Threatening Ahmadinejad

An Israeli government minister, former Mossad agent Rafi Eitan (yes, the one involved many years ago in the Pollard affair), has made a subtle threat toward Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad:

It could very well be that a leader such as Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad suddenly finds himself before the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

The Iranians, always sensitive to such language, have reacted– somewhat comically–by complaining to the UN:

A letter from Iran’s UN Ambassador Mohammad Khazaee to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon described comments by two Israeli ministers as “vicious threats … in blatant violation of the most fundamental principles of international law.”

…Khazaee said remarks attributed to Pensioners Affairs Minister Rafi Eitan by German magazine Der Spiegel this week “yet again put on display the aggressive and terrorist nature of the Israeli regime.”

This exchange can be dismissed as yet another example that states do not always behave like grownups (a worrying phenomenon when nuclear weapons are involved). But there’s a serious dimension to Eitan’s provocation. A year ago or so, I remember hearing similar comment from an American friend– in fact, an even more blatant comment–when Ahmadinejad was in New York. “If indeed we believe Ahmadinejad is today’s equivalent of Hitler, why don’t we just go there and shoot him. Kill him. Is this not what we would’ve expected from moral people to do had they had the opportunity to kill Hitler before World War Two?”

The people gathered around this friend–it was a provocation made in a public place–mostly giggled with some embarrassment, trying to figure out if he was serious. Was he toying with them? Had he completely lost his mind?

I was reminded of this incident, because I think it is not Iran that should be protesting Eitan’s comment. The comment I heard from that friend–like Eitan’s (unless he was unintentionally exposing an operational plan)–is much more offensive to the western world than it is to Iran. It exposes our hypocrisy: Either we think Ahmadinejad is really dangerous to the world and diplomatic niceties should be shelved in favor of the measures proposed by Eitan. Or we don’t, and just pretend that we do.