As Iran tests missiles capable of targeting U.S. soldiers in Iraq, sends its Hezbollah clients into the streets to bring down the government of Lebanon and kicks out International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors, a bizarre consensus appears to have formed between the State Department and some of the Bush administration’s most vociferous critics on the political left. They coalesce around the theory that Western “resolve” is actually forcing Tehran to change its behavior.
“Iran is no longer on the offensive but on the defensive and we have to keep it on the defensive,” Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns said Sunday in a speech in Israel. Then, on Tuesday, the Christian Science Monitor published a story that asserted “mounting” evidence that “international pressure on Iran is getting results.” The article quoted analysts with two liberal think tanks — Joseph Cirincione of the Center for American Progress and Anatol Lieven of the New America Foundation — praising the supposed success of the Bush administration’s efforts to enlist Europe to oppose Tehran. Mr. Lieven claimed that, as a result of Iran’s menacing behavior, it has become increasingly isolated. All of this, he claimed, is “an example of multilateralism, not of America working on its own.”
Whie it is certainly true that domestic criticism of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has increased substantially and that both the European Union and Saudi Arabia have become less timid about criticizing Iran, none of these developments is unprecedented. Since the 1979 Iranian Revolution, the country’s domestic politics have been characterized by shifting alliances among the ruling clerics and various political factions.
Arguably, the only constants during the last 28 years have been the regime’s focus on supporting Islamist terrorism and building its military, and thus far, there is absolutely zero evidence that any of this has changed for the better. If anything, it has gotten worse. Since Sunday, Iran has kicked out 38 weapons inspectors and announced that it has tested missiles, like the Zalzal-I, which put Iraq, U.S. bases in the Persian Gulf and eastern Saudi Arabia within range. Also, prior to a critical conference on Lebanon’s economic future, which begins today in Paris, Tehran’s terrorist proxy, Hezbollah, sent mobs into the streets in an effort to topple Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora, a relatively moderate Sunni Muslim.
We remain skeptical of the notion put forward by the Bush administration and the Israeli government that we are on the verge of some kind of New Mideast Order in which “moderates” like the Wahhabi rulers of Saudi Arabia join hands with Israel to combat Iran and the Shi’ite radicals. Given reports that the Saudis continue to fund the Wahhabi networks that brought us al Qaeda and Hamas, the current talk sounds more like spin than substance.