Last week, Irans ambassador to the United Nations filed a complaint to the UN Secretary General, demanding a condemnation of big surprise Israel.
Ambassador Mohammad Khazaee was upset that an Israeli official, Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz (a possible successor to embattled Prime Minister Ehud Olmert) recently threatened an Israeli attack on Irans nuclear facilities.
First question: Did Khazaee keep a straight face while he was composing his letter of indignant protest?
If so, he did so by virtue of his skill as a diplomat, not by virtue of the complaints merit. That, on its face, is laughable indeed.
Iran has repeatedly declared Israel an illegitimate state that should not be allowed to exist, and has threatened to annihilate the Jewish state on more than one occasion. As if to demonstrate its seriousness, it has embarked on a program of nuclear development that only the terminally naïve could believe will be limited to energy applications.
Yet, Iran has the astonishing chutzpah or whatever the Farsi equivalent of that word might be to state things like this about Israel: Such a dangerous threat against a sovereign state and a member of the United Nations constitutes a manifest violation of international law and contravenes the most fundamental principles of the Charter of the United Nations.
Next question: Is such a sentence more funny, because of its sheer absurdity, than it is terrifying, because of the possibility that Irans leadership might actually be serious?
In other words, if Iran is myopic enough not to see the difference between an actual threat to its own safety and a theoretical Israeli response to the existential threat Iran already poses to Israel, what else is Iran blind to?
It could be argued that Mofaz would have been better advised to keep Israeli counter-threats out of the public arena. Sometimes, in the often surreal world of diplomacy, its best to leave certain things unsaid, even though they may be commonly understood. Israel was wisest when it bombed a budding nuclear facility in Syria last September and said nothing. As poker players know, its often better to keep your power cards hidden until its time to lay them on the table.
But Mofazs outspokenness or bluster is hardly the issue.
The issue is that Iran remains the main neighborhood bully, the primary instigator of anti-Western violence, the root of much political and social instability, the main supporter of terrorism in Lebanon, Gaza, Iraq and elsewhere and easily poses the greatest future threat in one of the worlds most dangerous and most important regions.
We must not allow any measure of sanctimonious protestation or straight-faced hypocrisy from Iran to obscure these elemental facts.