Iran is once again at the center of controversy over its nuclear program. But a recent article in the Yale Daily News by Sam Lasman makes the surprising claim that while Iran may be responsible for some destructive tendencies, the threat it poses to the West must be seen in “perspective.” As Lasman puts it, “the country is a place of contradiction and complexity, not rigid fundamentalism.”
It is true that there are elements within Iran’s complex culture which seem contradictory, opposed to a consistent rigid fundamentalism. Lasman explains, for instance, that Western translators misinterpreted Iranian president Ahmedinejad’s 2005 statement that he wished to “wipe Israel off the map.” What Ahmedinejad meant, according to Lasman, was that Israel “must vanish from the page of time.” When you consider these two statements, there isn’t much to be misinterpreted. Which is worse, to “vanish from the page of time,” or to be “wiped off the map?” More importantly, Ahmedinejad’s statement was not a new one. He in fact was repeating an old slogan from the early days of the 1979 revolution. Whatever complexities may exist in the country, its leaders have consistently maintained the same goal.
Lasman claims that although there have been “innumerable abuses” against women and minorities in Iran, the country has a constitution that protects minorities, and women have held high political office. This may complicate our judgment of Iran, but the unfortunate reality of living under the Iranian regime remains quite simple. The entire Iranian population lives without objective rule of law: any man caught stealing may have his hand amputated without a proper trial; men who murder women to protect family “honor” remain unpunished. Also, the threat Iran continues to pose to the West is simple: it funds terrorists who attack Israel with rockets continually and others who were responsible for atrocities such as the 1983 Beirut barracks bombing, which killed over 200 U.S. Marines. These are not merely “abuses,” but actual atrocities which occur in and by Iran. Moreover, Iran continues along a path to attain nuclear weapons, which may be utilized to aggrandize itself and lead to escalated confrontations with the West.
Iran may make claims or engage in activities which appear contrary to our view of them as rigid fundamentalists. But time and again, Iran has proven it has pursued one consistent goal since its agents besieged the American embassy and took hostages in 1979. This goal has been furthered every time Iran sponsored terrorist attacks on hundreds of Americans in Iraq and Afghanistan, and when in 1996 it trained and financed jihadists who destroyed the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia, murdering 19 U.S. military personnel. Iran has professed in word and action their goal. It has been and continues to be: to “wipe” Israel off the map, along with what they call the “Great Satan,” America.