The Moral Imperativeof Freedom in Iran

ByKenneth R.Timmerman
|June 1, 2006

Secretary of StateCondoleeza Rice threw down the gauntlet on Wednesday, offering theIranian regime a clear choice between confrontation and accommodationwith the West.

If Iran immediately suspends all uranium enrichment activities in atransparent, verifiable manner, she said, “the United Stateswill come to the table with our EU-3 colleagues and meet with Iran’srepresentatives.”

If not, then the U.S. and its partners have agreed on a package of “progressivelystronger political and economic sanctions” that will inflict “greatcosts” on the Tehran regime.

Rice took great pains to spell out clearly the types of rewards acompliant Iran could expect if it chooses to “persuasivelydemonstrate that it has permanently abandoned its quest for nuclearweapons.”

The U.S. will back Iran’s civil nuclear energy aspirations, andgradually could expand economic cooperation. Ultimately, this couldlead to “a beneficial relationship of increased contacts ineducation, cultural exchange, sports, travel, trade, and investment,”she said.

At first blush, it would appear that Rice has acceded to those whohave been urging the administration to offer a “grand bargain”to Iran.

Among the many advocates of doing business with the Tehran regime areU.S. oil giant CONOCO, Boeing, and any number of trade associations,whose interests are obvious.

Their views have been packaged and given a policy veneer by the likesof Brent Scowcroft and Zbigniew Brzezinski, who urged the Bushadministration in a 2004 Council on Foreign Relations paper to liftU.S. trade sanctions and seek an accommodation with the mullahs inTehran.

Ka-ching! as my friends at CNBC would say.

I have always taken issue with the economic arguments of the policy “realists,”because we are not dealing with a realistic regime.

For the past eleven years, this regime in Tehran has enduredsanctions. U.S. efforts to block foreign investment, while notentirely successful, have prevented Iran from enjoying the fruits ofthe oil boom, which are so immediately obvious to Iranians who travelto neighboring Dubai.

Why should a regime that is on the verge of fulfilling along-standing effort to acquire nuclear weapons, pursued at greatcost, now abandon that effort just because we say please and offer afew goodies?

Former German foreign minister Joschka Fisher offered a more Faustianargument for accommodation with Tehran.

Writing in the Washington Post on May 29, Fisher abandoned theniceties of the lobbying crowd and got right to the point. “Therecan no longer be any reasonable doubt that Iran’s ambition isto obtain nuclear weapons capability,” he said.

That is precisely why the West should offer the mullahs in Tehran a “grandbargain,” he argued – if by so doing we can prevent theregime from acquiring a nuclear weapon and using it to “becomea hegemonic Islamic and regional power.”

As part of the “grand bargain,” Fisher believes theUnited States and its European partners must offer Iran “bindingsecurity guarantees,” including a permanent recognition of theregime. The “horrible consequences” of war “mustforce the United States to abandon its policy of no directnegotiations and its hope for regime change.”

Joschka Fisher is right about one thing. Legitimacy is the onlycurrency the regime in Tehran truly covets, because U.S. support fortheir opposition is the only threat they truly fear.

For the United States to acknowledge the legitimacy of the regime ofvelayat-e faghih – absolute clerical rule – wouldbe taken as a great victory in Tehran.

It would sound the death knell to the aspirations of the Iranianpeople to freedom, and would remove whatever restraints still remainon the barbaric behavior of a regime that continues to stone women todeath, rape children in jails, and pursue Christians and Jews andBahais and others because of their religious beliefs.

This is a regime that throws students out of third-floor dormitoryrooms, for the “crime” of demanding freedom.

This is a regime that murders freedom in Iraq, and boasts ofrecruiting thousands of suicide bombers to launch againstAmerica.

Unlike Fisher, Condoleeza Rice acknowledged a moral component toAmerican foreign policy.

"The nuclear issue is not the only obstacle standing in the way ofimproved relations," Rice said. She cited the regime's support forterror, its involvement in violence in Iraq, and its efforts toviolate Lebanon's sovereignty as additional “barriers to apositive relationship.”

More importantly, she refused to offer the regime any guarantees. Andthat is why the regime will make the wrong choice (as far as itssurvival is concerned), and refuse this last best offer from theUnited States and the international community.

President Ahmadinejad has said repeatedly Iran has a “sacredright” to nuclear technology, and has no intention ofabandoning its efforts to enrich uranium. He revels in defying theinternational community.

The state-run Islamic Republic News Agency noted just hours afterRice made her offer public that Iran considered it “apropaganda move.”

IRNA quoted Kazem Jalali, a spokesman for the Foreign Policy andNational Security Committee of Iran’s Islamic ConsultativeAssembly as noting that the regime “has announced repeatedlythat suspension of uranium enrichment is not in Iran’s agenda.”

The hard work begins tomorrow, or next week – whenever Iranmakes its refusal known officially and our European partners finallyrecognize that it’s all over.

It is not yet time to unleash the dogs of war. It is time instead tohelp the Iranian people to achieve their freedom.

Given the high stakes, we have a moral imperative to attempt what noAmerican administration has attempted before: to give the Iranianpeople the means they need to build a massive non-violent movement,well-coordinated and well-organized, to challenge the clericaltyranny that is bent on leading Iran to devastation.

Because devastation is the only alternative future for this regime,for the Iranian people, and for the entire region, should the UnitedStates fail to lead and fail to accept the moral imperative offreedom.

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