With Iran reeling from international sanctions and the threat of a strike on its nuclear facilities looming, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has launched a new attack on Israel, calling for the “annihilation” of the Jewish state.
Ahmadinejad also charged that American presidential candidates must “kiss the feet of Zionists” to win election.
And the former head of Israeli intelligence said Iranians should be “very fearful” of an attack in the coming weeks.
Speaking to ambassadors from Islamic countries on Thursday, Ahmadinejad declared that a “horrible Zionist current” has been managing world affairs for “about 400 years.”
He accused “Zionists” of controlling the world’s media and financial systems, saying they were “behind the scene of the world’s main powers, media, monetary and banking centers. They are the decision makers, to the extent that the [American] presidential election hopefuls must go and kiss the feet of the Zionists to ensure their election victory.”
Ahmadinejad also said that “liberating Palestine” would solve all the world’s problems, the Jerusalem Post reported. He cited several Muslim nations including Turkey and Syria as suffering from Israel’s “plots,” and repeated earlier threats by saying: “Anyone who loves freedom and justice must strive for the annihilation of the Zionist regime in order to pave the way for world justice and freedom.”
Ahmadinejad has previously called the Holocaust a “myth,” and on Wednesday an official with the Islamist group Hamas echoed that outrageous assertion.
Fawzi Barhoum, a spokesman for Hamas, denounced a Palestinian official’s visit to the site of the Auschwitz death camp in Poland. Barhoum said the visit by Ziad al-Bandak, an adviser to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, “served only the Zionist occupation.”
A number of media sources, including Reuters, quoted Barhoum as calling the Holocaust an “alleged tragedy.” But other sources, including Ynetnews in Israel and some American newspapers, quoted him as referring to the Holocaust as “a big lie.”
Hamas, which controls Gaza, rejects Israel’s existence and interim peace accords reached with Israel by Abbas’ more moderate Fatah group.
Meanwhile speculation is heating up in Israel over the likelihood of a strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities in the very near future.
The West has imposed sanctions on Iran in hopes of convincing the Islamic Republic to rein in its nuclear development program, which Iran claims is intended for peaceful purposes but the West fears is designed to produce atomic weapons that could be used against Israel.
Recent days have seen a flurry of high-level visits to Israel by American officials, including Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and Thomas Donilon, the national security adviser. GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney also visited Israel.
Panetta declared that the United States would stand by Israel if Iran developed a nuclear weapon, The New York Times reported. “We have options that we are prepared to implement to ensure that that does not happen,” he said.
Sanctions imposed on Iran are reportedly battering the nation’s economy. Last month Iranians demonstrated in one city over the skyrocketing cost of chicken, due to higher feed costs resulting from the sanctions’ success in weakening Iran’s currency.
But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insisted on Wednesday that sanctions against Iran were largely useless, adding that “time to resolve this issue peacefully is running out.”
In Israel, “there remains feverish speculation that Mr. Netanyahu will act in September or early October,” The Times observed on Wednesday. “Analysts cite several reasons for the potential timing: Israel does not like to fight wars in winter. Mr. Netanyahu feels that he will have less leverage if President Obama is re-elected, and that if Mr. Romney were to win, the new president would be unlikely to want to take on a big military action early in his term.”
Efraim Halevy, a former chief of Israel’s intelligence agency and national security adviser, said: “If I were an Iranian, I would be very fearful of the next 12 weeks.”
And Amos Harel, defense correspondent for the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, estimated that the chance of an attack before November at 50 percent, adding: “It’s probably a more crucial junction than it was ever before.”
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