Cracking up. Bush on bended knee. Melanie Phillips and the awful truth.
Some months ago I worried here that the quiet in Iraq might be at least in part the result of a deal made between America and Iran: in exchange for Tehran’s calling off the bombers in Iraq to help put another Republican into the White House, the Bush administration would undertake not to attack Iran. Yesterday’s Guardian story that America is to station diplomats in Iran for the first time since the Islamic Revolution of 1979 and intends to send a senior official, William Burns (pictured above), to discuss Iran’s nuclear program with Iranian officials can only deepen that fear. Unless this is all an elaborate bluff, the suspicion must be that what the Bush administration is now focused upon is not safeguarding the survival of Israel and the freedom of the world but on winning the presidency for the Republicans. After all, Bush has now effectively stolen Obama’s line of talking to Iran without preconditions. McCain, of course, has put himself in the opposite camp to Obama over Iran. If he doesn’t condemn this Bush volte-face in the loudest possible terms, the suspicion can only deepen that this is the very dirtiest kind of deal.
Meanwhile Israel is being isolated by America, which is giving Iran a further gift of the thing it most craves – time to build its nuclear weapons capability. What should be happening now is that the Iranian regime should be under the maximum economic diplomatic and military pressure, treated as a pariah state and kept guessing about the possibility of a US attack, all in order to weaken and destabilise it. Instead this latest act of craven American appeasement will strengthen it because it displays in flashing neon lights the message that America hasn’t got a clue what to do about Iran and so could Tehran kindly help it out of this jam, please. Far from avoiding war, this only makes it more likely – and more likely also that when that terrible eventuality occurs, Iran will be on the front foot.
History teaches us, after all, that war is the inevitable outcome of appeasement because, instead of preventing bad people from doing bad things, it galvanises them further to do so. When the Americans talked to the Japanese, the result was Pearl Harbour. When Chamberlain talked to Hitler, the result was the invasion of Poland. And when Britain tried to appease the Arab Nazis in 1930s Palestine by offering to reward them for their terrorist intransigence by giving them half the land promised to the Jews, the result was the Arab war of annihilation against the reborn Jewish state -- a war which continues to this day.
Moreover, Iran is as strong as it is today only because of the astounding fact that America has refused to fight back in the war that Iran has been prosecuting against it now for almost three decades. When its people were taken hostage at the US embassy, Jimmy Carter infamously sat on his hands. When more than 240 Americans were murdered when Iran bombed the US marine barracks, the US did virtually nothing. When Iran fomented attacks in Iraq and blew up coalition troops by its roadside bombs, America gave orders to its military that there were to be no covert ops in Iran and not even any hot pursuit of Iranian terrorists over the border. And when Iran turned Lebanon into a proxy battleground and stifled the nascent Lebanese democracy, America looked the other way. So much for the ‘Bush doctrine’.
It is however quite staggering to witness this change in attitude towards Israel by a man who had been arguably the most pro-Israel American president in history. Yet now he is giving the impression that – in the prescient cry of Ariel Sharon – Israel is to play the role of Czechoslovakia in 1938, with William Burns about to join the EU in sealing its fate in a re-run of the Munich agreement. This in turn follows the intense American pressure upon Israel to reach a suicidal deal with Fatah to establish what would inevitably be a Palestinian terror state.