Iran has an interesting take on international law. According to Iranian Foreign Minister Manuchehr Mottaki, the UN Security Council's Chapter VII resolution from last December requiring Iran to cease all its uranium enrichment activities is illegal. As he put it Wednesday during a friendly visit in Turkey, "We were against [the resolution] for being illegal and politically motivated."
Anyone with even a casual acquaintance with international law should recognize that Mottaki's statement is not merely incorrect. His rejection of the legality of Security Council Resolution 1737 is an expression of contempt for the very foundations of the law of nations which have been almost universally adhered to since the Peace of Westphalia in 1648.
What comes across most clearly in Mottaki's statement is that little has changed in Iran since the Khomeini revolution in 1979 brought the current regime to power. Back then, in their first stab at international diplomacy, the mullahs showed that their regime stands opposed to all the norms of civilized behavior that have formed the basis of the nation-state system since the end of the Thirty Years War. The Iranian takeover of the US embassy in Teheran and the holding hostage of 52 embassy employees for 444 days was not merely an act of state terrorism. It was a declaration of war against civilization.
And so, it should come as a surprise to no one that Mottaki rejects the Security Council's right to force Iran to abide by its commitment to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty which Iran voluntarily signed and ratified. He is behaving in a manner that is wholly consistent with Iran's international behavior since the overthrow of the Shah.
Similarly, the US and its Western and UN partners responded to Iran's provocation in a manner that is wholly consistent with their treatment of Iran since the revolution. For the past 27 years, the US, the European Union and the UN have responded to Iran's contemptuous disregard for international law and civilized norms of behavior by seeking to appease the mullahs.
Wednesday US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice expressed this consistent preference in an interview with CNN. Brushing off the allegation that the US may be planning to forcibly prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons Rice said, "The United States is on a diplomatic path and we believe in this diplomatic path."
She continued, "If Iran will, in fact, suspend its enrichment and reprocessing activities we can sit down together, reverse 27 years of the isolation of the United States from Iran and Iran from the United States. We can talk about anything. The United States has no desire for confrontation with Iran. None. We would rather have with Iran the opportunity to discuss whatever matters Iran would like to discuss."
So as far as Rice is concerned, diplomacy is not only her chosen method of dealing with Iran. It is the only method for dealing with Iran.
Muhammad el Baradei, who as chairman of the International Atomic Energy Agency is charged with reporting Iranian non-compliance with Resolution 1737 to the Security Council, took Rice's diplomatic line to the next logical level when he said last month, "the only solution to the Iranian issue… is dialogue, is negotiation."
Baradei argues this point in both practical and normative terms. Practically speaking, he said Tuesday that it is impossible to put the Iranian nuclear genie back in the bottle because the Iranians have already acquired the know-how to build atomic bombs.
Baradei made that statement after meeting with Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani. At the meeting Larijani told Baradei that Iran remains steady in its rejection of the Security Council's demand that it suspend its uranium enrichment activities.
Aside from explaining why it is pointless to try to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear bombs, Baradei explained that it would also be wrong to check the mullahs' behavior. "Our experience without exception is that sanctions alone do not work and in most cases radicalize the regime and hurt the people who are not supposed to be hurt…. [S]anctions have to be coupled at all times with incentives and a real search for a compromise based on face-saving, based on respect," Baradei opined.
Perhaps Rice's enthusiasm for appeasing Teheran is influenced by people like former senator and Democratic contender for the presidency John Edwards. This week Edwards reportedly said that the greatest short-term threat to world peace is the possibility that Israel will bomb Iran's nuclear facilities. Perhaps it is similar voices in the James Baker and Brent Scowcroft corner of the Republican Party that are motivating Rice to behave like the Europeans and the UN.
Whatever the explanation for the US's French-style Iran policy, the EU for its part insists on negotiating with Iran in spite of the fact that last week an official EU document acknowledged that the Europeans know full well that their four-year nuclear diplomacy with the Iranians has failed to delay even slightly Iran's acquisition of atomic bombs. That is, Europe maintains its "jaw jaw" with Iran in spite of the fact that it knows that by doing so it is all but ensuring that Iran will acquire nuclear weapons which it has publicly pledged to use to eradicate Israel.
THE IRANIANS are more than willing to humor the West's diplomacy fetish. Even as President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Wednesday that "It is worth it to stop other activities for 10 years and focus only on the nuclear issue," he and his colleagues announced their willingness to discuss their nuclear weapons program with the US and anyone else who asks (aside from Israel), so long as those discussions don't impinge on their freedom to build their nuclear bombs.
From Washington to Brussels to Moscow to Turtle Bay, everyone applauds the fact that both the so-called international community and its Iranian antagonist desire negotiations. This, they say, is proof that there is no reason to abandon diplomacy.
But this is nonsense. The American, European and UN defense of negotiations with Teheran is nothing more than a willful act of collective delusion. For while it is true that everyone wants to talk, it is equally true that there is absolutely nothing to talk about.
In theory, nations engage in negotiations in order to advance their national interests, whether separately or collectively. In the case of Iran, the US and its allies seek to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. They maintain that the best means of achieving that aim is diplomacy.
For its part, Iran wishes to acquire nuclear weapons unmolested. It chooses to negotiate with the West in order to achieve that aim.
The problem here is that the sides' intentions are mutually exclusive so one side's gains come at the other's expense. Since Iran refuses to suspend its uranium enrichment, diplomatically engaging its emissaries serves only to legitimize the regime and enable its leaders to acquire nuclear weapons under the cover of international diplomacy.
THIS SAME disturbing pattern repeats itself with the so-called international community's engagement of the Palestinians. This is particularly the case in the aftermath of the Mecca agreement which relegated the Fatah terror organization to the position of junior partner in the Hamas terror organization's government. As with Iran, so too with the Palestinians: While everyone agrees that negotiations are the answer, they ignore the fact that there is nothing to negotiate about.
The so-called international community argues that it wishes to engage the Palestinians in order to peacefully resolve the Palestinian conflict with Israel. For their part, the Palestinians in Hamas and Fatah claim that the purpose of negotiations is to advance their strategic aim of destroying Israel.
In their dealings with both Iran and the Palestinians, the leaders of the so-called international community assert that were they to abandon diplomacy they would strengthen the most radical elements on the other side. As Baradei put it with regard to Iran, "We know that if you jolt a country's pride, all the factions, right, left and center will get together and try to accelerate a program to develop a nuclear weapon to defend themselves."
Unfortunately, experience shows that just the opposite is the case. The so-called international community's engagement of the Iranians and the Palestinians has in no way weakened the most radical elements in those societies. Rather, it has weakened the West's willingness to confront those radical elements and so brought about an effective radicalization of the West. Case in point is Britain.
Until recently, the British treated Hamas like the genocidal jihadist movement that it is. But Wednesday Britain's policy collapsed completely. In a speech before Parliament, Prime Minister Tony Blair said, "It's far easier to deal with the situation in Palestine if there is a national unity government. I hope we can make progress, including even with the more sensible elements of Hamas."
But of course, there are no "sensible elements of Hamas." So what sort of "progress" does Blair believe it is possible to make?
Moreover, while Ahmadinejad may be the most outspoken Iranian leader on the issue of eradicating Israel, he is by no means alone in his intention. Every Iranian leader from Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on down has expressed a desire to see Israel wiped off the map. Engaging these fanatics in talks that have already failed can only serve to strengthen their commitment to carry out their monstrous, openly acknowledged plans.
What we have here is a full-blown eclipse of rational policy-making with diplomatic fetishism. What Rice, Blair, Baradei, French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Angela Merkel are all forgetting is that diplomacy is a means and not an end. By engaging the Palestinians and the Iranians, they willfully ignore the fact that if you are not using diplomacy to advance your aims, that diplomacy will be exploited by your antagonist to advance his aims.
If Israel had an even slightly competent government, our leaders would be pointing out the perversity and stupidity of fetish diplomacy. But Israel's government is not even slightly competent. The Olmert-Livni-Peretz government has descended to a level of incoherence that makes it seem like a waste of time to even bother criticizing it. Its moves are transparently motivated by nothing more than a desire to hold onto power for as long as possible.
In light of this abysmal state of affairs, it falls to private individuals to remind the diplomatic fetishists that diplomacy is a means, not an end. If their current policies are played out, the fact that they abjured war and remained faithful to diplomacy will not excuse them when Hamas transforms Gaza, Judea and Samaria into a Taliban state; destabilizes the Jordanian monarchy; and murders thousands of Jews in Israel. Their commitment to diplomacy will not make posterity more forgiving of their failure to prevent a second Holocaust.
You are not being peacemakers when you engage the mullahs and Hamas. You are preparing the ground for a huge conflagration.
Originally published in The Jerusalem Post.