The year wasn’t 1979 when Andrew Young, Carter’s Ambassador to the UN, had said of the murderous Ayatollah, “Khomeini will be something of a saint when we get over the panic,” claimed that it would be “impossible to have a fundamentalist Islamic state in Iran” and added that, “in two years, our relations with Iran will be on a pretty even keel.”
It was 2008, 29 years later, and relations with Iran had yet to reach that even keel. But nevertheless nearly three decades later the man who oversaw the worst reversal for the United States in the region to that date was still singing the same old song.
Having learned nothing from the Iran Hostage Crisis and numerous Iranian terrorist attacks carried out against the United States and its allies, including the Marine Barracks bombing and the Khobar Towers bombing, Carter said, “The United States must let Iran know that we want to give them fuel and everything they need for a non-military nuclear program. Twenty-five years ago we cut off trading with Iran. We’ve got to resume trading to show Iran we are friends.”
That delusion of friendship, not only of one man, but of an entire political and diplomatic establishment always eager to show its friendship to Iran, is the major theme of The Rise of Nuclear Iran: How Tehran Defies the West by Dore Gold.
Dore Gold explores Iranian and Western policymaking, contrasting the appeasement initiatives of American and European governments with the brutal machinations of an Iranian regime determined to achieve absolute power over its own people, its own neighbors and the whole region.
In The Rise of Nuclear Iran, the bomb is a tool of realpolitik, a way for Iran to challenge its Sunni Arab neighbors and expand its territory, but it is also a mystical force, a nuclear fire that can tear away the veil of the world and usher in the Mahdi and the Shiite end of days with an orgy of mass slaughter.
Persia was Zoroastrian before it was Muslim and fire is still a potent cleansing force even to Iranian’s Islamist leaders.
“I say let this land burn,” the Ayatollah Khomeini had said. “I say let this land go up in smoke, provided Islam emerges triumphant in the rest of the world.” More recently Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Naqdi, the head of Iran’s Basji militia, and a key figure in the militaristic Iranian state, said that nothing short of burning the White House would atone for America’s insults to the Koran.
But while Iran’s leadership played with fire, creating and financing Hizbullah, staging terrorist attacks across the world, murdering dissidents and procuring the elements needed to achieve the ultimate flame of a nuclear detonation; American and European leaders kept doing their best to pour water on the flames, even if they did not always seem to know the difference between water and gasoline.
The Rise of Nuclear Iran takes us through the failed Iran policies of every administration, beginning with Carter and concluding with Obama, and shows us the same notes being struck time and time again as appeasement by one name is swapped out for appeasement by another name. Bombs go off in Paris, American hostages are taken in Beirut and the centrifuges begin spinning at covert locations in Iran. Meanwhile on the Western front, diplomatic engagement gives way to critical dialogue to two-track diplomacy and back to engagement again.
More than anything else, The Rise of Nuclear Iran chronicles an abusive relationship between aggressive Iranian militarism and diffident Western diplomacy. Decade after decade the body count mounts and every new Secretary of State still sends the same message that the United States is eager and willing to talk. As Iran has moved beyond mere terrorism and has drawn closer to achieving nuclear capabilities, this hollow diplomacy has only intensified.
The Rise of Nuclear Iran chronicles how Iran, like North Korea, openly lied and deceived the West in its nuclear diplomacy and even boasted of those deceits. And it also chronicles how our diplomats were complicit in that deception. While theocratic Iran appears to believe in the power of doctrinal purity and ruthless force, the countries who have suffered at its hands and are in a position to stop it from obtaining nuclear weapons believe with equal fervor in the mystical powers of diplomacy.
From its initial terrorist attacks, Iran’s Islamists learned that they had nothing to fear from the West. “The Americans can’t do a damn thing,” the Ayatollah Khomeini said on witnessing Carter’s inaction during the 1979 Hostage Crisis at the American Embassy in Tehran, where for 444 days 52 Americans were held hostage. Thirty-one years later, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad arrived to speak at the United Nations and then returned home to echo the dead Ayatollah. “Sanctions meant nothing. America cannot do a damn thing, their power is rapidly depleting, and they will be brought down.”
Published three years ago, The Rise of Nuclear Iran is nevertheless painfully relevant as the events chronicled by Dore Gold are swiftly approaching a climax in a race against the clock. For the West, diplomacy is a soothing illusion that the world is a rational place where every problem can be settled around a negotiating table. But for Iran diplomacy is a means of buying time to develop and deploy the ultimate weapon of terror.
The Rise of Nuclear Iran takes us along on a journey that retraces the path of Iranian exiles and terrorists, it guides us through the organizational intricacies of Iran’s political and religious structure, takes us to the sites of bombing attacks carried out by front groups taking their orders from Tehran and to strategic islands in the Persian Gulf where the first shots of the next regional war may be fired. It guides us through the theology and thinking of Iran’s terror apparatus. But most of all it reminds us that the need to make friends with our enemies can be the greatest strategic weakness of all.
Daniel Greenfield is a New York City-based writer and freelance commentator with a special focus on the War on Terror and the rising threat to Western Civilization. Mr. Greenfield is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center. He maintains a blog and is a contributor to SFPPR News & Analysis.