How Would Iran Read Obama?

Reeling from President Bush’s criticism of the proposition that we should negotiate with terrorists, “as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along,” Barack Obama was at first indignant, declaring: “George Bush knows that I have never supported engagement with terrorists.” But apparently he doesn’t consider Iran, for all the genocidal bellicosity of its President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a terrorist state: on Monday he reaffirmed that he would indeed sit down with the leaders of Iran (as well as with those of Cuba and Venezuela), and that no one should be disturbed by this, since these countries “don’t pose a serious threat to us the way the Soviet Union posed a threat to us.”

And speaking specifically about Iran, the presumptive Democratic nominee continued: “If Iran ever tried to pose a serious threat to us, they wouldn’t stand a chance. And we should use that position of strength that we have to be bold enough to go ahead and listen. That doesn’t mean we agree with them on everything. We might not compromise on any issues, but at least, we should find out other areas of potential common interest, and we can reduce some of the tensions that has caused us so many problems around the world.”

Yes, he really said that “we should find out other areas of potential common interest.” He didn’t explain what these might be, but here John McCain’s comment was particularly apposite. “It shows naivete and inexperience and lack of judgment,” observed the GOP standard-bearer, “to say that he wants to sit down across the table from an individual who leads a country that says that Israel is a ‘stinking corpse,’ that is dedicated to the extinction of the state of Israel. My question is, what does he want to talk about?”

That’s not all. Obama is apparently not aware that Ahmadinejad has made it clear that he is in no mood to sit down with Americans unless the Americans know their place. “The American administration,” he said in 2006, “is still dreaming of returning the Iranian people 30 years backwards. As long as America has this dream, these [relations] will not happen.” What should America do instead? “They should wake up from this dream and see the facts. They should change their behavior and mend their ways. They should take a fair position. We have told them what they have to do, and if they do it, there will be no problem as far as we are concerned.”

“We have told them what they have to do, and if they do it, there will be no problem as far as we are concerned”! As if that weren’t clear enough, he warned America and its allies that “if you want to have good relations with the Iranian people in the future, you should acknowledge the right and the might of the Iranian people, and you should bow and surrender to the might of the Iranian people. If you do not accept this, the Iranian people will force you to bow and surrender.”

Would Iran’s Thug-In-Chief regard Obama’s invitation to sit down and chat as a sign that he was willing to “bow and surrender”? There is no reason to think he would regard it in any other way. Islamic law stipulates that Islamic forces may only ask for a truce with the enemy under two conditions: if they have a reasonable expectation that the enemy may convert to Islam, or — more commonly — if the Muslims are weak and need to buy some time to recover their strength to fight again more effectively. With this understanding, the Iranian mullahs might be forgiven for assuming that if Obama is coming to them hat-in-hand, he must be weak. Given Ahmadinejad’s oft-repeated declarations that Israel will soon cease to exist (it was only last week that he said that it was “on its way to annihilation”), weakness might not be the wisest thing to project to them at this point.

Unless, of course, the bright new President Obama is prepared to deal with a nuclear mushroom cloud over Tel Aviv. That will certainly give him and Ahmadinejad plenty to talk about.