There was nothing really new about Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's call last week for Israel's destruction. The Islamist clerics and their supporters who run that regime have said much the same thing many times before.
But what was different about this incident was the reaction. Not just the United States but the nations of Europe united to condemn the threat in the strongest possible terms.
Even there, the anger over the statement exceeded the expectations of even the most optimistic observer of European politics. It might be expected that British Prime Minister Tony Blair would express disgust with Ahmadinejad's anti-Zionist bluster. But who would have predicted that the French government - usually ready to excuse any Iranian excess - would have been roused to the boiling point as well?
Yet as pleased as America and, especially, the Jewish community, may be with all these condemnations, if that is just the end of the story, it's not enough. What makes Ahmadinejad's chilling pledge to help "wipe Israel off the map" so frightening is the fact that his country seems to be well on its way to acquiring the nuclear capability to do so.
Not long ago, Iran vowed to start moving ahead with plans to break the seals on nuclear-research facilities without further inspection by U.N. watchdogs. Though the United States has attempted to rally world opinion behind a strong stand against this development, America's allies have proven less than stalwart in such battles. When it comes to preventing Iran from going nuclear, the Persian country's business partners in France and Germany seem to have other priorities.
Also troubling is Tehran's ongoing contributions to international Islamic terror. As a funder and political backer of Lebanon-based Hezbollah and its fellow rogue regime in Syria, Iran has been a major impediment to Mideast peace. And its backing of Iraqi Islamist insurgents and hosting of Al Qaeda operatives still place it squarely in what President Bush called the "Axis of Terror."
The question is: What will the West do about it?
The Iranian president's pledge never to rest until Israel is destroyed may be just more of the same extremist rhetoric that we routinely hear in the Arab world (but which usually is discounted by those who claim that rejectionists are in the minority). But when you put those words together with a nuclear power, the result isn't merely a global controversy, but a plan for genocide.
While the United States has commendably acted to put together an international coalition to pressure Syria about its misdeeds in Lebanon, there doesn't appear to be a similar sense of urgency in the United Nations or Europe about Iranian weaponry.
Some have called for Iran's expulsion from the United Nations as punishment for its threat against the life of a fellow member nation. We have no problem with that idea, though that's unlikely to succeed.
But what is really needed is an effective policy of real sanctions and massive international pressure on Iran to shut down all of its nuclear programs and to end aid to Islamic terrorists. Anything short of that will only serve as proof to the Iranians that the West doesn't care about its acquisition of nuclear weapons or its murderous intentions toward the people of Israel.
Iran is counting on the continued indifference of Europe and the flaccid nature of every previous international attempt to call them to account for their misdeeds. Let's hope that this time, they've overestimated the spinelessness of those who call themselves America's "allies" and Israel's "friends."