Prior to the Thanksgiving holiday, the Iran lobby launched a large PR effort aimed at trying to influence the debate starting to form as to how the incoming Trump administration should approach the problem of Iranian extremism in the Middle East, especially its support for terrorism and the escalating conflicts in Syria, Iraq and Yemen.
President-elect Trump has already begun forming his national security team with the announced appointments of South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley as United Nations ambassador, Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn as national security advisor, Fox News commentator K.T. McFarland as deputy national security advisor, and Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS) as CIA director.
His selections signal a likely end to the previous administration’s policies of trying to appease the Iranian regime in order to secure a more accommodating stance from Tehran. Those policies—as evidenced by the aftermath of the nuclear agreement—clearly demonstrated that the mullahs in Tehran were no mood for moderation and clearly believed they could take advantage of the U.S. and other nations that brokered the agreement.
Since the election, the Iran lobby has been faced with the uncomfortable truth that its influence in Washington is going to be greatly diminished in light of the new election results and the continued skepticism of the Iran nuclear deal by leaders like Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA) and Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ).
But the Iran lobby is doing the bidding of the mullahs by ramping up its efforts in a last-ditch effort to try and spin a new web of obfuscations to replace the failed “echo chamber” of voices urging accommodation with Iranian leaders.
The most offensive product to be produced as part of that effort was a so-called “report” issued by the National Iranian American Council and signed by 76 so-called “national security” specialists, the vast majority of whom lack any national security or military credentials or experience at all. Most were either paid staffers or consultants allied with the NIAC or academics from fields as national security related as linguistics and anthropology.
While the issuance of the report itself and accompanying NIAC statement did not garner much media attention outside of blogs such as Lobelog.com supportive of the Iranian regime, some of the individuals named in the report have taken up the cause with their own media efforts to flog the idea of support for Iran.
One of those was Stephen Kinzer, who penned an editorial in the Boston Globe urging Donald Trump to pursue a pathway of what he calls “dual conciliation” which reads more like a warmed over version of the failed policy of appeasement he previously urged.
Kinzer’s piece is interesting for several reasons, especially one thing he wrote which was that the U.S. should judge Iran not by sentiment, “but strictly according to whether their actions promote our interests. Our central interest in the Middle East is containing violent radicalism.”
It is an odd thing to say since the actions of the Iranian regime have not matched the sentiments it has publicly urged. While leaders such as Hassan Rouhani have purred lines of peace and moderation, the leadership of Ali Khamenei has directed Iranian forces to deepen the war in Syria, widen sectarian violence in Iraq and start an insurgency in Yemen that threatens a direct conflict with Saudi Arabia.
Kinzer is right, we should judge Iran on its actions and not the sentiments the Iran lobby would have us believe. It’s a path that Trump’s national security team has already publicly advocated during the course of the campaign in urging significant reforms to the nuclear deal, as well as holding Iran accountable for its actions.
Kinzer also tries to portray Iranian mullahs as a valiant enemy of Islamic extremism in the form of ISIS, but does not even attempt to distinguish the type of Islamic extremism Iranian regime itself is responsible for. It’s another attempt by Kinzer to try and portray Iran as a “good” Islamic extremist and ISIS as a “bad” Islamic extremist.
The distinction he tries to make is like trying to distinguish between Hitler’s SS and Brownshirts. To their victims, there is no difference.
Similarly, he fails to note that the Iranian regime is the central source of the instability raging through the Middle East. By trying to link the unrest to a supposed Saudi Arabia vs. Iran conflict, he ignores Iranian regime’s use of terrorist proxies in Hezbollah or insurgents such as the Houthis in Yemen or Shiite militias in Iraq to wage unrelenting war. Therefore unlike his proposal, Iranian regime is not going to be any kind of security partner for the rest of the world.
Iranian regime has attempted to build a Shiite extremist dominant empire with wars in Syria, Iraq and Yemen to wrest those controls under its control alongside Lebanon and possible Egypt.
None of this should be unexpected since Kinzer is widely known to be a left leaning and a strong critic of the correct policies, especially as it relates to in confronting Latin American and Middle Eastern dictatorships, authoring books on the subject, which we assume makes him a “national security” expert.
Kinzer has long advocated policies of non-intervention which makes him an adequate tool for the NIAC in trying to protect Iranian regime from any repercussions for its actions.
Like his fellow Iran lobby advocates such as Trita Parsi of the NIAC, they are finding a shrinking audience for their message of appeasing the mullahs in Tehran in light of the evidence of a year of Iranian human rights crackdowns and several violations of the nuclear agreement.
We can only hope the Trump administration maintains its skeptical eye to future promises of Iranian moderation.