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The art of self-destruction
Ahmadinejad call for the destruction of Israel comes at a time when the Islamic Republic is trying to convince the world that it's nuclear programme is peaceful


Meir Javedanfar
October 28, 2005

Iran’s nuclear negotiators and foreign emissaries must be shaking their heads in total disbelief. The statement made by President Ahmadinejad on 26th of October calling for Israel to be “wiped off the map” could not have come at a more inappropriate time for them.

Iran’s previous efforts to produce a more moderate picture of Iran’s new President are in line with Iran’s understanding that in the post September 11 global arena, having an extremist image can be a severe handicap. This is especially true when it comes to Iran’s nuclear negotiations with the EU as it is key for Iran to try and convince the EU that it is going to use nuclear energy for civilian purposes only. Therefore any statements or actions which may show that Iran has overtly hostile intentions were to be avoided as they provided an excuse for those opposing Iran’s nuclear programme due to the fact that it can’t be trusted.

This is precisely why Ayatollah Khatami (also known in Tehran as Ayatollah Gorbachev for his reformist tendencies) charmed the birds out of the trees with his approachable manner and his incessant conversation about philosophy and dialogue of civilisations. After meeting with Khatami many came away with the opinion that Iran’s label as country run by fundamentalists is not entirely fair or true as by looking at Khatami one can see that there are fair minded, rational well meaning and well spoken individuals in the hierarchy. Such comments and opinions provided Iran with political capital in the international arena which Iran used to enhance its position during negotiations over its nuclear programme.

Ahmadinejad’s open call for Israel’s destruction on October 26th 2005 put Iran’s image building exercise back by years. Meanwhile plans by Iranian government strategists in Tehran and Iranian ambassadors abroad to build international consensus and alliances for Iran’s nuclear case have also been dealt a major set back. The question which Iranian strategists and ambassadors will want to ask Ahmadinejad is this: As of today Mr President, who will accept Iran’s stated peaceful nuclear intentions when you have just reiterated calls for the mass genocide against an entire country?  

The other factor which baffles the mind is the timing of the statement. With Syria’s daily punishment in the foreign press and calls for sanctions against it, Iran is not exactly spoilt for friends and allies right now. Therefore why make such an overtly hostile statement now when Iran’s line of diplomatic defence is being abandoned by one of its most important partners?

A close analysis of Ahmadinejad’s background and personality reveal that he prides himself on being an ideologue who is modest yet not afraid to speak his mind when he sees fit. A famous incident in Iran is when he was asked about the status of political prisoners by a reporter, a question which agitated him greatly. He responded by saying which political prisoners? In Iran we don’t have political prisoners, surely you must be referring to the political prisoners being held in U.S. jails.

Equally Ahmadinejad must be feeling enraged by what is happening around Iran. Tehran’s biggest ally Syria is fast becoming an even more cornered pariah state.

Meanwhile Israel’s “trick” (as he termed the disengagement plan) of pulling out of Gaza seems to be working. All around Iran country after country is starting to recognise Israel, be it politically (UAE and to lesser extent Pakistan) and economically (Kuwait and quite possibly Bahrain). Meanwhile Israel seems to be confident enough to assassinate the military leader of Islamic Jihad Luay Sa'adi with little or no condemnation from the world.

Chinese military strategist SunTzu in his book Art of War says “In making tactical dispositions, the highest pitch you can attain is to conceal them”. With his statement President Ahmadinejad did the opposite. His revelations about the need to eliminate Israel is a tactical mistake which will cost Iran dearly at the next round of nuclear negotiations with the EU. Worst still, depending on what Iran does in terms of damage limitations, it may already be too late. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad could go down in Iranian history as the man who sacrificed Iran’s chances of getting international consensus for its nuclear program.

Meanwhile what is already certain is that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is the man who hijacked Iranian people’s peaceful and civilised image in the world by his bloodthirsty statement. Iranian communities must ensure that this image is changed. I am not so worried about Israel because Mr Ahmadinejad will have a hard time pushing Israel around, however the damage caused against the image of Iranians is a matter in need of concern and speedy assistance.

Meir Javedanfar is a Middle East Analyst and the Director or the Middle East Economic and Political Analysis Company -- which is based in Israel. He has been quoted and interviewed by the BBC, Radio Holland International, Haaretz Newspaper, Boston Globe, TV Catalunya, Radio Espectador, Radio KNX1070 and other newspapers and Radio stations. To contact Meir send an email to

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