Skip to comments.The IRANIAN DECEPTION
Posted on 02/24/2004 9:55:05 AM PST by nuconvert
The Iranian Deception
February 24, 2004
The Wall Street Journal
Review & Outlook
Now is precisely the time for Mr. Bush to show solidarity with the majority of Iranians who want greater freedom, just as Ronald Reagan spoke up for the people of Poland in the early 1980s. The only way to stop Iran's despotic regime from getting nuclear weapons is to help Iranians change the regime.
So when are President Bush's critics, including those in his own State Department, going to concede that he was right all along to include Iran in the "axis of evil"?
Now would seem to be an apt moment, after last Friday's sham election in which Tehran's ruling clerics bullied their way to a majority in what passes for a parliament. The mullahs also fessed up over the weekend to yet another instance of deceiving U.N. nuclear inspectors, conveniently ahead of a report this week from International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Mohammed El Baradei.
The most logical interpretation of all this is that Iran's junta is betting its survival on a crash program to build a nuclear bomb. By the way, does Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage still think Iran is operating a "democracy," as he noted not long ago? Just checking.
The Iranian nuclear revelations are the latest fruit of the exercise in non-proliferation known as the Iraq war. Saddam's fate convinced Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi that WMD production was a bad career move, which in turn led to the unraveling of a nuclear proliferation network run by Pakistani scientist A.Q. Khan.
Earlier this month Mr. Khan confessed to supplying Iran with nuclear parts, and last week a Malaysian police report said a middleman in the Khan network had confessed to selling Iran nuclear equipment for $3 million in cash. "We purchased some parts from some dealers," an Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman conceded Sunday.
That admission comes on the heels of the reported discovery by the IAEA of uranium-enrichment equipment at a military airbase in Iran. The P-2 centrifuge parts are said to be far more sophisticated than anything the Iranians had admitted to having, and would seem to lend credence to reports that the mullahs are operating multiple, simultaneous enrichment programs lest international inspectors shut any one of them down. Iran has still not adequately explained a prior discovery of centrifuge parts contaminated with highly enriched uranium.
Iran has no need to enrich uranium if its nuclear program is for peaceful energy purposes, as it claims. Russia has agreed to supply the fuel. These latest deceptions occur, moreover, even as Iran is being given a chance to come clean to the IAEA as part of an October agreement following the discovery of two previously undeclared nuclear sites.
As for the elections, they ought to mark the end of President Mohammad Khatami as a repository of Western and Iranian hopes for reform. Mr. Khatami won a resounding victory in 1997 as the more liberal of the candidates the unelected Guardian Council had deemed to be acceptable protectors of the Islamic Revolution. In 2000 Iranians chose a relatively liberal majority from a carefully screened list of candidates for the country's parliament, or majlis. But Mr. Khatami backed off on threats to resign as laws curbing the power of the Guardian Council and the judiciary were vetoed. His credibility never recovered.
This time around the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khameini, decided the appearance of democracy was not worth the risk of another showdown. The list of thousands of disqualified candidates included more than 80 sitting members of parliament. Internet providers were ordered to restrict access to potentially subversive sites.
Publication of an election-eve letter of protest from more than 100 MPs resulted in closure of the country's last two significant reformist newspapers. Iran's hardliners now say they're plotting a crackdown on satellite dishes, and word is they're preparing Hassan Rohani -- their point man with the IAEA -- to "run" for President when Mr. Khatami's term expires in 2005.
Even the cynical, oil-driven countries of Old Europe recognize the significance of the coup that's just happened -- at least as a public relations blow to their policy of "constructive engagement." The mullahs made "a genuine democratic choice by the Iranian people impossible," read a joint statement from EU foreign ministers. As ever, France's Dominique de Villepin isn't quite ready to write off a planned trade deal: "We have to wait and see how things emerge."
No doubt forgiveness will be the temptation in Washington too. With the U.S. already committed in Iraq, Mr. Armitage and his allies will tempt Mr. Bush with the offer that he can win new concessions on WMD if he keeps quiet about elections and human rights. In addition, the Iranian regime has been signaling it may turn over the al Qaeda members in its custody, or at least not make too much trouble for U.S. troops next door.
We should have learned by now this is a fool's game, entirely at odds with Mr. Bush's "forward strategy of freedom" in the Middle East. Now is precisely the time for Mr. Bush to show solidarity with the majority of Iranians who want greater freedom, just as Ronald Reagan spoke up for the people of Poland in the early 1980s. The only way to stop Iran's despotic regime from getting nuclear weapons is to help Iranians change the regime.
When pigs fly.
There's not much Bush can do about his critics, except prove them wrong. But I don't know why he doesn't fire a few of the most egregious people in the State Department, or transfer them to a special embassy in Siberia.