In an article for the Council on Foreign Relations, Elliot Abrams communicates the story of a meeting between Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei and Spain’s then-Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, in which the former told the latter that his job “is to set Israel on fire.”
Abrams relayed the story told by executive director of the Henry Jackson Society, Alan Mendoza at a conference on Iran convened by the Henry Jackson Society of London and the Foundation for the Defense of Democracy of Washington, DC last week . Mendoza in turn was relaying information provided to him by Rafael Bardaji – former national security adviser to the Spanish Prime Minister–who was at the meeting where the comment was made.
“The story is this,” Abrams writes.”The Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, invited then-Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar to breakfast while he was visiting Iran. The Spanish official party decided to begin by asking the ayatollah a friendly or neutral question rather than a hostile or critical one. The idea was to get the meeting off on a better footing, so they began with a question about the complex government and religious power structure in Iran. Given all the official civil and religious bodies and positions and their various responsibilities, they asked him to describe what exactly is his job. ‘My job’, the Supreme Leader replied, ‘is to set Israel on fire.'”
Abrams points out that the visit by Aznar in 2001 has elsewhere elicited comments by him describing his meeting with the Ayatollah:
“Israel to him was a kind of historical cancer and anomaly, a country … condemned to disappear. At some point he said very clearly, though softly as he spoke, that an open confrontation against the US and Israel was inevitable, and that he was working for Iran to prevail in such a confrontation. It was his duty as the ultimate stalwart of the Islamic global revolution.”