In confronting Iran, Israel and its allies must determine how much of the anti-Jewish and anti-Israel rhetoric of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is real or whether he is trying to deflect attention from domestic problems.
“A lot of the American media have given him a lot of attention because he has threatened Israel and is a Holocaust denier,” said Mideast analyst Sean Savage Oct. 25 at Congregation Beth Ohr in Old Bridge. “But he should not be the focus of all the attention.”
Savage, of the Boston-based David Project-Center for Jewish Leadership, noted that Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Khamenei is the supreme leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran and as such is both its spiritual leader and has the last word on major Iranian policy decisions.
“Everything having to do with foreign policy is likely to go through him,” he added.
Not that Khamenei is a liberal. “He has also said that Israel is a cancer and called the U.S. the great Satan,” Savage said.
Moreover, Iran under Khamenei has the dubious distinction of being “the number one sponsor of state terrorism in the world” through its support of Hamas and Hizbullah.
Savage’s talk was cosponsored by the congregation’s sisterhood and men’s club and the Mindy Nightingale Memorial Fund, established by congregants Len and Phyllis Nightingale of Monroe shortly after the death of their daughter in December 1985.
Savage noted that international regulatory agencies have confirmed that Iran’s enriched uranium stockpile is well past the stage needed for peaceful purposes.
Yet international diplomatic engagement remains ongoing.
“Israel is a nuclear power,” said Savage. “The Iranian people are threatened by the West. A lot of people feel we should be talking [to] and reassuring Iran, not threatening it.”
If diplomacy and sanctions don’t work and were Israel to launch a military strike, Israel may not be able to destroy all of Iran’s nuclear capability as it did in Iraq in 1988 or Syria in 2007.
“Iran has done a very good job of developing underground bunkers deep below the surface that would be difficult to hit,” said Savage.
He urged the continuation of sanctions and negotiations.
“This is a momentous time for all of us as Americans and as Jews,” he said. “We cannot accept Iran having nuclear weapons.”