Austin Bay
In response to dictator Bashir al-Assad's latest atrocity, the murder of 108 people in the Syrian town of Houla, "major Western powers" have threatened to expel Assad's resident diplomats. Denying the tyrant's ambassadors the restaurants of London and Paris -- yup, that'll certainly imperil his murderous regime.

In response to the Iranian clerical dictatorship's pursuit of nuclear weapons, a necessary predicate to turning Israel into the "one bomb state," these same "powers" will ... well, they'll talk to the ayatollahs' diplomats. And keep talking, perhaps over lunch in Paris.

And why not? "Western powers" have been talking to Iranian mullahs and Revolutionary Guards for three decades, breakfast, lunch and dinner. They've discussed Tehran's terrorist connections. They've discussed uranium fuel, nuclear weapons and, ad infinitum, economic and political sanctions. Oh, sanctions have come and gone, sanctions have returned, and they remain on the table. Western diplomats assure us that sanctions will surely start to bite and bite hard -- if not after the sanction entree, surely before the sanction dessert.

The rewards of this prolonged tete-a-tete? The regime remains vicious, malignant and violent, domestically and internationally. Talk buys time. While diplomats chew the fat, Iran pursues fissionable products. The Institute for Science and International Security analyzed the International Atomic Energy Agency's latest report on Iran's nuclear program (issued May 25) and concluded the ayatollahs have enough enriched uranium to produce five bombs.

Oh, as the chitchat proceeded, Iran changed a bit. Iran's clerical thugs are now as corrupt as the Shah and his cronies. While we talked, ayatollah insiders stole billions. The clerics do ace significant domestic opposition. In 2009, however, while the Obama administration hyped oh-so-serious nuclear weapons negotiations, the regime's secret police repressed the dissident Green Movement. Indeed, while we talked, Iran has seen change -- change where hopes are crushed and crooks flourish.

Meanwhile, back in Syria: As Syria's Western embassies empty, Assad's dirty War on Neighborhoods continues.

Two months ago the Assad regime agreed to the ceasefire plan promoted by former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan. Yup, a negotiated agreement, the very symbol of diplomat success! Plan Annan was to take effect in late March. The Assad regime, however, kept right on killing. At that time, Assad's forces had slain 11,000 to 12,000 people, roughly 9-11's death toll times four. Two more months of dithering have added another thousand corpses to the bone pile.

Austin Bay

Austin Bay is the author of three novels. His third novel, The Wrong Side of Brightness, was published by Putnam/Jove in June 2003. He has also co-authored four non-fiction books, to include A Quick and Dirty Guide to War: Third Edition (with James Dunnigan, Morrow, 1996).
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