Victor Davis Hanson Private Papers

Obama Midwifes a Nuclear Iran

by Bruce S. Thornton // FrontPage Magazine

Khamenei and Obama via Breitbart.com

Khamenei and Obama via Breitbart.com

The news that President Obama has sent a secret letter to Iranian leader Ayatollah Khamenei––apparently promising concessions on Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for help in defeating ISIS–– is a depressing reminder of how after nearly 40 years our leaders have not understood the Iranian Revolution. During the hostage crisis of 1979, Jimmy Carter sent left-wing former Attorney General Ramsay Clark to Tehran with a letter anxiously assuring the Ayatollah Khomeini that America desired good relations “based upon equality, mutual respect and friendship.” Khomeini refused even to meet with the envoys.

Such obvious contempt for our “outreach” should have been illuminating, but the same mistakes have recurred over the past 4 decades. But Obama has been the most energetic suitor of the mullahs, sending 4 letters to Khamenei, none directly answered. In May of 2009 he sent a personal letter to Khamenei calling for “cooperation in regional and bilateral relations.” Khamenei’s answer in June was to initiate a brutal crackdown on Iranians protesting the rigged presidential election. Obama’s response was to remain silent about this oppression lest he irritate the thuggish mullahs, who blamed the protests on American “agents” anyway. Even Carter’s phrase “mutual respect” has been chanted like some diplomatic spell that will transform religious fanatics into good global citizens. In his notorious June 2009 Cairo “apology” speech, Obama assured Iran, “We are willing to move forward without preconditions on the basis of mutual respect.” This latest letter repeats the same empty phrase.

But our president is nothing if not persistent. In October of 2009, it was revealed that Iran had failed to disclose a uranium enrichment facility in Qom. Obama commented on this obvious proof of Iran’s true intentions, “We remain committed to serious, meaningful engagement with Iran,” and promised that the “offer stands” of “greater international integration if [Iran] lives up to its obligations.” Iran answered by increasing the pace of enrichment, helping the insurgents in Iraq kill our troops, and facilitating the movement and communications of al Qaeda with other jihadists.

Indeed, every concession and failure to respond forcefully to Iranian intransigence and aggression confirm its belief that Iran is strong and America weak. As Khamenei has said, “The reason why we are stronger is that [America] retreats step by step in all the arenas [in] which we and the Americans have confronted each other. But we do not retreat. Rather, we move forward. This is a sign of our superiority over the Americans.”

Given this long sorry history, how long will it take for our foreign policy geniuses to figure out that Iran’s theocrats don’t want better relations, or “mutual respect,” or “international integration,” or anything else from the infidel Great Satan and its Western minions, other than capitulation? The mullahs and their Republican Guard henchmen may lust for wealth and power as much as anyone, but the foundation of their behavior is a religious faith that promises Muslims power and dominance over those who refuse the call to convert to Islam and thus by definition are enemies of the faithful to be resisted and destroyed.

Given these spiritual imperatives, the material punishment of the regime through economic sanctions, particularly limited ones, is unlikely to have much effect. During the hostage crisis, mild sanctions and the threats of more serious ones were brushed away by Khomeini. The Economist at the time pointed out the obvious reason why: “The denial of material things is unlikely to have much effect on minds suffused with immaterial things.” Khomeini made this same point after the humiliating disaster of Carter’s half-hearted attempt to rescue the hostages in April 1980, when mullahs were televised worldwide poking their canes in the charred remains of 8 dead Americans. Speaking of the sandstorm that compromised the mission, Khomeini preached, “Those sand particles were divinely commissioned . . . Carter still has not comprehended what kind of people he is facing and what school of thought he is playing with. Our people is the people of blood and our school is the school of Jihad.”

With their eyes on Allah’s intentions for the faithful, the leaders of Iran see the acquisition of nuclear weapons as the most important means of achieving the global power and dominance their faith tells them they deserve as “the best of nations produced for mankind,” as the Koran says. Thus duplicitous diplomatic engagement and negotiation are tactics for buying time until the mullahs reach “nuclear latency,” the ability quickly to build a bomb. Every concession or offer of bribes from the West are seen not as an inducement to reciprocate in order to meet a mutually beneficial arrangement, but rather as signs of weakness and failure of nerve, evidence that the mullahs can win despite the power and wealth of the West. That’s because the Iranian leadership views international relations as resting not on cooperation or negotiation, but on raw power. As Suzanne Maloney of the Brookings Institute quotes from a hardline Iranian newspaper, “Our world is not a fair one and everyone gets as much power as he can, not for his power of reason or the adaptation of his request to the international laws, but by his bullying.” And the Iranians believe that their power politics serves the will of Allah.

Obama is not the first president who has completely failed to understand the true nature and motives of his adversary. FDR misunderstood “Uncle Joe” Stalin, and George Bush misread the eyes of Vladimir Putin. This mistake of diplomacy reflects the peculiar Western arrogant belief that the whole world is just like us and wants the same things we want––political freedom, leisure, material affluence, and peaceful relations with neighbors. Some Iranians may want those things too, but a critical mass wants obedience to Allah and his commands more. Obama’s endemic narcissism has made this flaw worse in his relations with the rest of the world, for he can’t believe that the leaders of other nations, many of them brutal realists indifferent to the opinions of the “international community,” aren’t as impressed as he is with his alleged brilliance and persuasive eloquence.

As a result we are on the brink of a dangerous realignment of the balance of power in the Middle East. Despite Iran’s continuing defiance of International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors, and its long record of lies and evasion, Obama allegedly has offered to raise the number of centrifuges enriching uranium from 4000 to 6000, bringing the mullahs closer to “nuclear latency”––in a regime that has officially been designated the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism; that has threatened genocide against Israel, our most important strategic asset in the region; and that for the last 40 years has stained its hands with American blood.

Rather than the ornament of his foreign policy legacy, as Obama hopes, his pursuit of a deal that will make Iran a nuclear power will be remembered as his Munich.

Copyright © 2014 FrontPage Magazine. All rights reserved.

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About Victor Davis Hanson

Victor Davis Hanson is the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow in Residence in Classics and Military History at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, a professor of Classics Emeritus at California State University, Fresno, and a nationally syndicated columnist for Tribune Media Services. He is also the Wayne & Marcia Buske Distinguished Fellow in History, Hillsdale College, where he teaches each fall semester courses in military history and classical culture.

11 Thoughts on “Obama Midwifes a Nuclear Iran

  1. Asking Iran for help is 5 different and distinct kinds of insane. It might even be classifiable as treason.

    By rights, Iran is already up to its eyeballs in the fight against ISIS because they (ISIS) are trying to take over Iran’s puppet, Syria. Now we invite them to come into Iraq, take control of the place, and pay them in bandwidth for developing nuclear weapons for their trouble?

    I suppose we’ll be completely surprised and aghast when Iran refuses to cough up Iraq again.

    And all so Obama doesn’t have to send US ground troops back to Iraq after happily and triumphantly pulling them out.

    Jimmy Carter’s impotent hand-wringing over the Hostage Crisis seems like genius diplomacy by comparison.

  2. Is NATO impenetrable after Obama’s 6 years—Allies only needed to take out the nazi’s ball-bearing factory’s in ww2—calling john mcain.

  3. How strong is the America’s ability to aquire materrials, parts and manufacture everything from within North America , in the age of Globalization spreasing us to thin and gutted—– A forlorn hope. Double what we need for self-sufficiency,then double it again and again. This is how we employ people….

  4. ChangeIranNow on November 12, 2014 at 6:42 pm said:

    I don’t begrudge Obama from writing Khamenei. What I do object to is the idea of a swap of relief from nuclear sanctions in exchange for help in fighting ISIS. First off, Iran is going to fight ISIS anyway. ISIS and its allied Sunni tribes are a threat to Shiite-led Iran. Secondly, if you are to link anything to nuclear talks, it should be human rights since Iran’s record is dismal according to the UN Special Rapporteur and Amnesty International. How can anyone deal with a nation run by a religious cadre of mullahs answerable to no one that regard operating along international norms and standards as weakening their way of life? The US needs to hold Iran to at least the same standards for a pluralistic, democratic and humane society that every other nation should strive for. Granting Iran relief in exchange for a bad deal is bad news.

  5. Gus Fitch on November 13, 2014 at 7:15 am said:

    This history is already written by our mindless belief that our way of life and government is for everyone. When will we learn that appeasement of tyrants gives birth to war. There will be only one solution to Iranians who will not cease to enrich uranium for a bomb. It really does not matter if they are building a bomb or not. The US can force the issue now by shutting down every form of transportation into that nation. Everything. Everybody’s. No excuses. If France sails a ship or an air craft into Iran, we will destroy it. Same for the Russians and the Chinese. Puttin will understand this kind of power and stay away from a Nuclear contest and because he has half his army invading the Eucraine. The Chinese will lose a major source of oil which we will be able to sell to them to replace Iranian oil. We will starve this country until its citizens throw out the Nuclear crazy Mullahs or they destroy their enrichment programs. Or…you can sit on your hands and wait until the Jews believe that a thermonuclear weapon is close to deployment and they will do what they have to do to survive. Then you will see mushroom clouds over Iran and then the stuff will really hit the fan. You must force Iran to stop building a weapon. You must make it hurt terribly and you must hurt all those of any nation, including ours who attempt to run this blockade. Be weak like our President and you will reap the wild wind when a Muslim gets an atomic weapon. They will not threaten to use it, they will just use it. So you wake up one morning and Philadelphia has a two mile wide crater in the center of the city and there are 1.2 million people killed at once, or Tel Aviv is turned to cinders. So who has nuclear weapons and declares our nation as the great Satan. So, what do you do? Get the FBI to conduct an investigation into the explosion to make sure this was not some form of workplace violence. The staff of the President will want to flee to Ft. Hill or board the command post in the sky to give a speech to America explaining how this must be a mistake and POTUS has called an emergency meeting of the UN’s Security Council.
    Peace on the planet is over. This time, the Congress must declare war against the attacker. There is no eye for an eye or some stupid proportional response and especially no talking. There can not be a major metropolitan area of Iran left standing. This act will solidify the simple fact that Islam has declared open warfare on the US and make it possible for the President to break PC and say that the US is at war with Islam. Muslims over the world will scream for revenge. This will stop when they are advised that an attack on the US or Israel again will be considered an attack by all Muslim led nations and each of these nations will be targeted regardless of who conducts another attack of any kind.
    A simple statement from the US might be. The US and Israel want to live and trade in peace with all who will return the courtesy and we want to be left alone to grow our own culture. We will withdraw all trade, diplomacy and aid of all kinds from all of the mideast to allow Muslims to return to their lives of the 7th century and worship as they wish in the land their Prophet. For most, this will not be a hardship. American troops domiciled in any foreign nation will return to the US. The rest of the world will have to learn to live with each other without the military might of the US acting as Nuclear babysitter and police men. Some crazy scenario, huh? Wait a minute. How about the US offer Israel a piece of land equal in size to their current country along the Rio Grand somewhere to establish a sovereign nation with friends instead of enemies as neighbors. Its not the land of their fathers, but it would be a land of peace. This is not exactly the common I bent you out of shape, try to be civil, I was.

  6. Philip Smeeton on November 17, 2014 at 5:11 am said:

    They delay and they deceive and they will get the bomb. Then everyone will ask why they were not stopped.

  7. VDH,

    As a historian, I must point out, the Reagan administration comes to mind in parallel to Obamas. How I miss Reagan the President of my youth and his stronger stance on terror. A message to terrorits groups by Reagan was “you can run, but you can’t hide.” When intelligence reports pointed to Libya after December 1985, the ticket counters of the Israel; airlines in Rome and Vienna were bombed, killing 13, including American citizens. Evidence surfaced that Librya was involed in the attacks, and Reagan suspended all official ties with the country. Again, shots were fired in the Gulf of Sidra. Why Reagan stood strong against the terrorist states, and President Obama clearly doesn’t seems ironic. President Obama should have brushed up on his Reagan “and you can run but you can’t hide.” America should not neigotate with terrorist of any kind. Reagan’s massive defense spending was part of a “peace through strenght theory,” that could have served President Obama well. Facing Down the “Evil Empire,” of terror shouldn’t require sending love letters to Iran.

    • Patrick Lilley on March 17, 2015 at 7:56 am said:

      I wish Reagan was dead. I don’t mean the man, I wish his policies were. Especially his economic policies have led us to the Oligarchy that we are today. I would despise that wretch, but the truth is that he was merely playing the part of the president of the USA. I remember the day he signed whatever bill that started the FARM AID concerts and movements to help our fellow man. That’s a daily occurance now. Hell, it’s illegal to feed the homeless in some 30 cities, but it’s legal to bully kids to death in some states, as long as you call it “religious freedom” ….. Reagan started the wealth disparity that’s spun out of control and put a Tom Tillis into the senate with $59 million. I’m responding to my enemy in this post. I’ve never met the leader of Iran, but I know that they haven’t invaded anyone in 100 years. Yes, they have their right wing nut jobs too, but don’t we all? The fact of the matter is this : the terrorists ARENT “Over there. They’re over here. They are the gutless REICHT wing of america. That is my enemy. I’m neutral on IRAN

  8. John Lewis on November 18, 2014 at 5:03 pm said:

    I would point out that Iran’s strategy seems to be to get in a position where it will quickly fabricate a number of nuclear weapons, with delivery systems. In 1945 the US had the delivery system (the B-29) but the nukes seem to have been used as they become available.

    The Iranian development proceeds with agonizing slowness. It would not surprise me if Obama were to hasten the process by transfer of American nuclear weapons technology to Iran. That that would be the most vile treason will just make it all the more attractive in his eyes.

  9. Negotiating through weakness instead of strength is a very dangerous thing to do in this kind of world. it emboldens our enemies and maddens our friends.

  10. TexasRanger on March 14, 2015 at 10:16 pm said:

    Obama Interfered With President George W. Bush’s Iran Negotiations In 2008.

    Obama Sent Ambassador to Tehran, Iran to Negotiate During 2008 Campaign….

    Here’s The Story:
    http://theconservativetreehouse.com/2015/03/14/2008-candidate-senator-obama-sent-u-s-secret-emissary-to-iran-telling-them-not-to-negotiate-with-george-bush-said-wait-for-him-to-be-elected/

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