A Chalice Of Poison

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The New York Times notices the letter posted by former Iranian president, Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani last week. First the BBC and now the Times? What planet is this again?

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has repeatedly insisted that Iran’s nuclear program is peaceful, sharply criticized the release of the letter. “Those who think they can weaken the will of the people for construction and development by questioning their values will fail,” he said Sunday, “and they only show their lack of wisdom and commitment.”

The letter, which had been previously published elsewhere, was written in 1988, near the end of Iran’s eight-year war with Iraq. It was brought to light again on Friday by the former Iranian president, Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, to defend himself against hard-line critics who accuse him of ending the war when Iran was on the brink of victory.

But the letter has also been used by moderates to bolster the case for nuclear talks with the West. Iran faces sanctions for defying the United Nations Security Council’s demand that it halt its uranium enrichment, which the United States says is part of a weapons program.

In the letter, Ayatollah Khomeini outlined the reasons Iran had to accept the bitter prospect of a cease-fire in the war, which had ground down to a stalemate, with about 250,000 Iranians dead and 200,000 disabled. It did not specifically call for Iran to develop nuclear weapons, but referred indirectly to the matter by citing a letter written by the officer leading the war effort, Mohsen Rezai.

“The commander has said we can have no victory for another five years, and even by then we need to have 350 infantry bridges, 2,500 tanks, 300 fighter planes,” the ayatollah wrote, adding that the officer also said he would need “a considerable number of laser and nuclear weapons to confront the attacks.”

Ayatollah Khomeini determined that the nation could not afford, politically or economically, to continue the war, and in a famous public statement compared the decision to “drinking a chalice of poison.”

ILNA, the Iranian Labor News Agency, removed the word “nuclear” within a few hours of putting the letter on the Web, after receiving a call from the Iranian National Security Council, according to a reporter with the agency. The reporter insisted on anonymity for fear of retribution.

Iranian moderates (an odd term, but in relative terms they are when compared to Ahmadinejad and his buddies) are trying to warn Iran that they may be heading for a disaster. As one politician put it:

Mohsen Armin, a reformist politician, said hard-line politicians who welcomed confrontation with the West should learn a lesson from the letter so they would not have to “drink a chalice of poison” themselves, ILNA reported.

If the West could put up a united front right now, it would likely increase pressure on Ahmadinejad to back down. The longer the West dithers and does nothing, the stronger he and his kind become. There is still a window, but it is closing. We need a united front against Iran.

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