The widely hailed diplomatic effort led by Britain, France and Germany is touted as a reasonable way to settle the dispute over Iran's suspected nuclear weapons program without any losers. By enticing Iran to the negotiating table, we are told, the West can avoid a military confrontation, while Iran gains "economic incentives" that can help build its economy. But this deal -- now backed also by the Bush Administration -- can only strengthen Iran and turn it into a greater menace.
The European deal -- which is said to include the sale of civilian aircraft and membership for Iran in the World Trade Organization -- rests on the notion that no one would put abstract goals or principles ahead of gaining a steady flow of economic loot. And so, if only we could negotiate a deal that gives Iran a sufficiently juicy carrot, it would forgo its ambitions.
But to believe that Iran really hungers for nuclear energy (as it claims) is sheer fantasy. Possessing abundant oil and gas reserves, Iran is the second-largest oil producer in OPEC. To believe that it values prosperity at all is equally fantastic; Iran is a theocracy that systematically violates its citizens' right to political and economic liberty.
What Iran desires is a nuclear weapon -- the better to threaten and annihilate the impious in the West and in Iran's neighborhood. Iran declares its anti-Western ambitions stridently. At an official parade in 2003, Iran flaunted a Shihab-3 missile draped with a banner announcing: "Israel must be wiped out." A missile paraded last year declared another of Iran's targets: "We will crush America under our feet."
A committed enemy of the West, Iran is the ideological wellspring of Islamic terrorism, and the "world's most active sponsor of terrorism" (according to the U.S. government). A totalitarian regime that viciously punishes "un-Islamic" behavior among its own citizens, Iran actively exports its contempt for freedom and human life throughout the infidel world. For years it has been fomenting and underwriting savage attacks on Western and American interests, using such proxies as Hezbollah. Like several of the 9/11 hijackers before them, many senior Al Qaida leaders, fugitives of the Afghanistan war, have found refuge in Iran. And lately Iran has funneled millions of dollars, arms and ammunition to insurgents in Iraq.
It's absurd to think that by offering Iran rewards to halt its aggression, we will deflect it from its goal.
The only consequence of engaging such a vociferously hostile regime in negotiations is the whitewashing of its crimes and the granting of undeserved legitimacy. The attempt to conciliate Iran with "incentives" further inflames the boldness of Iran's mullahs. What it teaches them is that the West lacks the intellectual self-confidence to name its enemies and deal with them accordingly. It vindicates the mullahs' view that their religious worldview can bring a scientific, technologically advanced West to its knees.
Far from converting Iran into a non-threat, the "incentives" would sustain its economy, prop up its dictatorial government and perpetuate its terrorist war against the West. Whether Iran accepts the European deal or merely prolongs "negotiations" indefinitely, so long as the "diplomatic" approach continues Iran gains time enough to engage in covert nuclear-weapons research. Iran's flouting of a previous agreement to stop enriching uranium (which prompted the current talks) and its documented attempts to acquire nuclear-bomb technology erase any doubts about how it will behave under any future deal.
This approach of diplomacy-with-anyone-at-any-cost necessarily results in nourishing one's enemy and sharpening its fangs. That is what happened under a 1994 deal with communist North Korea. In return for boatloads of aid and oil from the United States, Japan and other nations, North Korea promised not to develop nuclear weapons. Despite U.N. inspections, North Korea flouted the agreement repeatedly. When caught cheating, it promised anew to end its nuclear program in return for more "incentives." In February 2005 North Korea declared (plausibly) that it had succeeded in building nuclear weapons.
Another, older attempt to buy peace by giving "incentives" to an enemy was a cataclysmic failure. In 1938 the Europeans pretended that Hitler's intentions were not really hostile, and insisted that "peace in our time" could be attained by allowing him to walk into Czechoslovakia. Instead, he was emboldened to launch World War II.
Ignoring the lessons of history, the Europeans are advocating a deal with Iran that likewise purchases the reckless pretence of peace today, at the cost of unleashing catastrophic dangers tomorrow.
To protect American (and European) lives, we must learn the life-or-death importance of passing objective moral judgment. We must recognize the character of Iran and act accordingly. By any rational standard, Iran should be condemned and its nuclear ambition thwarted, now. The brazenly amoral European gambit can only aid its quest -- and necessitate a future confrontation with a bolder, stronger Iran.