Updated: October 29, 2012 6:51AM
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu opened his U.N. speech Thursday by reminding the world that King David established Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish state 3,000 years ago. That was a rebuke to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who used his visit to New York for the U.N. General Assembly to ludicrously claim the Israelis “have no roots there in history.” Netanyahu might have cited another bit of Jewish history perhaps of more personal noteworthiness to the Iranian fanatic.
The Israeli leader might have mentioned the time 2,500 years ago when the Babylonian Captivity of the Jewish people ended with the Persian ruler Cyrus the Great allowing the Jewish exiles to return to Jerusalem and build the Second Temple. In denying Jewish history, Ahmadinejad was also denying a chapter of Persian history.
Iran of course is the descendant of Persia, but unfortunately Ahmadinejad and the Islamist extremists who reign in Tehran and deny so much history, including the Holocaust, are channelling a darker chapter of Persian history. That would be the ancient Persian enmity toward the West and ambitions of conquering it that ended in the Greek triumph over the Persian king Xerxes at the famous battles of Thermopylae, Salamis and Plataea in the 5th century B.C. — a turning point in world history and the story of Western civilization.
The hegemonic ambitions of Iran already are a major threat to peace and stability in the Middle East and beyond thanks to its meddling in Lebanon, Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere as well as its support for Islamist terror organizations around the world. That threat would mushroom were Iran to acquire nuclear weapons. That was the urgent message of Netanyahu to the U.N. in laying down a red line. He said Iran must not be allowed to reach a threshold of uranium enrichment that would put it only months or even weeks from a nuclear weapon. That time could come in the spring or at the latest next summer, Netanyahu said.
The Israeli leader said he believes that if the world, essentially meaning the United States, draws that red line, Iran won’t cross it. That would seem to push the Iranian issue into a second term of President Barack Obama or a first term of President Mitt Romney. It would also seem to indicate no Israeli military strike is imminent.
Interestingly, an Israeli Foreign Ministry report obtained by the newspaper Haaretz calls for more international sanctions on top of the ones already credited with reducing Iranian oil exports by as much as 50 percent and crippling Iran’s economy. The obvious interpretation is that an important part of the Israeli government believes there is still time, though Netanyahu has rightly noted there’s not an iota of evidence that sanctions have slowed Iran’s nuclear project.
Thus far, Obama has refused to subscribe to a red line. But in his speech to the General Assembly, Obama said the United States will do what it must to stop Iran and further said containment is not an option.
It is unfortunate that the president did not stick around New York to lobby other world leaders for more measures to tighten the economic thumbscrews on Tehran. Yes, there’s a political campaign under way, but if you believe much of the mainstream media, Obama is winning. With time running so short on Iran, a few days at the U.N. trying to avert something Obama describes as intolerable would have been time well spent.