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Democratic Presidential Contenders

Democratic Presidential contenders are falling back upon tried and true prescriptions for failure in order to avoid facing the threat from Iran. Both Hillary Rodham Clinton and Bill Richardson called for unconditional negotiations with Iran as the solution for U.S. problems in the Middle East. But will such proposals get them anywhere, either in their attempt to get political mileage in the campaign, or, if they should be elected, in calming the Middle East? A quick look at the repeated political blunders and outright mistakes of the past two and half decades will make abundantly clear what Hegel declared: “History will teach us that we do not learn from history.”

Remember that after the fall of Taliban in 2001, there was a talk between the United States and Iran in Bonn, Germany. The purpose of those talks was to stabilize Afghanistan with a little the help from its neighbors. Iran agreed to cooperate and to support the fragile and newly established government there. Iranians were insisting on calling the new government an “Islamic Republic” and got their way.

Last week — after nearly six years of presumed cooperation by the Iranian regime — massive arms shipments from Iran to the Taliban were intercepted by NATO forces in western Afghanistan. The explicit intent of the Iranian regime is to destabilize Afghanistan’s fragile democracy and to fight America on all fronts. Iran has succeeded in challenging America in Afghanistan and now suicide bombings, kidnappings, roadside bombs and violent crime have become a part of everyday life there. For the information of many presidential candidates, talks between Iran and United States have continued on many levels for decades, officially or unofficially. The latest one was in Sharm-Al-Shaykh, and this time the purpose of the talks with Iraqi neighbors were to save the fragile democracy there. After so many attempts by so many administrations, has the slightest level of agreement and progress been produced with the Iranian regime? In short, no.

As far as the war against the west and United States is concerned, the Islamic regime in Iran is in complete agreement with the Taliban in all fronts. The recently released tape from Ayman al-Zawahiri, the al-Qaeda’s main strategist as well as the group’s second-in-command, called on Muslims around the world to back Hamas with money and weapons. So far, Hamas’s main logistical and financial support, as well as political guidance, has been coming from Iran.

Since two months ago, and in an effort to politically cleanse Hizbollah, the al-Qaeda forces have taken over the military operations in Lebanon and have declared war on that country. Again, it is the Iranian regime that supplies the military logistics to them through Syrian borders. Iran recently agreed to guarantee the loans for Syria to buy advanced MIG jets from Russia. As such, all indicators point to the fact that the violence will continue in Lebanon as Iran and Syria are trying to eliminate all their opponents there. In fact it is very likely that violence will escalate throughout the region and elsewhere because the Iranian leaders have sensed the ideological paralysis in the west. They are aware of the fact that presently no coherent policy is on the table to deal with them. And statements such as those made by Senator Clinton and Governor Richardson attests to this fact and make them bolder. The attempt to ram a car loaded with explosives into the Glasgow airport could very well be linked to this larger operations initiated by al-Qaeda and supported by the regime in Iran.

All of our experience with talks with no preconditions and no agenda have been a failure. By the way, has the trip by the Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi to Syria, and her unconditional talks with Bashar Assad produced any substantive results? Should we expect it to be any different with Senator Clinton with the Iranians?

Mr. Javier Solana, one of the most vociferous supporters of talks with Iran recently confessed that negotiations with Iran for the past four years have been futile. Now, on the eve of the third session of the United Nations on Iran’s violations of international treaties and with remarks such as those made by Ms. Clinton and Mr. Richardson; can we be hopeful on articulation of a substantive policy with regards to Iran? Can Ms. Clinton herself have any hope of progress from unconditional talks with the Ayatollahs?

Under these circumstances, calling for unconditional talks with Iran is blatant neglect of the interests of the people of the United States as well as Iran who will continue to pay for the past neglects of the seriousness of the threat from Iran; a regime that has been in an unannounced state of war with the United States.

The news coming from Iran, too, conveys the same message. According to news sources from inside Iran, more than one third of the gasoline distribution stations have been attacked by the angry protesters and have been damaged to the extent that they are no longer in service. The protests are continuing. This proves the fact that the regime in Iran is so vulnerable to international sanctions. In spite of their public denials the present levels of sanctions have taken their tolls on the leaders of the Islamic regime and will continue to create more crises for them.

At this critical juncture and in accordance with the safety and security of the international community we should support the people of Iran in their legitimate aspirations for freedom and democracy. We should expand and intensify the present sanctions against the regime and supplement them with smart sanctions that are directed towards the unelected few leaders of the regime. We should also support the students, workers and teachers’ unions morally and materially. We should be mindful of the fact that the freedom of Iran is an irreversible process that has already begun. Unconditional talks with the dictators in Iran will only serve to sharpen their teeth and delay the process. Let us unanimous with the President Bush believe that freedom might be delayed but it can not be denied. Let us base our policies on this American ideal.

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Written By

Kamran Beigi is a consultant at the Institute on Religion and Public Policy

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