- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 15, 2011

Dec. 7 was the anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. On that morning in 1941, 353 Japanese fighters, bombers and torpedo planes attacked the U.S. Pacific Fleet in two waves. All eight U.S. Navy battleships were damaged, four sunk. The Japanese also sank or damaged three cruisers. In total, 188 U.S. aircraft were destroyed; 2,402 Americans were killed and 1,282 wounded.

The attack shocked America and led directly to the American entry into World War II. The following day, the United States declared war on Japan. On Aug. 6, 1945, the first atomic bomb was dropped over Hiroshima, causing the greatest man-made disaster in history. The aim was to stop Japan from warmongering. President Truman, after ordering the dropping of a second bomb over Nagasaki said: “Let there be no mistake; we shall completely destroy Japan’s power to make war.” Are we heading for another disastrous response like that?

This all happened after several years of appeasement, trying to convince Hitler that his best interest was to work “peacefully” with his neighbors. But appeasement only emboldened Hitler to believe he could get away with his crimes, so he committed more.

History seems to be repeating itself, but the question remains: Have our leaders learned their lesson? It is now more than 30 years since the Iranian regime began terrorizing its own people and the world. It started with taking U.S. Embassy personnel hostage. Soon terrorism became a significant pillar of Iran’s foreign policy, backed by funding and training of people to carry their weapons into Iraq, Afghanistan and Gaza. The other pillar was bribery and offerings of lucrative oil deals with Western companies. While the West was busy looking for a moderate interlocutor, the regime built its nuclear-weapons program.

After a recent International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report on Iran’s nuclear-program advances, a question was raised in diplomatic circles: What shall we do? The British government took the lead and called for more sanctions. Iran responded in the usual way a bully does: They attacked the British Embassy and took the staff hostage. Foreign Secretary William Hague responded swiftly and closed the Iranian Embassy in London. The bully retreated, proving what we learned in primary school - that the bully is a coward if you stand up to him.

The difference between Iran today and Germany in the 1930s is the existence of an organized opposition to the brutal rulers of Iran. This opposition allows a route to regime change that does not involve direct war.

But appeasers have been at work again. In the hope of containing Iran’s ambitions, they agreed to encumber opposition members by labeling them terrorists, hence extending the repression they endured in Iran to the rest of the world. The People’s Mojahedin of Iran (PMOI) challenged this unjust label, and they won court case after court case finally being delisted in the United Kingdom in 2008 and in the European Union in 2009. But the U.S. government has so far refused to abide by the federal appeals court ruling of July 2010 to re-examine the PMOI listing. The court was not convinced of the validity of the reasons given by the State Department. Scores of American generals and former administration officials have called for lifting the ban because it has been used by Iranian regime proxies in Iraq as a justification for two brutal attacks on the residence of PMOI members at Camp Ashraf in Iraq.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki met President Obama in the Oval Office on Monday. Already calls have been made to Mr. Obama to warn Iraq and Mr. Maliki from attempting to forcefully disperse the residents of the camp in Iraq, which Iraqi forces, aided by Iran, have twice attacked, killing dozens of unarmed residents and wounding hundreds. Iran wants Iraq to do its dirty work of eliminating its organized opposition. Mr. al-Maliki relied on Iran to secure a second term, so he thinks he has to comply. Mr. Obama is the man in position to stop Mr. al-Maliki from committing another crime against humanity.

If he heeds history’s lessons, Mr. Obama will stop Mr. al-Maliki and send a signal to Iran that their bullying is not working. Otherwise, he will find himself complicit in a war crime that Mr. al-Maliki intends to carry out. As human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson said in a meeting in Paris on Dec. 10, silence is complicity in a war crime. I am sure Mr. Obama would not like to go down in history with such a charge on his record.

Lord Corbett of Castle Vale is chairman of the British Parliamentary Committee for Iran Freedom.