Where we stand with Iran, 30 years after the hostage crisis
Bret Stephens at the WSJ skewers Obama’s team for failing to recognize — time after time — that so-called diplomatic overtures will not induce Iran to end its nuclear program. Reflecting on the last six years of attempted negotiations, he observes:
Yet even as Tehran’s rejections piled up, a view developed that all would be well if only the U.S. would drop the harsh rhetoric and meet with the Iranians face-to-face. So President Obama began making one overture after another to Iran, including a videotaped message praising its “great civilization.” Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei replied that Mr. Obama had “insulted the Islamic Republic of Iran from the first day.”
But there’s far more to this story. If we expand the timeframe from six to 30 years, it is not just Obama’s administration that ought to be rebuked.
Thirty years ago tomorrow, November 4, 1979, the U.S. embassy in Tehran was invaded and its personnel taken captive. That turned out to be the first act of war against us by what became the Islamic totalitarian regime in Iran.
Jimmy Carter’s handling of that crisis was abysmal: Washington was humiliated publicly as the hostages remained captive for more than a year, and then it caved. The next Iranian attack (in Lebanon) was lethal — and the next one after that, even more so.
There followed a spiral of aggression — some attacks funded and directed by Iran, some carried out by Islamist groups inspired by its advances. Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and Bill Clinton all failed to connect the dots to see in the attacks a distinct enemy pursing an ideologically driven war: the Islamic totalitarian movement. None took the steps necessary to defeat it.
Instead the pattern unrolled like this: (1) Iran and/or its surrogates carry out some heinous attack; (2) it is met with a limp response from the West; (3) Tehran grows more confident and ramps up its belligerence. Restart the cycle at step (1). (I explore this grim story, and the underlying reason for the U.S. policy failure, in chapter one of Winning the Unwinnable War.)
What about George W. Bush? His administration’s policy is the focus of my book, and there’s a lot to say about it, but in a nutshell, consider this: after eight-plus years in a so-called war on terror, the most active state-sponsor of Islamist terror — Iran — is still in business, more self-confident, and within reach of a nuclear weapon.