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Clearly, the Iranians have taken the measure of the West and the U.S. for thirty years. No matter how much humiliation they have inflicted, no matter how much American blood they have on their hands, the U.S. has not done anything to convince the mullahs that there is a price to pay for their aggression. The Iranians know that diplomatic “engagement” and “outreach,” that photogenic “meetings” and “conferences” are mere excuses not to act, and are an indulgence of that peculiar Western delusion that a violent aggressor can be bargained or talked out of his aggression, rather than seeing that for tyrants diplomacy is, as Robert Conquest put it, merely a “technical adjunct” to their aggression.
Indeed, since 1979, Iran has seen these offers of friendship and engagement as signs of weakness to be met with scorn and further aggression. When Obama came into office, he was eager to discard the “cowboy” crudity of George Bush and his simplistic “axis of evil” rhetoric. In his inaugural address, Obama told Iran and the Muslim world that he sought “a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect,” and offered to deal with the Iranians “without preconditions.” Yet every outreach was met with contempt. Obama’s Persian new year greeting in 2009 was met with the “supreme leader” Ayatollah Khamenei’s statement that “the path of Iran’s nuclear progress could not be blocked.” A personal letter to Khamenei a few months later calling for “co-operation in regional and bilateral relations” was met with the brutal crackdown in June on Iranians protesting the rigged presidential elections. Obama’s refusal to support even verbally the protestors until it was too late didn’t earn any goodwill from the regime either. After Iran failed to disclose the uranium-enrichment facility in Qum, Obama rewarded the mullahs by saying, “We remain committed to serious, meaningful engagement with Iran.” And don’t forget that during that whole time, and continuing until today, Iran has been helping terrorists travel to Iraq to kill Americans, and providing them with advanced weapons, funds, and training.
Given this long record of American appeasement in the face of Iranian aggression, why should the regime think anything has changed? Sure, the sanctions are biting, and Obama has finally wised up a bit about the reliability of Iranian promises and intentions. But his public undercutting of Israel during the past year, and his obvious reluctance to have a foreign policy crisis explode during his reelection campaign, suggests to the Iranians that they face no credible threat of military action, and so can once more manipulate the diplomatic process long enough to keep the Israelis at bay while the mullahs move closer to manufacturing a nuclear weapon.
Even more dangerous, any possible agreement likely to be reached in Baghdad cannot guarantee that Iran will not obtain nuclear weapons, particularly if Iran is allowed to keep enriching uranium at any rate of purity. As Saddam Hussein demonstrated, inspectors can be manipulated, obstructed, and run around for years. Access to sites can be limited. Nuclear facilities can be hidden, their existence denied. This rope-a-doping can go on indefinitely, as long as the mullahs are convinced that the West will not use military force, and that the U.S. will discourage Israel from doing so. And don’t forget: no matter what happens with inspections or agreements, the Iranians will still have the technical knowledge and the facilities necessary for producing weapons, and can simply bid their time until they believe circumstances are favorable for restarting their program––the same game Hussein was playing until the 2003 invasion destroyed his regime. Any agreement with the Iranians, then, promises to end up being “of no further significance whatsoever,” as Hitler described the famous “peace in our time” pledge he and Neville Chamberlain signed in Munich.
There’s only one way to ensure that a regime of religious fanatics does not acquire the weapons that will compromise our national interests and security, and those of our allies in the Middle East. Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has articulated it clearly: “Iran must end all enrichment of nuclear material, Iran must remove from its territory all material that has been enriched up until now, and Iran must dismantle the underground nuclear facility in Qum.” Any deal that settles for anything less is simply accepting that Iran will become a nuclear power.
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