"In Tehran, the Iranians arrested an American press man,” Ronald Reagan recorded in his presidential diary on Feb. 1, 1987. “Took his passport, accused him of being Zionist spy & threw him in jail. He’s a Roman Catholic. I’m ready to kidnap the Khomeini.”
In these, his private thoughts, Reagan expressed what it took to deal with the mullahs of Iran — and playing nice was not it.
Iran has been listed as a state sponsor of terrorism since the mid-1980s. Evidence that Tehran is avidly pursuing nuclear weapons has been piling up since 2002.
And when allied forces brought down Saddam Hussein, the Iranians promptly established a pipeline to funnel powerful improvised explosive devices into Iraq, specifically for killing American soldiers.
Yet President Barack Obama entered office intent on “engaging” this hateful government. Soon afterward, when the Green Revolution’s cries for freedom echoed in the streets of Tehran, the Obama administration remained silent and downplayed Iran’s blatant human rights abuses.
From the start, the Iranian government responded to the president’s outreach efforts with disdain and derision. Tehran emboldened its hostility.
In February, Iranians hacked the Voice of America website. Iranian intelligence is reported to have penetrated the Voice of America Persian service.
And now we learn of the Iranian plot to plant a bomb in Washington, D.C., to kill the Saudi ambassador to the United States. When the president played nice with Iran, look what happened.
We now face a country even more bellicose, more aggressive, more determined to get nuclear weapons and more committed to crushing its people’s cries for freedom.
In responding to the Quds bomb plot, nothing less than a complete reversal of administration policy will suffice to keep the regime in Tehran from making the world a much more dangerous place.
The only enduring answer to the troublemaking leaders of Iran is to bring freedom to the people living under their tyranny. Ultimately, like the other acts of the Arab Spring, this change has to come from within the country. But the White House should be contributing to this end.
For starters, it would be nice to see the administration not just “seeking” and piling up sanctions. What’s needed is a full-course push to assure that all nations implement those sanctions fully and consistently.
Next, it is time for the administration to expose the regime’s horrifying human rights record and keep up the drumbeat of condemnation. This will require extensive public diplomacy to document and publicize abuses and to aid victims.
It also entails stepping up Voice of America broadcasting and supporting independent Iranian broadcasters outside the country who have proved adept in exposing the regime’s corruption and lavish aid to terrorists.
And it is past time for the U.S. to remind Tehran that America plans to be an enduring military presence as long as countries such as Iran make trouble. The U.S. needs a carrier battle group stationed in the region 24-7-365.
The White House should also immediately reverse course in Iraq and Afghanistan by renewing our commitment to safeguard the peace and security of those nations.
Finally, the White House needs to stop short-selling missile defense. Its phased-and-adaptive approach is a plan to save money by waiting until the last possible moment to combat an Iranian missile threat.
The U.S. needs a new missile defense mantra: comprehensive-and-immediate. Playing nice with Tehran has played out badly for the U.S.
James Jay Carafano is a senior research fellow for national security at the Heritage Foundation.