 30 years ago — has done anything to assist the Iranian people to rid themselves of their jihadist regime. He pointed out that no more intelligence-gathering is needed, nor any bits of information lacking about Iran’s nuclear program and intentions. The only question that remains, Ledeen asserted, is what the West should do about it. Bombing the facilities, he argued, would be of no use without taking down President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the mullahs. As someone who is convinced there is still time to accomplish this, and that it wouldn’t take much effort, his frustration is that much greater.
Much of what he said was echoed by Saba Farzan, an expat Iranian now living in Germany and a senior fellow on women’s rights at the Institute for Middle Eastern Democracy. What Farzan did was give a glimpse into the psyche of her former countrymen. Iranians are willing to put up with a lot of suffering, she asserted, if the end result is regime change. She claimed that the sanctions have been hurting them, and that the tougher the sanctions the better.
She also clarified to me in private that a military strike would not cause the Iranian people to rally around the regime, as some experts have been arguing. On the contrary, she said, it is the regime they hate. Therefore, a military strike without regime change would not solve the problem.
Italian journalist and envoy to the Middle East for “Il Corriere della Sera” Lorenzo Cremonesi had a slightly different take on Iran. Cremonesi was on the panel I moderated on the Arab uprisings and the resurgence of radical Islam. As someone who was on the ground in Iran during the 2009 presidential election (that spurred the “Green Revolution”), he observed that more Iranians supported Ahmadinejad than we think. He attributed the misconception to the fact that the more educated among the populace — those who use the Internet and who predominantly reside in cities — made a lot of noise about the “stolen” votes. He believes it is feasible that Ahmadinejad actually was the victor.
It is not clear what conclusion one should reach if his assessment is correct. Undoubtedly, those who oppose “interference” in the affairs of other states would take this to mean that the Obama administration was right not to assist the demonstrations that ensued in Iran after the election.
My own feeling is the opposite. If the Iranian people back their regime to any extent, the West should impose sanctions, bomb facilities, and not worry about collateral damage at all. Enemies intent on killing me do not deserve my sympathy or consideration.
I highly doubt this is Cremonesi’s position. Nor would I wish to be responsible for or even witness the loss of innocent lives caught in the cross-fire. I opt, instead, to believe that most of the Iranian people are praying for any form of assistance from the West they can get to extricate themselves from their radical Islamist leaders — even if blood has to get spilled in the process.
The Iranian regime, as everyone at the conference concurred, is behind radical movements all over the world. It would not need to use its nukes, once it acquired them, to do great harm to the rest of us — even without keeping its promise to “wipe Israel off the map.”
Instead of devoting all energy to that issue, the United States and Europe are going to engage in yet another pathetic and pointless summit — this one in Baghdad on May 23 — to negotiate a non-existent deal with a representative of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. Meanwhile, as the mullahs and their mad scientists work tirelessly to perfect nuclear warheads, and as the rest of the Middle East is in the midst of internal Islamic takeovers, Time magazine has devoted this week’s cover story to Israel’s prime minister.
“King Bibi,” is the headline, referring to the only leader in the entire Middle East who is not at the helm by virtue of his lineage, religious decree, or through the slaughtering of his opponents (other than at the ballot box, that is).
The sub-headline reads: “He’s conquered Israel. But will Netanyahu now make peace — or war?”
It never ceases to boggle the mind that anyone exists on this planet who refuses to accept the fact that neither Netanyahu or any other Israeli prime minister has the ability to “make peace” with any entity that refuses to relinquish its aim at annihilating the Jewish state. Nor has Netanyahu or any other prime minister before him ever “made war.” War is and always has been waged against Israel.
Which brings us back to Iran. Had the Islamic republic not announced its intention to destroy Israel, Netanyahu would not be the world leader everyone was watching closely to see when and if he was going to do something about Iran’s nuclear program. Europe would not be busy drinking wine and talking about negotiations, while hurling epithets at Israel.
Nirenstein deserves credit for all her efforts to warn against a world in which Netanyahu is called a “conqueror” — for accepting the Kadima party into his coalition — while evildoers who are undermining the very fabric of Western civilization are viewed as freedom-seekers.
The time has come to face reality. The point of no return is fast approaching.
Ruthie Blum, a former senior editor at The Jerusalem Post, is the author of “Hell in a Handbasket: Carter, Obama, and the ‘Arab Spring,’” to be released by RVP Press in the summer.