The Iran lobby continues to exhibit the delusional nature that has marked much of its public lobbying efforts on behalf of the Iranian regime. The newest effort was put on display in an editorial posted to the Huffington Post by Trita Parsi and Tyler Cullis of the National Iranian American Council.
The piece offered up helpful suggestions for the next U.S. president to maintain the same policy of appeasing the mullahs in Tehran that the Obama administration has followed the past three years leading up to the fateful decision to lift economic sanctions as part of a deeply flawed nuclear agreement.
Parsi and Cullis offer the suggestions because they realize the clock is ticking down with the incoming presidential election, and the new president, be it either a Republican or Democrat, is likely to forge their own path in dealing with Iran, especially considering much of the Obama administration’s legacy towards the regime has been built largely around executive orders and not full-fledged treaties.
They do ask an important question though which is “Since this new budding relationship with Iran has not been institutionalized, what will be left of it when the Obama administration leaves office?”
Unfortunately, Parsi and Cullis seem to think that international relations is more akin to developing a teenage crush and keeping the love notes going through Snapchats and emojis.
They offer up three steps in their recipe for true love between the U.S. and a theocratic Iranian regime controlled by mullahs who fully support the use of terror as a tool of statecraft, including:
- The need for the U.S. and Iran to establish a strategic dialogue thought regular meetings;
- Establishing a dialogue between both countries legislatures; and
- The need for increased contact and communications between the two societies.
On the surface these seem like worthy, even laudable goals, but like all the bright ideas and sunny promises made by the NIAC, they are not rooted in the reality of the here and now.
Take for example the first idea they offer which is to build a dialogue through regular meetings. It is worth noting that the U.S., even when it did not have formal diplomatic relations, never stopped meeting with Iranian representatives on a whole host of issues, most notably negotiations on the regime’s burgeoning nuclear program through both the Bush and Obama presidencies.
Parsi and Cullis neglect to mention that dialogue between the two countries has always been present, the difference though has been in the general unwillingness to give the mullahs a blank check until the last year in which the Obama administration essentially caved in nuclear talks – first by delinking support for terrorism and human rights abuses from talks – then allowing the Iranian regime to support the Assad regime in Syria even after the use of chemical weapons without repercussions.
The notion that the Middle East would be a remarkably different place if the Bush administration had capitulated earlier is ridiculous when you consider such an act would not have deterred mullahs in Iran from supporting terror groups, would not have deterred them from doing what it could to keep Assad in power and would certainly not have deterred them from continuing the practice of public hangings and mass crackdowns on journalists, dissidents, women and religious minorities.
Most important, the idea that ISIS could have been stymied is absurd since it was Iranian regime’s support of Assad in the first place that spawned ISIS, as well as offering safe haven for Al-Qaeda leaders driven out of Afghanistan by the U.S. invasion who later left to build ISIS out of the carnage of Syria.
The second idea that Parsi and Cullis offer about a dialogue between legislative bodies is even – to borrow a phrase from the Trump lexicon – more stupid than the first idea since the Iranian regime has a long practice of winnowing the field of candidates eligible to run for parliamentary seats, especially in the Assembly of Experts in order to ensure an ironclad control over the government.
Take for example parliamentary elections next month in which out of a field of 12,000 candidates who applied to run, almost two-thirds were disqualified by the Guardian Council. The 12-member council vets political candidates and all legislation passed by parliament. It is made up of six judges elected by parliament and six clerics appointed by top mullah Ali Khamenei, who has the final word on virtually all important state matters.
So-called reformists—those favoring more political and economic freedom and improved relations with the outside world, who have been involved in all previous terrorist activities and domestic repression—say their camp was overwhelmingly targeted, with one saying barely 1% had been approved in a sign that the practical political realities of how the regime is run are completely at odds with the rosy picture painted by Parsi and Cullis.
Considering how the two houses of parliament in the regime are under the thumb of a single man in Khamenei, the notion of a dialogue developing between them and the U.S. Congress is a silly one and unlikely to ever develop.
This brings us to the last ridiculous idea Parsi and Cullis hoist up which is the idea of communications and contact between the Iranian and American people. Again, a nice notion if it was true, but almost impossible to succeed considering how the mullahs have imposed a cyberwall blocking internet access and use of social media platforms for the Iranian people to communicate with the outside world.
From a practical standpoint, the regime’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, which owns the virtually all of the major telecommunications companies, monitors the nation’s communications and often uses those channels to identify dissidents and suppress contrary political activities.
Considering how American culture is largely built around mass media entertainment and consumer marketing, it is highly unlikely that any of that will ever find unrestricted audiences in Iran, where mullahs already impose strict censorship rules on all foreign media content and ban many iconic American brands for fear of cultural “contamination.”
Indeed, what Parsi and Cullis are really worried about is that the broad public perception in America that Iran’s mullah leadership is focused on terror and military expansion at the cost of domestic oppression of its people is true and will become the focus on a new president’s foreign policy. For the Iranian people and the rest of the world, the best hope for a truly new relationship with the regime lies not in following the plan laid out by Parsi and Cullis, but in fact doing the exact opposite.
By Michael Tomlinson