Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Bowing to Iran

Jeff Jacoby, The Boston Globe:
Having warned repeatedly that Iran would face serious consequences if it defied international demands to shut down its nuclear weapons program, the Bush administration wasted no time when Tehran blew off the Security Council's Aug. 31 deadline to stop enriching uranium. It issued a visa authorizing one of Iran's leading theocrats, former president Mohammad Khatami, to embark on a propaganda tour of the United States.

It is the first visa issued to an Iranian president since 1979, when Islamist radicals loyal to the Ayatollah Khomeini seized the US embassy in Tehran and held American diplomats hostage for nearly 15 months.

That'll show `em.

When it comes to Iran, the administration has been consistent only in its inconsistency. Time and again it has condemned the Tehran regime for its sponsorship of Islamist terror, its domestic repression, and its violent rhetoric. And time and again it has failed to back up those condemnations with action.

In September 2001, when President Bush included Iran in the ``Axis of Evil" and warned that ``any nation that continues to harbor or support terrorism will be regarded by the United States as a hostile regime," the mullahs might have thought they had reason to be afraid. Today they know better.

This schizophrenia is perfectly captured in the State Department's inane explanation for the decision allowing Khatami to enter the United States: READ MORE

``We recognize that former President Khatami headed a regime that is a leading sponsor of terrorism (and) human rights abuses, and presided over Iran's secret nuclear program which is now the focus of possible UN action. After careful deliberation, however, we determined that issuing Mr. Khatami a limited visa, and allowing Mr. Khatami to present his views directly to the American people, will demonstrate to Iran that the United States upholds its commitment to freedom and democracy." Got that? It's up to us to convince Iran that we really are free and democratic. And how? By letting one of Tehran's senior propagandists barnstorm across America. Only in Foggy Bottom could people get paid to concoct such arguments.

And so, five years after the terror attacks that claimed nearly 3,000 lives and plunged the United States into a global war against Islamist radicals, the former president of the world's oldest and most dangerous Islamist dictatorship is on a multi-city US speaking tour. It began with appearances in Chicago and New York; on Thursday Khatami is scheduled to speak at the National Cathedral in Washington. Next Sunday, on the eve of 9/11, Khatami will deliver an address at Harvard University. His topic: ``Ethics of Tolerance in the Age of Violence."

When he became president in 1997, Khatami was reputed to be a moderate democratic reformer. If he had lived up to that reputation, his arrival in America might well be worth celebrating. True, his style was not as incendiary as that of his successor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. But he was just as committed to Khomeini's radical revolution and its goal of worldwide Islamist rule. If there is one thing Khatami's presidency made clear, it is that the man was no moderate.

His election came only after religious authorities disqualified 234 potential competitors they considered too liberal. In his own writings, Khatami has insisted that ``only those who have attended religious seminaries should have a voice in government."

He is no more opposed to terrorism than he is to theocracy. As minister of culture and Islamic guidance in the 1980s, he oversaw the creation of Hezbollah, the terrorist group that would kill more Americans prior to 9/11 than any other terrorist organization. During the recent war in Lebanon, he hailed Hezbollah as ``a shining sun that illuminates and warms the hearts of all Muslims." Throughout Khatami's term of office, the US State Department identified Iran as the world's foremost state sponsor of terrorism. It was on his watch that Bush named Iran a part of the ``Axis of Evil."

In 1998, Khatami's intelligence agents brutally murdered Darioush and Parvaneh Forouhar, two well-known leaders of Iran's liberal opposition. The following year, government thugs attacked student dissidents at Tehran University. Several students were killed. Hundreds were arrested and tortured.

Many Iranians had hoped that Khatami's accession to office would mean more freedom of speech and of the press. But he presided over the shutting down of at least 85 newspapers and the prosecution of numerous journalists. Reporters Without Borders called Iran under Khatami ``the biggest prison for journalists in the Middle East." It was a prison as well for Iran's religious minorities, all of which were severely persecuted.

Khatami's visa is a win for the mullahs, but a slap in the face to the people of Iran. What a blunder by the Bush administration. What a disgrace.

Jeff Jacoby's e-mail address is