Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Bad ideas have a way of coming back with predictable regularity, like witch hats at Halloween. Really bad ideas, in the costume party world of Washington politics at least, can seem almost immortal.

“Elections have consequences,” as Sen. Tom Coburn, Oklahoma Republican, said at a forum on Iran policy hosted by the American Enterprise Institute on Capitol Hill last week, even if it means resurrecting truly horrible policies that have been proven wrong repeatedly - such as the notion that talking with Iran will convince the mullahs to halt the nuclear weapons program on which they’ve staked their entire regime.

President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden were elected on a platform that included a diplomatic initiative toward Iran, so “the debate now is over” on whether the United States will hold direct talks with Iran. What hasn’t been discussed, Mr. Coburn noted, are the “parameters” of these talks, the devilish details.

One proponent of talks with Iran, Clinton-era ambassador James Dobbins, noted that the “definition of insanity is doing the same thing over again and expecting to get different results.” And yet, that is precisely what the Obama administration appears poised to do.

The United States has not merely talked to Iran, but has offered Iran’s Islamic regime a “grand bargain” on many occasions.

In 1979, Jimmy Carter helped oust the shah and cozied up to the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, offering him legitimacy, aid and political support. Mr. Carter was repaid with a terrorist attack on our embassy in Tehran, and a hostage crisis that lasted 444 days and undid his presidency.

Mr. Carter’s misguided actions spawned three decades of Islamic terror and countless thousands of victims, inside Iran and around the world.

In the waning days of his administration, Bill Clinton upped the ante of the “grand bargain.” Not only did he offer trade and aid and a lifting of sanctions; he sent Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to grovel at the feet of Iranian emissaries, offering nonsensical “apologies” for alleged American sins in days past.

The response was a crackdown on internal dissent, an upsurge in terrorist aid to Hezbollah and Hamas, and a brazen expansion of Iran’s clandestine nuclear weapons program, with groundbreaking at massive new facilities in Natanz and Isfahan.

Since the partial exposure of Iran’s nuclear programs in late 2002, the stakes of any “deal” with Iran have become infinitely higher.

Independent experts now estimate that Iran will have enriched enough uranium this year to build its first nuclear explosive device - and that’s just with the stockpiles Iran has declared to the International Atomic Energy Agency.

In 2006, after three years of failed talks between the European Union and Iran, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice approved yet another version of the “grand bargain” to be offered Tehran’s clerical leaders.

If Iran would suspend uranium enrichment, the United States and the EU would shower it with gifts, including civilian nuclear power plants.

Iran’s rejection of that deal, which would have legitimized an outlaw regime and its brazen violations of international law, demonstrated beyond any possible doubt that Iran’s leaders were lying when they insisted they were only interested in civilian nuclear power.

If they had wanted nuclear power, they could have had nuclear power many times over. In the end, we were offering to give them the reactors and to guarantee fuel supplies. But for Tehran’s ruling mullahs, even that wasn’t enough.

If you listen to what the mullahs and their puppet president say, their goals are pretty clear. With Mr. Obama installed in the White House, they now believe they can get the United States to abandon our longstanding principles and our support for Israel, and usher in a new era of Islamic domination.

In his response to Mr. Obama’s interview with Al Arabiya television, in which he offered to embrace Iran if only its leaders would “unclench” their fist, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told supporters in western Kermanshah Province that the United States “must end its military presence in the world” and cut off all support for Israel, “these rootless, uncultured, illegal, phony, murderous, killers of women of children, killers of babies, the Zionists.”

He also demanded that the United States “apologize to the Iranian nation and compensate [it] for their crimes against the Iranians.”

Just words? Perhaps. But every day we string out the “negotiations” with Iran the centrifuges are spinning, more nuclear bomb fuel is being enriched, and more weapons are being sent to terrorists in Lebanon, Gaza and Iraq.

Talk is cheap, or so we are told. But when that talk is with the ruling mullahs of the Islamic Republic of Iran, not only could it be could be very expensive; it could prove deadly.

Kenneth R. Timmerman is a contributing editor at His latest book is “Shadow Warriors: Traitors, Saboteurs, and the Party of Surrender” (Crown Forum, 2007).

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