By calling for Israel’s destruction, Iran’s President has set off a diplomatic firestorm. Except for Arab government that have chosen to remain silent, Ahmadinejad’s comments have been universally condemned. Two of the condemnations — by the chief Palestinian negotiator and the Russian Foreign Minister — are particularly significant; the former because it means that the Palestinian Authority does not view Iran as an ally, and the later because it suggests that the Russians may no longer attempt to block the reporting of Iran to the UN Security Council.
This post extracts the comments of government officials from articles in the New York Times, the Washington Post, The Times, The Telegraph, The Guardian, and the BBC. Reading them will leave little doubt that Iran has seriously blundered. Those who would appease Iran will now find it to be more difficult to justify their position. As French President Chirac said, Iran now risks being made a pariah.
As reported by the New York Times:
- In Washington, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said that the remarks reconfirmed “what we have been saying about this particular regime in Iran,” and added that it “only serves to underscore our concern, as well as the international community’s concern, about Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons.”
- A spokesman for Israel’s Foreign Ministry said “Unfortunately, this is not the first time we’ve seen such extreme statements from senior Iranian leaders,” adding, “We see today that there is a growing understanding in the international community that the extremist regime in Tehran is not just Israel’s problem, but rather an issue that the entire international community must grapple with.”
As reported by the Washington Post:
- French President Chirac called the remarks “completely irresponsible” and U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan expressed “dismay” at them, in a rare rebuke of a UN member state.
- Newspapers across the Middle East reported Ahmadinejad’s speech without comment, many of them on their front pages.
- “We have recognized the state of Israel and we are pursuing a peace process with Israel, and … we do not accept the statements of the president of Iran,” Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said. “This is unacceptable.”
- Egyptian Foreign Ministry and Cabinet officials said Cairo would have nothing to say on the address. However, Mohammed Wahby, a former diplomat and member of the Egyptian Council on Foreign Affairs, said it was a mistake to remain quiet about the speech, which he said undermined Mideast peace prospects.
- Jordanian Deputy Prime Minister Marwan Muasher also declined comment, apparently to avoid further aggravating relations with Iran, which the kingdom has accused of interfering in Iraq to strengthen the Shiite influence in the Middle East.
As reported by The Times:
- Blair gave warning last night that the West might have to take military action against Iran:
If they carry on like this the question people will be asking us is — when are you going to do something about Iran? Can you imagine a State like that with an attitude like that having nuclear weapons?
- He said that there were people in Iran’s leadership who believed that the world was sufficiently distracted that it could not afford to focus on the nuclear arms issue.
They will be making a very big mistake if they do that. Those sentiments are completely unacceptable. I have never come across a situation in which the president of a country has said they want to wipe out another country. That is unacceptable.
Their attitude towards Israel, terrorism and nuclear weapons is not acceptable. If they continue down this path people are going to believe that they are a real threat to world security and stability. I feel a real sense of revulsion. It shows how much some of these places need to reform themselves. How can we build a more secure world with that type of attitude? It is a disgrace.
- Prime Minister Sharon demanded Iran’s expulsion from the UN, saying that “A country that calls for the destruction of another people cannot be a member.”
- In a joint statement, the European Union said that “Calls for violence and for the destruction of any state are manifestly inconsistent with any claim to be a mature and responsible member of the international community.” The EU leaders said that Ahmadinejad’s comments would cause concern about Iran’s role in the region and its future intentions.
As reported by The Telegraph:
- Blair said the western allies would meet in the next few days to decide how to react.
- The Russian Foreign Minister said that “I have to admit that those who insist on transferring the Iranian nuclear dossier to the United Nations Security Council have received an additional argument to do so.”
As reported by The Guardian:
- Several countries including Britain, France, Russia, Spain, Germany and the Netherlands, called in Iranian diplomats to chastise them.
- France Chirac said “I was profoundly shocked by the declaration of the Iranian president,” and that by his “irresponsible remarks” he risked his country being made a pariah.
As reported by the BBC:
- A British diplomat said “”It’s a crass thing for any head of state to say about another country.” Talking about British understatement!
- Other diplomats noted its spectacularly bad timing, coming, as it did, within hours of a suicide bombing by Palestinian militants against Israeli civilians.
- At the end of an informal EU summit, Tony Blair rhetorically asked “Can you imagine a state like that with an attitude like that having a nuclear weapon?”
- Russia summoned Iran’s ambassador to Moscow for a reprimand.