Another Reason Not to Trust Iran
The Iranians have kidnapped another American. Noah Pollak, writing at Michael Totten's Middle East Journal, has the details:
Haleh Esfandiari is the director of the Middle East Program at the Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars in Washington, and in December of last year she traveled to Iran to visit her ailing mother. In a statement on its website, the Wilson Center explains that in late December, "on her way to the airport to catch a flight back to Washington, the taxi in which Dr. Esfandiari was riding was stopped by three masked, knife-wielding men. They took away her baggage and handbag, including her Iranian and American passports." Her visit to a passport office four days later instigated six weeks of interrogations. Last Monday, just over a week ago, she was arrested and taken to the notorious Evin prison, where she stands accused of being a Mossad agent, a U.S. spy, and of trying to foment revolution inside Iran -- the same charges that were leveled at the American embassy staff in 1979 when it was taken hostage.
Noah reports that the Washington Post has warned Iran that they risk losing the world's "respect". American politicians have been, if anything, less forceful:
Several politicians have also weighed in, and they haven't done any better. In a statement sure to send an ominous chill across the Iranian political establishment, Barak Obama announced that "If the Iranian government has any desire to engage the world in dialogue, it can demonstrate that desire by releasing this champion of dialogue from detention." Haleh Esfandiari's senators, Barbara Mikulski and Benjamin Cardin of Maryland, asked Iran to make a "gesture of goodwill" to the American people by releasing their latest hostage. Respect, dialogue, gestures of goodwill. I'll bring my acoustic guitar and some big fluffy pillows and we can do a sing-along for Ahmadinejad.
Noah ties the recent hostage taking back to the 1979 imprisonment of the American embassy:
And the hostage-takers and the government that sponsored them never paid a serious price for the ensuing fifteen-month humiliation of the United States. Iran has also never paid for its various assassinations and bombings in Europe, the murder of hundreds of American marines and French soldiers in Lebanon in 1983, the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires that killed 85 people, its lavish funding of Hezbollah and destabilization of Lebanon, the abduction of the British sailors, its nuclear program, and so on. In other words, the Iranian regime, since the first day of its existence, has seen its every provocation go unanswered -- which has perfectly reinforced its conviction that the West, and America in particular, is a brittle facade, economically powerful and technologically sophisticated but weak-willed, indecisive, risk-averse, and easily intimidated.
Somehow, I don't think that a desire for "dialog" is what drives Iran. I think it's a desire for power. And no amount of talking is going to convince Iran to stop bombing, kidnapping, funding terrorism, or refining nuclear material. I don't want to rush to war -- our military is stretched thin enough as it is -- but we need to do something more than just "talk" at the Iranians. As you can see, that strategy has worked out so well already.