Surrendering to Iran

One fateful step at a time
From the November-December 2009 Trumpet Print Edition

When the Obama administration scrapped plans for a missile defense shield in Eastern Europe, it represented more than just an abandonment of allies in Poland and the Czech Republic. It was a surrender to Iran.

The original plan, established by President Bush in 2007, was designed to protect America’s European allies against the threat of an Iranian missile attack. In defending the latest policy of appeasement, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said that Iran’s long-range missile threat is “not as immediate” as the United States once thought.

Yet, in April, two months after launching a satellite into space, Iran successfully launched its Sejil-2 missile. The Sejil-2 has a range of about 1,200 miles—meaning the outskirts of Europe are now well within reach of the world’s number-one state sponsor of terror. It’s difficult to imagine a threat being any more immediate than that.

Meanwhile, Iran has provided no evidence that its nuclear program is not being used for military purposes. Instead, it has consistently refused to provide requested documentation, and access to nuclear sites and to officials for interviews.

In fact, on September 17, the same day President Obama and Secretary Gates minimized the Iranian threat, the Associated Press reported on a secret document produced by the International Atomic Energy Agency (iaea) which said Iran now has the ability to make a nuclear bomb and is working to build the delivery system needed for the weapon. Even in its official August 28 report, “in unusually forthright language, the iaea said the intelligence was too consistent, comprehensive and detailed, coming from multiple sources at different times, for Iran to keep dodging scrutiny with blanket denials” (Reuters, September 2). Reuters quoted one source who cited evidence that the Iranian military is involved in nuclear component production.

At the current pace, the iaea report indicated, Iran will have sufficient quantities of uranium to build two atomic bombs by February.

It’s impossible to overstate the significance of these developments. A nuclear Iran alters the balance of power throughout the Middle East. It thrusts Europe into an uncomfortable—and potentially explosive—situation. And it reveals a remarkable truth: that the forces of appeasement in Washington are now so strong that even the United Nations seems almost hawkish by comparison.

A History of Deceit

Iran simply has a long history of nuclear trickery. It is a game Iran knows well and is playing skillfully.

It has time and again lied about the nature and status of its nuclear program. Former head Iranian nuclear negotiator Hassan Rowhani said so in 2006. “When we were negotiating with the Europeans in Tehran we were still installing some of the equipment at the Isfahan site,” he revealed in a closed meeting of high-ranking Islamic clerics and academics. He said the deceit was a ruse in order to play for time to complete equipment installations at the nuclear site. “There was plenty of work to be done to complete the site and finish the work there. In reality, by creating a tame situation, we could finish Isfahan” (Telegraph, March 2006).

An October 2003 agreement intended to halt Iranian nuclear activities was trashed when Iran continued to enrich uranium and lied about it. Another agreement, made in November 2004 with Britain, France and Germany, was proven empty almost immediately with convincing evidence that Iran was openly converting 22 tons of uranium tetrafluoride (yellow cake) into uranium hexafluoride, which can be enriched to weapons-grade levels.

As Stratfor reported on Nov. 15, 2004, these fraudulent pacts are actually part of Iran’s larger policy—to “use the status of a country seeking nuclear technology to not only attain economic and trade benefits and security guarantees for the current regime but also to attain international recognition for the Iranian state as a major global player while, perhaps, gaining the technological know-how.” In other words, Iran wants to have its nukes and eat its cake too.

In 2005, after blocking Iran’s application for World Trade Organization (wto) membership on 22 separate occasions, the U.S. backed down and lifted its opposition. Why? Because Iran said it would suspend uranium processing. By using merely the threat of resuming what it wasn’t meant to be doing to start with, Iran gained three months’ reprieve, an agreement for Europe to come up with a definite plan of rewards, and an invitation to enter the wto.

Iran is playing the same game it has been playing for years: stalling, dividing, deceiving, challenging, talking—and steadily moving forward with its nuclear program. As the evidence continues to stack, the farce continues. One day Iran threatens to withdraw from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the next day it reaffirms its commitment to the treaty; one week it bars short-notice iaea access to its nuclear facilities, the next it gives the agency copies of documents outlining how to build nuclear warheads. Iran continues to advance its case that it wants a diplomatic solution on the one hand while frantically advancing its nuclear program on the other.

A World Without Nukes

Much was made of the September 24 UN Security Council meeting when, for the first time in history, a U.S. president presided over the conference. As chair of the summit, President Obama set the agenda for the meeting. Beforehand, America’s UN Ambassador Susan Rice said the session would “focus on nuclear nonproliferation and nuclear disarmament broadly, and not on any particular countries” (emphasis mine throughout).

As Anne Bayefsky noted on National Review Online, even the UN Secretariat’s agenda for September “lists nonproliferation specifically in relation to Iran and North Korea and does not list disarmament.” But President Obama specifically wants to avoid finger pointing. He thinks more broadly, in terms of worldwide nuclear disarmament.

This agenda perfectly summarized a reoccurring theme in this president’s approach to foreign policy. In 2007, as a U.S. senator, he proposed a plan for eliminating all nuclear weapons in the world. If elected president, the New York Times wrote at the time, Senator Obama said he would “lead a global effort to secure nuclear weapons and material at vulnerable sites within four years. He also will pledge to end production of fissile material for weapons, agree not to build new weapons and remove any remaining nuclear weapons from hair-trigger alert” (Oct. 7, 2007).

As president, he has echoed these same utopian ideals. In Prague, earlier this year, he said, “I state clearly and with conviction America’s commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.”

Of course, a world without nuclear weapons, in his mind, means America takes the lead in dismantling first. But when it comes to the grave threat any other nation poses—like North Korea or Iran—the Obama administration has repeatedly turned a blind eye to an obvious and existential danger. In April, for example, President Obama followed through on campaign promises to drop the condition that Iran first suspend its uranium enrichment program before Washington would talk with Tehran.

The new American government has been consistent in its attempts to reach out to Iran, calling for a “new beginning” in U.S.-Iranian relations—even pleading for the mullahs to unclench their fists.

Iranian President Ahmadinejad’s blunt responses to such gestures of conciliation have been along these lines: “Any hand outstretched to attack us will be cut off.” This too: “We say to you today that you are in a position of weakness. Your hands are empty, and you no longer promote your interests from a position of strength.”

Even still, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton argued earlier this year that conciliatory gestures toward Iran were necessary to put the United States in a better position to organize “crippling” international sanctions against the Iranian regime, in case it refused to come to the negotiation table.

That nicely sums up the central conflict between the United States and Iran these past eight months. Amid all the rhetoric, the fundamental issue for the Obama administration hasn’t been Iran’s stubborn refusal to suspend uranium enrichment. It is Tehran’s unwillingness to talk.

About-Face

In April, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council—the U.S., Britain, Russia, China, France—plus Germany set a September deadline for Iran: negotiate or face sanctions.

With the deadline looming, lo and behold, Tehran finally decided to unclench its fist! “In the name of the Almighty,” the mullahs wrote in a five-page letter of acceptance addressed to the U.S.-led G-5+1, Iran wants to help mobilize global resolve “toward complete disarmament and preventing development and proliferation of nuclear, chemical and microbial weapons.”

Did this mean Iran would give up its own nuclear enrichment program? Of course not. That issue is not up for discussion—it is “finished,” Ahmadinejad said on September 7. “We will never negotiate on the Iranian nation’s rights.”

Conservative commentators called the letter an insult. Stratfor said it “made a mockery of Western demands.” Even the leftist New York Times accused the regime of posturing. “Unfortunately,” the Times editorialized, “there is no sign that Iran is serious about doing much more than buying more time” (September 11).

Washington initially rejected the proposal as unsatisfactory. According to a report in the Jerusalem Post, the U.S. was ready to abandon engagement and to apply sanctions. The article cited several officials close to the Obama administration who claimed that the White House had become frustrated with Iran’s diplomatic game of cat-and-mouse.

Then the White House made a stunning about-face and decided to accept the offer. Europe begrudgingly followed along.

Why such an inexplicable reversal? “Unless they received some secret Iranian assurances,” wrote Barry Rubin on his blog, “it means that the State Department mid-level officials scoffed at the letter but as it went up the chain of command, to Obama [himself], he chose to accept it” (September 13).

And why not? After all, if there are two policies President Obama firmly believes in, it’s talking to enemies without preconditions and building a nuclear-weapons-free world—beginning with the United States.

All of this means Iran has dodged yet another bullet aimed at curbing its nuclear ambitions. It also supplies Tehran with more valuable time to reach the nuclear finish line.

For the United States, meanwhile, it represents another monumental defeat in the war against terrorism’s primary state sponsor—the regime that has been targeting and killing Americans for going on 30 years.