Hellfire Versus Interests

Ahmadinejad can continue to invoke the fires of hell because the countries capable of exerting pressure on Iran are also concerned about harming their economic relations it.

"Anybody who recognizes Israel will burn in the fire of the Islamic nation's fury, and anyone who recognizes the Zionist regime means he is acknowledging the surrender and defeat of the Islamic world." This political program, articulated by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who used the opportunity to report that Israel is a "disgraceful blot" that should be "wiped off the face of the earth," requires one to first of all consult an atlas. It is best to know in advance which of the Islamic states are destined to be destroyed. (The infidel Western countries are, of course, slated to burn in hell in any case.)

It is a long list: Jordan, the Palestinian Authority, Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Qatar and Turkey will be the first victims. Then it will be Oman, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Syria, Pakistan and Afghanistan, and the rest of the Islamic countries that do not have diplomatic relations with Israel, but recognize the Zionist regime and are prepared under certain political conditions to establish diplomatic relations with it. Thus, Ahmadinejad's scheme becomes clear: The president of Iran seeks to destroy the entire treacherous Sunni Muslim world in the fires of hell. The one and only Shi'ite state, Iran, is also the only one that does not recognize the Zionist state.

But this sickening oddity - in which Iranian leaders unleash foul maledictions on Israel at the end of the month of Ramadan each year (when the Iranians also mark "Jerusalem Day") - also makes one wonder: Why does Iran continue to maintain close relations with Muslim states that maintain relations with Israel? Iran is seeking to promote full diplomatic relations with Egypt; it conducts trade of more than $1 billion with Turkey; its agreement with Pakistan and India to build a joint gas pipeline at a cost of about $4 billion is advancing; and Iran has signed a security pact with Saudi Arabia, which drafted a peace initiative for the Middle East. And these are only a few examples.

The reason for this is that there are balancing forces at work in Iran alongside its rigid ideology. Iran realizes that without economic ties, the government (and hence also the ideology) will not survive. If Iran did not have anywhere to export its oil and gas, if it does not succeed in creating about 4 million jobs in the framework of its new five-year plan, if unemployment among young people, who comprise more than 60 percent of the population, does not drop below an average of 30 percent, this government has no future. Evidence of this can be seen in the actions of the conservative religious leader of the country, Ali Khamenei, who last month placed the government's activities under the supervision of the Expediency Council, an appointed panel responsible for protecting the state's interests. The council is headed by Hashemi Rafsanjani, the same Rafsanjani who lost the elections to Ahmadinejad. This is because Khamenei also understands that failed management of domestic and foreign policy would lead to the regime's collapse.

Iran, which realized that the Khomeini revolution was not a desired commodity in Islamic countries (and a Shi'ite revolution even less so), also learned an economic lesson during the past decade regarding the importance of maintaining good relations not only with Islamic states, but also with Europe, Russia and China. And this raises the second question: With so many states capable of applying pressure on Iran, why can Ahmadinejad continue to mouth off? In other words, why doesn't Iran fear sanctions? And the answer is similar: The countries capable of exerting pressure are also concerned about harming their economic relations with Iran. Russia earned about $1 billion from its nuclear reactor project in Bushehr; China needs Iranian oil very much; Japan is dependent on Iran; businessmen from Germany, France, Italy and Spain are profiting handsomely from the sanctions the United States imposed on Iran; and now the Americans fear Iran's political takeover of Iraq - all of these factors explain why everyone tiptoes around the Iranian leadership. And when this is the feeble balance of fear, Ahmadinejad can continue to invoke the fires of hell.