Thursday, June 13, 2024

A Half-Century of Appeasing Iran - Bruce Thornton


by Bruce Thornton

The suicidal cost of blinding ourselves to the Mullahs' true world view.



[Order David Horowitz’s new book, America Betrayed, HERE.]

A measure of how feckless and dangerous the Biden administration’s Iran policy has become, was blatantly obvious last week. The International Atomic Energy Agency finally censured Iran for violating the terms of the so-called “Iran nuclear deal” that Barack Obama signed with several European countries in 2015. As the Wall Street Journal asked, “What took so long? The answer, we’re sorry to say, is U.S. opposition. Credit to the U.K., France and Germany for pushing the rebuke anyway, and winning President Biden’s reluctant support at the last minute, when he had no other way to stave off the embarrassment of defending Iran.”

Embarrassment indeed, when three of Nato’s richest military skinflints show more spine than the U.S. did. Biden’s appeasement may be the reductio ad absurdum of nearly 50 years of Western nations “running scared of Tehran,” as Daniel Pipes put it, since the Islamic revolution.  For all those decades, a nation viable only by dint of possessing the world’s third largest oil reserves–– and a ruthless totalitarian government so hated by its people that only murderous force and cruelty can keep its clerical leaders alive––is treated by the West as though it were a peer rival one must approach with cautious solicitude.

First in the catalogue of appeasement came the sacrifice of the Shah, a geostrategically reliable and loyal ally, who like his father was a reformer in the mold of Turkey’s Kemal Ataturk. Next came the abandonment of Iran despite the unpunished kidnapping of our embassy staff, and the subjection of Iran’s citizens to committed jihadists led by the Ayatollah Khomeini.

An esteemed Shia cleric, Khomeini’s tracts and sermons featured traditional Islamic doctrines like “Kill the unbeliever” and “Islam is the religion of blood for the infidel.” More ominously, he promised, “We shall export our revolution to the whole world,” and jihad will be waged “[u]ntil the cry ‘There in God but Allah’ resounds over the whole world.’” And so it has, as Iran and its proxies have terrorized this a critical region.

From that point on, there followed numerous failures to punish Iran’s aggression against the “Great Satan,” as Khomeini dubbed the U.S. Iran’s shock-troops and trained proxies murdered 241 of our military personnel in Beirut, serially kidnapped our citizens and government officials, and incessantly facilitated attacks on our soldiers in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria. Indeed, the Mullahs struck at every flash-point in the region, including Hamas’s murders, rapes, brutalizing, and kidnappings of hostages in the October 7 terrorist attacks. Only the blind or willfully ignorant can fail to trace the role of serial appeasement in inviting and furthering these assaults on our security and interests.

The Obama-Biden appeasement, however, has come with a new risk. Both presidents did not just fail to vigorously check Iran’s nuclear ambitions and aggression, but paid them billions of dollars that subsidized both the Mullah’s development of nuclear weapons; and their arming with missiles, drones, and other materiel jihadist terrorist gangs in Lebanon, Gaza, Syria, and Yemen. Perhaps more dangerous, Iran is now collaborating with China and Russia, selling oil to China at a discount, and providing drones, ammunition, and other weapons to Russia, offsetting the weapons and cash the Nato nations have been providing Ukraine.

But Biden has gone even farther with his groveling to Tehran. Earlier this month his foreign       policy crew lobbied against voting for the IAEA’s censure of Iran, which triggers “snap-back” sanctions against Iran’s oil sales, though we should note the sanctions will still have to be approved by the Western signatories to the nuclear deal. As we’ve already seen, the U.S. actively lobbied European and other countries to abstain on the censure vote.

Showing at least some realist fiber, Seth Mandel writes in Commentary, “European diplomats have warned that failure to take action would undermine the authority of the IAEA, which polices nonproliferation of nuclear weapons. They say it also weakens the credibility of Western pressure on Iran. And they are frustrated over what they see as U.S. efforts to undermine their approach.”

More disturbing, we now know that Iran is on the brink of manufacturing bombs. According to the AP,  the IAEA “believes that Iran has further increased its stockpile of highly enriched uranium and criticized Tehran for continuing to bar the agency’s officials from accessing or monitoring Iranian nuclear sites.” AP also reported that Iran “has an estimate 62.3 kilograms (137.3 pounds) of uranium enriched to up to 60% fissile purity. That amounts to an increase of 6.7 kilograms” since last September. That enrichment to 60% purity is one short, technical step away from weapons-grade levels of 90%. Nonproliferation experts have warned in recent months that Iran now has enough 60%-enriched uranium to reprocess into fuel for at least one nuclear bomb.”

This is serious news lost in the political drama of a presidential election intensified by NeverTrump hysteria and the Dems’ panic over one of the worst presidential candidates in history. Given the geopolitical leverage possession of nuclear weapons can give even to a gangster-state like North Korea, the thought of an apocalyptic cult from a religion that for 14 centuries preyed on the West, a faith with a proud record of conquest and occupation, suggests there’s a real danger that Iran’s leaders would not be deterred by earthly punishment from using such weapons against their enemies and our regional allies, especially Israel.

Finally, we must ask why such obviously dangerous appeasement has persisted for half a century. One answer lies in representative governments––whose citizens can vote on how money is spent, and punish politicians at the ballot box––consistently preferring butter over guns. When such states make a habit of redistributing tax dollars to entitlements for political clients, the funds available for the military and defense spending necessarily grow scarce, as the Nato nations, including the U.S., have demonstrated during the post-Cold War period.

Another contributor to appeasement has been the century-long dominance of the “rules-based international order” of foreign policy idealism’s fossilized tenets that “diplomatic engagement,” international law and treaties, economic sanctions, and multinational institutions like the UN can substitute for lethal force. An ancillary of this doctrine is the Wilsonian ideal, enshrined in the Versailles Treaty, that “national self-determination” and liberal, rights-based democracies are the default governing paradigm for an astonishingly complex diversity of nations.

The first appeasement of Iran was a reflection of this simplistic and arrogant assumption. When the Ayatollah Khomeini took over the protests against the Shah, our foreign policy mavens saw it as a typical antiimperialist struggle for democracy and human rights. But the revolution was more akin to the 16th century Reformation than to our Revolution. Unfortunately, our foreign policy analysts seemed to know and care little about Islam’s history and doctrines.

If they had, they would not have looked to Western political and cultural ideals like socialism, nationalism, secularism, or liberal democracy for the revolution’s dominant motivation. Instead, they would instead have listened to historian Bernard Lewis: “From the beginning of Western penetration in the Islamic world, until our own day, the most characteristic, significant, and original political and intellectual responses to that penetration have been Islamic. They have been concerned with the problems of the faith and community overwhelmed by infidels.”

Yet despite the gruesome lesson of 9/11, Western foreign policy is still dominated by the specious mantra “nothing to do with Islam,” and the privileging of Western notions like national self-determination and human rights. That’s why the Nato nations keep alive the failed “two nations living side-by-side” solution for stopping the Palestinian Arabs’ faith-sanctioned eliminationist violence against Israel––despite over a century of Palestinian Arabs’ murdering Jews.

This hatred of Israel––one shared by Western progressives and leftists––has been a powerful facilitator of appeasement. It provides a ready-made scapegoat for secularized governments that downplay religious motives, and don’t take faith as seriously as they do material causes like a lack of voting or human rights or thriving economies––the summum bonum of today’s secularized West.

Hence, they dismiss as cranks or “heretics” theorists of jihad like Hassan al-Banna, who in 1928, two decades before the birth of Israel, created the Muslim Brotherhood, the most consequential influence on modern jihadism. “It is the nature of Islam,” he wrote, “to dominate not to be dominated, to impose its laws on all nations, and to extend its power to the entire planet.” This dictum better explains the West’s “bloody borders” with Islam than the supposed desire for political institutions and practices imported from the infidel West.

So only two cheers for the Europeans, since we know that sanctions, if they even happen, should be only an adjunct to sustained, overwhelming, mind-concentrating force. But until we take such Islamic orthodox passionate beliefs seriously in our foreign policy calculations, and acknowledge their profound differences with our world view, we will continue to appease and misinterpret Iran’s leaders and their ambitions to seek weapons of mass destruction.


Bruce S. Thornton is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center, an emeritus professor of classics and humanities at California State University, Fresno, and a research fellow at the Hoover Institution. His latest book is Democracy’s Dangers and Discontents: The Tyranny of the Majority from the Greeks to Obama.


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