Why 'Never Again' Is a Litmus Test for Iran

As we approach International Holocaust Remembrance Day on Friday (January 27) the need to memorialize the horrors of Auschwitz should be self-evident. Yet this year, the Iranian regime's continued determination to realize its nuclear ambitions underscores the necessity to turn the motto 'Never Again' into action. The memory of the Holocaust should be at the forefront of the minds of world leaders who today must keep nuclear weapons out of Iran's reach. Even those statesmen who dismiss Iran's calls for Israel's destruction as little more than jingoistic rhetoric must regard Tehran's fanatical Holocaust denial as reason enough to thwart their nuclear armament.

It is undoubtedly a credit to European and other Western leaders that they recently slapped an unprecedented oil embargo on Iran in the most serious attempt yet to bring Tehran's nuclear plans to heel. Yet there are still those who question the severity of the Iranian threat and even regard Western determination to deny Iran atomic capability as rank hypocrisy, given the nuclear capacity on both sides of the Atlantic. For those still in doubt as to the seriousness of the nuclear threat, International Holocaust Memorial Day should serve as a timely reminder.

There can be no other country as determined to whitewash the crimes of Nazi Germany as Iran. The depth of Iranian Holocaust rejection is clear. President Ahmadinejad has repeatedly denied the Holocaust, calling it a "big lie" in August of last year. There is apparent consensus on the issue in the higher echelons of the Iranian leadership. Ahmadinejad used a trip to Germany (where Holocaust denial is a crime) in 2007 to pointedly announce that he "cannot confirm or deny" the Holocaust. Infamously, in December 2006, the Iranian regime arranged an academic smoke-screen for deniers, organizing a conference "to review the global vision of the Holocaust."

On the face of it, Iran's Holocaust obsession makes little sense, given that it is a county both untouched and untainted by the horrors of Hitler. Yet, it should be a wake-up call to those who would give Iran a free pass. By denying that the darkest chapter in human history ever happened, Ahmadinejad and his cronies understand that they are leaving a chink of light for such depravity to return.

This is exactly why Iranian vows to destroy Israel are so deeply worrying. Supreme Leader Khamenei declared in 2010 that "Israel is a cancerous tumour," which must be "cut out," while at the same time, Defense Minister Vahidi referred to the "Zionist regime" and "the countdown to its extinction."

There are of course those who continue to rubbish these repeated calls for Israel's elimination. Writing recently in Foreign Policy, Harvard academic Stephen Walt dismissed the prospect of an Iranian nuclear strike a "bizarre fantasy." Even if a pathological fixation on Israel's destruction is not enough to stir Walt and his ilk, the combustible mixture of nuclear armament and Iran's peculiar obsession with the Holocaust should be serious cause for concern. Let us not forget that it was the ashes of the Holocaust upon which the concept of universal human rights was codified under the auspices of the United Nations. To deny the Holocaust is to rip away those very foundations. To pretend that the evils of the concentration camps never happened is to deny the horrific consequences of allowing racial, national or religious 'purity' to trample upon equality and freedom. Placed alongside an already deplorable human rights record and a passionate ideological opposition towards Israel and the West, Holocaust denial can only pave the way for further Iranian abuses at home or abroad.

Accepting the dire lessons of the Holocaust has rightly become a litmus test of human decency. A country such as Iran which refuses to even recognize that there are any lessons to be learnt must never be permitted nuclear weapons. The pledge 'Never Again' is as relevant as it has ever been. Only continued international determination to stop Iran's nuclear march in its tracks will ensure that it does not become an empty slogan.