Hold Iran accountable
By Kenneth R.
February 28, 2007
By Kenneth R. Timmerman
Published February 28, 2007
The messages we send as the world's sole superpower matter. Today,
Iran's leaders are testing us. They are testing us in Iraq, where
Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) networks continue to fund
both Sunni and Shi'ite insurgents. They are testing us at the
International Atomic Energy Agency and at the United Nations, where
they continue to defy demands by the international community to
verifiably suspend their nuclear programs, which constitute a clear
violation of Iran's commitments as a signatory of the Nonproliferation
How we respond to these tests is not an
academic question. Understanding the intentions and the modus operandi
of this regime are life-and-death matters.
Voices are raised from all sides of the U.S.
political spectrum that we should swallow our pride and negotiate with
Tehran's leaders if we want to avoid war. They call it, "a grand
bargain." Whether it's proposed by the Council on Foreign Relations,
the Baker-Hamilton commission, Sen. Chuck Hagel, Nebraska Republican,
or various Iranian-American quislings, the outlines are virtually
identical. The United States should accept Iranian offers to negotiate
"all outstanding issues" generated by the regime's bad behavior. In
exchange, we should provide "security guarantees" that include a
steadfast promise to abandon all efforts to help Iran's people achieve
The very terms of the bargain should be a
tip-off. The one thing Iran's regime really wants from us is a
guarantee we won't support pro-democracy forces inside Iran.
Proponents of negotiations with Tehran argue
that we negotiated with the Soviet Union during the Cold War while
never compromising on our principled rejection of Soviet communism and
its brutal suppression of freedoms at home and in occupied Eastern
Europe. But the Islamic Republic of Iran is fundamentally unlike the
Soviet Union during the Cold War for a host of reasons.
First and foremost, they do not have an arsenal
of 10,000-plus nuclear weapons. Soviet dissidents and refuseniks
understood the U.S. would engage in arms control talks with the Soviet
leadership as a matter of self-preservation and that such talks in no
way implied our acceptance (except for Jimmy Carter) of Soviet
Soviet dissidents understood the weaknesses of
the Soviet state but also understood the dangers of a nuclear exchange
with the United States.
Iranian dissidents, however, view the Islamic
Republic as weak. They see the incompetence of its leaders, the
fragility of its economy, its isolation on the world stage, and its
military vulnerabilities. Why should a superpower bow before the
mullahs and dignify such a weak adversary with full-fledged
Opening negotiations with the United States may
be the key strategic goal today of the government in Tehran. The ruling
clerics are confident they can humiliate any American president who
agrees to talk with them. They will drag out such talks endlessly, to
demonstrate to the pro-freedom movement that "America can do nothing"
and more importantly, will do nothing to help them.
Beyond this, we simply don't need negotiations
with the regime over its nuclear program. Through U.N. Security Council
resolutions, we have set out the parameters of what the Iranian regime
must do to avert steadily increasing international sanctions. They can
accept those conditions, shut down their programs in a verifiable
manner, or suffer the consequences. The U.S. should not settle for
anything less than full, unconditional compliance from Tehran. There is
nothing to negotiate.
The same goes for Iran's involvement in Iraq,
its support for international terrorist groups, its refusal to
recognize the right of Israel to exist, and its wretched disregard for
its own citizens' political and human rights. Why should we negotiate
down the standards of internationally acceptable behavior?
On the contrary, we should hold Iran's
leadership accountable for its behavior by rolling up its networks in
Iraq and striking the IRGC support structures across the border. We
should insist Iran comply with the International Covenant of Political
and Human rights that it has signed. We should enforce the huge number
of judgments against top regime leaders in courts around the world for
their terrorist attacks.
And for starters, we should insist that Iran
comply with the U.N. Security Council demands on its nuclear programs
by ratcheting up mandatory economic and diplomatic sanctions. Anything
less is just not serious.
Kenneth R. Timmerman is president of the Middle
East Data Project Inc., executive director of the Foundation for
Democracy in Iran and author of "Countdown to Crisis: the Coming
Nuclear Showdown with Iran."