I haven’t weighed in on the artificial debate over the whether or not Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s famous sentence at the October 2005 World without Zionism conference could be translated as, “Israel should be wiped off the map.” The meme has spread in progressive circles that there is some grounds for disputing this translation of this slogan. In fact, there is not a scintilla of a doubt that this is a legitimate translation.
Contrary to those who insist that this was a mistranslation fostered by a hostile Western media, this is the
Banner with the slogan by Khomeini about Israel being wiped off the map. It does not contain the English translation. The television screenshot has a crawler says in Arabic “The defensive missile Shahab 3 (surface to surface). September 22, 2003.
standard way the IRI’s own translators rendered this sentence. Even before Ahmadinejad had been elected president in 2005, we have pictures of a military parade in Tehran in which a Shahab 3 missile–a missile which could carry a warhead to Israel–is draped with this quote in Persian with precisely this translation under it. It is hard to mistake the message.
Indeed, this whole fracas began with a translation by the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting network, which broke the story, which was then picked up by Nazila Fathi of the New York Times of October 26, 2005. Only recently, it was featured prominently at the February 2012 march and rally celebrating the 33rd anniversary of the Islamic Revolution.
Source: China Daily, citing "Photo Agencies".
There, the main banner of the event featured Khomeini’s famous statement made after the occupation of the American Embassy (horribly mistranslated!) side by side with the quotation by Khomeini under discussion, complete with the self-same translation into English.
Yet it has become an article of faith among those opposed to Western intervention against Iran that this translation has been crafted by a warmongering media in a bid to prepare the grounds for a military assault on Iran. What is more surprising is that, whereas members of the Islamic Republic’s captive press have presented a straightforward translation of this line, two people who are stalwart opponents of the Islamic Republic have presented tortured means to “explain” it away.
In a May 3, 2006 post, Juan Cole presents the translation, “the occupation regime over Jerusalem should vanish from the page of time.” He seems unaware that the inconveniently accurate translation was not, as he claims, “wire service translations” or “some hurried journalist’s untechnical rendering into English” but, as we have seen, translations provided by the press of the Islamic Republic of Iran itself. He argues that Ahmadinejad “said that the occupation regime over Jerusalem must be erased from the page of time.” But Ahmadinejad was using the common circumlocution for the State of Israel, “the regime occupying Jerusalem”. It is useless to pretend that this means anything else.
Moreover, it is not “the occupation regime” but “the regime occupying.” It is not the occupation which must vanish, but the regime, if we accept this circumlocution. As if driven to illustrate the absurdity of his position, he even says, “Again, Ariel Sharon erased the occupation regime over Gaza from the page of time.” So Ariel Sharon fulfilled Ahmadinejad’s plan but in Gaza and not in Jerusalem. Cute, but it only shows how twisted his translation is. He pointed out that “[T]here is no Persian idiom to wipe something off the map, and that Ahmadinejad has been misquoted.” Of course there isn’t, but to translate a Persian idiom word for word would give an incomprehensible and/or ridiculous-sounding translation. The question is, is the idiom in the target language a faithful rendition of the idiom in the source language. Finally, Ahmadinejad is quoting Khomeini, and Khomeini, who had no hang-ups about using the word “Israel”, used it in his statement, instead of the more politically correct substitute for Israel. Thus, according to Cole, Ahmadinejad changed Khomeini’s dictum from a targeting of Israel itself to the targeting of some of its objectionable institutions. I don’t find this picture of Ahmadinejad trimming the Imam’s beard compelling.
Arash Norouzi, founder of the Mossadeqh Project, provided a similar argument in a January 18, 2007 post. There, he calls this translation “The Rumour of the Century”. This seems a bit hyperbolic. Even if we understand this to mean the twenty-first century, the rumors about Saddam’s WMDs or role in 9/11 or Obama being a Muslim or conspiring to set up death panels or that climate change is a conspiracy engineered by grant-greedy scientists and one-worlders or any of dozens of others would seem to be mighty contenders.
However, let’s read what the author has to say:
The mistranslated “wiped off the map” quote attributed to Iran’s President has been spread worldwide, repeated thousands of times in international media, and prompted the denouncements of numerous world leaders. Virtually every major and minor media outlet has published or broadcast this false statement to the masses. Big news agencies such as The Associated Press and Reuters refer to the misquote, literally, on an almost daily basis.
Like Cole, he fails to mention that the first “news agencies” to have presented this “mistranslation” were the official and semi-official websites of the regime itselfor
A headquarters of the Basij (pro-government militia) carries the slogan, translated as "Israel should be wiped out of the face of the (world)."
that the government has used this translation at its own demonstrations, as demonstrated above. Indeed, I challenge anyone to find an official or semi-official website of the Islamic Republic of Iran which has challenged this translation.
Norouzi then helpfully says that Ahmadinejad was only quoting Khomeini. But what if, at the height of the 2009 protests, the Iranian president had “only” quoted Khomeini as follows:
If, upon having defeated the corrupt regime and destroying this very corrupt obstacle, we acted in a revolutionary fashion and broken the pens of all the mercenary press, shut down all the corrupt neighborhoods, tried their chiefs, declared the corrupt parties banned and given their leaders what they deserved, set up gallows in all the main squares and hung the corrupt upon them, then these problems would never have arisen.
This class of intellectuals must reform itself. Whatever we endure is from this class. I warn these intellectuals that if they don’t mind their own business, I will break their pens and throw them all in the garbage… But they cannot be made into humans… Those who talk about democracy are worse than the Banu Qureiza tribe. They must all be executed… We will crush them all, God willing.
Clearly if Ahmadinejad had quoted Khomeini in calling for giving the protesters the Banu Qureiza treatment–killing all the men and selling the women and children into slavery–this would not be so casually dismissed as expressing “a viewpoint already in place well before he ever took office,” as Norouzi put it.
Norouzi continues arguing that the quotation is for eliminating the regime and not the people. This is a stronger point and, had he focused on arguing it, he might have had a winning case. We’ll return to this later.
Finally, there is Norouzi’s translation, which in its essentials bears a strong resemblance to Cole’s. It goes well until he reaches the compound verb “mahv shavad“, which he claims means “vanish.”
But this is bad grammar and bad vocabulary. shavad is the Persian passive helper-verb. Thus, this compound verb is in the passive. What follows is an error in elementary school grammar. In a passive sentence, the subject is acted upon (x must be vanished, if you insist on using the word “vanish”). But Norouzi is trying to make it an active sentence (x must vanish), which it simply isn’t. Here is a useful reference for a quick review of the English grammar on this matter.
But there is more. In no dictionary I have consulted is “mahv” translated as “vanished”. Steingass–the most compendious Persian-English dictionary there is–translates it as “Erasing, cancelling, obliterating, defacing, annulling, destroying, annihilating; being effaced, obliterated,” etc. The passive form, “mahv shodeh“, is translated as “effaced, obliterated” and the like.
But why should we be interested in Mr. Norouzi’s translation in the first place? If this is his own translation, it is the only translation of his which appears on his website, which is devoted to the memory of Dr. Mohammad Mosaddeq. One would imagine that he would have applied his talents as a translator to familiarize his readers with Dr. Mosaddeq’s true words, or to at least some of the vast literature by or about this great man written in Persian. But there is no sign of this on his site. I felt kind of sorry for the fellow when he was asked to pronounce this disputed sentence in Persian–there was audible panic in his voice as he stumbled in his thick American accent over what I assume was the transliteration of the Persian phrase. Refer to his interview on antiwar.com at 10:40.
The thing is, all this straining at the obvious translation is completely pointless.
First, the Islamic Republic of Iran does not recognize the State of Israel under any form or circumstance. It is for replacing the Israeli State with a “popular Palestinian” one (as Ahmadinejad says in his speech). One can consider this an unhelpful position, but as a sovereign state, Iran is allowed to have it and argue for it. It should be recalled that this was the position of the PLO and the Arab League (“the Three Nos” of the Khartoum conference of the Arab League of September 1967) up until 1974, when it issued its Ten Point Program, Point Two of which was understood by sophisticated observers as a retreat from this position. A minority of Arab states and Palestinian nationalist groups formed the Steadfastness and Confrontation Front in 1977 to resist this trend. If one were to then argue that the current comment is a throwback to a time before the possibility of a peaceful resolution of the Arab-Israel conflict based on mutual recognition, I would answer that the chief obstacle to this on the ground is Israeli intransigence, followed by political miscalculations by the Palestinian leadership.
Second, the phrase appears (as Norouzi and Cole correctly point out) in Ahmadinejad’s speech in the context of a list of regimes which in fact “vanished”. First, Ahmadinejad mentions the Shah’s regime and how it appeared invincible, enjoying the support of all the great powers abroad and a fearsome secret police at home, and yet it vanished. He then mentions “the Eastern empire”, i.e., the Communist bloc, and how it vanished. When he gets to the fall of Saddam, predicted against all odds by Khomeini, he conveniently forgets that it was the American-led coalition which took him down, and rather amusingly gives full credit to the Imam’s occult powers.
It is in this context that Ahmadinejad quotes Khomeini about Palestine. He says that, just as the Imam was right about the Shah, the Soviets, and Saddam, he will be right about Palestine. As Cole correctly points out, there is no prescription here for how it is to happen. Indeed, the context Ahmadinejad provides lends itself to a relatively benign interpretation of the Imam’s saying. (For the speech in which Khomeini used the phrase, see Appendix III.) The Shah’s regime was destroyed by a mass uprising, and, if we take the Imam’s strategy of giving martyrs rather than killing soldiers in order to win the army over, the revolutionaries were relatively non-violent.
The Soviet block and Eastern European Communist states simply crumbled from within. And, of course, Saddam was overthrown by a Western invasion, whether or not this was what the Imam had in mind when he said that Saddam was on his way out. Again, the statement itself is neutral as to means, and the context only increases the ambiguity.
The statement led to predictable reactions in the usual circles. “I have never come across a situation of the president of a country saying they want to . . . wipe out another country,” said Tony Blair. In a joint statement, the European Union leaders “condemned in the strongest terms” the Iranian president’s call, saying it “will cause concern about Iran’s role in the region and its future intentions.” Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Shimon Peres called for Iran’s expulsion from the United Nations over this. Indeed, Israel’s legal eagles have written an indictment accusing Ahmadinejad of incitement to genocide, which this statement, as Cole correctly points out, certainly is not.
This is not to say that the statement was well-advised. Sergei Lavrov, the foreign minister of the Russian Federation, one of Iran’s few friends, called the comment “unacceptable.” [Washington Post, October 28, 2005: “World Leaders Condemn Iranian's Call to Wipe Israel 'Off the Map'”]
The Russian Foreign Ministry itself issued a statement lecturing the Iranian government about the need for “political foresight and pragmatism.” It added, “Propagandist rhetoric should not be used in an explosive region such as the Middle East.
Moreover, the comments made at the said conference do nothing to help a normal depoliticized work to settle the already tense situation around the Iranian nuclear programme.”
[BBC Monitoring Former Soviet Union - Political Supplied by BBC Worldwide Monitoring October 27, 2005, Thursday, “Russia urges Iran to show ‘foresight and pragmatism’” SOURCE: RIA news agency, Moscow, in Russian 14:12 GMT, 27 Oct 05]
Reaction inside Iran itself was cautious, if we accept a report by Nazila Fathi in the New York Times
“Ahmad Nateq Nouri, a senior conservative cleric and member of the Expediency Council … also played down the president’s comments, saying: ”What the president meant was that we favor a fair and long-lasting peace in Palestine,” the Iranian Student News Agency reported.” [This does not show up on the ISNA Persian-language website.] She speculated, “Some analysts have viewed the recent move by the supreme religious leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, to increase the authority of Mr. Rafsanjani, a veteran politician, as part of his effort to limit the political blunders made by President Ahmadinejad.” [October 29, 2005, Nazila Fathi and Warren Hoge, “Iranian President Stands By Call to Wipe Israel Off Map”.]
Those who take seriously the rhetoric, capabilities and ambitions of Ahmadinejad and the Islamic Republic of Iran and those itching for war with Iran have reacted along the same lines.
But consider this: As I mentioned above, Ahmadinejad was not the first to utter the slogan which has caused such panic. Khomeini had said it decades ago, and it seems to have been forgotten (as Cole correctly points out, adding that it had been said while Iran was busily buying weapons from Iran in the mid-eighties!). It next surfaced at a military procession in September 22, 2003 (before Ahmadinejad had been elected), where it was draped over a Shahab 3 missile. Although this received some notice, it was certainly not met with the fear and dread it would later lead to. This is odd, since the Shahab 3 missile was and is capable of landing a payload in Tel Aviv, and thus the slogan had an unmistakably military meaning, whereas Ahmadinejad’s speech certainly was, as I have explained, ambiguous enough on this issue. Yet it was the speech which created an international incident. Indeed, a Google image search found no picture of this preceding Ahmadinejad’s famous speech. Indeed, how many of those who know that Ahmadinejad had uttered these words are even aware that this very slogan had been attached to a Shahab 3 missile at a state military procession? Why is the former forgotten but the latter has exploded into an international incident? I think it is futile to search for a plan or conspiracy. The American media as a whole is not run by memo from a secret steering committee which gives it marching orders like, say, the old Hearst or the new Murdoch press or Fox News. Rather, I think we are seeing in news terms something like a bolt of lightning in meteorology. Just as an accumulation of negative electrical charges gathering in the clouds leads to an explosive flash of lightning at an unpredictable time, so did the accumulation of negative political charges gathering in the political atmosphere lead to an inevitable release, although no one can safely say why it happened when it happened. There is no need to believe that it is contrived or orchestrated, but it is dangerous nonetheless, and an honest answer to it needs to be given.
The simple truth, as Norouzi and Cole point out, is that Ahmadinejad’s pronouncements do not amount to a military program. The IRI at worst is harassing Israel, but does not pose an existential threat, as cooler heads in Israeli military and intelligence establishments understand. As has been explained over and over and over and over, if the IRI launched a serious attack on Israel, Iran would be reduced to rubble within minutes. No one in the War Party has been able to answer that simple fact. The Islamic Republic will be able to wow the rubes with fiery anti-Zionist speeches, it will support its assets in Lebanon and the Palestinian resistance, but nothing qualitative will change. And in any case, the State of Israel is more capable of inflicting pain and suffering on Iran than the IRI is on Israel. As Cole put it,
What is really going on here is an old trick of the warmongers. Which is that you equate hurtful statements of your enemy with an actual military threat, and make a weak and vulnerable enemy look like a strong, menacing foe. Then no one can complain when you pounce on the enemy and reduce his country to flames and rubble.
The Israelis used this tactic very effectively in 1967 when, in order to win Western public opinion (and rally around an otherwise apathetic Israeli public), the State of Israel played up Egyptian dictator Nasser’s blood-curdling calls for Israel’s destruction. There is no reason to think that the Israeli state is doing otherwise with Ahmadinejad’s ranting.
I would add that for those seriously concerned with the State of Israel, let them consider the huge self-inflicted wounds the current government is inflicting on itself with its ruthlessness and brutality. The 2006 attack on Lebanon, the 2008 Operation Cast Lead, the 2010 assault on the Gaza flotilla which left nine dead from what had been Israel’s closest ally in the Middle East, including an American citizen, the rise of religious and secular political extremism, all of which are taking a huge toll on the State of Israel where it counts–politically and above all, with the young generation, including the young generation of Jews. They are a much greater threat to the future of the Israeli state than anything Ahmadinejad is able to serve up.
I do not think that there is any necessary utility in telling the truth if all one wants to do is prevail on the field of political combat. The Republican Party’s armies of liars and spinners have been shown to be extremely effective. And, as the meme under discussion shows, the charge that the War Party is up to its old tricks is enough for otherwise intelligent people to ignore the plain facts. The anti-war forces will rally to their standard in any case. But I feel uncomfortable trafficking in expedient distortions of the truth. It’s corrupting and corrupts us. And, of course, it’s completely unnecessary.
Articles related to this dispute.
[The New York Times October 29, 2005 Saturday Late Edition - Final Iranian President Stands By Call to Wipe Israel Off Map BYLINE: By NAZILA FATHI; Warren Hoge contributed reporting from the United Nations for this article. SECTION: Section A; Column 1; Foreign Desk; Pg. 3 June 11, 2006 Sunday Late Edition - Final Just How Far Did They Go, Those Words Against Israel?]
EVER since he spoke at an anti-Zionism conference in Tehran last October, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran has been known for one statement above all. As translated by news agencies at the time, it was that Israel ”should be wiped off the map.” Iran’s nuclear program and sponsorship of militant Muslim groups are rarely mentioned without reference to the infamous map remark.
Here, for example, is R. Nicholas Burns, the under secretary of state for political affairs, recently: ”Given the radical nature of Iran under Ahmadinejad and its stated wish to wipe Israel off the map of the world, it is entirely unconvincing that we could or should live with a nuclear Iran.”
But is that what Mr. Ahmadinejad said? And if so, was it a threat of war? For months, a debate among Iran specialists over both questions has been intensifying. It starts as a dispute over translating Persian but quickly turns on whether the United States (with help from Israel) is doing to Iran what some believe it did to Iraq — building a case for military action predicated on a faulty premise.
”Ahmadinejad did not say he was going to wipe Israel off the map because no such idiom exists in Persian,” remarked Juan Cole, a Middle East specialist at the University of Michigan and critic of American policy who has argued that the Iranian president was misquoted. ”He did say he hoped its regime, i.e., a Jewish-Zionist state occupying Jerusalem, would collapse.” Since Iran has not ”attacked another country aggressively for over a century,” he said in an e-mail exchange, ”I smell the whiff of war propaganda.”
Jonathan Steele, a columnist for the left-leaning Guardian newspaper in London, recently laid out the case this way: ”The Iranian president was quoting an ancient statement by Iran’s first Islamist leader, the late Ayatollah Khomeini, that ‘this regime occupying Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time,’ just as the Shah’s regime in Iran had vanished. He was not making a military threat. He was calling for an end to the occupation of Jerusalem at some point in the future. The ‘page of time’ phrase suggests he did not expect it to happen soon.”
Mr. Steele added that neither Khomeini nor Mr. Ahmadinejad suggested that Israel’s ”vanishing” was imminent or that Iran would be involved in bringing it about. ”But the propaganda damage was done,” he wrote, ”and Western hawks bracket the Iranian president with Hitler as though he wants to exterminate Jews.”
If Mr. Steele and Mr. Cole are right, not one word of the quotation — Israel should be wiped off the map — is accurate.
But translators in Tehran who work for the president’s office and the foreign ministry disagree with them. All official translations of Mr. Ahmadinejad’s statement, including a description of it on his Web site (www.president.ir/eng/), refer to wiping Israel away. Sohrab Mahdavi, one of Iran’s most prominent translators, and Siamak Namazi, managing director of a Tehran consulting firm, who is bilingual, both say ”wipe off” or ”wipe away” is more accurate than ”vanish” because the Persian verb is active and transitive.
The second translation issue concerns the word ”map.” Khomeini’s words were abstract: ”Sahneh roozgar.” Sahneh means scene or stage, and roozgar means time. The phrase was widely interpreted as ”map,” and for years, no one objected. In October, when Mr. Ahmadinejad quoted Khomeini, he actually misquoted him, saying not ”Sahneh roozgar” but ”Safheh roozgar,” meaning pages of time or history. No one noticed the change, and news agencies used the word ”map” again.
Ahmad Zeidabadi, a professor of political science in Tehran whose specialty is Iran-Israel relations, explained: ”It seems that in the early days of the revolution the word ‘map’ was used because it appeared to be the best meaningful translation for what he said. The words ‘sahneh roozgar’ are metaphorical and do not refer to anything specific. Maybe it was interpreted as ‘book of countries,’ and the closest thing to that was a map. Since then, we have often heard ‘Israel bayad az naghshe jographya mahv gardad’ — Israel must be wiped off the geographical map. Hard-liners have used it in their speeches.”
The final translation issue is Mr. Ahmadinejad’s use of ”occupying regime of Jerusalem” rather than ”Israel.”
To some analysts, this means he is calling for regime change, not war, and therefore it need not be regarded as a call for military action. Professor Cole, for example, says: ”I am entirely aware that Ahmadinejad is hostile to Israel. The question is whether his intentions and capabilities would lead to a military attack, and whether therefore pre-emptive warfare is prescribed. I am saying no, and the boring philology is part of the reason for the no.”
But to others, ”occupying regime” signals more than opposition to a certain government; the phrase indicates the depth of the Iranian president’s rejection of a Jewish state in the Middle East because he refuses even to utter the name Israel. He has said that the Palestinian issue ”does not lend itself to a partial territorial solution” and has called Israel ”a stain” on Islam that must be erased. By contrast, Mr. Ahmadinejad’s predecessor, Mohammad Khatami, said that if the Palestinians accepted Israel’s existence, Iran would go along.
When combined with Iran’s longstanding support for Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah of Lebanon, two groups that have killed numerous Israelis, and Mr. Ahmadinejad’s refusal to acknowledge the Holocaust, it is hard to argue that, from Israel’s point of view, Mr. Ahmadinejad poses no threat. Still, it is true that he has never specifically threatened war against Israel.
So did Iran’s president call for Israel to be wiped off the map? It certainly seems so. Did that amount to a call for war? That remains an open question.
The Toronto Star January 15, 2006 Sunday
Foolish Radical Sparks Histrionics
When the International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed last week that Iran had broken the seals on its nuclear research facility at Natanz, many people reacted as if the very next step was the testing of an Iranian nuclear weapon. In the ensuing media panic, we were repeatedly reminded that Iran’s radical new president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, declared just months ago that Israel should be “wiped off the map.” How could such a lethally dangerous regime be allowed to proceed with its nuclear plans?
But talk is cheap, and not to be confused with actions or even intentions. Ahmadinejad was quoting directly from the founder of Iran’s Islamic revolution, Ayatollah Khomeini. But neither during Khomeini’s life nor in the 16 years since his death has Iran made any effort to wipe Israel off the map, because to do so could mean Iran’s virtual extermination.
Israel has held a monopoly on nuclear weapons in the Middle East since shortly after Ahmadinejad was born, and now possesses enough of them to strike every Iranian AND every Arab city of over 100,000 people simultaneously.
Ahmadinejad’s comment was as foolish, but also ultimately as meaningless, as Ronald Reagan’s famous remark into a microphone that he didn’t know was open: “My fellow Americans, I am pleased to tell you today that I have signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.” Nobody doubted Reagan wanted the “evil empire” to be wiped from the face of the earth, but few seriously believed he intended to attack it. Russia had nuclear weapons too, and the U.S. would have been destroyed by its retaliation.
Ahmadinejad was not joking about wanting Israel to vanish, but he was expressing a wish, not an intention, because Iran has been thoroughly deterred for all of his adult life by the knowledge of those hundreds of Israeli nuclear warheads. And Iran would still be deterred if it had a few nuclear weapons of its own, just as Reagan was deterred from striking the Soviet Union even though the U.S. had thousands of the things.
So why would Iran want nuclear weapons at all? Mostly national pride, plus a desire to keep up with the neighbours.
For Iran, nuclear weapons fall into the class of “nice to have” rather than life-or-death necessity. Israel cannot invade it, and even the U.S. would be reluctant to do so: It is a very big, mountainous and nationalistic country. In almost any regional conflict, Iranian nuclear weapons would make it more likely to be a target for attacks, not less. So the Iranians have chipped away at the task of building the scientific and technological basis for a nuclear-weapons program in a desultory way for several decades, without ever getting really serious about it.
That is still the pattern. When the IAEA demanded that Iran explain certain irregularities in its nuclear power research program three years ago, the regime did not respond like North Korea, which immediately ended its membership in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and went all out to build nuclear weapons as soon as possible. Instead, Iran voluntarily allowed the IAEA to put seals on its nuclear research facilities while it investigated the discrepancies in Iran’s earlier reports.
Now it has removed those seals, although the investigation is still not complete, and plans to resume its research on nuclear power. This will also enhance its capacity to work on nuclear weapons eventually, but that can’t be helped.
The current U.S. campaign to impose United Nations sanctions on Iran is doomed to fail, because it is not breaking the law. As a signatory of the NPT, it is fully entitled to develop nuclear power for peaceful purposes, including the technology for enriching uranium, even though that also takes it much of the way to a nuclear-weapons capability. In any case, it is practically unimaginable that all the veto-holding powers on the UN Security Council would agree to impose sanctions on a major oil-producer on the mere suspicion that it ultimately intends to break the law.
And there is no need for such a dramatic confrontation. Iran has never been in a great rush to get nuclear weapons. Even if the CIA is unduly optimistic in assuming that Tehran is still 10 years away from a bomb (and the spooks usually err in the pessimistic direction), there is still plenty of time and room for patient negotiation, and no need for the current histrionics.
Gwynne Dyer is a Canadian journalist based in London whose articles are published in 45 countries.
Other related articles.
“Analysis: Iran’s talk of destroying Israel must not get lost in translation”, by Joshua Teitelbaum, Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, 06/22/2008
“What Did Ahmadinejad Really Say About Israel?”, Latter Day Saints Freedom Forum
What Iranian Leaders Really Say about Doing away with Israel: A Refutation of the Campaign to Excuse Ahmadinejad’s Incitement to Genocide
“Debating Every Last Word of Ahmadinejad’s ‘Wipe Israel Off the Map’”, The Atlantic Wire, Uri Freedman, October 5, 2011
I consider supporting the plan for Israeli independence and recognizing it a disaster for the Muslims and an explosion for the Islamic governments.
The usurping government of Israel, because of the goals it has, is a great danger for Islam and the Muslims’ countries.
Our brothers and sisters must know that America and Israel are enemies of the foundations of Islam.
The idiotic conceit of a Greater Israel drives them to every kind of crime.
The fraternal Arab nations, our brothers of Lebanon and Palestine, should know that whatever misfortune they suffer is due to Israel and America.
Israel must be wiped off the face of the earth. [اسرائیل باید از صفحه روزگار محو شود.]
It is the duty of every Muslim to equip himself against Israel.
Those who support Israel must know that they are strengthening a viper by supporting it.
Do not take the side of Israel, that enemy of Islam and the Arabs, for if this coiled viper gets access to them, it will spare no one among you, great or small.
We reject Israel and will have nothing to do with it. It is a usurping government and our enemy. We will not have relations with Israel, since it is usurping and in a state of war with the Muslims.
Israel is rejected by us and we shall never send it oil or recognize it in any way.
Until the Islamic and abased nations of the world rise up against the arrogant of the worked and their offspring, especially usurping Israel, they will not remove their criminal hands from them.
Israel is a usurper and must leave Palestine as soon as possible. The only solution is for our Palestinian brothers to destroy this corrupt element and uproot colonialism from the region in order to restore tranquility to it.
It is the obligation of the zealous nation of Iran to block American and Israeli interests from Iran and attack them.
The Islamic countries must use oil and whatever other resources they have at their disposal as a weapon against Israel and the colonialists.
This corrupt matter which is in the midst of the Islamic countries, with the support of the major powers threatens the Islamic countries every day with its corrupt proxies and roots. It must be uprooted through the zeal of the Islamic countries and great nations.
See also Khomeini’s speech on Qods Day, where he calls, on the Muslims of the world to “drive from the scene and bury in the graveyard of history” [از صحنه خارج و در گورستان تاريخ مدفون نمايند] the governments which cooperate with America and Israel.
Reports on Shahab 3 reflecting the concern it caused in Israel and the West, along with the posting of the “Wipe Israel off the map” phrase being reported.
September 21, 2000, Thursday
Iran: Shahab-3 “non-military” missile successfully test-fired
SOURCE: Voice of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Tehran, in Persian 1630 gmt 21 Sep 00
Text of report by Iranian radio on 21st September
The first Shahab-3 missile, using liquid and solid fuel, was successfully test-fired on the first day of the Holy Defence Week. Announcing the news, the minister of defence and armed forces logistics said: The missile was built and tested for the purpose of gaining the necessary technology in order to enter the design and production stage of satellite guidance systems Persian: samane-haye ranesh-e mahvareh.
Vice-Admiral Shamkhani added: The Shahab-3 missile has no military use and only for achieving the preliminary stages of new non-military operations.
Associated Press Online
July 4, 2003 Friday
Report: Iranian Missile Can Reach Israel
Iran has successfully tested an intermediate-range ballistic missile that can reach Israel, an Israeli newspaper reported Friday.
The Haaretz daily said the test of the Shahab-3 was conducted last week and was the most successful of seven or eight launches over the past five years.
The newspaper said the Shahab-3 has a range of more than 812 miles.
Israel’s army chief, Lt. Gen. Moshe Yaalon, will discuss the threat posed by Iran when he meets with U.S. defense officials next week, Haaretz said.
Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said Friday that he hoped the International Atomic Energy Agency and international powers would pressure Iran to allow weapons inspectors into the country and to sign nonproliferation agreements guaranteeing that it has no intention to develop nuclear weapons.
“The radical regime in Iran is threatening the stability not only of the state of Israel, but the European countries also,” Shalom said. “Iran is a danger to the stability of all the world.”
Earlier this week, the head of the country’s atomic energy organization, Gholamreza Aghazadeh, was quoted by Iranian media as saying Iran was ready to sign additional agreements to prove it did not intend to develop nuclear weapons, but only under certain conditions. It’s not clear what criteria would satisfy Iran.
It’s not clear how effectively the Shahab-3 missile would be in delivering a chemical, biological or nuclear payload. The missile is a modified version of North Korea’s Nodong-1 surface-to-surface missile.
Agence France Presse — English
July 7, 2003 Monday
Israel ‘very concerned’ about Iranian ballistic missile test
BYLINE: JACQUES PINTO
DATELINE: JERUSALEM, July 7
Iran’s confirmation that it has tested a ballistic missile which is within range of Israel, reinforces fears that the regime in Tehran represents the biggest threat to the Jewish state since the downfall of Saddam Hussein.
Israel said it was “very concerned” Monday after Iran confirmed it had conducted a final test of its Shahab-3 ballistic missile capable of hitting its territory.
“We are very concerned, especially since we know that Iran is seeking to acquire the nuclear weapon,” government spokesman Avi Pazner told AFP.
“We informed our American and European friends of our concern. Everything must be done to prevent Iran from acquiring the nuclear weapon. The combination of the Shahab-3 and the nuclear weapon would be a very serious threat on the stability of the region,” he added.
Iran earlier confirmed it had conducted a final test of its Shahab-3, a medium-range ballistic missile that has a range of 1,300 kilometres (810 miles) and can reportedly carry a warhead of between 700 and 1,000 kilograms (2,222 pounds).
Israel warned against the “Iranian threat” in May 2002, following a previous test of the Shahab-3 missile.
In May, Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom warned that Iran could possess weapons of mass destruction by 2006.
According to the Israeli daily Haaretz, the issue is due to be discussed by Israeli chief of staff Moshe Yaalon during a visit to Washington this week.
“The latest tests of the Shahab-3 confirm the concerns Israel had over the development of Iran’s ballistic arsenal and fears over its intentions,” Israeli analyst Mark Heller told AFP.
“The real danger lies in the development of its nuclear program and Israel relies mainly on the United States to deal with this threat,” said Heller, from the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies in Tel Aviv.
“The Iranian test is worrying because it proves that Iran is developing missiles capable of firing arms of mass destruction on distant targets,” analyst Shai Feldman said.
Both commentators nevertheless ruled out the possibility of a pre-emptive Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities, such as Israel’s 1981 air raid against the Iraqi nuclear plant of Osirak.
“The operational conditions are not the same. Iran has learnt lessons from Osirak. Its nuclear facilities, such as missile-launchers, are buried deep inside Iranian territory and scattered over a wide area,” Heller pointed out.
“The geostrategic situation in the region has completely changed, with the presence of US troops in Iraq. And the international community is more concerned with the Iranian nuclear threat than it was with the Iraqi program,” Feldman explained.
Since Saddam Hussein’s regime fell on April 9, Iran — which in 2002 US President George W. Bush described as forming part of an “axis of evil” together with Iraq and North Korea — has become the Jewish state’s enemy number one.
Israel broke diplomatic relations with Iran in 1979 after the fall of the Shah and the creation of the Islamic republic, which it accuses of supporting anti-Israeli terrorism.
In January 2002, the Israeli navy intercepted a ship carrying 50 tonnes of arms, which the Jewish state charged were sent by Iran to Palestinian militant organizations.
Tehran is accused of financing the Lebanon-based Shiite militia Hezbollah, as well as several radical Palestinian groups, such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
Despite breaking off diplomatic relations with Iran after the collapse of the Shah’s regime, Israel has nevertheless maintained shadowy relations with the Islamic Republic, supplying it with arms during its 1980-1988 war with Iraq.
Agence France Presse — English
July 9, 2003 Wednesday
Iran’s defence minister defends test of missile capable of hitting Israel
DATELINE: TEHRAN, July 9
Defence Minister Ali Shamkhani on Wednesday defended Iran’s testing of a ballistic missile capable of hitting arch-foe Israel, saying the army needed to be assured the device was functional.
“Naturally, when a product is made, it needs to be tested so it can be delivered.
Such a test creates confidence for the buyer,” the rear admiral and minister told the Iranian student news agency ISNA.
He also shrugged off US fears over the Shahab-3 medium-range missile which is based on North Korea’s No-Dong and Pakistan’s Ghauri-II and has a range of 1,300 kilometers (810 miles).
“If the Americans are angry after the Shahab-3, they can die angry,” Shamkhani was quoted as saying.
On Monday, the Iranian foreign ministry confirmed the Islamic republic had conducted a final test of its Shahab-3, and said the ballistic missile could now be turned over to the armed forces.
In response the White House said Iran’s missile and alleged unconventional arms programmes threatened global stability and security, and that it was working with allies to defuse the danger.
BBC Monitoring Middle East – Political
Supplied by BBC Worldwide Monitoring
December 16, 2003 Tuesday
Iran says it will tweak Shahab-3, not develop long-range missiles
Iran’s military does not intend to develop long-range ballistic missiles but will instead concentrate on tweaking its existing Shahab-3 medium-range missile, a senior official was quoted as saying.
“Iran does not have any plan to build a Shahab-4. Instead we are optimising the Shahab-3,” said Hossein Dehqan, a deputy to Defence Minister Ali Shamkhani.
Tehran finalised its testing of the Shahab-3 in June. The missile is thought to be capable of carrying a 1,000 kilogramme (one-ton) warhead at least 1,300 kilometers (800 miles) — therefore bringing arch-enemy Israel within range.
Shahab is Farsi for “meteor” or “shooting star”.
Six Shahab-3 missiles were paraded in Tehran in September during the festivities marking the outbreak of the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war, and one of them carried a banner declaring “We will wipe Israel from the map”.
The Shahab-3 is believed to be derived from technology acquired from North Korea and Pakistan.
Associated Press Worldstream
August 17, 2004 Tuesday
Iran threatens to destroy Israel’s nuclear reactor if Israel attacks Iran’s
BYLINE: ALI AKBAR DAREINI; Associated Press Writer
DATELINE: TEHRAN, Iran
Iran said Tuesday it would destroy Israel’s Dimona nuclear reactor if the Jewish state were to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities. A senior commander warned that Iranian missiles could reach Dimona.
“If Israel fires a missile into the Bushehr nuclear power plant, it has to say goodbye forever to its Dimona nuclear facility, where it produces and stockpiles nuclear weapons,” said the deputy chief of the elite Revolutionary Guards, Brig. Gen. Mohammad Baqer Zolqadr, in a statement.
Zolqadr was referring to the site of Iran’s first nuclear reactor at Bushehr, a coastal town on the Gulf. Built with Russian assistance, the reactor is due to come on stream in 2005.
Iran says its nuclear program is strictly for the generation of electricity. But Israel and the United States strongly suspect Iran is secretly building nuclear weapons.
Israel has not threatened to attack the Bushehr reactor, but it has said it will not allow Iran to build a nuclear bomb. In 1981, Israeli fighter-bombers destroyed a nuclear reactor that was under construction outside Baghdad because it feared Iraq would acquire a nuclear weapon.
Israel has never confirmed nor denied having nuclear weapons. But it is widely believed to be a nuclear power. Its reactor at Dimona in the Negev Desert is said to be the source of plutonium for its alleged nuclear warheads.
Zolqadr did not say how Iran would attack Dimona, but the head of the Revolutionary Guards’ political bureau, Yadollah Javani, said Iran would use its Shahab-3 missile.
“All the territory under the control of the Zionist regime, including its nuclear facilities, are within the range of Iran’s advanced missiles,” Javani said in a separate statement.
Iran announced last week it had successfully test-fired a new version of the Shahab-3, which has a range of 1,296 kilometers (about 810 miles). Israel is about 965 kilometers (600 miles) west of Iran.
U.S. officials say the missile, whose name means shooting star in Farsi, is based on the North Korean “No Dong” rocket. Iran says Shahab-3 is entirely Iranian-made.
Israel has developed with the United States the Arrow anti-ballistic missile system. It is said to be capable of intercepting and destroying missiles at high altitudes.
Agence France Presse — English
September 21, 2004 Tuesday 7:32 AM GMT
Iran shows off ballistic missiles with anti-US, Israeli slogans
DATELINE: TEHRAN Sept 21
Iran showed off its range of ballistic missiles at an annual military parade on Tuesday, with the rockets draped in banners vowing to “crush America” and “wipe Israel off the map”.
A banner stating “Israel must be wiped off the map” was draped on the side of a Shahab-2 missile, while a banner saying “We will crush America under our feet” was on the side of a trailer carrying the latest Shahab-3 missile.
The parade marks the beginning of “Sacred Defence Week”, an event commemorating Iraq’s 1980 attack on Iran and the outset of the bloody eight-year war.
“The Shahab-3 missiles, with different ranges, enables us to destroy the most distant targets,” said an official commentary accompanying the parade, which was carried live on state television.
“These missiles enable us to destroy the enemy with missile strikes,” the commentary said, without giving any specific details on the range of the missiles.
The Shahab-3 is Iran’s most advanced missile, and is touted as being capable of hitting arch-enemy Israel.
Agence France Presse — English
September 22, 2005 Thursday 8:15 AM GMT
Iran flaunts ballistic missiles with anti-US, Israeli slogans
DATELINE: TEHRAN Sept 22
Iran showed off six of its Shahab-3 ballistic missiles in a military parade on Thursday, with the rockets sporting banners reading “Death to America”, “We will crush America under our feet” and “Israel must be wiped off the face of the earth”.
“The Shahab-3 missile is the symbol of our strength and of the authority of Iran,” a commentator said as the missiles and launchers rolled slowly past hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
The parade marks the start of “Sacred Defence Week”, dedicated to the hundreds of thousands of Iranians killed after the forces of former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein invaded in 1980.
Iran has been constantly upgrading the Shahab-3 missile. The single-stage device is believed to be based on a North Korean design and thought to have a range of at least 2,000 kilometres (1,280 miles) — meaning arch-enemy Israel and US bases in the region are well within range.
In Farsi, Shahab means “meteor” or “shooting star”.
Tehran’s rapid progress on its ballistic missile programme is a major cause for concern among the international community, particularly Israel, which is already alarmed over Iran’s nuclear activities.
Iran refuses to recognise Israel and official dogma calls for the destruction of the Jewish state.
But the clerical regime here insists it is not seeking to develop missiles with a longer range than the Shahab-3, and has denied allegations that it is seeking to develop nuclear weapons. The country says its missiles will only be tipped with conventional warheads.
In May, Iran announced it had successfully tested a new solid fuel motor for the missile, a technological breakthrough given that the missile had initially been designed to work with less stable and less mobile liquid fuel.
In practice, that means the Shahab-3 missiles can be spread across the country and stored far from any refueling facilities in preparation for immediate deployment.
JANE’S DEFENCE WEEKLY
May 31, 2006 Wednesday
IRAN’S SHAHAB 3 IN LATEST TEST
BYLINE: ALON BEN-DAVID
Iran test-launches Shahab 3 medium-range ballistic missile; Western intelligence agencies observed no improvement or changes in flight profile, though Iran has claimed in recent months that 1,300 km range has been extended to 2,000 km; test was carried out hours before Pres Bush met with Israeli Prime Min Ehud Olmert to discuss potential ballistic missile threat from Iran; Iran is believed to have assembled and deployed North Korean BM-25 intermediate-range ballistic missiles, which have range of 2,500-4,000 km (M)
Other interesting references:
Joshua Teitelbaum, “What Iranian Leaders Really Say about Doing away with Israel”, Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, 2008
“What Did Ahmadinejad Really Say About Israel?”, Latter Day Saints Forum
“Israeli Minister Agrees Ahmadinejad Never Said Israel ‘Must Be Wiped Off the Map’”, Robert Mackley, New York Times,
April 17, 2012
Pro-government Iranians who didn’t get the memo. (In chronological order.)
"Iranian protesters, mainly members of the Basij Islamic militia, holds (sic) up a sign during a protest against the war in Iraq 12 April 2003 for the sixth consecutive day outside the British embassy in Tehran.
Pictures from the Qods Day, October 28, 2005, the last Friday in Ramadan so declared by Ayatollah Khomeini.
"Iranians walk over an anti-Israel poster during an anti-Israel rally on Friday, Oct. 28, 2005 in Tehran. Tens of thousands of Iranians stated anti-Israel protests across the country Friday and repeated calls by their ultraconservative president demanding the Jewish state's destruction. World leaders have condemned remarks made Wednesday by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who repeated the words of the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, founder of Iran's Islamic revolution, by saying: "Israel must be wiped off the map." (AP, October 28, 2005)
"Iranians attend an anti-Israel rally marking 'Al-Quds Day' (Jerusalem Day) to support the Palestinian cause in Tehran, Iran, Friday, Oct. 28, 2005. Tens of thousands of Iranians staged anti-Israel protests across the country Friday and repeated calls by their ultraconservative president who repeated the words of the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, founder of Iran's Islamic revolution, by saying: "Israel must be wiped off the map." (AP, October 28, 2005)
Qods Day demonstration, 2005 (AP, October 28, 2005)
"Iranian paramilitary militias (Basij) walk past an anti-Israel banner during a rally of paramilitary forces to support of (sic) Iran's nuclear programs in Tehran, Iran, Saturday, Nov. 24, 2005. On the banner at right is a picture of Iran's late leader Ayatullah Khomeini." (AP, November 24, 2005)
"An Iranian woman walks past a banner repeating the famous quote by the founder of Iran's Islamic revolution Ayatollah Khomeini,"Israel must be wiped out of the world" in downtown Tehran, 30 July 2006. At least 52 civilians, including 30 children, were killed in Israeli raids on a shelter in the southern Lebanese village of Qana yesterday, fuelling anger at the Jewish sthate's military onslaught and giving tragic new impetus to ceasefire plans." (AFP, July 30, 2006)
"An Iranian Basiji student looks at a poster featuring portraits of (L-R) of Israeli military intelligence chief General Amos Yadlin, Mossad chief Meir Dagan and Defence Minister Ehud Barak during an anti-Israeli ceremony in Tehran on March 9, 2008." (AFP, March 9, 2008)
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Iranians chant slogans during an anti-Israel demonstration in Tehran, Monday, Dec. 29, 2008. (AP, December 29, 2008)