Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Bully pulpits

Just when we thought the Iraq war had made the Middle East safe for democracy, Iran threatened to "eliminate" Israel today if it attacks Iranian nuclear facilities. "If Israel wants to take any action against the Islamic Republic, we will eliminate Israel from the scene of the universe, said Mohammad Reza Ashtiani, the deputy commander-in-chief of Iran's army, in comments quoted by the semi-official Mehr news agency. Ashtiani's remarks apparently were in reaction to a statement by Israeli Infrastructure Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, a former defense minister, during a week of civil defense exercises in Israel. Ben-Eliezer said any attack from Iran "would result in the a harsh Israeli reaction that would cause the destruction of the Iranian nation." But Ben-Eliezer's comment probably was in response to repeated threats by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to destroy Israel. Can't these guys play nice? Iran contends it is playing nice and wants pursuing nuclear technology to generate electricity, but the United States and European Union believe Iran intends to build nuclear weapons. Three rounds of U.N. sanctions have so far failed to persuade Tehran to put its nuclear ambitions on hold. The U.S. State Department called Ashtiani's comments "unbelievable rhetoric" and said they demonstrated that the international sanctions were correct. "Any civilized person finds that disturbing," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said. Diplomats from the United States, Russia, China, France, England and Germany are meeting in Shanghai today to discuss further actions.

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