A Beginner's Guide to Attacking a Rational Country

Hassan Rohani has made it harder for Israel to call Iran crazy. But perhaps Israel is still right in its accusations. After all, it takes one to know one.

A photo of Dr. Zvi Bar'el.
Zvi Bar'el
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A photo of Dr. Zvi Bar'el.
Zvi Bar'el

He's a liar, a scoundrel, an outstanding salesman, or all of the above. That’s how Israel’s government officials and most of the media are branding Iranian President Hassan Rohani. He is weak. He’s a fool. He’s a statesman without a backbone. That's the new image of U.S. President Barack Obama. The anger is understandable. In one day, years of public relations efforts went down the drain, and the world, as usual, is against us once more. We are most frustrated not because the world, and especially the United States, fail to see Iran is still a threat, but because Rohani has changed how his country is perceived, from "insane" to "rational." The same Iran that’s captive of an extremist and uncompromising Shi’ite religious ideology and led by ayatollahs who draw the fundamentals of their policy from the word of God and his insane representative Ali Khamanei, is in the blink of a speech becoming a country to which we may and should reach out. That is the essence of our existential threat. Rohani is the bomb itself.

The existence of nuclear weapons in the hands of ostensibly "rational" countries, such as India and Pakistan, has never frightened Israel. After all, they never threatened to destroy Israel. As opposed to Iran, they lack the motive to attack. Now comes a new Iranian president and threatens to dissolve his country’s motive.

It's impossible, the lamenters are now asserting, that suddenly this insane country would change its strategy. Hitler is Hitler. He's Ahmadinejad. He's Rohani. Obama is Chamberlain, and the United Nations is engendering a Munich-like atmosphere. Our Holocaust, my friends, has not ended. The madness and the threat are only speaking in a new tongue. Anyone who refuses to see Hitler in Rohani is like a Holocaust denier. No less.

But those who are rising up against the rationalization of Iran have got a real hurdle ahead: logic. If Iran is not rational actor because it's a religious state, then we also have to take seriously Khamenei's ruling, which opposes nuclear weapons on the basis of faith. After all, it is unconscionable to call it religious insanity when it threatens, and to reject the label when it denies the threat.

Like the religious threat, the prevailing attitudes about Iran’s reaction to sanctions are riddled with contradictions. On the one hand, Israel demanded to widen sanctions against Iran until it suffocates or says "uncle." On the other hand, it mocked the sanctions with the argument that an irrational country will rather kill its citizens than surrender to the dictates of the West. But when Iran changes direction, at least in the rhetorical sense, and when an Iranian president speaks for the first time in 34 years with an American president, it is "accused" of wanting only to end the sanctions. Just as any rational country would do.

When Ahmadinejad denied the Holocaust, the denial served as a rational excuse to attack Iran, but when Rohani rejects the denial – it's only a trick. The question why Rohani has to resort to such a trick is not even asked. Why should Khamenei suddenly permit direct dialogue with the United States? Why didn't he reject Rohani's statement about the Holocaust? Did he suddenly lose his "faith," or like his predecessor decide to sip from the "poisoned chalice" and embark on the path of reconciliation like Khomeini who signed the surrender agreement with Iraq?

It is unbearable to give up on characterizing Iran as insane and irrational, the traits upon which Israel built its claims. You cannot attack a rational country, only negotiate with it. It is imperative to continue and prove Iran’s insanity, get the blood work proving a permanent genetic defect. Perhaps Israel is just in its claims. It certainly knows something about insanity. To paraphrase our sages: It takes one to know one.

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