“Why,” asks Jeffrey Herf “would Roger Cohen, or the leaders of the Council on Foreign Relations think Ahmadinejad has not meant what he has said in public?”
Of all the alleged lessons of Munich, surely this is the dumbest one. What Herf has in mind here are Ahmadinejad’s statements about Israel being wiped off the map. But Herf certainly isn’t proposing to extend this “assume foreign leaders are always telling the truth” principle to Ahmadinejad’s claims that Iran’s nuclear program is entirely peaceful. And Herf is right not to extend it, but simply because it’s a dumb principle. Nothing in the actions — present or historical — suggests a desire to wipe Israel off the map that extends to a willingness to commit national suicide while trying. Similarly, Iran’s actions suggest a desire to either build a nuclear bomb or to create the capacity to build one very rapidly, primarily in order to deter the more powerful militaries (Israel, US, Pakistan) in Iran’s neighborhood.