Weeks into the crisis triggered by Iran’s illegal capture of 15 British naval personnel, the European Union’s irresolute and contradictory approach is making matters worse. Faced with a country whose leader is bent on acquiring nuclear weapons, the EU’s leaders are simply dithering, fearing that the fire next door in Iraq could somehow spread.
The latest crisis proves again that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad cannot be trusted. Following the ambush of the UK forces, the Iranian authorities dissembled as to their exact location at the time of their abduction, which was subsequently proven by the UK government to have been in Iraqi territorial waters operating under the authority of UN resolutions and with the express consent of the Iraqi government.
What Ahmedinejad appears to want are bargaining chips to secure the release of 6 Iranians who were aiding the Iraqi insurgency before being captured by the US. The EU’s reluctance to match America’s robust language on Iran is emboldening him. Ahmedinejad can sense an international community divided, and like his fellow pariah leader, North Korea’s Kim Jong-il, he is exploiting that division at every opportunity.
The uniquely dangerous combination of a nuclear Iran, which seeks to inspire the Shia in the Gulf states to rise up against their Sunni masters, coupled with Ahmedinejad’s millenarian mysticism, poses an existential threat to Israel, which Ahmadinejad has threatened to “wipe off the map.” It also threatens to touch off a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. And, if Iran succeeds in acquiring long-range ballistic missiles, the security threat will become global.