Until May 12—the date of the al Qaeda bombing in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia that may have been connected to cells operating openly inside Iran—State had been carrying on talks with the Iranian mullahs. The substance of the talks may have been rather limited, insists an administration official who says, “State was kept on a pretty tight leash.” But the substance was not the sore point for those inside and outside the administration who support Iran’s burgeoning freedom movement; the fact that they took place at all was the problem.
“Engaging” leaders in any way is a tacit acknowledgement of legitimacy, particularly when their very basis for rule is being challenged from within. The Iranian regime is one that has done almost nothing to redeem itself since President Bush named it a member of the “axis evil,” as the mullahs continue to oppress the Iranian people while at the same time actively pursuing the development of nuclear weapons. Some estimates cited in a Washington Post story Sunday are that Iran could have nuclear weapons as soon as 2006. The mullahs, though, could actually obtain nukes sooner than that. “It would be 2006 if Iran received no outside help whatsoever,” notes an informed source.
The thousands of protesters willing to stand up to the mullahs and their thug enforcers gives the U.S. an opening to undermine the oppressive regime. When a similar opportunity presented itself last year, however, State stayed mum—it didn’t want to “anger” the mullahs. On July 9 last year, thousands of protestors marked the three-year anniversary of a brutal police crackdown on peaceful demonstrators at Tehran University. When asked if the U.S. had any message for the students protesting the mullahs, State press flack Richard Boucher responded simply, “No.”
Thankfully, the President did not care about angering the mullahs, and on July 12, Bush issued a strong endorsement of the demonstrations—a move that was vociferously opposed by State. He concluded his statement with the following message of support: “As Iran’s people move towards a future defined by greater freedom, greater tolerance, they will have no better friend than the United States of America.” If only State wanted President Bush’s vision to become a reality.
Joel Mowbray, who got his start with Townhall.com, is an award-winning investigative journalist, nationally-syndicated columnist and author of Dangerous Diplomacy: How the State Department Threatens America's Security.
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