Death to America

 

IRAN-POLITICS-ANNIVERSARYMaybe I’m too sensitive, but when a foreign autocrat leads his people in chants of “Death to America” I take it personally.

President Obama and Secretary Kerry apparently don’t. The chant, which became a staple of the Islamic Republic during the 1979 revolution, is not a relic of the past. Just last weekend, at a rally in the northern part of the country, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei was interrupted by the chant as he was denouncing American “lies” and “arrogance.” He smiled and responded, “Of course yes, death to America, because America is the original source of this pressure.”

Some in Iran have urged that the “Death to America” chant, common after Friday prayers and at political rallies, be downplayed during negotiations over a nuclear deal, but the IRGC (Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps) rejects this, insisting, according to the semi-official Fars news agency, that the United States “is still the great Satan and the number one enemy of the (Islamic) revolution, and the Islamic Republic and the Iranian nation…”

Senator Tom Cotton (R., AR) responded that “When someone chants, ‘Yes, certainly, death to America,’ we should take him at his word, and we shouldn’t put him on the path to a nuclear bomb.”

We are left to wonder at the equanimity among high-ranking members of this administration at the unyielding hostility of the Iranian regime. In late February, Iran blew up a full size model of U.S.S. Nimitz, an aircraft carrier, in the Persian Gulf. The Supreme Leader’s representative on the IRGC, Ali Shirazi, recently boasted that, “When we look at the Islamic world, we see that the culture of the Islamic Revolution has reached all countries and all Muslims throughout the world. . . We shall not rest until we raise the flag of Islam over the White House.”

A few days later, President Obama responded by sending Nowruz greetings to the “people and leaders of Iran” quoting a Persian poet “many a flower will bloom while you will be in clay.”

Throughout the protracted negotiations between the P5 plus one and Iran, the Obama Administration has assured congress that “no deal” was “better than a bad deal.” They’ve offered pledges that Iran’s centrifuges would be limited to 500, that the PMDs (possible military dimensions) of its nuclear research would be fully disclosed, that the facility at Fordo (built into a mountain) would be shut down, and that snap inspections would be part of any agreement. “We’re not blind, and I don’t think we’re stupid,” Secretary Kerry once assured skeptics.

Congress gave the administration “breathing room” – but U.S. negotiators have backed away steadily from each of their positions. There is now talk of 6,000 centrifuges, or more. The Wall Street Journal reports that U.S. negotiators are scaling back their demands for disclosure of PMDs (something the IAEA had also demanded). Without disclosure about military dimensions, inspections (notional in any case) will be hampered. David Albright of the Institute for Science and International Security told the Tower magazine that, “A deal that does not include Iran addressing the IAEA’s concerns about the past and possibly on-going military dimensions of its nuclear program would undermine the verifiability of the deal, and thus the credibility of a comprehensive deal.” Fordo will remain open and its centrifuges will spin.

The French government has protested that the U.S. is retreating (think that one over for a minute). France’s foreign minister is reported to have said that “The United States was really ready to sign just about anything with the Iranians.” The French ambassador to the U.S., Gerard Araud, tweeted “For France, any agreement to be acceptable will have to give concrete guarantees on all issues. We won’t bypass any of them.”

Each and every news leak out of Lausanne depicts the U.S. walking back its demands. Just watch the faces of the Iranian negotiators. Their smiles tell the tale.

The administration reasons that in 10 to 15 years, the Iranian regime will improve. It is willing to gamble that once Iran achieves nuclear status, it won’t use nuclear bombs or share them with terrorists. It is willing to gamble that the other unstable nations in the region won’t get nuclear weapons in response. It is willing to gamble that future leaders of Iran won’t be even more radical than those in power now.

It is impossible to recall a more dangerous or foolish set of assumptions by an American president in modern American history. Death to America might become more than a chant.

Published in Foreign Policy
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  1. Tommy De Seno Contributor
    Tommy De Seno
    @TommyDeSeno

    Mona Charen:

    …but the IRGC (Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps) rejects this, insisting, according to the semi-official Fars news agency, that the United States “is still the great Satan and the number one enemy of the (Islamic) revolution, and the Islamic Republic and the Iranian nation…”

    No to the “great Satan” part, but I’m thrilled to agree with them on the rest of that sentence.

    • #1
  2. Mike H Coolidge
    Mike H
    @MikeH

    *Yawn*

    Let them yap.

    • #2
  3. Roberto Inactive
    Roberto
    @Roberto

    Mona Charen:Maybe I’m too sensitive, but when a foreign autocrat leads his people in chants of “Death to America” I take it personally.

    President Obama and Secretary Kerry apparently don’t.

    Whether or not they take the threat personally hardly matters but they most certainly should take it seriously, which they do not.

    Mona Charen: “We’re not blind, and I don’t think we’re stupid,” Secretary Kerry once assured skeptics.

    No comment.

    • #3
  4. user_836033 Member
    user_836033
    @WBob

    Mona you don’t understand.  When someone like Iran’s leader talks like that, sophisticated diplomats understand that he’s just pandering to a few minor constituencies that he needs to placate.  We’d be screwing everything up if we took it seriously.  He knows that we know that he knows the we know that he’s not serious ….

    • #4
  5. DocJay Inactive
    DocJay
    @DocJay

    Nobody is willing to stop this president so get your popcorn and enjoy the new union of Lion and Hyena.

    • #5
  6. Ricochet Member
    Ricochet
    @ArizonaPatriot

    I’m with you, Mona.  There’s much to be said for taking these guys at their word.  We should cease the current negotiations, impose draconian sanctions, and demand the complete dismantling of Iran’s nuclear program.

    • #6
  7. Tommy De Seno Contributor
    Tommy De Seno
    @TommyDeSeno

    It is weird.  Iran is a weird country.

    Imagine being at a negotiating table with a country and on the same day their leader is yelling death to your country.

    It would be hard for me as the negotiator to go forward.

    Even Russia –  I just couldn’t picture them yelling death to America while we were negotiating.  Putin would think it, but not say it.

    • #7
  8. J Flei Inactive
    J Flei
    @Solon

    Mona Charen:The administration reasons that in 10 to 15 years, the Iranian regime will improve. It is willing to gamble that once Iran achieves nuclear status, it won’t use nuclear bombs or share them with terrorists. It is willing to gamble that the other unstable nations in the region won’t get nuclear weapons in response. It is willing to gamble that future leaders of Iran won’t be even more radical than those in power now.

    Has the administration officially conceded that they expect Iran to eventually get the bomb, or are they claiming that these negotiations will stop them from getting the bomb?

    • #8
  9. user_278007 Inactive
    user_278007
    @RichardFulmer

         Bob W

    Mona you don’t understand.  When someone like Iran’s leader
    talks like that, sophisticated diplomats understand that he’s just
    pandering to a few minor constituencies that he needs to placate.
    We’d be screwing everything up if we took it seriously.  He knows
    that we know that he knows the we know that he’s not serious ….

    This is the standard response (minus the sarcasm) from the administration (when they respond).  For the sake of argument, let’s say that Iranian leaders don’t really mean it and are just (a) pandering to the mob and (b) putting up a façade of “we’re crazy, don’t mess with us” for the benefit would-be enemies.  Most Iranians have now lived with that sort of rhetoric since they were old enough to know what was going on in the world outside.  Doesn’t that have an impact?  Doesn’t the mob at some point notice that America is not yet dead and start to demand action?

    • #9
  10. DrewInWisconsin Member
    DrewInWisconsin
    @DrewInWisconsin

    The administration brushed off the “Death to America” chants saying that those were merely intended for a domestic audience.

    ARE THEY [redacted] SERIOUS?!

    I’m sorry. May I say [redacted] on Ricochet?

    • #10
  11. Roberto Inactive
    Roberto
    @Roberto

    DrewInWisconsin:The administration brushed off the “Death to America” chants saying that those were merely intended for a domestic audience.

    What I can never understand is how exactly does that make it better?

    So the logic here I take it is that everything said to the domestic audience is merely nonsense, just for show, but when all these sophisticated global elites come together that is when the honest opinions and forthright speaking comes out? These leaders never reveal their intentions to their own citizenry but to each other it is a good boys club of wink wink, nudge nudge?

    • #11
  12. user_82762 Inactive
    user_82762
    @JamesGawron

    Mona,

    Winston Churchill said of America, “You can count on Americans to do the right thing – after they’ve tried everything else.”

    I think it is quite obvious by now that Obama’s presidency is the everything else.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #12
  13. DrewInWisconsin Member
    DrewInWisconsin
    @DrewInWisconsin

    James Gawron:Mona,

    Winston Churchill said of America, “You can count on Americans to do the right thing – after they’ve tried everything else.”

    I think it is quite obvious by now that Obama’s presidency is the everything else.

    And I hope “the right thing” is to remove him from office by the end of the month. Or sooner. I don’t know if we can wait until 2017.

    • #13
  14. Eugene Kriegsmann Member
    Eugene Kriegsmann
    @EugeneKriegsmann

    Just a random thought, Who does Obama choose to support in every confrontation?  The answer is quite simple, people of color against people of European origins.

    I don’t consider Arabs to be people of color, and Iranians are Indo-Europeans. However, because they are confronting the United States and European countries they take on a sort proxy role as Third Worlders, minorities, people of color.

    Consider, if you will, Obama’s reaction to every incident involving a Black person and the police or, as in the case of George Zimmerman, a sort of white person representing the collective, as it were. Now, think about Obama’s antipathy towards Israel, a country made up largely of people of European origins. in a word, white people.

    I think the evidence of Obama’s thinking is blatantly obvious and has been for the last 6 years. If a white president were to make the same choices, express the same opinions about events, would people be so chary about using the “R” word?

    • #14
  15. Nick Stuart Inactive
    Nick Stuart
    @NickStuart

    In 2016 the choice is going to be between whoever is the Republican and the Democrat.

    I feel reasonably safe in predicting the Democrat will, whatever he or she may say in the campaign, continue with the same tomfoolery we’ve had with the current administration.

    Likewise I feel reasonably safe in predicting the Republican will, once in office, be better than the Democrat on this subject. Not necessarily great, not necessarily even good, just better.

    Granted, the Republicans will be running on the “give us the whole enchilada, and we promise we won’t pass it away like we’ve did the last time.” Granted there are candidates who, in the spirit of partisan comity, I will leave unnamed who induce me to gag. Granted the Republicans could screw up a two-car funeral and hoping they’ll do the right things is truly the triumph of hope over experience.

    But this is a serious moment where we will get one final chance to maybe get things turned around, or at least slowed. I’m confident almost at the level of metaphysical certitude that this will not happen with a president Clinton, Warren, Sanders, Brown, whoever.

    The  question for right-wing, center-right, moderate, and libertarian pundits will be whether to engage in panty-twisted, ankle-biting commentary on this or that or all of the candidates in the Republican field that does nothing to help, and much to hurt the possibility of ending up with a president who is at least better starting 1/20/17. Something for pundits to think about going forward.

    • #15
  16. Tennessee Patriot Member
    Tennessee Patriot
    @TennesseePatriot

    “…when a foreign autocrat leads his people in chants of “Death to America” I take it personally. President Obama and Secretary Kerry apparently don’t.”

    Mona, It’s not that they don’t take it personally. It’s that they agree with them! That is what the objective evidence would lead one to conclude.

    BTW- LOVE your podcast!

    • #16
  17. user_82762 Inactive
    user_82762
    @JamesGawron

    DrewInWisconsin:

    James Gawron:Mona,

    Winston Churchill said of America, “You can count on Americans to do the right thing – after they’ve tried everything else.”

    I think it is quite obvious by now that Obama’s presidency is the everything else.

    And I hope “the right thing” is to remove him from office by the end of the month. Or sooner. I don’t know if we can wait until 2017.

    Drew,

    This would require an action by the Obama White House that would precipitate a ‘Constitutional Crisis’. Next, the House brings Impeachment charges. Finally, to convict in the Senate a conservative estimate would be 20 Democratic Senators with unshakable resolve to be rid of him.

    Candidates for the crisis at the moment (feel free to debate or bring your own).

    1) Signing a binding agreement (treaty) with Iran and or multiple Nations without advice & consent of Congress.

    2) Bergdahl is found to be a collaborator, not just a deserter, and the White House knew this when they broke the law requiring they inform Congress 30 days before any deal.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #17
  18. DrewInWisconsin Member
    DrewInWisconsin
    @DrewInWisconsin

    James Gawron:

    DrewInWisconsin:

    James Gawron:Mona,

    Winston Churchill said of America, “You can count on Americans to do the right thing – after they’ve tried everything else.”

    I think it is quite obvious by now that Obama’s presidency is the everything else.

    And I hope “the right thing” is to remove him from office by the end of the month. Or sooner. I don’t know if we can wait until 2017.

    Drew,

    This would require an action by the Obama White House that would precipitate a ‘Constitutional Crisis’. Next, the House brings Impeachment charges. Finally, to convict in the Senate a conservative estimate would be 20 Democratic Senators with unshakable resolve to be rid of him.

    He’s from Chicago. I think he’d understand “we can do this the easy way, or we can do this the hard way.”

    • #18
  19. user_82762 Inactive
    user_82762
    @JamesGawron

    DrewInWisconsin:

    James Gawron:

    DrewInWisconsin:

    James Gawron:Mona,

    Winston Churchill said of America, “You can count on Americans to do the right thing – after they’ve tried everything else.”

    I think it is quite obvious by now that Obama’s presidency is the everything else.

    And I hope “the right thing” is to remove him from office by the end of the month. Or sooner. I don’t know if we can wait until 2017.

    Drew,

    This would require an action by the Obama White House that would precipitate a ‘Constitutional Crisis’. Next, the House brings Impeachment charges. Finally, to convict in the Senate a conservative estimate would be 20 Democratic Senators with unshakable resolve to be rid of him.

    He’s from Chicago. I think he’d understand “we can do this the easy way, or we can do this the hard way.”

    Drew,

    In the interest of full disclosure, I don’t think he would. No matter what he says he’ll take the hard way till the bitter end. Like I said, unshakable resolve to be rid of him.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #19
  20. Vance Richards Member
    Vance Richards
    @VanceRichards

    Again you people on the Right fail to the see the nuance of that statement. When my negotiating partner says, “Death to America” he is not suggesting that he wants to see the land mass known as America wiped off the face of the earth. He simply wants all of the American people to be slaughtered and killed, which is quite different.

    Sincerely,

    Secretary John F. Kerry

    • #20
  21. BuckeyeSam Inactive
    BuckeyeSam
    @BuckeyeSam

    Arizona Patriot:I’m with you, Mona. There’s much to be said for taking these guys at their word. We should cease the current negotiations, impose draconian sanctions, and demand the complete dismantling of Iran’s nuclear program.

    Bingo.

    • #21
  22. Quinn the Eskimo Member
    Quinn the Eskimo
    @

    Americans have been very spoiled.  We are the inheritors are a truly amazing legacy that includes political and economic freedom turn a collection of colonies in the wilderness into a first world power.  I am not sure where you want to mark the point that America became a world power, but if you take, say World War I, there is almost no one alive today who was around before America was a major world power.  We tend to view it as our birthright rather than something that people worked hard to make happen.  We tend to think that we can bounce back from every misadventure.  Some day, that might not be possible and people will be very sorry.  I fear we are racing towards that day.

    • #22
  23. James Lileks Contributor
    James Lileks
    @jameslileks

    You know the axiom – never attribute to perfidy what you can chalk up to incompetence, or something like that. But it really is a mark of the unknowable nature of the President that I do not know what he thinks will happen. Either he is blithely pursing a deal he believes will be the diplomatic equivalent of Obamacare – flawed, but pointing the way to an eventual good – or he believes that Iran’s possession of nuclear arms balances the scales, and represents some form of overarching historical justice. The first is dismaying in its naivety; the second is appalling in its inability to reason out the consequences. And both end in death.

    His calculations must be thus: Iran would never use the bomb against Israel, because it would be destroyed in turn. Thus it is inconsequential that Iran has the bomb, because they are rational actors. If the Mullah’s acquisition of a Fat Man or two spurs other states to get the bomb to balance Persia, this too matter little, since that fact will also restrain Persia. But what of Iran’s leaders and their apocalyptic theology? Wave it away: words for the unschooled masses. Bitter clingers, and all that.

    So the most charitable reading of his intentions presumes self-interest in a demonstrably expansionist theocratic oligarchy,  empowered with nukes, because it will  match Israel’s trump card, and thus bring balance to the Force or something.

    The problem is he’s not that stupid.  Or is it possible that he is deaf to the consequences of his actions, because they are his actions,  and hence Wise? Or indifferent to the outcome should it go south?

    What the hell does he think he’s doing?

    • #23
  24. George Savage Contributor
    George Savage
    @GeorgeSavage

    Some arresting facts and a question:

    1) The president just declassified a nearly 400 page report revealing details of Israel’s–and only Israel’s– nuclear weapons program.

    2) Death to America is far less of a Big Deal to the Obama administration than lack of enthusiasm for a Hamas-led Palestinian state.

    3) Iran’s ICBM program is not even a topic in the current nuclear talks.

    4) ICBM’s do not deliver flowers and are not needed to reach Israel

    What does Barack Obama think the Iranian ICBMs are intended to deliver and where?

    • #24
  25. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    From the Atlantic:
    Furious Republican opposition to a deal over Iran’s nuclear program may look like another example of political partisanship and personal animosity toward Barack Obama. But there’s also a much deeper reason for congressional pushback: the deeply ingrained aversion in American culture toward parleying with ‘evil’ opponents.

    Negotiating with international adversaries is more controversial in the United States than in most advanced democracies. Whereas in other countries bargaining is often seen as the norm, Americans frequently view face-to-face talks as a prize that the opponent has to earn through good behavior. The United States is part of a coalition of six countries talking to Iran, alongside Britain, France, Russia, China, and Germany. But the United States is the only country where the deal has generated a domestic political storm.

    • #25
  26. Chris Member
    Chris
    @Chris

    Zafar:From the Atlantic: Furious Republican opposition to a deal over Iran’s nuclear program may look like another example of political partisanship and personal animosity toward Barack Obama. But there’s also a much deeper reason for congressional pushback: the deeply ingrained aversion in American culture toward parleying with ‘evil’ opponents.

    Negotiating with international adversaries is more controversial in the United States than in most advanced democracies. Whereas in other countries bargaining is often seen as the norm, Americans frequently view face-to-face talks as a prize that the opponent has to earn through good behavior. The United States is part of a coalition of six countries talking to Iran, alongside Britain, France, Russia, China, and Germany. But the United States is the only country where the deal has generated a domestic political storm.

    I think the issue is more this from the OP:

    The French government has protested that the U.S. is retreating (think that one over for a minute). France’s foreign minister is reported to have said that “The United States was really ready to sign just about anything with the Iranians.” The French ambassador to the U.S., Gerard Araud, tweeted “For France, any agreement to be acceptable will have to give concrete guarantees on all issues. We won’t bypass any of them.”

    The storm is the quality of the discussions and a lack of faith in the actors.  You know, “you can keep your doctor”, etc.

    • #26
  27. Ricochet Contributor
    Ricochet
    @TitusTechera

    James Lileks:So the most charitable reading of his intentions presumes self-interest in a demonstrably expansionist theocratic oligarchy, empowered with nukes, because it will match Israel’s trump card, and thus bring balance to the Force or something.

    Americans need to learn that self-interest looks different in other places. Americans breathe equality in the air & it sometimes seems they’d choke otherwise.

    The rest of the world really is not like that. That is the reason very democratic places like Spain or Britain have no problem letting their citizens be slaughtered by terrorists–there’s no reason to go to war, avenge the dead or what have you. They’re just some people, not you & me. That is also the reason Jews are killed around Europe without, well, let’s call it fuss.

    & that’s democracy–who thinks the Soviets shed tears at incoming nuclear bombs cannot think straight–Soviet rulers could, & did. They’d care where the bombs would be falling & for what reason, but they could think of places where, it might be worth the loss, not to say thank the Americans for the help. So were the Chinese & so they are still.

    Iran might be similar. Suffering a massive Israeli nuclear attack might not be the worst thing their Supreme Leader can fathom.

    • #27
  28. Quinn the Eskimo Member
    Quinn the Eskimo
    @

    James Lileks:You know the axiom – never attribute to perfidy what you can chalk up to incompetence, or something like that.

    I try, like you have.  If you look at Obama’s foreign policy overall, I can’t make it gel into anything but perfidy.  You can look at Ukraine and Iran and Iraq and see a generally lack of interest in doing anything. And then you have a situation like Libya.

    Between Ukraine (we broke our commitment to protect them if they gave up their nukes), Libya (we got them to give up their nukes and then we overthrew their government) and Iran (we started to build nukes and we are going to let them continue, plus end their sanction), it seems like, objectively, our foreign policy is to encourage nuclear proliferation and let everyone know that giving up their nukes is a sucker’s game.  It doesn’t fit together any other way.

    • #28
  29. Mona Charen Contributor
    Mona Charen
    @MonaCharen

    James Lileks:You know the axiom – never attribute to perfidy what you can chalk up to incompetence, or something like that. But it really is a mark of the unknowable nature of the President that I do not know what he thinks will happen. Either he is blithely pursing a deal he believes will be the diplomatic equivalent of Obamacare – flawed, but pointing the way to an eventual good – or he believes that Iran’s possession of nuclear arms balances the scales, and represents some form of overarching historical justice. The first is dismaying in its naivety; the second is appalling in its inability to reason out the consequences. And both end in death.

    His calculations must be thus: Iran would never use the bomb against Israel, because it would be destroyed in turn. Thus it is inconsequential that Iran has the bomb, because they are rational actors. If the Mullah’s acquisition of a Fat Man or two spurs other states to get the bomb to balance Persia, this too matter little, since that fact will also restrain Persia. But what of Iran’s leaders and their apocalyptic theology? Wave it away: words for the unschooled masses. Bitter clingers, and all that.

    So the most charitable reading of his intentions presumes self-interest in a demonstrably expansionist theocratic oligarchy, empowered with nukes, because it will match Israel’s trump card, and thus bring balance to the Force or something.

    The problem is he’s not that stupid. Or is it possible that he is deaf to the consequences of his actions, because they are his actions, and hence Wise? Or indifferent to the outcome should it go south?

    What the hell does he think he’s doing?

    James,

    The entire thing is a waking nightmare. We puzzle about Obama’s motives (not to mention those of Kerry and the Democrats who probably won’t vote to override a veto on Kirk/Menendez) but come away empty handed. Two years ago, this outcome was universally described, by all and sundry, as “unacceptable.” Now it seems to be happening.

    • #29
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