Somebody on Twitter posted an upbeat message saying the US delegation to the latest round of talks with Iranian officials was quite optimistic. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a born optimist and I love optimism, but I’d rather revel in victory than hope for good news, and the Iranians have every reason to revel. The Obama crowd has just ok’d something the Tehran tyrants have desperately wanted since the eighties: spare parts for their long-grounded American passenger aircraft. Boeing and General Electric were given export licenses by the Treasury Department and everyone involved has been chanting “we take aircraft security very seriously,” in order to cloak this latest gift to the Khamenei-Rouhani regime in humanitarian hues.
Frankly I’d rather they took national security very seriously. Iran uses its commercial aircraft for military purposes (one of the reasons that eery flight between Tehran and Caracas is so worrisome), and the mullahs have been limited by the degradation of the national fleet. The Boeing planes and GE engines date to the 1970s, and very few of them are in service. Back in the mid-eighties, when I spent quite a bit of time with Iranian officials, they repeatedly asked for spare parts, both for the passenger planes and for the aging military craft, the F4s and F5s. Secretary of Defense Weinberger of course vetoed any such discussions, and the embargo has held until just now.
Now we’re arming Iran.
Meanwhile, as my buddy/boss/colleague Mark Dubowitz explains, the Russians and Iranians are working on ways to bust the oil sanctions on Tehran. They’re gonna swap stuff: Russian goodies (probably including military equipment such as submarines, torpedoes and antiaircraft missiles) for Iranian oil. This will not be the first time. Iran has done swaps with India and, most recently and outrageously, with the Turks (Iranian natural gas for Turkish gold, along with a plethora of other deals).
Mark rightly insists that if this deal is consummated, we should come down on the Russians with all four claws, but how likely is that? As I write, Soviet — no, make that Russian — special forces are hard at work in Ukraine, stirring up ethnic conflict, the better to justify forceful action against Ukrainian territory. We’re clucking our tongues and sending some fighter planes to Romania, but Putin won’t worry much about that sort of gesture; he doesn’t believe Obama has the courage or the will to confront Russia.
Commentators are looking for ways to describe the current situation, and John Schindler, a smart man with a real talent for telling it straight, is calling it Cold War II. I love his words here: “While it’s certainly true that the U.S. and NATO don’t seek confrontation with Russia, it’s worthwhile remembering Trotsky’s line that you might not be interested in war, but war is interested in you.”
And so it is, indeed the war has been on for some time, and it’s a bit hotter than Cold War 1.0 was for most of the twentieth century. Kiev burned, and may burn again soon. Caracas is burning, as are many of Venezuela’s cities and towns. Crimea has been annexed, and Syria is still aflame, as is Iraq, and also Yemen. Estonia and Finland are seriously frightened, as well they should be. If we pull back from the crisis du jour, we can see it’s a global conflict. Iran and Russia are fighting in Syria, sometimes with and sometimes against the jihadi marauders. Cuba is fighting in Venezuela, a country the Castros largely command, and Hezbollah is in there, too. And for those of you who follow Africa, know that the Iranians are up to their necks in Nigeria, buying influence and supporting the mass murderers in Boko Haram.
Our enemies are indeed vulnerable. I keep pointing to their fear of their own people. Assad in Damascus, Khamenei in Tehran and Maduro in Caracas are all cases in point. We could do a lot in those places, probably bring down the dictators without firing a shot. But for that to happen, we need a president that believes in America. As Schindler says, “We will have many allies in resisting Russian aggression if we focus on issues of freedom and sovereignty, standing up for the rights of smaller countries to choose their own destiny.”
The same applies to Putin’s comrades from Pyongyang to Nicaragua.
But, as the Ukrainian revolutionaries have found, and as the aftermath of our victory in Iraq has demonstrated, the battle against evil is not going to end on this earth, and if you fail to challenge the heart of the current darkness, you may well find things worse than they were before. Our enemies are bursting with confidence. They think they’ve got us. Bret Stephens: “Mr. Putin knows Mr. Obama. He knows that the U.S. president has the digestive fortitude of a tourist in Tijuana.”
As Mr Obama runs for the Pepto Bismol, he’s arming our enemies for the next round. So it’s gonna get worse.