Monday, May 26, 2008

Cowbama Diplomacy and Iran


Listening to McCain and Obama spar on the issue of Iran, one is reminded of the old expression, "the blind leading the blind." Both of them are missing the real arguments, Obama by 180 degrees, McCain by 90 degrees. As I wrote several weeks ago, the penultimate questions for Obama are, one, what he could possibly offer Iran to change their ways and, two, what we lose by taking the threat of military force off the table and allowing Iran ever more time to move towards development of a nuclear arsenal. McCain ignores these questions and fails to bring up the fact that we have been engaging Iran diplomatically for thirty years.

Barack Obama has said repeatedly that he would meet at the Presidential level with his Iranian counterpart. And in so doing, he embraces the unilateral diplomacy for which the left has been so critical of President Bush. Cowboy diploymacy is abhorent, but Cowbama diplomacy seems acceptable. This from Obama's website describing his intentions:

Diplomacy: Obama is the only major candidate who supports tough, direct presidential diplomacy with Iran without preconditions. Now is the time to pressure Iran directly to change their troubling behavior. Obama would offer the Iranian regime a choice. If Iran abandons its nuclear program and support for terrorism, we will offer incentives like membership in the World Trade Organization, economic investments, and a move toward normal diplomatic relations. If Iran continues its troubling behavior, we will step up our economic pressure and political isolation.

Obama has backed off that some, claiming now that there will be "preperation" before the talks "without precondition" and that certain matters, such as human rights, will have to be on the table. Iran clearly has no problem with that. In fact, they have recently made their own offer of essentially unconditional talks to the UN within the past week. There is no doubt that Iran's theocracy would fully welcome extended, useless talks on anything Obama would like to bring up. And just as an aside, as you read this post, keep in mind Obama's big incentive to change Iran's behavior is membership in the WTO.

It also needs to be noted that Obama has repeatedly taken the position that use of force should not be on the table. Obama has condemned even the threat of force against Iran and voted against legislation that he claimed would have allowed the President to threaten Iran with force. And you will note that use of force is not even on his list of alternatives at his website should Iran not respond to Obama's soaring rhetoric. This despite the fact that Iran is killing American soldiers in its deadly proxy war in Iraq as we speak and that Iran is hell bent on attaining a nuclear arsenal.

To put the "talks with Iran" issue in context, U.S. administrations have been regularly in contact with Iran and making diplomatic overtures to normalize relations for decades. It started in the days after the overthrow of the Shah, when Zbignew Brezezinski was close to announcing a deal with the new Iranian regime. Ayatollah Khomeini scuttled that, throwing his full support behind the taking of hostages from the American Embassy. Anyone who has studied the history of Iran’s theocracy and its relations with the U.S. knows that there have been many subsuquent attempts by U.S. administrations to normalize relations with Iran. It is something that has been repeatedly and flatly rejected by Iran’s Supreme Guides, first Khomeini, and, since his death, Khamenei. Ken Pollack, in his book "The Persian Puzzle," documents most of the attempts, including the failed attempt by Clinton regime.

Update 3: Amir Taheri, writing a the WSJ, quotes current Supreme Guide Khameini's response to a question about normalizing relations with the U.S.:

You have nothing to say to us. We object. We do not agree to a relationship with you! We are not prepared to establish relations with powerful world devourers like you! The Iranian nation has no need of the United States, nor is the Iranian nation afraid of the United States. We . . . do not accept your behavior, your oppression and intervention in various parts of the world."

Read the entire article.

The reasons all attempts at normalizing relations have failed goes to the heart of Iran’s radical philosophy. As a threshold matter, Iran refers to America is the Great Satan for a reason. As Pollack explains, the theocrats in Iran view Western culture and traditions as the single greatest threat to the deeply repressive medieval culture and its brutality that they have imposed upon their population. Moreover, America’s goals for the Middle East are in direct contradiction to the foundational goals of the theocracy.

Before exploring that thought further, it must be noted that the Bush administration has in fact engaged diplomatically for the past several years on two fronts. One is the issue of Iran's race towards a nuclear arsenal (don’t even mention the December NIE to the contrary - that was as ridiculous and suicidal bit of hyper-partisan fiction as ever there was). The U.S. has fully supported the seemingly endless meetings between Iran and the EU and blessed off on the various packages of carrots the EU has offered to Iran. Iran has steadfastly refused to countenance any deal that would derail its efforts to create a nuclear arsenal - though they have shown a distinct willingness to engage in endless and fruitless talks. Indeed, as the NYT reported on the EU talks with Iran in December, 2007:

The first hour and a half of the meeting on Friday was described as a monologue, with [Iran’s nuclear negotiator] Mr. Jalili speaking about the will of the Iranian people to support uranium enrichment, theology, God, even his doctoral thesis, according to several officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity under normal diplomatic rules.

. . . [Jalili told the EU] "None of your proposals has any standing."

The French official described the meeting as "a disaster," adding "Jalili essentially said, ‘Everything that Larijani has proposed is a dead letter and we have to start from zero.’"

The official also said that Mr. Jalili had declared, "There is no longer an Iranian nuclear problem," and had added that the only interlocutor recognized by Iran from now on would be the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The hard-line position from the Iranian side was clear confirmation that Iran would not compromise on this issue, the French official said, adding, "We have in front of us the real Iran."

An official involved in the talks put it even more bluntly, saying, "We can’t do business with these guys at this point."

Read the entire article. And indeed, the U.S. met in 2007 on three occasions directly with Iran on the issue of security in Iraq. Iran did not negotiate in good faith, instead making promises it did not keep even as it engaged in a proxy war aimed at driving the U.S. out of Iraq and turning that country into a mirror of Lebanon. In retrospect, but for two small incidents, there is nothing in our history with Iran's theocracy that suggests Iran will respond in good faith to diplomacy. Indeed, the only measures to which Iran has historically responded are force and the threat of force (1979 hostage crisis, 1988 mining of the Gulf, 2003 suspension of nuclear activity).

McCain is letting Obama off the hook by allowing him to pretend that he proposes something new. What does Obama pose that is any substantive way different from the Bush approach over the past three years? Nothing, other than Obama would take the threat of force off the table. Its the Cowbama version of walk softly and carry nary a toothpick.

The problem is Obama's ignorance of the goals and motivations of the Iranian theocracy - though given McCain's arguments to this point, I do not know if he also suffers from a similar ignorance. The theocrats of Iran are not the bitter folk of rural Pennsylvania, and Tehran is a world away in distance and time from the south side of Chicago. Iran’s theocracy will not moderate with a healthier economy. The Supreme Guide and Ahmedinejad will not sell out their Khomeinist revolution for WTO status. But Obama's cluelessness goes even beyond that. Obama has blamed Iran's murderous proclivities on anxiety caused by Bush administration threats of military strikes:

Mr. Obama said that Iran had been “acting irresponsibly” by supporting Shiite militant groups in Iraq. He also emphasized that Iran’s suspected nuclear weapons program and its support for “terrorist activities” were serious concerns.

But he asserted that Iran’s support for militant groups in Iraq reflected its anxiety over the Bush administration’s policies in the region, including talk of a possible American military strike on Iranian nuclear installations.

Read the entire article. Obama goes on to state his willingness to give the theocracy security guarantees and to foreswear regime change. It would be hard to imagine anything more counterproductive.

As a threshold matter, Iran’s theocracy is not a benign institution that acts in the best interests of its people – a people who largely revile their overlords. As two human right’s activists recently wrote in PJM:

. . . [S]ince 1979 the Mullahs of Iran have killed upwards of one million Iranians, not to mention the nearly one million sacrificed to the 8-year-long Iran/Iraq war. And what the Iranian people have withstood in terms of outrageous human rights violations is shocking; public hangings, stoning, flogging, cutting off limbs, tongues and plucking out eyeballs are an everyday occurrence across Iran. All are meant to strike fear of the ruling Mullahs into people’s hearts.

Read the entire article. To the contrary, Iran's theocracy exists to spread its Khomeinist revolution at all costs throughout the Middle East and the world. This is no secret. Iran’s leaders since Khomeini have regularly and explicitly stated as such. For example, this from the Ayatollah Khomeini, quoted in an 11th-grade Iranian schoolbook:

I am decisively announcing to the whole world that if the world-devourers [i.e., the infidel powers of the U.S. and the West] wish to stand against our religion, we will stand against their whole world and will not cease until the annihilation of all them. Either we all become free, or we will go to the greater freedom which is martyrdom. Either we shake one another's hands in joy at the victory of Islam in the world, or all of us will turn to eternal life and martyrdom. In both cases, victory and success are ours.

Read the entire article. And there has been no weakening of this expansionist motivation in the years since. Indeed, the sub-cult of Shia’ism dominant in Iran’s rulers today, Mahdism, is equally as expansionist while actually being more messianic and dangerous than the philosophy articulated by Khomeini. It is a philosophy that welcomes carnage and chaos to hasten the coming of the Mahdi. This from Ahmedinejad, himself a Mahdist, in a February address to Iran’s Assembly of Experts:

Building a model society and introducing the Islamic Revolution are our nation's missions… The Islamic Revolution and the Islamic Republic of Iran are both great divine gifts, not only awarded to the Iranian nation, but to the entire mankind. . . . "Our nation's second important mission [after insuring a Khomeinist utopia in Iran] is introducing the Islamic Revolution to the entire mankind. . . .

To this end, the theocracy’s interim goal is to rid the Middle East of American, influence. Again, this is no secret. Iran has no desire for peace in the Middle East that leaves American influence or that otherwise contests Iranian influence. Remember that while most of the Middle East states were represented at the Annapolis peace conference last year, Iran was sponsoring its own conference attended by all of those elements whose non-negotiable goal is the total destruction of Isarael. Iran's policy is to promote instability outside of its border, and it pursues that policy with no restraint and with no thought to the blood that is spilled. As I quoted Sec. of Defense Robert Gates in a previous post:

Everywhere you turn, it is the policy of Iran to foment instability and chaos, no matter the strategic value or cost in the blood of innocents - Christians, Jews and Muslims alike. . . . There can be little doubt that their destabilizing foreign policies are a threat to the interests of the United States, to the interests of every country in the Middle East, and to the interests of all countries within the range of the ballistic missiles Iran is developing.

Read the entire post (itemizing the incredibly destructive current actions of the theocracy). And these thoughts were recently seconded by Kim Howells, British Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office who in a lengthy criticism of the Iranian theocracy and the existential dangers it poses, concluded that it is the theocracy’s "aim . . . to ensure a Middle East that continues to suffer from simmering violence, while at the same time trying to ensure the hegemony of Iran’s Islamic revolution across the region."

This is a completely different picture than the one painted by Obama, of Iran as a rational nation that with reasonable concerns merely reacting poorly to ham-handed threats from the U.S. What Obam poses is nothing more than incredibly dangerous leftist fantasy. Indeed, to understand just how clueless Obama is, you will recall that his big carrot, listed on his web page qouted above, is to offer the theocracy accession to the WTO. Does he have any inkling that Ahmedinejad withdrew Iran's application for membership in the WTO as his one of his first acts as President because the organization is "tainted" by America and Zionism? Update 4: Hot Air provides additional information: "Moreover, the US has publicly backed EU offers that included everything the NYT and Obama claim to be necessary to convince the mullahcracy to give up nukes. That included security guarantees, WTO membership, and normalized diplomatic relations — and have since 2005."

The bottom line, after years of meetings with Iran, after years of their continuous and on-going attempts to foment instability and spread their revolution, there appears nothing that we can offer as a carrot to the theocracy that could possibly both stop their deadly expansionism and their rush towards nuclear arms. That indeed is also the conclusion of Sec. of Defense Robert Gates, who called for low level talks with Iran in 2004 but who now sees no carrot with any chance of changing the theocracy’s actions. Thus, the questions McCain must be asking are not whether to hold Presidential level talks with Iran, but far more fundamentally, what Obama intends to offer Iran and what he proposes to do differently than previous administrations that would change the inherent nature of the theocracy and move them from their current course?

Update 2: An IAEA report was released on May 27 citing Iran for stonewalling and refusal to cooperate with the IAEA and sugesting in the strongest terms yet - though still not definitively concluding - that Iran's nuclear program is directed towards the development of a nuclear arsenal.

Further, McCain needs to be asking about the price of Obama's plan for "aggressive diplomacy" sans the big stick. The nuclear clock is ticking and time is wholly on the side of the mad mullahs. Once they achieve a nuclear arsenal, the potential damage they can inflict may well dwarf the tens of millions who perished in WWII. This becomes all the more terrifying when one considers that Iran's theocracy operates outside the constraints of Western logic. The concept of Mutually Assured Destruction (MADD) that worked against the Soviet Union and with other nuclear armed nations is not assured of working with a theocracy whose messianic rulers welcome the carnage that will presage the coming of the hidden Imam. If Obama is not even going to consider military strikes or the threat thereof, he is virtually assuring that Iran will achieve a nuclear arsenal. It will be a failure to act on par with the French failure to contest Nazi Germany's remilitirization of the Rhineland in 1936 - an act that, according to Gen. Jodl, would have likely ended Hitler's plans for conquest.

Further, it bears repeating, that every day that Iran is allowed to thumb its nose at the world on the nuclear issue is a step closer to what promises to be a nightmare of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East. Most other Middle East nations, including Saudi Arabia and Egypt, have already initiated nuclear programs for their own protection. With each new unstable Middle Eastern regime that adds to the list of nuclear armed nations, the danger of nuclear war and nuclear terrorism rise exponentially.

All of this hangs in the balance. Yet Obama eschews the threat of force to stop it, he operates from the belief that the problems of Iran arise out of the bellicosity of the Bush regime, and he has no clue as to the motivations that drive the theocracy. His plans for unilateral Cowbama diplomacy with Iran seem dangerous insanity indeed, particularly when his major carrot - the WTO - has already been rejected by Iran. McCain needs to take note of the real issues with Obama’s plans for engaging Iran and shout them from the rooftops.

Update: Michael Ledeen has written, discussing an essay by another individual who opines that the Iranian regime is a complete economic basket case despite high oil revenues. The essayist does not examine why. Ledeen provides the answer:

. . . I think Khomeini gave the answer on the airplane that flew him from Paris to Tehran in 1979: he didn’t give a damn about Iran, he was fighting for the triumph of Islam. His heirs are of the same fanatical ilk: Iranian resources are largely devoted to the cause of jihad, not to Iran per se. If Iran goes down the drain, but a new caliphate is created, first in the region and then globally, that’s success by their standards.

Spengler knows that. He notes that “Iran is engaged in such an adventure, funding and arming Shi’ite allies from Basra to Beirut, and creating clients selectively among such Sunnis as Hamas in Palestine.” Let’s add al Qaeda to that list, while we’re at it. . .

I think that’s why Iranian society is careening into history’s septic tank, it is why the word most often used by sensitive Iranians to describe their country’s plight is “degradation.” Persia is being gutted in order to fund the terror war against the West. From the grim figures on the economy, to the mounting trafficking of Persian women to the brothels of the world, to the drug epidemic sabotaging the future of Iranian youth, to the torture cells reserved for anyone who speaks the truth, Persia is being destroyed. All in the name of an evil ideology that drives a global war against civilization.

That war has been raging for nearly thirty years, and no Western government has yet found the will to engage in it. The message Spengler delivers is that there is no way out of this war. Left to their own devices, the mullahs will destroy Iran, and, if they can, us as well.

Read the entire post.


2 comments:

MK said...

"That war has been raging for nearly thirty years, and no Western government has yet found the will to engage in it."

Indeed, the question no longer is if we should use force against Iran but rather when. The problem with people like Obama is they just don't get it, when you take the threat of force off the table, you are virtually guaranteeing that need for it in the future.

I honestly don't know what it will take to convince these fools that you cannot beg/nag Iran out of it's nuclear ambitions.

suek said...

Don't know if you check out this site, but it has some good research on Obama. Not on this particular facet, but on the man generally.

http://pundita.blogspot.com/