High Noon with Iran

May 31, 2007

High Noon With Iran
By Kenneth R. Timmerman
FrontPageMagazine.com | May 31, 2007

If anyone still believes in the utility of talking to the Tehran regime, they should read the revealing comments made to the press by the Iranian and the U.S. ambassadors to Baghdad, just minutes after concluding what were billed as “historic” talks between the two governments on Monday.

While the talks had “proceeded positively,” U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker told reporters that he had emphasized to the Iranians the need for concrete action on the ground.
"I laid out before the Iranians a number of our direct, specific concerns about their behavior in Iraq, their support for militias that are fighting both the Iraqi security forces and coalition forces," Crocker said.
"The fact (is) that a lot of the explosives and ammunitions that are used by these groups are coming in from Iran ... Such activities ... need to cease and ... we would be looking for results," he added.
Across the city, Iran’s ambassador Hassan Kazemi-Qomi just thumbed his nose. “We don’t take the American accusations seriously,” he said. It was the United States which bore “sole responsibility” for the violence in Iraq, he opined, noting that Iraq’s infrastructure had been “demolished by the American invaders.”
If the U.S. was really serious about helping Iraq, he suggested that we take up Iran’s offer to train and equip Iraqi security forces. (That way, the Iranians won’t have to steal Iraqi police uniforms any longer when they want to kill us).
In Tehran, Iranian foreign minister Manouchehr Mottaki, crossed the tees and dotted the eyes.
“We are hopeful that Washington’s realistic approach to the current issues in Iraq – by confessing its failed policy in Iraq and the region and by showing a determination in changing the policy – guarantees success of the talks and possible future talks,” he said.
So there you have it. If the United States wishes to have further talks with the Iranian regime, we must first admit 1) that our policies were wrong, and 2) that they have failed. Once that’s over with, hey – whatever you like!
I don’t know how deaf you have to be not to hear the message. Lee Hamilton, are you listening?
As the Democrat half of the Baker-Hamilton commission that promoted talks with Tehran last fall, Lee Hamilton now finds himself in the embarrassing situation of seeing the fruits of the policy he promoted so arduously.
Just talk to Tehran, he said. All they want is a little respect. They want a secure, integral Iraq, just as we do, he claimed. We have lots of things in common. Lots!
I give Mr. Hamilton credit for drinking his own Kool-Aid. As director of the Woodrow Wilson Center, a center-left think tank in Washington, he thought the Iranians were so eager for talks that he agreed to send the head of his center’s Iran programs to his native land, despite all the flap over the Iraq Study Group report.
And so Haleh Esfandiareh, a former Communist (Tudeh) Party militant, who has long advocated “dialogue” between the U.S. and Iran, went to Tehran early this year, ostensibly to see her ailing mother.
When she tried to leave, regime thugs intercepted her taxi, “stole” her passport, and forced her to request a replacement travel document from the authorities. That led to her arrest, and recent “indictment” in Iran on charges of espionage.
(For the record, I place the word “indictment” in quotation marks because the so-called “rule of law” in Iran is an arbitrary system that obeys the whims and orders of the ruling elite, not any objective legal standard created with the consent of the governed).
Now, just to be clear about what’s going on. Haleh Esfandiareh has absolutely zero to do with any purported U.S. government program to promote a “velvet revolution” in Iran, as intelligence minister Hossein Mohseni-Ejei has claimed. Would that it were so!
On the contrary. She and many other left-wing Iran “experts” in Washington have been promoting closer ties between Tehran and Washington, not confrontation.
So it’s more than ironic that the regime should arrest her. Seriously, if there were justice in this world, they would have picked up me or Michael Ledeen, or any number of Iranians who are working hard to organize women’s groups and student groups and labor organizations inside Iran, to stand up for their rights.
The Tehran regime continues to dangle “talk of talks” to buy more time to finish their nuclear weapons development, and are taking U.S. hostages to use as bargaining chips. Meanwhile, they have expanded their terrorist networks inside Iraq, and are supplying Explosively Formed Penetrators (EFPs), money and conventional weapons to both Sunni and Shiite insurgent groups. (And finally, the U.S. military is being allowed by the Pentagon to say this in public).
My sources in Iran tell me that the regime plans to dramatically scale up the terrorist attacks against U.S. and Iraqi forces this summer, and is contemplating ordering Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi army to launch terrorist attacks in Kuwait, the first time that Sadr will have used his fighters outside of Iraq.
So should we continue to talk to Tehran?
Well, okay – but only if our diplomats can do so without buying every over-priced carpet they are offered.
(Ambassador Ryan Crocker is someone who has got his priorities straight. After all, he knows a few things about Iranian terrorism, having received his baptism by fire on April 18, 1983 in Beirut, when Hezbollah operative Imad Mugniyeh blew up the U.S. embassy.  That’s where I first met Crocker, who was still brushing dust off his clothes and his hair from the explosion).
Iran’s goal is clear. They seek to defeat us in Iraq, and to prevent Iraq from emerging as an strong, independent, federal state. Further down the road, they seek to drive the United States from the Persian Gulf, smash Israel, and ultimately destroy us.
To achieve these ends, they are furiously developing nuclear weapons. Even the IAEA has recognized Iran’s nuclear weapons ambitions, although IAEA Secretary General Mohammed ElBaradei now says that we should give up trying to prevent them from going nuclear.
He said that Iran’s recent progress in uranium enrichment should convince us that Iran’s nuclear program has become a fait accompli, and that efforts to make Iran pay a price for defying UN Security Council resolutions aimed at stopping their nuclear program have been “overtaken by events.”
That was too much even for the Washington Post, who chided ElBaradei this past Sunday for his response to Iran’s “aggressive and illegal behavior.”
“[W]e can only marvel at the nerve of Mr. ElBaradei, an unelected international civil servant whose mission is to implement the decisions of the Security Council -- and who proposes to destroy the council's authority by having it simply drop binding resolutions,” the Post editorial board wrote.
The Washington Post and many of the cooler heads in the foreign policy establishment now believe “there is no better alternative than returning to the United Nations Security Council” for further sanctions on Iran.
While that may be necessary, a mere “ratcheting up” of sanctions will not be sufficient to keep Tehran’s murderers from striking again. I mentioned some of the stronger steps the UN could take, should the U.S. press hard enough, in this space recently.
But there is a better alternative, and it’s staring us right in the face. And that’s helping the growing pro-democracy movement inside Iran.
Even as the Europeans continue to meet with Iranian government emissary Ali Larijani over their nuclear program later this week, it’s important to remember that economic leverage, however severe, will not deter this regime from building the bomb.
“While the United States and the West are right to focus on terrorism and the regime’s nuclear programs, if they ignore the pro-democracy movement and human rights, they won’t get the results they want,” says Dr. Hossein Bagherzadeh, a spokesman for Solidarity Iran, a new Iranian coordinating council that aims to connect opposition groups in exile with activists working inside Iran.
The choice between appeasement and war is as bad as ever. But unlike the Washington Post, which believes that sanctions alone provide the alternative, I believe we have a better option.
Solidarity Iran will be holding its third conference in two weeks time in Paris, when it plans to announce a plan of action that represents the first serious step toward forming a united Iranian opposition coalition in twenty-eight years.
Stay tuned next week for more.

Click Here to support Frontpagemag.com.