Monday, March 14, 2005

“The advance of hope in the Middle East … requires new thinking in the capitals of great democracies — including Washington, D.C. By now it should be clear that decades of excusing and accommodating tyranny, in pursuit of stability, have only led to injustice and instability and tragedy.

“It should be clear the advance of democracy leads to peace, because governments that respect the rights of their people also respect the rights of their neighbors. It should be clear the best antidote to radicalism and terror is the tolerance and hope kindled in free societies. And our duty is now clear: For the sake of our long-term security, all free nations must stand with the forces of democracy and justice that have begun to transform the Middle East.” So said President George W. Bush at the National Defense University a week ago.

Even as President Bush drew this lesson from the past, Europe’s leading nations — Britain, France and Germany — were inveigling his administration to join them in the latest example of great democracies “excusing and accommodating tyranny” in the pursuit of what passes for “stability.”

Within days of the president’s powerful address at NDU, the Eurofaustians had induced him to join their effort to do a deal that would, as a practical matter, legitimate, perpetuate and enrich the despotic mullahocracy of Iran.

To hear Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley tell it, U.S. policy toward Iran has not changed. Rather, the U.S. has — in the interest of getting the Iranian regime to abandon its nuclear ambitions — simply “withdrawn its objections” to Europe’s paying Tehran with currency we control (Iran’s entry into the World Trade Organization, and spare parts for aging 737 airliners).

In exchange for these seemingly modest concessions, we are assured new, common “red-lines” have been drawn with the Europeans. If the Iranians don’t agree to give up nuclear weapons ambitions, we can count on the so-called EU-3 to join us in taking the matter to the U.N. Security Council for action.

We should be clear, however. We have entered the bazaar and the offer on the table should be understood by everyone to be but the opening bid. The mullahs have already responded by saying they will not abandon their uranium-enrichment program, seed corn for nuclear weaponry. Clearly, they expect more Western offers to induce them to be more tractable.

Unfortunately, it is predictable the Europeans will be all too willing to make such further offers, in the interest of “keeping the dialogue going” and avoiding a rupture with Tehran that would be seen as clearing the way for the Iranian bomb. (A similar logic impels the Eurofaustians to resume arms sales to Communist China, even as China inexorably moves forward with its plans to re-annex Taiwan, by force if necessary.)

The futility of the Eurofaustians’ deal-making is assured, however, since there is no way to make sure Tehran complies any more fully with future promises to freeze its nuclear weapons program than it has with previous ones.

For example, we recently learned part of the vast Iranian covert nuclear weapons complex involves facilities in hardened tunnels half-a-mile underground. It is roughly as difficult to know what is going on inside such sites as it is to destroy them.

Deal-making with a repressive, dishonest and aggressive Iranian regime buys the mullahs the one thing they need most: Time. That is, time to complete their covert nuclear program. Time to mate nuclear warheads with Iran’s growing arsenal of longer- and longer-range ballistic and cruise missiles. Time to ensure Iran’s Chinese and Russian friends will thwart any Security Council resolution the United States might actually be able to persuade the EU-3 to support.

Arguably even more insidious is the prospect the Bush administration will be seen by the Iranian people as having decided, at least implicitly, that a deal with the Iranian regime is more important than “standing with the people” of Iran, who yearn for freedom from the mullahs. This is all the more regrettable since it not only calls into question the president’s central organizing principle for the war on terror; it would also seem to preclude, or at least greatly to impede, the only tool that might actually prevent Iranian nuclear armament: regime change in favor of freedom.

In a meeting with The Washington Times editorial board last Friday, Miss Rice confirmed this dilemma: “Our challenge is to continue to speak to the aspirations of the Iranian people even as we deal with near-term issues like the Iranian nuclear program. And the president is determined to do that, determined not to lose the emphasis on the rights and the aspirations of all people, including the Iranian people, to live in freedom. We don’t want to do anything that legitimizes this government — the mullahs — in a direct way. And so there isn’t any indication here of ‘warming of relations.’ ”

The problem is that, even if Miss Rice is correct and — despite all appearances and, frankly, expectations — these European-led negotiations do not wind up euchring the United States into legitimating the regime and abandoning the aspirations of the Iranian people, they will make it more difficult to do something about those aspirations. We need to wage political warfare against the mullahocracy if there is to be any chance of freeing its people and denying terror’s friends the Bomb. And neither time nor the Eurofaustians will be on our side in such warfare.

Frank J. Gaffney Jr. is president of the Center for Security Policy and a columnist for The Washington Times.

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