This question really does need to be thought about in a historical and religious history way– Common sense is the key. I take the Iranian Gov at it’s word… not the interpretation of their word. When they say they desire to Annihilate Israel they meanannihilate Israel.
The Question of Iran’s True Intent–
June 9, 2008 Jpost
The question : what Iran is really up to has been passionately debated for quite some time and there is still much resistance against the conclusion that Iran’s nuclear program has clear military purposes. Most people who debate this question have of course no access to classified information, and even most pundits who write about the subject ultimately form their opinions based on “common sense” – and what passes as “common sense” inevitably depends heavily on political views. There is also the very fundamental question of how well Western commentators really understand the Middle East, because even knowledgeable analysts may be tempted to look for developments that fit their broader world view. Arguably, there are two main tendencies to look at the world: one is to look for differences in foreign lands, the other is to look for similarities.
About a month ago, I came across one article that employed the “they-are-really-just-like-us”-approach: under the title “The Muslim Middle Class”, the piece suggested that a typical member of this emerging Muslim middle class would be a reasonably successful professional or businessman with a decent education, who would embrace many aspects of the modern world while still remaining quite religious and socially conservative. The implied message that this emerging “Muslim middle class” resembled in many respects the middle classes of Europe was underlined by a paragraph that explained:
He – or she – is not an extremist. Anti-Zionist certainly, antisemitic in the dull, leaden, unquestioning way that so many are in the “Islamic world“, anti-American certainly, pious, conservative, but not a ‘jihadi’. His Islamism, despite the apparent contradiction, in fact marries nicely with one of the various forms of nationalism currently emerging around the post-Cold War world. The ‘Islamo-‘ strengthens the ‘nationalist’ and vice versa. The policies he feels attracted to would colour the existing state structures green, not replace them with some kind of mythic, medieval construct.”
It could have been a much more persuasive piece if it wasn’t published, by sheer coincidence, alongside some gruesome news from Irag two weeks earlier, 17-year-old student Rand Abdel-Qader had been beaten to death by her father who believed she had romantic feelings for a British soldier in Basra. Now the father had given an interview, explaining that his only regret was “that he did not kill his daughter at birth.” The unrepentant murderer, who had stamped on, suffocated and then stabbed his young daughter to death, was all too obviously a typical member of the “Muslim middle class”, and other members of that middle class were all too obviously supporting what he had done:
Sitting in the front garden of his well-kept home in the city’ Al-Fursi district, he remains a free man …Abdel-Qader, 46, a government employee, was initially arrested but released after two hours. Astonishingly, he said, police congratulated him on what he had done. ‘They are men and know what honour is,’ he said. … ‘Death was the least she deserved … I don’t regret it. I had the support of all my friends who are fathers, like me, and know what she did was unacceptable to any Muslim that honours his religion.'”
All the daughter did was talk to a British soldier whom she met while working as a volunteer to help displaced families. And it was not only she who would pay with her life for the few conversations she had with this soldier: her mother, who had left the family home in horror after her daughter was killed, had gone into hiding, but just when she wanted to escape to relative safety in Jordan, she was shot dead by unknown gunmen.
If there is anything unusual about this case it is that for once Western media took notice and documented that society at large was ready to condone the killing:
Sources have indicated that Abdel-Qader, who works in the health department, has been asked to leave because of the bad publicity, yet he will continue to draw a salary. And it has been alleged by one senior unnamed official in the Basra governorate that he has received financial support by a local politician to enable him to ‘disappear’ to Jordan for a few weeks, ‘until the story has been forgotten’ – the usual practice in the 30-plus cases of ‘honour’ killings that have been registered since January alone.”
What this horrifying case illustrates is that the impulse to believe that, because there are everywhere people “like us”, also societies will behave more or less “like us”, is not necessarily a good guide to understand the Middle East. Islam profoundly shapes the societies in the region, which is often ignored for reasons of political correctness. Thus, there are endless arguments about the question whether so-called “honor killings” are really rooted in Islamic traditions – but such arguments simply don’t matter when brutal killers like Abdel-Qader believe that “God is blessing me for what I did”.
It is also interesting to note in this context that Harvard professor Monica Toft has recently argued that “Islam lies at the heart of Iraq’s civil war”. As she explained:
The evidence overwhelmingly suggests that the war in Iraq is a religious civil war and that … Islam is at the heart of it for three reasons. First, Iraq’s Sunnis and Shiites themselves see the war in these terms. They identify first and foremost as Shiites and Sunnis. Second, they use religious identity both to target opponents and define threats. Finally, they have appealed beyond the borders of Iraq for aid – fighters, arms, cash – in religious terms.”
Citing her research on civil wars from 1940 to 2000, Professor Toft emphasizes three important facts about such wars, all of which she believes are relevant to Iraq:
First, nearly half of all ongoing civil wars (46 percent) involve religion in some form. Second, Islam has been involved in more than 80 percent of all religious civil wars. Third, religious civil wars are less likely to end in negotiated settlement. Instead, combatants tend to duke it out until one side achieves victory.”
Given that Professor Toft highlights that “Islam is not based in a specific territory; it is a transnational faith that unites its community, or umma, in the minds of men”, it is hard not to wonder whether it wouldn’t be common sense to see Iran’s nuclear ambitions in this very alarming context.