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Appeasing Iran

Tuesday, September 22, 2009  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt

Are the Iranian fanatics impressed with a Letterman appearance?

While the president was chatting with Dave about various small and very small matters, Ahmadinejad was sounding increasingly, well, crazy.

Days after again denying that the Holocaust occurred, Iran’s president declared that “Our armed forces are ready to confront the forces of darkness. If anybody wants to shoot a bullet at us from anywhere, we will cut off his hands.”

Iran’s front man fanatic isn’t getting invited to Columbia University during this trip to the U.N. In fact, one venue canceled an entire dinner when it learned that Ahmadinejad was to be the guest of honor. Well done, Gotham City.

But he will still get get an American audience for his rantings at the U.N., and his government is getting by in its massive and deadly crackdown on dissidents with hardly a word from the big names in the Obama Administration.

Israel is boycotting Ahmadinejad’s speech tomorrow, and if the U.S. had a lick of sense, it would do so as well. The Iranian regime is a menace to the world of course, but its brutal crackdown on the forces of democracy within the country should remove the hesitation of our government to publicly brand the mullahs in power as illegitimate brutes. A million people marched for freedom in Iran last Friday, and the regime is increasingly desperate and cornered, but the U.S. continues to attempt to engage the mullahs in a “we are the world” exercise designed to burnish President Obama’s rapidly diminishing foreign policy credentials.

“We will make clear that if they are serious, we need to have more substantive engagement,” Deputy Secretary of State James B. Steinberg told the Washington Post. “This may be the beginning of something — or it may not.”

This is the language of appeasement, and against the backdrop of the massive demonstrations rocking Tehran the display of cringing weakness by the United States is appalling. (Andrew Sullivan has a reader e-mail that underscores the significance of the demonstration.)

Yesterday Iran joined Russia’s Putin in applauding the U.S. decision to throw Poland the Czech Republic under the wheels of the Obama bus, another sign that Tehran has taken the measure of the new team leading U.S. foreign policy and found that there’s nothing to worry about.

Israel, yes. It’s own people, yes. But the United States? Not a problem.

“Through their popular uprising, the Iranian people have mounted the most serious challenge to the Islamic Republic in its 30-year history,”writes John Hannah, former national security advisor to Vice President Cheney, in the Weekly Standard. “The regime is frightened and confused, on the defensive, never closer to unraveling. The United States should do nothing that needlessly risks relieving that pressure and giving comfort to Iran’s rulers. At a minimum, speaking up loudly about human rights will increase U.S. leverage in any forthcoming negotiation. At maximum, it could help sustain a movement whose ultimate success in toppling Iran’s anti-American theocracy holds out the best hope of ending the nuclear crisis short of war.”

The president is making noises about abandoning Afghanistan even as he spends hours trying to resurrect a disastrous health care policy fiasco. His approval ratings are plummeting to near first-year Clinton levels, and he has so overplayed his media cards that he may be down to the county fair circuit soon.

What the president should be is focused and firm on the four big three issues of his presidency: Iran, Afghanistan and Iraq abroad, and domestic security at home. (The outlines of the latest plot that are emerging should refocus not just the president but the country on the fact that the radical jihadists didn’t get their motivation from President Bush.)

President Obama’s speech to the U.N. offers him a chance to reset his foreign policy to “serious” and to warn the mullahs that he will not cooperate in their attempts to shore up their regime. If he speaks to the Iranians seeking freedom, he will have earned a great deal of bipartisan respect.

But if he glides over the Iranian regime’s thuggishness and its evil ambitions vis-a-vis Israel and the world, he’ll have branded his foreign policy as appeasement’s second act.

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