- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 29, 2004

As Sen. John Kerry expands his lead in the Democratic presidential primaries, he is coming under fire for his conciliatory statements about the government of Iran and his attacks on the Bush administration’s policy toward the regime. Ever since the Iranian Revolution occurred during Jimmy Carter’s presidency a quarter-century ago, Tehran has been hostile to the United States and one of the world’s leading supporters of terrorism — providing funding, weapons, training and safe haven to groups like Hezbollah, Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and even al Qaeda. But Mr. Kerry seems to believe that the crux of the problem isn’t Iran’s despotic, violent rulers, but President Bush’s behavior toward them.

In a Dec. 3 address to the Council on Foreign Relations, Mr. Kerry suggested that the Bush administration’s unwillingness to bargain with Tehran is to blame for Iran’s harboring of al Qaeda operatives. “It is incomprehensible and unacceptable that this administration refuses to broker an arrangement with Iran,” Mr. Kerry declared. “The Bush administration stubbornly refuses to conduct a realistic, non-confrontational policy with Iran.”

Mr. Kerry’s national security issues coordinator, Rand Beers, said last month that U.S.-Iranian talks have been blocked by the Bush administration, which “is so tied in its own ideological views of Iran and waiting for the Iranian regime to collapse.”

On Feb. 8, the Tehran Times published a letter that Mr. Kerry’s office sent to an Iranian news agency explaining why he should be elected president. The letter suggests that the Bush administration’s objectionable behavior toward other nations is to blame for many of the world’s problems. “Sadly, we are also painfully aware of how the actions and attitudes demonstrated by the U.S. government over the past three years have threatened the goodwill earned by presidents of both parties over many decades and put many of our international relationships at risk,” the Kerry letter says.

Mr. Kerry’s comments suggesting that the Bush administration is to blame for Tehran’s animosity have drawn a sharp rebuke from the Student Movement Coordination Committee for Democracy in Iran. “Why, Senator? Why and how could a man of your honor and valor disregard the suffering people of a nation and appease a brutal regime?” the group asked in a Feb. 19 open letter to Mr. Kerry (the full text is availableonthegroup’sWebsiteat www.daneshjoo.org). Mr. Kerry’s campaign has thus far failed to respond to this newspaper’s queries about the letter or his position on Iran. But his statements thus far indicate a profound misunderstanding of reality: It is not Mr. Bush, but the Iranian regime’s malevolent behavior for the past 25 years, that has damaged relations between the two countries.