- When Ronald Reagan proposed the “Zero-Zero Option” for no intermediate-range nuclear weapons in Europe, the pundits – and the Europeans – said, “The Russians will never agree to that.” They demanded that Reagan put forward what the Russians could accept – or not aggravate the Russians by putting U.S. Pershing missiles in Europe.
- When Israel defines its aims in negotiations as recognition of its legitimacy and permanence as a Jewish State in the Middle East, pundits – and lots of other people – say, “The Arabs will never agree to that.” They demand that Israel not build houses in places the Palestinians don’t want them, not welcome the U.S. embassy in its capital, and not ensure that rioting Palestinians determined to enter Israel to “rip the hearts out of Jews” are stopped before they get to the aforementioned Jews. It will only make the Palestinians angry and there won’t be any more “peace process.”
- When President Trump said his goal in discussion with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is the de-nuclearization of North Korea, pundits – and Democrats – said, “He’ll never agree to that.” Other administrations bribed the Kim family to abandon their nuclear project. It didn’t work, but hey, at least we weren’t making them mad.
So it was inevitable that when secretary of state Mike Pompeo listed twelve objectives that would make Iran a positive actor on the international stage – objectives the United States plans to pursue – the pundits would cry, “They’ll never agree to that.”
Inevitable, but the level of angst is actually a bit startling. “Sound, fury, and ‘regime change’ lite.” “Economic war on Iran.” In an ironic nod to pop culture and perhaps a veiled threat to President Trump, “[i]n the 1976 media satire Network, the frustrated and emotionally unhinged anchor Howard Beale, facing termination, goes on air and shouts ‘I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.'” And Pompeo used “elements of a presentation … by Benjamin Netanyahu, a strident critic of the accord.” “European allies alarmed.” “Iran’s people will punch U.S. Secretary of State in the mouth.”
Wendy Sherman, the architect of the JCPOA, who was not horrified by having the U.S. pay the mullahs $1.7 billion, which they immediately turned around to their clients in Syria, Lebanon, and Gaza, was horrified by Mr. Pompeo’s statement of American interest. “It was a diplomatic overreach, to say the least[.] … To think that we’d allow Iran to go back on the path of developing nuclear weapons while we try to get Iran to meet all twelve objectives is dangerous. It’s extraordinary.” The prospect of Iran acceding to all twelve demands “is virtually zero. What Trump did will actually make it harder to achieve.” (For the sake of brevity, we’ll ignore the fact that she said Iran will “go back on the path,” when the fact is that Iran never left the path of developing nuclear weapons.)
Iran’s foreign minister, Javad Zarif, accused the U.S. of “regressing to old habits.” Yes, Mr. Zarif. That appears to be true.
It is not the obligation of any country to pursue its adversary’s endgame rather than its own. It is not the goal of the United States to appease dictators. And, as the Obama administration tried it and failed in both North Korea and Iran, since when is appeasement successful in any event? Appeasing Hitler, the Kaiser, the American Confederacy, the British in 1776 and 1812, Vlad the Impaler, Genghis Khan, and Saladin would not have made the world a better place.
And what is Secretary Pompeo demanding of Iran?
- Declare to the IAEA a full account of the prior military dimensions of its nuclear program, and permanently and verifiably abandon such work in perpetuity.
- Stop enrichment and never pursue plutonium reprocessing. This includes closing its heavy water reactor.
- Provide the IAEA with unqualified access to all sites throughout the entire country.
- End its proliferation of ballistic missiles and halt further launching or development of nuclear-capable missile systems.
- Release all U.S. citizens, as well as citizens of our partners and allies.
- End support to Middle East terrorist groups, including Lebanese Hezb’allah, Hamas, and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
- Respect the sovereignty of the Iraqi government and permit the disarming, demobilization, and reintegration of Shia militias.
- End military support for the Houthi militia and work toward a peaceful political settlement in Yemen.
- Withdraw all forces under Iranian command throughout the entirety of Syria.
- End support for the Taliban and other terrorists in Afghanistan and the region and cease harboring senior al-Qaeda leaders.
- End IRG Qods Force support for terrorists and militant partners.
- End threatening behavior against its neighbors (including) – threats to destroy Israel, and its firing of missiles into Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (and) threats to international shipping and destructive – and cyber-attacks.
Which of these twelve Iranian depredations above would Ms. Sherman agree is okay to continue? It’s not as if we asked them to throw their male newborns into the river – Pharaoh couldn’t be appeased, either.
These are all examples of Iranian behavior that undermine the peace and security of the Middle East and the wider world. And if none is okay, why pretend not to notice them? In the interest of not irritating the mullahs?