Commentary Magazine


The Jig Is Up

Those pushing for “engagement” with Iran have relied on the same faulty analysis that has kept the State Department and liberal think tanks buzzing for years. There were always “good” Iranians and “moderates” who really wanted a deal. The fact that these figures never emerged or that Iranian behavior (e.g killing Americans in Iraq, supporting terror, pursuing nuclear weapons) never provided the slightest evidence that such figures wielded influence did not deter those bent on engagement. But now, even the most ardent engagement proponents, have to realize the jig is up.

Matthew Yglesias writes that a regime “win” would make him, gosh, “less confident that engagement will work.” You think? After all, as he points out:

The hope behind an engagement strategy was that the Supreme Leader might be inclined to side with the more pragmatic actors inside the system—guys like former president Rafsanjani and former prime minister Mousavi. With those people, and most of the Iranian elites of their ilk, now in open opposition to the regime, any crackdown would almost by definition entail the sidelining of the people who might be interested in a deal. Iran would essentially be in the hands of the most hardline figures, people who just don’t seem interested in improving relations with other countries.

Under the circumstances, the whole subject of American engagement may well wind up being moot.

Well, yes, and if we’re keeping track, Mousavi wasn’t about to give up Iran’s nuclear program either. But the fact that engagement is now so patently absurd even to the left blogosphere should give the Obama team pause. What are they going to do now?

We learn that Obama’s restraint (an effort to preserve the chance to engage the regime if it prevails) in addressing the events in Iran has not gotten him anywhere. The New York Times reports:

Rejecting American criticism of what was officially depicted as a landslide victory in Iran’s disputed presidential elections, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad assailed President Obama on Thursday, telling him to stop interfering in Iran’s affairs and accusing him of striking the same hostile tone as his predecessor, George W. Bush.

The sharp words from the Iranian leader offered no prospect of eased tensions between Washington and Tehran at a time of continued confrontation over issues such as Iran’s nuclear program and its support for Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza which the United States call terrorist organizations

So perhaps it was not George Bush’s “fault” that we couldn’t “get along” with Iran. Any American president who declines to countenance the regime’s thuggish behavior becomes the object of their scorn. There is no “engagement” without forfeiting our conscience. And the notion that Ahmadinejad and his mullah patrons would give up their nuclear program in response to some charm offensive from the president is now revealed to be utter drivel.

Perhaps it’s time for Plan B. A serious effort to pursue sanctions and international condemnation and isolation of the despotic regime might be in order. If Obama can’t rally world opinion now — when the nature and intentions of the regime are so clear — it is hard to see when he will ever be able to do so. After all, who now thinks we can do “business” with the mullahs and/or learn to live with a nuclear-armed despotic regime?

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