When will they ever learn? Appeasement always ends in tears. Virtually as soon as it began, the new ‘realist' American policy of talking to Iran revealed the amazing fact that, thus presented by America with an open invitation to kick its head in once again, the Iranians duly obliged. One day after the US ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker engaged in ‘business-like and positive' talks with his Iranian counterpart and agreed to ‘bury their differences', Iran delivered its real response to the running up of the American white flag by accusing three Iranian-Americans of spying.
Kina Tajbakhsh, a New York-based Iranian American urban planner who is affiliated with George Soros's Open Society Institute, was charged with espionage and plotting to destabilize the Islamic Republic and is thought to have been in an Iranian jail since early May; similar charges were announced against a journalist for the American government-backed Radio Farda, Parnaz Azima, who was taken into custody but then released and barred from leaving Iran; and a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, Haleh Esfandiari, was charged with endangering national security through propaganda against the system and espionage for foreigners. She has also been held in a Tehran prison since early May.
The grotesque nature of these charges is underlined by the fact that Soros's Open Society is a virulent opponent of President Bush and hardly an asset in the fight to defend the west. And in the most bitter irony of all Ms. Esfandiari has actually been one of Washington's main proponents of engagement with Iran. Could there be a crueller reality check for the ‘realism' school of American diplomacy than for a proponent of engagement with Iran to be thrown into jail by Iran as a demonstration of what engagement with it actually means? Iran does not want engagement with the west. It does not want dialogue with the west. It wants to destroy the west through war.
And now the architects of the US government's policy of engagement with Iran are shocked – shocked! – by Iran's actions. A few months ago James Baker and Lee Hamilton were ramming home their message that jaw-jaw would bring an end to war-war. How they looked down their noses at anyone who dared suggest that we had been here before, in the 1930s, and a fat lot of good it had done us then. How the anti-war, anti-Bush, anti-west crowd fawned over them and crowed over the rout of the neo-cons. Of course this was the way forward, they sneered; only the crazed neo-con warmongers could possibly think otherwise. Talk to Iran nicely and they'll come on side; you'll see. But what Lee Baker, who also happens to be the head of the Woodrow Wilson centre, now in fact sees is that his doctrine has landed one of his very own scholars in a Tehran jail. As Eli Lake reports in the New York Sun:
Yesterday the head of the Wilson Center, Lee Hamilton, who also was a co-chairman of the Iraq Study Group that recommended American engagement with Iran, said he was disheartened by the announcement of the charges against his scholar. ‘The Wilson Center receives zero funding from the U.S. government's fund to promote democracy in Iran,' Mr. Hamilton said. ‘Her detention is an affront to the rule of law and common decency. The Wilson Center's message to the Iranian government is simple: Let Haleh go.'
Somehow one feels Iran isn't going to rush to ‘engage' very much with Mr Hamilton over Ms Esfandiari. She and the other two unfortunates are most likely to be heading for show trials. As a result of its unforgiveable foolishness, America has walked straight into yet another Iranian mess. Yet even now it mulishly intends to carry on with this ruinous policy, with Crocker saying he intends to have another round of talks. America's response to being kicked in the head is to pick itself up and offer its head for yet another kicking. Except it's the safety and security of not just the three detainees but the free world that it is endangering by its cravenness. Iran is playing the leader of the free world for a sucker. When Ahmadinejad said contemptuously that America was like a ‘battery that's running out', he was entirely correct. And the label on that dud battery reads Baker-Hamilton.
It cannot be emphasised too often that the global jihad is predicated upon the weakness of the west. America displayed that weakness over and over again from the start of World War Three in 1979, when the Iranian revolution ushered in two decades of attacks upon American interests to which it scarcely bothered to respond. After 9/11, there was a brief window where America showed its mettle. But at last year's mid-term elections, that window slammed shut. Bush's weakness meant the rise to power of the men of appeasement. Now we can se the fruits of their philosophy.
And it's not just in America that this manifest weakness is now producing lethal consequences. Five Britons have been kidnapped in Iraq, as the Telegraph reports most likely by Shia militiamen. But these Britons are citizens of a country that, when its sailors were kidnapped in the Straits of Hormuz by Iranian Revolutionary Guards, refused to defend them because of its refusal to engage militarily with Iran.
Is it any wonder that Iran believes the west is theirs for the taking?