Why “Diplomacy” with Iran Had to Fail

European diplomats, who courted Iran in an attempt to halt its suspected nuclear weapons program, regret that “diplomacy” did not dissuade Iran from its plans. But this failure was foreseeable.

Europe’s diplomatic effort was touted as a reasonable way to settle the dispute over Iran’s suspected nuclear weapons program without any losers. By enticing Iran to the negotiating table, we were told, the West can avoid a military confrontation, while Iran gains “economic incentives” that can help build its economy. But the negotiations–backed also by the Bush administration–only strengthened Iran and turned it into a greater menace.

The proposed deal–which was said to include the sale of civilian aircraft and membership for Iran in the World Trade Organization–rested on the notion that no one would put abstract goals or principles ahead of gaining a steady flow of economic loot. And so, if only we could have negotiated a deal that gave Iran a sufficiently juicy carrot, it would forgo its ambitions.

But to believe that Iran really hungers for nuclear energy (as it claims) is sheer fantasy. Possessing abundant oil and gas reserves, Iran is the second-largest oil producer in OPEC. To believe that it values prosperity at all is equally fantastic; Iran is a theocracy that systematically violates its citizens’ right to political and economic liberty.

What Iran desires is a nuclear weapon–the better to threaten and annihilate the impious in the West and in Iran’s neighborhood. Iran declares its anti-Western ambitions stridently. At an official parade in 2004, Iran flaunted a missile draped with a banner declaring that: “We will crush America under our feet.” (Its leaders, moreover, have for years repeated the demand that “Israel must be wiped off the map.”)

A committed enemy of the West, Iran is the ideological wellspring of Islamic terrorism, and the “world’s most active sponsor of terrorism” (according to the U.S. government). A totalitarian regime that viciously punishes “un-Islamic” behavior among its own citizens, Iran actively exports its contempt for freedom and human life throughout the infidel world. For years it has been fomenting and underwriting savage attacks on Western and American interests, using such proxies as Hezbollah. Like several of the 9/11 hijackers before them, many senior al-Qaida leaders, fugitives of the Afghanistan war, have found refuge in Iran. And lately Iran has funneled millions of dollars, arms and ammunition to insurgents in Iraq.

It’s absurd to think that by offering Iran rewards to halt its aggression, we will deflect it from its goal.

The only consequence of engaging such a vociferously hostile regime in negotiations is the whitewashing of its crimes and the granting of undeserved legitimacy. The attempt to conciliate Iran has further inflamed the boldness of Iran’s mullahs. What it has taught them is that the West lacks the intellectual self-confidence to name its enemies and deal with them accordingly. It has vindicated the mullahs’ view that their religious worldview can bring a scientific, technologically advanced West to its knees.

Whether or not negotiations yield a deal, “diplomacy” abets Iran. The deal would have sustained Iran’s economy, propped up its dictatorial government and perpetuated its terrorist war against the West. But even without a deal, simply by prolonging “negotiations,” Iran grows stronger because it gains time to continue covert nuclear-weapons research.

This approach of diplomacy-with-anyone-at-any-cost necessarily results in nourishing one’s enemy and sharpening its fangs. That is what happened under a 1994 deal with communist North Korea. After endless negotiations and offers of aid, North Korea promised not to develop nuclear weapons. When the North was caught cheating on its pledge, the West pursued yet more negotiations, and the North eventually promised anew to end its nuclear program. In February 2005 North Korea declared (plausibly) that it had succeeded in building nuclear weapons.

Another, older, attempt to negotiate with an avowed enemy was a cataclysmic failure. In 1938 the Europeans pretended that Hitler’s intentions were not really hostile, and insisted that “peace in our time” could be brokered diplomatically (by letting him take Czechoslovakia). The negotiations afforded him time to build his military machine and emboldened him to launch World War II.

Ignoring the lessons of history, the Europeans embarked on negotiations with Iran that likewise sought the reckless pretence of peace today, at the cost of unleashing catastrophic dangers tomorrow.

To protect American (and European) lives, we must learn the life-or-death importance of passing objective moral judgment. By any rational standard, Iran should be condemned and its nuclear ambition thwarted, now. The brazenly amoral European gambit has only aided its quest–and will entail a future confrontation with a bolder, stronger Iran.

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