Why not side with the Ira­nian peo­ple?

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary -

When tens of thou­sands of Ira­ni­ans took to the streets last spring and braved the most bru­tal re­pres­sion the regime could in­flict, Michael Ledeen was the least sur­prised man in Wash­ing­ton. In sea­son and out, Mr. Ledeen has chron­i­cled the pro­found weak­ness of the mul­la­hoc­racy and its deep un­pop­u­lar­ity with the Ira­nian peo­ple. Im­pa­tiently, year af­ter year, he has iden­ti­fied op­por­tu­ni­ties for the United States to help the peo­ple of Iran re­place their sin­is­ter and men­ac­ing rulers. Af­ter each new post on the sub­ject, Mr. Ledeen signed off with “Faster please.”

In “Ac­com­plice to Evil,” Mr. Ledeen seems al­most out of pa­tience. The fail­ure to grap­ple with the chal­lenge of Iran is more than a strate­gic fail­ure, he ar­gues; it’s a moral fail­ure. Just as few in the demo­cratic coun­tries took Adolf Hitler at his word when he re­peat­edly promised to dom­i­nate the world and kill all the Jews, and few could squarely ac­knowl­edge the geno­ci­dal lengths to which the com­mu­nists would go, so to­day the threat from the rad­i­cal Is­lamists is min­i­mized, white­washed, or wished away.

Of the Carter ad­min­is­tra­tion, Mr. Ledeen writes, “The fail­ure to com­pre­hend what Khome­ini was all about con­trib­uted might­ily to the Amer­i­can de­ba­cle in Iran, and to sub­se­quent fail­ure of Amer­i­can pol­icy, for the pol­icy mak­ers — from Carter down — did not take se­ri­ously the pos­si­bil­ity that Khome­ini might be worse than the shah.” In­com­pa­ra­bly worse as it turned out. Dur­ing the war with Iraq, Iran sent tens of thou­sands of chil­dren to their deaths “clear­ing” mine­fields. Be­fore de­par­ture, they were is­sued plas­tic keys --to open the gates of par­adise.

But Amer­i­cans have doggedly re­fused to rec­og­nize the na­ture of the regime or the Is­lamist move­ment it spear­heads. Mr. Ledeen writes of the Carter State Depart­ment: “In what was to be­come a great leit­mo­tif of the next 30 years, Amer­i­can diplo­mats des­per­ately worked for an agree­ment at all costs.” When the Ira­ni­ans pre­sented bru­tal de­mands that the U.S. turn over all Ira­nian “crim­i­nals” who had taken refuge in Amer­ica, an as­sis­tant sec­re­tary of state — in words that could have been ghost­writ­ten by the cur­rent oc­cu­pant of the Oval Of­fice — ex­plained “[. . .] the Ira­nian sus­pi­cions of us were only nat­u­ral in the post-rev­o­lu­tion­ary sit­u­a­tion [. . .] but af­ter a tran­si­tion pe­riod com­mon in­ter­ests could pro­vide a ba­sis for fu­ture co­op­er­a­tion.”

Even af­ter the regime had held our diplo­mats hostage in Iran for more than a year, the Carter ad­min­is­tra­tion “ap­proved a se­ries of hu­mil­i­at­ing con­ces­sions” in the hope of se­cur­ing their release. It was that way to the bit­ter end. On the day be­fore he left of­fice, Mr. Carter is­sued Ex­ec­u­tive Or­der 12283, which im­mu­nized the Ira­nian gov­ern­ment from law­suits aris­ing from the seizure of the em­bassy.

Pres­i­dent Obama de­ludes him­self that “out­reach” to the mul­lahs rep­re­sents some sort of new de­par­ture in Amer­i­can pol­icy. In fact, ev­ery ad­min­is­tra­tion since Mr. Carter’s has re­peat­edly at­tempted to “en­gage” the mul­lahs. Even the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion “pur­sued ac­com­mo­da­tion [. . .] as vig­or­ously as any of the oth­ers.” From pages 155 to 159, Mr. Ledeen lists the scores of pub­licly re­ported meet­ings be­tween top Ira­nian and U.S. of­fi­cials in just the seven years be­tween 2001 and 2008. One ex­am­ple gives the fla­vor: On Nov. 17, 2003, Sec­re­tary of State Colin Pow­ell praised the ef­forts of “my three col­leagues, the EU three, (who) played a very, very help­ful role in go­ing to Tehran [. . .] and com­ing back with a very, very, pos­i­tive and pro­duc­tive re­sult.”

It was noth­ing of the kind. But that didn’t pre­vent the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion from con­tin­u­ing to lower its bucket into this dry well. The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion, sea­son­ing its ap­proach with fawn­ing gen­u­flec­tions, is tak­ing ac­com­mo­da­tion to a new level — a fact that is not lost on the Iran- ian peo­ple who chant “Obama. Obama. Ei­ther you’re with us or you’re with them” as they dodge the ba­tons and bul­lets of the Basij mili­tia.

Mr. Ledeen’s ad­vice is to of­fer strong moral sup­port to the Ira­nian peo­ple. Rea­gan’s open ad­vo­cacy for the dis­si­dents in the Soviet em­pire gave them courage and hope. He would also sup­ply re­li­able news about what is hap­pen­ing in Iran through ev­ery avail­able out­let. The Ira­ni­ans are huge con­sumers of In­ter­net news (Farsi is the fourth most com­mon lan­guage on­line), but they need cell phones, satel­lite phones, lap­tops, servers, and Black­Ber­rys. Ev­ery suc­cess­ful revo­lu­tion, Mr. Ledeen re­minds us, “in­clud­ing ours,” re­quired out­side as­sis­tance. Third, he would de­stroy the as­sem­bly sites for the weapons Iran is pro­vid­ing to the Tal­iban, Mahdi Army, and al Qaeda.

De­feat­ing those he has else­where called the “ter­ror mas­ters” in Tehran would drive a stake through the heart of rad­i­cal Is­lam. “The de­feat of the prin­ci­pal spon­sor sends shock waves through the move­ment and dis­cred­its the ide­ol­ogy.” But only if we can over­come our self-delu­sions about the en­emy first.

Faster please.

Mona Charen is a na­tion­ally syndicated colum­nist.

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