The Pirates of Tehran
By Fred Thompson Posted in Foreign Affairs — Comments (235) / Email this page » / Leave a comment »
We wanted to bump this up top this Monday morning for those of you just coming by. Scroll down for newer content.
Oil prices fell. The stock market rose. Video images of smiling British soldiers with Iranian President Ahmadinejad were everywhere. So were pictures of the 15 freed hostages embracing family members back home. The relief over the return of the Brits was so tremendous; you could almost hear birds singing.
Maybe it's because military action won't be needed or maybe it's just because the ordeal won't drag on and on, but the world is breathing easier now. A lot of folks are happy. The problem, as I see it, is that Ahmadinejad seems to be the happiest.
And why shouldn't he be? He has shown the world that his forces can kidnap British citizens, subject them to brutal psychological tactics to coerce phony confessions, finagle the release of a high-ranking Iranian terror coordinator in Iraq, utterly trash the Geneva conventions and suffer absolutely no consequences.
The UN Security Council summoned its vaunted multilateral greatness to issue a swift statement of sincere uneasiness. The EU, which has pressured Britain to rely on Europeans for mutual defense instead of the US, wouldn't even discuss economic sanctions that might disrupt their holidays. Even NATO was AWOL.
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Tony Blair doesn't appear to be in much of a mood for celebrating. I don't know how he could be, given the troubling spectacle of British soldiers shake the hand of their kidnapper as a condition of release. In the old days, they would have kissed his ring -- but wearing Iranian suits and carrying swag more appropriate to a Hollywood awards ceremony may have been as embarrassing. Ironically, Blair's options are fewer by the day as his own party moves to mothball the British fleet, once the fear of pirates and tyrants the world over.
Some in the West seem part of Iran's propaganda war; claiming that the release of the hostages was a victory that proves the Iranian dictatorship can be reasoned with. To misrepresent unpunished piracy as a victory is as Orwellian as the congressional mandate banning use of the term "the global war on terror." What are we — Reuters?
Ahmadinejad must be particularly pleased to see "deep thinking" journalists making the case that American actions in Iraq were the true cause of the kidnappings. To believe this, all you have to do is ignore the history of the Iranian Revolution, which has been in the extortion business ever since it took power. Between the 1979 American embassy crisis in Tehran and the seizure of Israeli soldiers last year by Iran's Hezbollah proxies, there have been more than a hundred other examples.
If you include the imprisonment of pro-Democracy dissidents and non-Shi'a Muslim minorities within Iran, the number reaches easily into the tens of thousands. The dwindling and persecuted Christian population of Iran, I suspect, found little joy in Ahmadinejad's explanation that he was freeing his victims as an "Easter gift."
It is critical that we see this incident as part of a long pattern of behavior -- that will continue as long as the current leadership is in power. More importantly, it will escalate unimaginably if Iran achieves nuclear status, and with it the ability to hold millions rather than individuals hostage.
I have no idea if Ahmadinejad and those who put him in power really believe the Shi'a Twelver doctrine that they can spur the messiah to return by triggering Armageddon. You have to admit, though, that the possibility that they look forward to entering paradise as martyrs would make them a whole lot scarier as a nuclear power than the USSR ever was.
There is hope, though. The Iranian people are not an anti-Western horde. They're an educated and freedom-loving people for the most part, and reformers there have been begging us for support and sanctions that would weaken the ruling theocracy. Instead, they've just seen the Iranian dictatorship successfully bully the West into impotent submission. This is not a good thing.
We need to understand this and use every means at our disposal, starting with serious and painful international sanctions, to prevent Iran's rulers from becoming the nuclear-armed blackmailers they want to be. Unfortunately, we are hearing demands that we abandon the people of the Middle East who have stood up to Islamo-fascism because they believed us when we said we would support them.
If we retreat precipitously, the price for that betrayal will be paid first in blood and freedom by the Iranian people, the Kurds, the Afghanis, the secular Lebanese, the moderates in Pakistan and the Iraqis themselves. And America's word may never be trusted again.
Right now, the pirate Ahmadinejad is clearly more confident about the outcome of the Global War on Terror than we are. That ought to give us pause.