- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 15, 2005

In an otherwise flawless diplomatic performance, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice threw a spark-plug wrench in the fragile machinery of trans-Atlantic rapprochement.

Miss Rice, the second woman to hold America’s top diplomatic job, told a breakfast meeting in Paris, Iran is a “totalitarian regime” the United States would not talk to. But the EU3 ” the U.K., France and Germany ” were to continue negotiations with Iran, with a blend of sticks and carrots, until the country’s dominant clerics abandon their nuclear ambitions.

Ranking officials rankled in all three European countries. Miss Rice’s position was deemed absurd. The United States holds the only sticks and carrots that might conceivably make a difference. Sticks, short of military action, would be a U.N. Security Council censure of Iran and economic sanctions. Iran can circumvent any sanction regime by buying whatever it needs across the Gulf, in Dubai or Oman, an emirate and a country with close relations with Iran. EU3 countries would continue trading ” via Dubai.

The carrots ” ranging from $6 billion in frozen Iranian assets in the United States to the nonaggression pact Iran might buy in return for relinquishing its uranium enrichment to weapons-grade quality ” can be negotiated only in direct talks with the United States. Several U.S. administrations, beginning in 1953 with a CIA-engineered coup to oust Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh and bring back Shah Reza Pahlavi from a brief exile in Rome, to the U.S. betrayal of the shah in 1978, interfered directly in the country’s internal affairs.

The United States is willing to talk to North Korea in six-power talks, but not in four-power talks or face-to-face with Iran, where mullahs are models of mental health compared to the Stalinist monarch who tyrannizes his slave subjects in North Korea. Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, Iran’s president from 1989 to 1997, told USA TODAY’s Barbara Slavin last week that “al Qaeda terrorists are our enemies, too.”

The EU3 are beginning to couple Miss Rice’s intransigent rhetoric on Iran with Vice President Dick Cheney’s offhand remark that the Israelis might pre-empt before the United States with air strikes against Iran’s 12 to 15 nuclear facilities, most of them underground. EU3 have asked their Washington ambassadors if his isn’t Iraq deja vu all over again.

Unmanned aerial recon planes have been flying over Iran for months with live video feeds back to the Pentagon on suspected nuclear facilities. Iranian exiles, like Iraqi exiles before the Iraqi war, are reporting Iran is close to achieving WMD capability. Operational plans for lightning raids on suspected Syrian sites, where jihadi volunteers for Iraq are processed, are ready for immediate execution following a presidential order. All the ingredients are in place for a much wider regional conflict.

President Bush’s hopefully allegorical reference to a “fire of freedom … that will burn those who oppose it” and “reach the darkest corners of the world” prompted a number of foreign ministries to ask their Washington ambassadors to reassess the influence of the Born Again Christian Right and the Likud lobby on the Bush Doctrine. The wild card is what the Economist called President Bush’s “intellectual love affair” with former Soviet dissident and Israeli Cabinet minister Natan Sharansky.

“There are few things that irritate foreign-policy types more about Mr. Bush than his Manichean view of the world,” the Economist wrote. “His infatuation with Mr. Sharansky suggests he is not likely to be any more “sophisticated’ in his second term. Mr. Sharansky sees the world in black and white terms ” good vs. evil and free societies vs. “fear societies,’ with a bunch of “realists’ dithering in the middle.”

Mr. Sharansky’s “The Case For Democracy: The Power of Freedom to Overcome Tyranny and Terror” has been praised and used by Mr. Bush and is must reading on Embassy Row, as well as a synopsis of Christian fundamentalist Timothy LaHaye’s 12 “Left Behind” books that have sold tens of millions of copies.

For the Left Behind-ers who believe in the Apocalypse Now (in their own lifetime) scenario, another war in Iran and/or Syria and/or Korea won’t amount to a hill of baked beans in the final scheme of things. They will be seated at the right hand of the Almighty and watch those who didn’t repent in time suffer the tortures of the eternally damned. But for Europe’s temporal leaders, the possibility of another war in the Middle East is of vital concern. Next time round this track, Europe’s Muslim slums could suddenly erupt against their host governments.

If Iran is a totalitarian state, ask the EU3, what does that make Saudi Arabia? What is worse than totalitarian? There is even less freedom in Saudi Arabia than in Iran. Iranian women are allowed to drive. Anti-U.S., Saudi-funded pamphlets and booklets have been distributed in mosques all over the United States, advising Muslim travelers they are “in enemy territory.” But we still talk directly to the Saudi royals.

Iran has nationwide elections, a parliament and a free-market economy. Also an underground media and almost 100,000 bloggers. It is also an ancient civilization and once a powerful empire where Darius the Great ruled 500 years before Jesus Christ. But the Bush administration won’t talk with Iran. That’s a job for the three EU stooges who are now fed up with their U.S.-assigned roles in the pantomime on Lake Geneva.

During the Cold War, the United States talked with Josef Stalin, Nikita Khrushchev, Leonid Brezhnev, Red China’s brutal dictator Mao Tse-tung and North Vietnam’s Pham Van Dong.

The United States also created and propped up corrupt dictators like the Congo’s anti-communist Mobutu Sese Seko. Today’s litmus test for talks with the U.S. is democratic purity.

Iran, say the EU3, also has legitimate security concerns, which only the United States can address in direct talks. Seen from Tehran, there is a military vise of U.S. troops on Iran’s eastern and western frontiers, U.S. aircraft carriers and scores of preprogrammed sea-based Tomahawk cruise missiles in the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Sea on its southern border.

But Iran is not without retaliatory capabilities. It could give the United States a hard time in Iraq by activating Shi’ite militia against U.S. and British troops. Friendly Arab intelligence agencies have also warned Washington that “two or three” Iranian divisions have received orders to be ready to move across the border into Iraq on short notice.

Seventy-five percent of Iran’s population is younger than 25. It is the world’s only country whose youth is pro-American. But a military attack by Israel or the U.S. would quickly drive them into the hard-line camp ” and jeopardize Iraqi democratization.

Arnaud de Borchgrave is editor at large of The Washington Times and of United Press International.


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