Too often, when American politicians and the press analyze high-profile diplomacy, they self-flagellate. Rather than recognize the problem lies with the insincerity of opponents, they assume that the problem lies in Washington, D.C.
A whole genre of literature exists, for example, written mostly by those involved in the talks leading up 1994 Agreed Framework talks with North Korea to argue that the George W. Bush administration and not Kim Jong-il’s cheating was responsible for the failure of that nuclear deal.
Likewise, a number of American officials continue to embrace the notion that Russian antipathy toward the United States is motivated by a lack of U.S. foresight and generosity upon the end of the Cold War, an argument that Russian opposition activist Garry Kasparov destroys in his book, Winter is Coming.
The most recent iteration of this pattern accompanies the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, perhaps the most flawed counter-proliferation agreement in a generation. As Iranian violations—ballistic missile work, heavy water production, and refusal to allow inspections at military facilities—mount up, President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry remains inclined to blame domestic U.S. opponents of his Iran diplomacy, repeatedly comparing them to Iranian hardliners.
Ordinary Iranians can be moderate, cosmopolitan, and cynical toward the intermixing of religion and politics but, in a regime like Iran’s, it’s the guys on top that matter. Obama, Kerry, and crew can delude themselves into believing that they are playing a sophisticated game in which they can tip the scale toward so-called regime moderates, but no politician with whom Obama and Kerry have dealt have been willing to work against the beliefs and philosophy of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.
The Leader of the Islamic Revolution lauded faith-based motivations and the spirit of steadfastness among Palestinians and noted, “The sole way to free the Noble Quds is through struggle and resistance and other ways get nowhere and are futile.” Expressing his satisfaction over a 10-point plan offered by the Islamic Jihad Movement for bolstering unity and resistance in the face of the Zionists, Ayatollah Khamenei said, “Emphasizing struggle, total negation of compromise treaties, insistence on the unity of Palestinian groups and condemning efforts made by some reactionary countries [in the region] to reach a compromise with the enemy are among salient points of this plan.”
The statement provides a useful reminder on a number of fronts. Despite the notion that Iran’s interference in the region—Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Lebanon—is motivated by sectarian concerns, the reality is that it goes broader. Palestinian Islamic Jihad, after all, is a Sunni organization. It is also a creation of the Islamic Republic of Iran. It is naïve for diplomats to see Iranian pragmatism only as a path to peace; it can just as easily enable terrorism and advocate for genocide.
Also important is Khamenei’s condemnation of the previous treaties—most prominently the Oslo Accords—which today shape the Middle Eastern order. This violent opposition to the Middle East Peace Process is one of the reasons why there was bipartisan suspicion of the Islamic Republic from the Carter administration through the George W. Bush administration. If Khamenei is willing to advocate proxy terrorists work to scrap some treaties, why the assumption that he plans to abide by nuclear deals?
Lastly, the embrace of Palestinian Islamic Jihad is a deliberate provocation to American victims of terror. After all, it was the Palestinian Islamic Jihad murder of Americans like Alisa Flatow that contributed to the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act, signed by President Bill Clinton in 2000. That law directed that Iranian money held by the United States be used to compensate victims of Iranian terrorism. In order to ransom American hostages that the Iranian regime seized to use as bargaining chips or raise money, Obama returned those funds to Iran rather than use them for their legal purpose.
Khamenei’s embrace of Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s leader is a sign that the Islamic Republic reaffirms terrorism. The only difference between its embrace of terror at the end of Obama’s tenure versus at its beginning is that now those within the system in charge of carrying out terror are far better resourced.