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Getting Tough With Tehran By: P. David Hornik
FrontPageMagazine.com | Thursday, May 22, 2008

The White House has denied a widely circulated report on Israel’s Army Radio on Tuesday claiming President Bush is intending to attack Iran before he leaves office. The reported quoted a top Israeli official saying a senior member in Bush’s entourage, while Bush was in Israel last week, said Bush and Vice President Cheney favor a strike on Iran and only the hesitancy of Defense Secretary Gates and Secretary of State Rice is holding them back.

Bush was said to be troubled by Hezbollah’s recent show of strength in Lebanon and what it indicates about Iran’s growing power. In his speech to the Knesset here last week, Bush said openly that “Permitting the world’s leading sponsor of terror to possess the world’s deadliest weapon would be an unforgivable betrayal of future generations. For the sake of peace, the world must not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon.”

On Tuesday afternoon, though, the White House dismissed the Army Radio story and said in a statement that the U.S. “remain[s] opposed to Iran’s ambitions to obtain a nuclear weapon. To that end, we are working to bring tough diplomatic and economic pressure on the Iranians to get them to change their behavior and to halt their uranium enrichment program.” The statement added, though, that “As the President has said, no president of the United States should ever take options off the table.”

After years of failed, halfhearted “diplomatic and economic pressure” during which Iran has steadily and contemptuously progressed toward nuclearization, it’s not possible to drum up any optimism that measures short of military ones will work. Meanwhile, there’s encouraging news that Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad may at least be finding himself in legal hot water.

It was also reported this week that one Western country, Australia, is considering taking Ahmadinejad to court for his repeated genocidal threats against Israel. Such threats would appear to be illegal under the 1948 UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (known as the Genocide Convention), whose Article 3 lists under punishable acts the “direct and public incitement to commit genocide.”

Australia’s Labor prime minister Kevin Rudd said in a recent TV interview that Ahmadinejad’s statements are “an incitement to international violence” and could have a “roll-on effect across the Islamic world to those who listen to Iran for their guidance.” This is if anything an understatement given the already inflamed atmosphere of anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli hatred throughout the Arab and Islamic world.

Rudd’s government is considering taking the case against Ahmadinejad to the UN’s International Court of Justice in The Hague. Article 9 of the Genocide Convention—which both Australia and Iran have ratified—says the ICJ is the venue for such complaints. In a related precedent, last year the ICJ ruled under the Convention that Serbia had “violated its obligation to prevent genocide” in the case of the 1995 Srebrenica massacre.

Just this month Ahmadinejad has referred to the “stinking corpse of the usurping and fake Israeli regime” that is “on its way to annihilation” and has saidThe Zionist regime is dying.…. Nations of the region hate this criminal fabricated regime and will uproot this fabricated regime if the smallest and shortest opportunity is given to them.” His statements seem to get more lurid and demented the more he gets away with them.

If all this is permissible under international law, then international law is indeed an empty shell and the world needs to resign itself to a state of rampant anarchy. Australia is now asking whether things have gone too far in the declaratory sphere. An even larger question is whether and when the United States or Israel will decide Tehran has gone too far toward attaining the bomb.

P. David Hornik is a freelance writer and translator living in Beersheva. He blogs at http://pdavidhornik.typepad.com/. He can be reached at pdavidh2001@yahoo.com.

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