Iran's Nuclear Holocaust Threat Should Be Taken Seriously

Article excerpt

Frankly, I'm surprised that my colleague Dr Shamil Jeppie cannot comprehend a simple text. This is surely not asking too much from an historian with a decent reputation.

In his response to my article, "All this talk of a US attack on Iran carries a distinct sense of deja vu" (February 19), Jeppie refers to me as "our local neo-con voice" and a "war-monger" ("We should recall Middle East history as war clouds gather over Iran", February 28).

My article neither endorsed military action nor argued against it. I simply contended that such action is highly likely given US President George Bush's record and given Israeli views of the Tehran regime.

I also noted that one of the initial gains of the overthrow of Saddam Hussein was the "introduction of popular sovereignty". I did not claim such sovereignty was meaningful in conditions of violence. But the UN did assist in the elections and the "neocons" (and many others) considered this a positive development at the time.

Jeppie refers to Bernard Lewis as a "self-important Orientalist". That's fine; he is entitled to his opinion. The academy includes many who think differently. But that is by the way. Lewis's recent speech (not a Wall Street Journal article) was taken seriously in Israel, rightly or wrongly. And Lewis is not the only scholar to recognise apocalyptic strains within radical Shi'ism.

Nevertheless, Jeppie appears to discount all such views. Israelis, it seems to me, do not. Only recently, Benny Morris, a scholar Jeppie likes to quote when it suits him, predicted a second Holocaust, orchestrated by "the mullahs of Qom" ("This Holocaust will be different", Jerusalem Post, January 18).

Jeppie accuses me of selectivity. I find it strange that he ignored my obser-vation that "the 'neocon' dream is in tatters", "Baghdad is a war zone" and the Arab world - much to the chagrin of the Bush administration - is "not on the road to democracy". Some "neocon"! Jeppie should not confuse analysis with endorsement.

This is not to suggest I agree with his assessment of the Iranian regime. The complex divisions he identifies in that country's polity - and I am sure he is correct - could just as well have been said about Germany in the 1930s: there were those who believed the German Social Democrats and the Communists would be a counterweight to the Nazis, that Hitler was merely employing Jew-hatred to mobilise support and that he would moderate his position once in power. …