Saving Rouhani

Reuters 02/07/15 - Iran's foreign minister has warned the United States that failure to agree a nuclear deal would likely herald the political demise of pragmatist President Hassan Rouhani, Iranian officials said, raising the stakes as the decade-old stand-off nears its end-game.

Oh my. The Iranian regime has threatened that noted “moderate” Iranian President Hassan Rouhani might lose his job unless the United States continues to cave in the nuclear negotiations with the Islamist regime. 

Luckily for Rouhani, the crack foreign policy team of President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry seem determined to save Rouhani’s job. Not only are they jettisoning American principles and interests right and left to make this deal, but they are unafraid to chase the ghosts of 1930s appeasement by meeting with Iranian officials in Munich.

Of course, it goes almost without saying that Rouhani is not actually a moderate, in any real sense of the word.  But for the uninformed – apparently, including the President, the Secretary of State, and America’s mainstream media – allow me educate them regarding Rouhani’s supposed moderation:

  • Rouhani has bragged about deceiving the U.S. and the Europeans during earlier negotiations regarding Iran’s nuclear program to develop nuclear weapons.
  • He has been accused of authorizing the 1994 Iranian sponsored bombing of a Jewish Community Center in Buenos Aires that killed 85 people.
  • Rouhani has expressed support for the 1979 Iranian seizure of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran.
  • Rouhani supported the Ayatollah Khomeini’s fatwa demanding the death of Muslim-born Indian Salman Rushdie for the “crime” of writing a fiction book.
  • In 1987, Rouhani declared that Iranian forces have the capacity to “destroy American economic interests around the world” and explicitly endorsed suicide bombings against Israeli civilians.
  • He appointed as his defense minister a general who was implicated in the 1983 Hizb’allah bombing that killed 241 American servicemen in Lebanon, appointed as vice president the woman who, in 1979, spoke for the Iranian revolutionaries who seized Americans at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, and named a member of the group that held U.S. hostages in Tehran to be Iran’s ambassador to the U.N. 
  • The number of executions in Iran has exploded from 522 in 2012 to 665 in 2013 to 721 in 2014 under Rouhani’s supervision.

Now, I have long since given up on the idea that President Obama and his administration might actually reexamine their strategy of empowering the Iranian Islamists to dominate the Middle East. The Obama administration claims to be realists, but there seems to be very little reality intruding into the development and implementation of their strategy.

A true realist would be more focused on the (at least) six U.S. national interests that may be affected by our current appeasement strategy towards Iran. These interests are:

  • The U.S. has a national interest in assuring its own physical security from foreign attack, and having other nations respect our territorial integrity, sovereignty, and the lives and property of our citizens.
  • The U.S. has an interest in bolstering the security of our allies (i.e., positive reinforcement), and alternatively, in undermining or punishing our opponents (i.e., negative reinforcement).
  • The U.S. has a strong economic interest in keeping the oil and natural gas lanes in the Middle East flowing to the U.S. and the Western world.
  • The U.S. has an interest in balancing power in every region, so as to deter future wars and create a stable world.
  • The U.S. has an interest in limiting, if not preventing, the spread of nuclear weapons.
  • The U.S. has an interest in enforcing UN Security Council resolutions that bar Iran from developing nuclear power.

Do any of these interests argue for a continuation of the current strategy, where the Obama administration has retreated from its earlier aim to eliminate Iran’s ability to enrich uranium and now appears ready to accept an infrastructure of thousands of Iranian centrifuges?  Almost certainly not. 

Iran has, since the 1979 seizure of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, committed numerous other acts of war against the U.S., including supporting the Hizb’allah terrorists that killed hundreds of Americans in the 1983 bombings in Beirut; supplying IEDs to Iraqi insurgents during the 2000s that, according to a former top U.S. military official, were responsible for more than a third of American troop deaths in Iraq; and planning a 2011 bombing of a Washington, DC restaurant to kill the Saudi ambassador. Our regional allies, including Israel, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, etc. are all strong opponents of the Iranian regime, and are furious with the Obama Administration for its negotiations with Iran. Iran itself is a danger to world oil and gas trade through the Strait of Hormuz; and its allies, the Shia Houthis of Yemen, have recently taken de facto control of much of Yemen, from which they have the capacity to interrupt trade in the Gulf of Aden via the Bab el Mandeb.  Regarding balance of power concerns:

The gravest danger to the balance of power in the Middle East today… is Iran’s push to consolidate its domination of the swath of territory from Iraq through Syria to Lebanon.  If the United States aimed to pursue an offshore balancing strategy, it would currently be coming down like a ton of bricks on Iran’s regional ambitions. 

Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger has testified before the U.S. Congress that allowing Iran to keep its nuclear program would very likely prompt other countries in the region, such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Turkey, to match Iran’s nuclear capability. Finally, allowing Iran to keep its nuclear program is in direct contravention of six UN resolutions.  

But don’t expect any of this to prompt changes from President Obama’s “smart diplomacy” crew. They have their strategy, which was originally formulated over a decade ago by Zbigniew Brzezinski, former President Jimmy Carter’s National Security Advisor. 

And who among us would want to contradict Jimmy Carter’s foreign policy guru?

Adam Turner serves as general counsel to the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET). He is a former counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee where he focused on national security law.