Politics & Policy

Aftershocks

The West must read the meter in Bam and Tehran.

The Bam earthquake showed the Western world at its best (rescuers, doctors, money, medicine, and food poured into Iran) and the mullahcracy at its worst (no national leader dared set foot in the disaster zone for four days, and then only when the army and assorted thugs could protect the mullahs against the rage of the locals). When some Americans prepared to leave, they were begged to remain. The Iranians feel safer with us than with their own tyrants.

Secretary of State Colin Powell, recovering from his recent cancer surgery, chose to issue yet another blandishment to the regime, expressing the hope that it might soon be possible to sit down and improve relations. To these words of good will, the so-called reformist president of the Islamic republic, Mohammed Khatami, responded with the back of his moderate hand. There would be no improvement until and unless the United States mended its evil ways, and first the Americans would have to “learn their lesson in Iraq.”

For those willing to see what is before our noses, that was a fine description of Iranian intentions. They mean to drive us out of Iraq (and Afghanistan as well) by killing as many Americans (and Iraqis and Afghanis) as they can. Meanwhile, they are spreading their oppression to Iraq itself, and attempting to get their French friends back in business there. In Khadamiyah, for example, Shiites are imposing sharia on the local schools, rounding up tardy students, and forcing the girls to cover their heads. Locals have informed American forces that they believe the Iranians are organizing these gangs. And back in Baghdad, the SCIRI (Iranian-supported Shiite organization) representative on the Iraqi Governing Council has assured the French and the Russians that they will be able to participate in Iraqi reconstruction projects. I have yet to hear Jerry Bremer, who is so quick to jump on any questionable statement from the Iraqi National Council, condemn this shocking embrace of the opponents of the liberation of the country.

Meanwhile, evidence mounts on the true character of the terror network. The Los Angeles Times has detailed the close cooperation between Saddam and his Baathist buddies in Syria, to the consternation of many of our professional diplomats, who have long argued that Syria was our secret ally in the war against terrorism. And we are learning more and more about the covert assistance provided to the mullahs’ atomic program by the government of Pakistan. In time, we will be able to document the ways in which Pakistani leaders were paid off by the Iranians and the Saudis in order to give Tehran the ability to nuke Israel.

All of this makes it more perplexing than ever that serious people like Colin Powell continue to believe that there is some nice way to “solve the Iranian problem.” Would that it were so. But, as we are reminded every day by the wonderful dentist in Baghdad who bravely blogs away at www.healingiraq.com, in the words of Jonathan Swift, “It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of what he was never reasoned into.” The regime in Tehran is not reasonable, it is fanatical. It has waged war against us for a quarter century and it intends to destroy us. It claims to act in the name of all Islam, and views us as the greatest Satanic force on earth. It will not come to terms with us, because its very essence is hatred of us and of everything we represent. Knowing that the vast majority of its own people hate the regime and loves America, it murders, tortures, and oppresses them. When the mullahs appear to be acting reasonably and tell us they wish to help us fight terrorism, it is a deception, not an expression of their real desires.

Yet many of our leaders, fine men and women all, continue to believe that the liberation of Iraq and Afghanistan suffice to let us return to diplomacy as usual, even as the entire Western world ties itself in knots to protect against the next assault from the terror masters. Rome is declared off limits to aircraft, along with the Las Vegas strip, the Rose Bowl, Times Square, endless domed stadiums, and major parts of Washington D.C. Western citizens are implored to leave Saudi Arabia. British Airways, Qantas, and all carriers headed for the United States are placing armed guards on their aircraft. No one seriously believes that a threat of such magnitude is generated by the remnants of al Qaeda, operating from a remote border region of Pakistan. It obviously requires the cooperation of powerful regimes and professional intelligence services.

But if that is true, why do we act as if the terror war in Iraq is solely the product of the shattered remnants of Saddam’s failed state? What level of violence, how many dead or mutilated Americans, Italians, Poles, Spaniards, Japanese, United Nations and Red Cross workers, are required before we come to grips with the fact that we are engaged in a regional terror war? Did “homeless Saddam” look like the commander of a guerrilla war spreading across a large nation?

Look again at the scenes in Bam. The destruction of that once fabulously beautiful city is a symbol of what the regime has done to Iran, once a wealthy and prosperous and creative country. Look at the many reports on the awful degradation of Iranian society, now leading the region in suicide and teenage prostitution, its standard of living a pitiful shadow of what it was before the Islamic Revolution of 1979, its infrastructure in tatters, its armed forces distrusted by the country’s leaders, its students under virtual house arrest, its newspapers and magazines silenced, its talented moviemakers and writers and scientists and artists fleeing to the West whenever they see a crack in the nation’s walls. Look at the damning human-rights reports. Read the harsh condemnation of the mullahs’ relentless censorship from Reporters sans Frontières,” which calls Iran the world’s greatest predator of free press. And listen to the cries of the Bam survivors as they ask why this had to happen, why no help arrived until long after the disaster struck, and why the mullahs preferred to see thousands of them die, rather than accept humanitarian assistance from the Jews.

And then ask our leaders what in the world we are waiting for, and why we insist on believing that a regime so demonstrably evil deserves to have good relations with the United States, and why a people so demonstrably on our side, and so demonstrably worthy of freedom, does not deserve our full support.

Michael Ledeen, an NRO contributing editor, is most recently the author of The War Against the Terror Masters. Ledeen is Resident Scholar in the Freedom Chair at the American Enterprise Institute.

Members of the National Review editorial and operational teams are included under the umbrella “NR Staff.”

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