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Fact Sheets: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

(Updated December 2005)

The belligerent rhetoric of the President of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is prompting worldwide concern about his intentions and the future stability of the Middle East.

In September 2005, Iran threatened to resume uranium enrichment and bar open inspections of its nuclear facilities if the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) refers it to the Security Council for sanctions. Ahmadinejad defended his country’s right to produce nuclear fuel in a fiery speech to the UN General Assembly and later raised worldwide concern about nuclear proliferation when he said, “Iran is ready to transfer nuclear know-how to the Islamic countries due to their need.” Iran has already agreed to assist Syria in developing the capability to independently produce chemical weapons. Iran could also transfer its own stocks to terrorists or use them in warheads to threaten American, Israeli, and other nations’ interests.

Speaking to students at a conference entitled “The World Without Zionism” on October 26, 2005, Ahmadinejad called Israel “a disgraceful blot” and quoted Ayatollah Khomeini, the former Supreme Leader of Iran, saying “As the Imam said, Israel must be wiped off the map.”

This call to genocide sparked strong international condemnation from the United States, the United Kingdom, the European Union, and the United Nations Security Council. Responding to the condemnation, Ahmadinejad stated that Western nations are free to criticize his statements, but their reactions are invalid. Defending his comments about Israel’s destruction, he said, “They [International Zionist and Expansionist Policies of the World Arrogance, i.e. United States and Israel] are cheeky humans, and they think that the entire world should obey them. They destroy Palestinian families and expect nobody to object to them.”

In this same speech, Ahmadinejad harshly criticized Muslim nations and leaders who normalize relations with Israel or accept its legitimacy. “Anybody who recognizes Israel will burn in the fire of the Islamic nation’s fury,” he said. “Any (Islamic leader) who recognizes the Zionist regime means he is acknowledging the surrender and defeat of the Islamic world.”

On December 8, 2005, Ahmadinejad gave a speech at a summit for Muslim nations in Saudi Arabia that denied the Holocaust and suggested Israel should be moved to Europe. “Some European countries insist on saying that during World War II, Hitler burned millions of Jews and put them in concentration camps,” said Ahmadinejad. “Any historian, commentator or scientist who doubts that is taken to prison or gets condemned. Although we don’t accept this claim, if we suppose it is true, if the Europeans are honest they should give some of their provinces in Europe — like in Germany, Austria or other countries — to the Zionists and the Zionists can establish their state in Europe. You offer part of Europe and we will support it.”

Despite increased condemnation by the international community, including many Arab and Muslim nations, on December 14, 2005 Ahmadinejad again denied the Holocaust took place and called for Israel to be transferred out of the Middle East. During a live nationally televised speech on Iranian television, Ahmadinejad stated:

They have invented a myth that Jews were massacred and place this above God, religions and the prophets. The West has given more significance to the myth of the genocide of the Jews, even more significant than God, religion, and the prophets, (it) deals very severely with those who deny this myth but does not do anything to those who deny God, religion, and the prophet. If you have burned the Jews, why don’t you give a piece of Europe, the United States, Canada or Alaska to Israel. Our question is, if you have committed this huge crime, why should the innocent nation of Palestine pay for this crime?

Along with Israel, the United States is a frequent target of Ahmadinejad’s venom. He accuses the United States of attempting to be the “absolute rulers of the world,” and asserts that U.S. support for Israel is a conspiracy against the Islamic world. “We have to watch out for conspiracies. For more than 50 years, the World Arrogance [United States] has tried to give recognition to the existence of this fake regime [Israel]....” At “The World Without Zionism” conference, he also called for the destruction of the United States:

Many are sowing the seeds of defeat and despair in this all-out war between the Islamic world and the Infidel Front, hoping to dishearten the Islamic world. Such people are using words like “it’s not possible.” They say, How could we have a world without America and Zionism? But you know well that this slogan and goal can be achieved and can definitely be realized.

On November 27, 2005, Ahmadinejad blamed the U.S. for once using nuclear weapons and then criticizing Iran’s nuclear intentions. He said, “You [the United States], who have used nuclear weapons against innocent people, who have used uranium ordnance in Iraq, should be tried as war criminals in courts.”

Given Iran’s capabilities and past record, the rhetoric of President Ahmadinejad must be viewed with alarm.

For years, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq served as a counterweight to the regional hegemonic designs of the theocrats in Tehran; however, the removal of Saddam from power, and destruction of his army, has left Iran as the most powerful nation in the Gulf. Iran is viewed by its Arab neighbors as a menace. Iran has a long record of coveting their resources and territory, and Iran’s radical Muslim leaders have consistently sought to export their revolution beyond their nation’s borders.

Since the Iranian revolution, the country’s leaders have been the leading opponents of the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians. Iran is also the primary sponsor of terrorism in the region, funding and encouraging terrorist groups such as Hizballah and Palestinian Islamic Jihad to carry out deadly attacks against Israelis, Americans, and their political opponents. The danger posed by Iran has grown as it has developed increasingly sophisticated missiles and engaged in an illicit program to develop nuclear weapons.