In another bout of saber rattling, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced that Israel is planning on starting a war as early as this spring, according to a secret source secured by Tehran. “According to information we have they [Israel] are seeking to start a war next spring or summer, although their decision is not final yet,” Ahmadinejad said, “But the resistance and regional states will finish them if this fake regime does anything again.”
This announcement comes on the heels of a similar comment Ahmadinejad made to Syrian President Bashar Assad last Wednesday. Quoting another unnamed source, he told Assad: “We have reliable information…that the Zionist regime is after finding a way to compensate for its ridiculous defeats by the people of Gaza and Lebanon’s Hezbollah.” Ahmadinejad stressed that “[i]f the Zionist regime repeats its mistakes and initiate a military operation, then it must be resisted with full force to put an end to it once and for all.”
During a trip this week to Moscow to meet with Dmitry Medvedev and Vladimir Putin, Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu responded to Tehran’s war of words. In a press conference after a closed-door meeting, Netanyahu stated, “Israel is not planning any war, and continued Iranian claims to the contrary reflect Iranian concerns stemming from growing talks about international sanctions.” Netanyahu’s visit to Moscow is essential in the diplomatic effort to garner support for a new round of “sanctions with teeth.” Israel is also lobbying the Russians to cancel their arms sale to the Islamic Republic, which includes the S-300 anti-aircraft missile system.
Elsewhere in the Middle East, US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton continued her diplomatic mission to Saudi Arabia by giving a speech to Dar al-Hekmaan, a women’s college located in the port city of Jeddah. Clinton said, “If Iran gets a nuclear weapon, the hope [of a nuclear-free Middle East] disappears, because then other countries which feel threatened by Iran will say to themselves, ‘If Iran has a nuclear weapon, I better get one, too, in order to protect my people.’ Then you have a nuclear arms race in the region.” In other remarks this week, Secretary Clinton has argued that the Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps is supplanting clerical and civilian rule in the Islamic Republic. The increasing control of the military establishment loyal to the regime worries Secretary Clinton, who fears that Iran is starting to resemble a military dictatorship more than a republic.
Whether or not Iran moves closer to republican government (via the Green Movement) or military dictatorship (via the IRGC, Quds Force, and Basij) is not written in stone. Middle East scholar Reuel Marc Gerecht said it best in an op-ed he wrote in the New York Times commemorating the 31st anniversary of the Islamic Republic:
A democratic revolution in Tehran could well prove the most momentous Mideastern event since the fall of the Ottoman Empire. A politically freer Iran would bring front and center the great Islamic debate of our times: How can one be both a good Muslim and a democrat? How does one pay homage to Islamic law but give ultimate authority to the people’s elected representatives? How can a Muslim import the best of the West without suffering debilitating guilt?
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