The year was 1979, a long, long time ago. Iran was in turmoil. The Shah—a dictator who was secular, American's long time ally, and a man who worked hard and succeeded in bringing Iran into the 20th century—was under siege by Islamic radicals. The American media, even then, a left-leaning entity that was better at hiding their bias, but no less biased, was enamored of the first internationally recognized Islamist, the Ayatollah Khomeini, and was violently opposed to the Shah. Puff pieces about Ayatollah Khomeini appeared everywhere, and even President Jimmy Carter sang his praises.
Carter abandoned the Shah in much the same way as Barack Obama abandoned Egypt's Hosni Mubarek. Carter's disastrous decision has haunted the world to this day. It was the catalyst for an Islamist takeover of much of the Middle East and the beginning of a reign of violence and terror that grows every month.
At the time, virtually every American liberal was pro-Khomeini. I recall having a conversation with one of my aunts, a wonderful woman who was an unreconstructed liberal. She was celebrating the fall of the Shah and Ayatollah Khomeini's imminent return to Iran. She asked what I thought.
"I think," I said with a smile, "that we ought to shoot down Ayatollah Khomeini's plane as he leaves France for Iran. This is nothing to celebrate. It's the beginning of something bad."
The rest of the conversation didn't go well, my Aunt arguing that it was the beginning of freedom for the Iranian people and better times in the Middle East. She implied that I was far too young to understand the bigger picture.
You can judge who was right.
My aunt, long since passed, sounded an awful lot like Barack Obama, John Kerry and the Stepford Wives Democrats who keep telling us that our "deal" with Iran will lead to [paraphrasing here] "the beginning of freedom for the Iranian people and better times in the Middle East." It's a position that is typical of those on the Left—allowing hope to override common sense and belief to negate the long lessons of history.
Today’s liberal foreign policy, to adapt Churchill, is appeasement wrapped in realism inside moral equivalency. When it comes to Iran policy, that means believing that we have sinned at least as much against the Iranians as they have sinned against us; that our national-security interests require us to come to terms with the Iranians; and that the best way to allay the suspicions—and, over time, diminish the influence—of Iranian hard-liners is by engaging the moderates ever more closely and demonstrating ever-greater diplomatic flexibility.
That’s a neat theory, proved wrong by experience at every turn. The Carter administration hailed the Ayatollah Khomeini as “a saint.” Our embassy was seized. Ronald Reagan sent Khomeini a birthday cake, along with secret arms, to facilitate the release of hostages in Lebanon. A few hostages were released, while others were taken in their place. The world welcomed the election of “moderate” President Mohammad Khatami in 1997. Iran’s illicit nuclear facilities were exposed during his second term.
In 2009, on the eve of presidential elections, the New York Times’s Roger Cohen celebrated “the vibrancy of a changing, highly educated society” that he had found on his visits to Tehran. “The equating of Iran with terror today is simplistic,” he wrote. After the election, he ran for his life from the terror of the same street militia that had murdered Agha-Soltan.
Now we’re supposed to believe that the change Mr. Cohen and others had hoped for has finally arrived. The proof, supposedly, is that the regime has so far kept to its nuclear promises (in exchange for a $100 billion windfall), that it swiftly released U.S. sailors (after scoring a small propaganda coup), and that it let the other hostages go (though only after very nearly taking the wife and mother of one of those hostages in his turn, and then after an additional $1.7 billion reward from the U.S.).
Are these signs of a new-and-improved regime? Or merely one that is again being given good reasons to believe that it can always extract a bribe for its bad behavior? The notion of moral hazard, fundamental to economics, has a foreign-policy dimension, too. Any country that believes it will never be made to pay the price for the risks it takes will take ever-greater risks. It’s bad enough when the country in question is Greece. This is Iran.
Yet, the same liberal-left narrative that enveloped the country in 1979 is present today. My comment from that earlier time seems appropriate: "This is nothing to celebrate. It's the beginning of something bad."
On the Democrat campaign trail, Bernie Sanders, a candidate even further Left than Barack Obama, embraced the new leftist narrative and stated: “I think what we’ve got to do is move as aggressively as we can to normalize relations with Iran.”
Hillary Clinton, to her credit, responded somewhat more hesitantly, “We’ve had one good day over 36 years, and I think we need more good days before we move more rapidly toward any kind of normalization.”
She was, of course, referring to the prisoner exchange a few days ago. You know, the one where the USA exchanged seven outright criminals for three people illegally kidnapped by Iran. The one where John Kerry bragged about the triumph of diplomacy, as if he had gained some significant concession from the Iranian "Death to America" regime.
, one of the few true unbiased journalists covering the Middle East writes:
It’s not at all clear that their release counts as a good day. It’s terrific for the freed prisoners, obviously, and it’s almost as terrific for their friends, family and colleagues, but the ransom was insanely steep.
First the United States had to release seven Iranian criminals who were convicted of sanctions violations in a properly functioning judicial system. Second, Washington had to scrub the names of 14 Iranians from an Interpol watch list. And third, the United States is kicking 100 billion dollars in frozen assets back to the Iranian government.
A fair swap would have been three innocent prisoners for three innocent prisoners, but the United States doesn’t randomly grab foreign nationals off the streets to use as bargaining chips, so that was never an option.
If the Iranian government had released innocent people because they’re innocent like it’s supposed to—then we could say we had a good day. But that’s not what happened. That’s not even close to what happened.
It could have been worse, though. Secretary of State John Kerry said he thought he’d secured these peoples’ release months ago, but the deal fell apart because the Iranian government wanted the United States to release convicted murderers.
That demand shouldn’t surprise anyone. Iran’s Lebanese proxy Hezbollah convinced the Israelis to release convicted murderers like the notorious Samir Kuntar in exchange for the bodies of kidnapped soldiers who weren’t even alive anymore, who had in fact been mutilated by Hezbollah.
Hezballah is Iran's proxy—a virulently anti-Semitic, anti Western, pro-Islamist gang of thugs who view murder, terror, and continuous violence as their daily ritual. Just like their overseers in Tehran.
Anyone who believes that our current embrace with the terrorist regime in Iran will end well is a fool. Worse, anyone who suggests "normalization" with the leaders of Iran—a virulently anti-Semitic, anti Western, pro-Islamist gang of thugs—is a danger to the country that he or she purports to want to lead.