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What Iran Truly Fears

Yesterday, Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said that the “criminal regime” of Israel “would not dare attack Iran.” Why? “It knows that any attack on Iranian territories would prompt a fierce response.” Ahmadinejad also says he is not worried about the United States. Hostile talk, the fiery leader noted, is just campaign rhetoric “aimed at American domestic consumption as they need it in the upcoming presidential elections.”

Why are we hearing war talk from Tehran at this moment? After all, the United States is merely pursuing a peaceful course of action, pushing the Security Council to enact a third set of sanctions for Iran’s failure to stop the enrichment of uranium. Washington can count on Germany’s support, but it is meeting increasingly stiff resistance where it counts.

Russia, by giving the cold shoulder to Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni in Moscow yesterday, signaled that it will not vote in favor of a new round of coercive measures. For its part, China hosted Americans and Iranians in Beijing in the last few days and ended up siding with the latter. Yesterday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said, “We hope that the international community will intensify diplomatic efforts to break the deadlock for an early resumption of talks so that the issue will be solved in a comprehensive, lasting and proper manner.” Today, Saeed Jalili, Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, was more direct. “On the Iranian nuclear issue, China and Iran have a similar stance,” he crowed after meeting with his Chinese counterparts.

On Tuesday, the five veto-wielding members will meet in Berlin to discuss new sanctions, but there will be no satisfactory outcome, especially because Chinese and Russian diplomats are repeating their almost word-for-word calls for more useless talks. These cynical pleas for additional negotiations, which would give the mullahs more time to develop their weapons, show that the Iranians have now neutralized the United Nations. Even if the Security Council should come up with new sanctions in the months ahead, we can be sure that they will be totally ineffective.

So let’s start connecting the dots, if I may borrow a phrase from Gabriel Schoenfeld. The Iranians are not worried about Washington’s diplomatic initiatives. They must realize that the only thing that can stop their nuclear program at this moment is military action. That’s why Iranian fast boats challenged the U.S. Navy earlier this month in the Strait of Hormuz—to remind Washington and the international community of the price of war. And that’s why Ahmadinejad said that neither Israel nor the United States would attack. The Iranians, I believe, wish to prevent the one thing they cannot control and truly fear.


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