Thursday, September 21, 2006

No "Grand Bargain" for Iran

Kenneth R. Timmerman,
The Council on Foreign Relations is at it again.

In yet another effort to second-guess Bush administration foreign policy, the Brahmins of Stability have invited Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to a pow-wow in New York this week, aimed at promoting a "grand bargain" between the U.S. and Iran.

The CFR invite to the man who has said publicly he wants to wipe Israel off the map and destroy America drew a quick response from Senator Rick Santorum, R-PA.

"President Ahmadinejad does not afford his own people the freedom of speech," Santorum wrote on Monday to CFR president Richard Haas, a former State Department official and protégé of Brent Scowcroft. "By allowing him the opportunity to address a public forum in the United States, you would be sending the wrong message to the people of Iran."

The CFR has consistently promoted a "grand bargain" with the regime in Tehran, a policy it laid out in detail in a 2004 white paper written by CFR staffer Ray Takeyh and his wife, Susan Maloney. As an official at the State Department office of Policy Planning, Ms. Maloney-Takeyh has been instrumental in blocking U.S. government funding to pro-democracy groups in Iran, which she has called "too confrontational." READ MORE

The 2004 CFR report, which I describe in more detail in my book, Countdown to Crisis: the Coming Nuclear Showdown with Iran, was issued under the imprimatur of CFR heavy-hitters Zbigniew Brzezinski and Brent Scowcroft.

Funny how all this fits together.

The interests of the Council on Foreign Relations and of many large American corporations in forging commercial and diplomatic relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran run directly counter to the U.S. national interest, the interests of the Iranian people, and to the president’s freedom agenda.

The CFR and certain large U.S. corporations (CONOCO and Boeing among others) can’t see any good reason why they should abandon a potentially good market in Iran to competitors in France, Germany, or Japan.

What’s refreshing about this argument is the fact that we haven’t heard it made with such forcefulness and such wantonness since the Clinton years. And that is also what is disturbing about it. It’s back.

In the final months of his presidency, Clinton appointed a "special ambassador" to negotiate a "grand bargain" with Iran, and came very close to making a deal that would have put an end to the aspirations to freedom of the Iranian people for a generation. Until now, however, the Bush administration has rejected such an approach.

Last week, at a conference in Washington, D.C., a number of CFR "experts" and protoges tried to paint a pretty face on negotiations with Iran, including left-wing financier George Soros.

They described a recent "private" dinner in Boston with mullah Mohammad Khatami, Iran’s former president, who said that Iran wanted talks with the United States, but was not willing to give up uranium enrichment as the price.

That’s okay, said CFR expert Charles Kupchan. "The key is to get to a point where the United States and Iran can build a relationship built on trust," he said. "We need to buy time for Iran to come around and make a deal."

But as Ahmadinejad told the United Nations on Tuesday, the only deal Iran wants is one that allows it to develop nuclear capabilities that will give it the technology and know-how to build nuclear weapons at a time of its choosing.

Apparently seduced by the CFR siren song, Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and her top advisor, Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns, have revived the failed policy of seeking to negotiate with Tehran’s leaders.

There can be no doubt as to the outcome. Why? Because the Europeans have been "negotiating" with Iran over a variety of issues since the early 1990s, and have absolutely zero to show for it.

In the 1990s, the Euro-appeasers called it "constructive engagement." The idea was to talk to Iran about specific human rights violations – such as Iranian intelligence agents traveling to Berlin and assassinating Iranian Kurdish dissidents, as they did in 1992 – and hope they wouldn’t repeat the offense, so Europe would actually have to do something about it.

After a laborious, four-year legal proceeding, a German court issued arrest warrants for then President Hashemi-Rafsanjani (touted by the CFR as a "moderate"), Supreme leader Ali Khamenei, intelligence minister Ali Fallahian, and Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati. Wringing their hands, the Europeans temporarily withdrew their ambassadors from Tehranand continued commercial relations without skipping a beat.

Since 2003, the Europeans have been "negotiating" with Tehran’s mullahs over their previously undeclared (and thus, illegal) nuclear program. Here we are, more than three years later, and Iran continues to enrich uranium, in utter defiance of the Europeans, the IAEA, and now the UN Security Council. And Condi and the CFR actually believe we are going to achieve something through yet more negotiations?

Bang! Bang! The Witch is Dead – or at least, she should be.

To the credit of the CFR’s Charles Kupchan, he rightly concluded at last week’s conference at the New America Foundation that the current U.S. policy is leading directly to one of two thoroughly unacceptable results: U.S. acceptance of a nuclear-armed Iran, or war.

But the CFR prescription of a "grand bargain" also leads to war, because it empowers the current clerical leadership in Iran, and that leadership is hell-bent on war. Even worse: over the past two years, seeing the U.S. falter in Iraq, they have come to the conclusion that they even can beat us.

If I were a cynical Washington Beltway rat, I would conclude that the State Department and the CIA (which favors this failed policy, because they are incapable of recruiting spies in Iran), knows that negotiating with Iran will fail, and will only allow the Iranian regime to buy time to perfect its nuclear technology.

They will say – indeed, they say so today – that no one has proposed a better alternative.

But that is patently false. Congress has passed any number of bills, which have been signed into law, that call on the administration to fund bonafide Iranian opposition groups and opposition radio and television radio broadcasts. Instead, the State Department (perhaps, instructed by the CIA) has chosen to fund charlatans and fakes.

For example:
  • $2 million has gone to a pseudo think tank at Yale University to document human rights abuses that others have been documenting for years with little or no U.S. government support;
  • $50 million has been pledged to expand Voice of America television broadcasts that give equal time to Hezbollah representatives (that’s the VOA’s old "fairness" doctrine at work), while VOA’s more effective (but less expensive) short-wave radio broadcasts have been given the axe; and
  • Close to $1 million has gone to "reformers" who have recently left Iran and have been making U.S. government-sponsored tours around America, to drum up support for an internal "reformation" of the Islamic regime in Tehran.
In the meantime, folks like ex-CFR staffer Susan Maloney at the State Department have vetoed funding of Iranian opposition radio and TV broadcasts, and training for opposition groups inside Iran, on the grounds that it might offend the Tehran regime.

There can be no doubt: The State Department and the CIA want the United States to fail in stopping Iran from going nuclear, because they fear confronting the mullahs running the show.

But the temerity of the CIA and the State Department today is going to cost the lives of U.S. servicemen and servicewomen tomorrow. And when the going gets rough, those advocates of "caution" and "negotiation" will happily whistle past the graveyard as the bombs and missiles fly, and whisper to the press that it is "Rumsfeld’s war."

Because war is what we’re going to get if we continue the present course.

Kenneth R. Timmerman is the author of Countdown to Crisis: the Coming Nuclear Showdown with Iran (Crown Forum, New York), and Executive Director of the Foundation for Democracy in Iran.