Iran and the Straw Man
The estimable Sohrab Ahmari of the indispensable Wall Street Journal editorial page does some helpful reporting from London, telling us about leading British advocates of a deal with Iran. Mr. Ahmari thereby confirms the durability of that famous line about the newspaper: "Interesting paper -- opinion on the news pages and news on the editorial pages."
He interviewed three leading proponents of making deals with the Khamenei regime, and they trot out the usual "arguments," above all the presumed importance of giving international support to the imagined moderation of President Rouhani, so that the presumed hard-liners around Supreme Leader Khamenei will be forced to make concessions. Of the three, the best-known is former Foreign Minister Jack Straw, who talks about a recent trip to Iran as if it were a Western metropolis:
"Tehran looks and feels these days more like Madrid or Athens than it does, say, Mumbai or Cairo," he wrote in a January op-ed.
"I know that Tehran is not Madrid," Mr. Straw told me. "My point was that's what the city felt like from the narrow perspective of the journeys that I was making. That was all. It feels more like those cities, Athens too, it felt to my entirely subjective judgment, than, I think, Cairo or Mumbai -- what it felt like looking out from the car."
Which gives a fairly alarming picture of strategic "analysis" by one of Great Britain's most influential characters.
But then, we already knew a great deal about Jack Straw's vision of the Islamic Republic. He was the mastermind of one of the many failed attempts to set up a grand bargain between the United States and Iran, back when George W. Bush was in the White House and Condi Rice was at Foggy Bottom. Straw convinced Rice that the time was ripe for settling matters with the mullahs, and he arranged for the secretary of state to talk to Ali Larijani, then the West's favorite Iranian official. After months of talks, the Americans involved believed they had reached an agreement with Larijani -- the usual deal, the Iranians promise to stop enrichment and we lift sanctions -- and the signing and/or celebration affair was scheduled at UNHQ in September, 2006. Condi and her right-hand man, Undersecretary Nicholas Burns, flew up to New York for the happy occasion, but Larijani's plane never took off.
So Mr. Straw has not only advocated a deal with Iran, but has vigorously acted in a very British way -- manipulating his U.S. colleagues -- to try to accomplish it. Many thanks to Sohrab Ahmari for showing that Straw is a man of strong convictions. Pity they're so dangerous for us all.
(Artwork created using multiple Shutterstock.com images.)