Khamenei's Sacred Word: Destroy Israel: Undeterred, Iran's Supreme Leader Will Build a Bomb. Israeli Leaders Know What's at Stake, Why Doesn't the U.S.?

Article excerpt

There's nothing wrong with negotiating with your enemies. There is something wrong if you don't know that those sitting across the table from you are your enemies. Too many Americans, Europeans and even Israelis still don't grasp that Iran's rulers--not average Iranians, but those who wield power--believe it is their sacred obligation to destroy us. This is not some misunderstanding that can be resolved through outreach, diplomacy, engagement and "confidence-building measures." It is at the core of their ideology and theology. We know this because they tell us, clearly and repeatedly. More Americans should understand this--and keep it in mind as the debate goes forward.

Recently, representatives of the United States, the four other permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany--collectively known as the P5+1--have been negotiating with representatives of Iran's government. These talks show the world--and the Muslim world in particular--that the West sees the Tehran regime as a force to be reckoned with. Since Iran's rulers aspire to lead the Muslim world, such attention provides them with a clear diplomatic benefit. Also, as long as the talks continue, Iran gains time. Israel is unlikely to use military force to degrade Iran's nuclear weapons facilities until and unless the talks break down--or so most experts believe.

The sanctions imposed by the United States and Europe have done substantial damage to Iran's economy. To end them, would Iran's rulers verifiably halt their nuclear weapons program? "This revolution was not about the price of watermelons," Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, founder of the Islamic Republic, famously responded to an aide concerned about the deterioration of the country's economy following the fall of the shah. Khomeini believed--as do his successors--that the Iranian people should be willing to suffer in order to achieve their sacred mission.

When it comes to defining that mission, Khomeini's successors leave no room for ambiguity. Addressing a gathering in Tehran in May, Major General Hassan Firouzabadi, chief of staff of the Iranian armed forces, pledged the "full annihilation of the Zionist regime of Israel to the end."

A few days before that, Jose Maria Aznar, former prime minister of Spain, speaking at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, recalled a "private discussion" in October 2000 with Iran's current supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who told him: "Israel must be burned to the ground and made to disappear from the face of the Earth."

Dore Gold, the former Israeli ambassador to the United Nations who now heads the JCPA, wanted to be certain there was no misunderstanding He asked Aznar: Was Khamenei suggesting "a gradual historical process involving the collapse of the Zionist state, or rather its physical-military termination?"

"He meant physical termination through military force," Aznar replied without hesitation. Khamenei called Israel "an historical cancer"--an echo of Nazi rhetoric he has used on numerous occasions, the last time in public on February 3. …