Burying Our Heads in the Sand of Iran

As the news out of the Middle East goes from bad to worse, we have no choice but to learn – once again – what a mistake it is to ignore (unlearn) the lessons of history.

Take the case of Iran. Iran is the main source of the 200 missiles a day Hamas has recently been firing at Israel. Both the new Fajr-5 missiles and the new Ayub drone that are being devastatingly used to destabilize the Middle East are the result of Iranian technology. The IAEA reports that Iran is enriching uranium at a pace that would bring it to Israel’s “red line” in just over seven months. The Institute for Science and International Security says Iran’s total output of low-enriched uranium since 2007 could potentially be used for six or seven nuclear weapons if refined much further. Iran still actively supports, with weapons, money and training, terrorists and terror-sponsoring regimes. Human rights violations within Iran are severe.

Last week, Iranian Vice President Rahimi declared, “We will break grasping hands of Obama and we will be successful in bypassing sanctions.” This is the thanks Obama gets for engaging in obsequious outreach to Iran’s repressive leaders; for his non-response to the cries of brave young Iranian protestors for support; for speaking up for Iran’s “right” to peaceful nuclear technology; for acknowledging Ahmadinejad as the legitimate, elected leader, even after his  brutal crackdown on massive protests against rigged elections; for relentlessly pursuing negotiations no matter how many times Iran obfuscated and deceived; and for pursuing a minimalist response to the Iranian nuclear program.

This is the thanks we always get for placating totalitarians. This is our history.

Post World War II presidents knew the historical lesson all too well. The attempt to use negotiation to solve the problem of Hitler’s military mobilization and bellicosity had been futile. While England and France negotiated, Hitler continued on with his plans, violated every agreement, and played us for fools. By encouraging the deception that Germany was amenable to some ultimate compromise, negotiations lessened the gravity with which Germany’s expansionist activities were seen. From Hitler’s meteoric rise, we learned that we ignore the ideology and regime-type of others to our own peril. Extremist ideas foster fanatics so beholden to ideology that attempting to use negotiations to stop them can be like placing a band aid on an open wound.

Although negotiation is an indispensable tool of foreign policy, extremists use negotiations to buy time for their deadly aims. Following Hitler’s lead, they use words like rights, fairness and equality to legitimize their regimes and to literally and figuratively disarm us. Michael Rubin documented the Clinton administration’s persistent policy of engagement with the Taliban and its determination to hold onto that policy in the face of Taliban hostility and obfuscation: Diplomats met with the Taliban every few weeks and “what resulted was theater.”  “The Taliban would stonewall on terrorism but would also dangle just enough hope to keep diplomats calling and forestall punitive strategies.” They played to our cultural relativism by talking about Afghan ‘custom.’ Engagement allowed the Taliban a reprieve so that they could better prepare and arm for an attack. 

Iran has learned the lessons of history better than we. Iran agrees to negotiate, then violates negotiated agreements and refuses to negotiate, then – when the international response is about to get strong – agrees to negotiate again. Facing the possibility of an Israeli airstrike, Iran agreed to new negotiations (having backed out of previous ones) last spring. Even though she had been fooled by Iran multiple times, Secretary Clinton welcomed the negotiations, but warned that Iran’s “window of opportunity” for creating a peaceful solution would not “remain open forever.” Apparently, that window will, however, stay open for a perilously long time. Even though those talks fell apart, Reuters now reports: “Obama and Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator this week have separately made clear their desire to resume diplomacy that has been deadlocked since a meeting between the six world powers and Iran ended without a breakthrough in June.” 

 **Later this week, I will post on why 2008 was exactly the wrong time to ramp up engagement with the repressive Iranian regime and why the time was right, instead – given internal evaporation of support for the regime – to combine strong geopolitical pressure with a strong moral stand.

  1. jetstream

    On November 6, the electorate voted in favor of national suicide.  President Obama’s next world tour won’t be an apology tour, it will be an America surrenders – on whatever terms are demanded by our most dangerous adversaries – tour.

  2. Nanda Panjandrum

    Thank you, Anne, for keeping us informed – and honest.  And for continuing to fight the good fight.

  3. Paul A. Rahe
    C

    Hillary Clinton may turn out — despite her hyperactivity — to be the most ineffectual Secretary of State in the history of the country.

  4. Anne R. Pierce
    C
    Paul A. Rahe: Hillary Clinton may turn out — despite her hyperactivity — to be the most ineffectual Secretary of State in the history of the country. · 1 minute ago

    The “pass” that Hillary Clinton has been given is a story in itself.

  5. Pseudodionysius
    Anne R. Pierce

    Paul A. Rahe: Hillary Clinton may turn out — despite her hyperactivity — to be the most ineffectual Secretary of State in the history of the country. · 1 minute ago

    The “pass” that Hillary Clinton has been given is a story in itself. · 4 minutes ago

    We’d be very interested in reading your extended analysis of how far from behind she’s been leading. 

  6. flownover

    Valerie Jarrett (talk about sans portfolio !) has been conducting secret talks with Iran ( her birthplace) at the direction of the White House.

    General Petraeus was the only top ranking officer to really go after our main enemy in Iraq, which he correctly identified as Iran.  That is a key reason for his being brought home, parked at CIA, then thrown out when his usefulness or unwillingness to lie became apparent.

    Carter always dreamt of a mideast peace settlement and we can see how well that has worked out. It’s a democrat chimera and our true ally, Israel stands in the way as they understand reality.  

    The world’s anti-semitism continues to play out in obvious and subtle ways . Our state department has often (like now) been a willing vehicle for such gambits . Hillary’s smile from beneath her headscarf should chill most thinking Americans. 

    hillary-arafat.jpg

  7. Paul-FB

    I fear facing the Clinton machine again, this time in 2016.  One can just imagine how ineffectual she would be as a President, as she has set an unbelievable ineptness as Secretary of State so far!!

  8. FirstAmendment

    “Burying our heads” is exactly right. I’ve been reading accounts of Ambassador William Dodd in Germany in the 1930′s. The lack of Administration leadership to deal with tyrannical regimes in the right way at the right time is stunning, then as it is now. Poor Israel having to be at the receiving end of the Obama/Clinton failures.

  9. Anne R. Pierce
    C

    Pseudodionysius and Paul-FB,

    Agree that Clinton is an essential, un-reported topic and agree that the Clinton machine is formidable and that we need to prepare for 2016.

  10. Anne R. Pierce
    C
    flownover: Valerie Jarrett (talk about sans portfolio !) has been conducting secret talks with Iran ( her birthplace) at the direction of the White House.

    General Petraeus was the only top ranking officer to really go after my main enemy in Iraq, which he correctly identified as Iran.  That is a key reason for his being brought home, parked at CIA, then thrown out when his usefulness or unwillingness to lie became apparent.

    Carter always dreamt of a mideast peace settlement and we can see how well that has worked out. It’s a democrat chimera and our true ally, Israel stands in the way as they understand reality.  

    The world’s anti-semitism continues to play out in obvious and subtle ways . Our state department has often (like now) been a willing vehicle for such gambits . Hillary’s smile from beneath her headscarf should chill most thinking Americans.  · 28 minutes ago

    I wish that I could counter that you are a conspiracy theorist. Unfortunately, my research tells me that what you say is true.

  11. Nick Stuart
    Paul A. Rahe: Hillary Clinton may turn out — despite her hyperactivity — to be the most ineffectual Secretary of State in the history of the country. · 1 hour ago

    You don’t get to be the most ineffectual SoS in history by doing nothing. You gotta get up really early in the morning, and burn the midnight oil if you want to secure that title. Explains the hyperactivity.

    flownover: Hillary’s smile from beneath her headscarf should chill most thinking Americans. · 31 minutes ago

    Just the sight of Hillary, with or without headscarf, chills a great many Americans.

    Anne R. Pierce: …the Clinton machine is formidable and that we need to be prepared for 2016. ·

    Don’t worry about it Anne, the Republican establishment will get to it by, oh say Labor Day, 2016.

  12. flownover

    Anne, 

    If it were a conspiracy theory, it would be preferable. That we live in a world that resembles a conspiracy theory is unfortunate .

    It’s like a Moore’s law of incredulity. Seems like things get twice as weird every two years. But that could be due to age or a diminishing capacity to assimilate the zeitgeist or more than a couple glasses of wine.

    I didn’t even bring up Huma Abedin Weiner !

  13. liberal jim

    After 8 years of GWB,  O. took office and Iran was a bigger problem than eight years prior.  No doubt O. has done a poor job, but after 8 years of GWB things had gotten worse.  Steady progress was made on the bomb, their nuclear reactor was ready to go on line and their single biggest adversary in the region had been killed.   Do you have any idea who was dumb enough to do that?

  14. Pseudodionysius
    Hillary’s smile from beneath her headscarf should chill most thinking Americans. 

    Around the world, we are hoping to help correct the gender imbalances in public service, not just by working at the top, shattering those glass ceilings, but also at the grassroots level by training and supporting women like those who are here, who have the talent, who have the will, but sometimes not the opportunity to become effective leaders in their nations.

    Hillary Clinton, Wellesley College, June 11th, 2012.

  15. Zafar

    That would be funny – if an Iran War hadn’t been discussed as a realistic option.

  16. Nick Stuart

    Our country’s chance to do anything about it was earlier this month. Now it’s time to fasten our seat belts and brace for impact.

    On that cheery note, going way out on a limb here to quote from a poem that is hopefully apt to the occasion:

    From ‘Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College’ by Thomas Gray

    To each his sufferings: all are men, Condemned alike to groan; The tender for another’s pain, The unfeeling for his own. Yet ah! why should they know their fate? Since sorrow never comes too late, And happiness too swiftly flies. Thought would destroy their paradise. No more; where ignorance is bliss, ‘Tis folly to be wise.

    Or as Robert Frost put it at the end of “The Bearer of Evil Tidings

    As for evil tidings,  Belshazzar’s overthrow,  Why hurry to tell Belshazzar  What soon enough he would know?
  17. Anne R. Pierce
    C
    liberal jim: After 8 years of GWB,  O. took office and Iran was a bigger problem than eight years prior.  No doubt O. has done a poor job, but after 8 years of GWB things had gotten worse.  …….

    It’s true we failed to predict that Iran would seize upon the Iraq conflict as an opportunity to extend its deadly reach. Iran was one of the main sources of terrorists and terror training to Iraq.  But, just after our incursion into Iraq, Iran suggested a compromise on its nuclear program.  That compromise fell apart like every other. Every administration since Carter’s has, at some time, tried negotiations; all have been duped by Iranian deceit. 

    For the very reason that Iran was killing our soldiers in Iraq, the  cow-towing done by this admin. to Iran was wrong.  The reform/resistance movement had grown exponentially and many predicted the demise of the regime when Obama took office.  Obama reached out to brutal leaders and ignored Iranian people- a mistake and wrong.  Think of the young Iranians -children and teenagers -being tortured as we speak  in horrible places like Evin Prison.  And this admin. proves with words and deeds its indifference.

  18. Anne R. Pierce
    C

    Nick,

    As long as we’re on poetry, here’s the beginning of another, apropos, indicating illusion that’s become reality:

    What do you make so fair and bright?

    I make the cloak of Sorrow.

    O, lovely to see in all men’s sight

    Shall be the cloak of Sorrow

    In all men’s sight.   ……..

    A great poem called The Cloak, The Boat and the Shoes by W. B. Yeats.

  19. Zafar

    [It's true we failed to predict thatIranwould seize upon theIraqconflict as an opportunity to extend its deadly reach.]

    How could any competent Administration fail to consider that banning all Baathists from any administrative position in post-invasion Iraq would create a power vacuum that would be filled by crazy Islamic groups funded by the Saudis and byIran?  How can one assess Iran’s role in Iraq without assessing and critiquing that decision bythe occupying forces?

    [The reform/resistance movement had grown exponentially and many predicted the demise of the regime when Obama took office.  Obama reached out to brutal leaders and ignored Iranian people- a mistake and wrong.  Think of the young Iranians -children and teenagers -being tortured as we speak  in horrible places like Evin Prison.  And this admin. proves with words and deeds its indifference.]

    Anne – support from the US Govt is the kiss of death for any opposition movement in theMiddle East.  If you sincerely support the Iranian opposition, please don’t lobby the US Govt to issue statements in its support.  These statements might play well domestically, but they will have a profoundly negative impact on the ground in Iran. 

  20. Anne R. Pierce
    C
    Zafar:

    Anne – support from the US Govt is the kiss of death for any opposition movement in theMiddle East.  If you sincerely support the Iranian opposition, please don’t lobby the US Govt to issue statements in its support.  These statements might play well domestically, but they will have a profoundly negative impact on the ground in Iran.  · 2 hours ago

     It is always a good idea to shine light into the darkness of totalitarian regimes.  Given their reliance on propaganda and repression, the truth about totalitarian rule is a potentially regime-changing threat to their rule. That is why they spend massive resources on suppressing the truth and major energies in pressuring us to remain silent. Recall the pressure Hitler put upon European diplomats not to insult him; Ahmadinejad’s regime and the North Korean Kim dynasty use similar tactics. Our silence about  German atrocities in 1930s, Cambodian atrocities in 1970s and 80s and our mute response to Syrian atrocities and Iranian crackdown harmed the cause of people in those countries.

    It is the times when we side with dictators and ignore human rights, not the other way around, that diminishes our reputation.