The Unites States’ failure to deal effectively with Iran began during the administration of Jimmy Carter when the United States restrained the shah from using “excessive force” against the Khomeinist revolutionaries. This resulted in the overthrow of the monarchy and the establishment of the radical Islamic Republic of Iran.
Zbigniew Brzezinski, Jimmy Carter’s national security advisor, advised the president not to deal harshly with Ayatollah Khomeini and his cohorts lest a split occur within the Islamic opposition to the Russian presence in Afghanistan. At the time, both Democrats and Republicans considered the Islamists as a weapon against Soviet Communism and its local clients.
Few among today’s Capitol Hill legislators, and even fewer in the Obama administration, recognize the fact that U.S. credibility and deterrence are being compromised by the current U.S. policy towards Iran. The Arab Gulf states and Lebanon are hedging their bets on Iran emerging as the winner, and Saudi Arabia is also slowly moving towards Tehran, frustrated by America’s demonstrated weakness toward the Iranian mullahs.
Iran was offered a deal last October that would require it to transfer 70% of its stock of low-enriched uranium (LEU) abroad (to Russia and France) in return for fuel for a medical research reactor. The United States gave the Iranians a deadline of December 31, 2009, to come to terms.
Long delayed, the Iranians responded by sending a memo to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), rejecting key parts of the draft deal to ship most of its enriched uranium abroad. Iran has thus made a mockery of the U.S. deadline to accept the October deal.
The Iranian regime has proven to the world just how easy it is to defy the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) without suffering any consequences. Tehran knows that the UN Security Council will not approve tougher sanctions against it. China has invested billions of dollars in the Iranian oil and gas industries, and hence would veto such sanctions. Russia, which is also heavily invested in Iran, would also not approve tougher sanctions. Moreover, Moscow takes pleasure in humiliating the U.S.
Iran knows all too well that once it is in possession of a nuclear weapon, it would deter any future U.S. military action and leave the mullahs free to stir up even greater troubles for Washington in Iraq and Afghanistan, for Israel in Gaza and from Lebanon, and for the Arab Gulf states.