Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Iran Cannot Be Trusted

From Middle East Forum, September 1, 2006, by Michael Rubin [This posting includes brief excerpts only, with emphais added. Follow the link for the full article with detailed references]...

Diplomacy to resolve concerns over Iran's nuclear program continues with no clear resolution in sight. Most officials seek to avoid military confrontation. After receiving Iran's refusal to demands that it suspend uranium enrichment, both Moscow and Paris urged Washington not to escalate the dispute.

Serious U.S. analysts agree with the costs of military action. The Iranian government could ratchet up its sponsorship of terror, U.S. troops in Iraq could be vulnerable to Tehran's proxy militias, ordinary Iranian citizens could rally around the nationalist flag, and targeted bombing of Iranian facilities could delay the Islamic Republic's program, not end it.

But will diplomacy be enough to stop the Islamic Republic's acquisition of nuclear weapons? What enables diplomacy is trust that the opposing side will honor its commitments. Tehran's track record does not create confidence. In its formative revolutionary years, the reformist heyday, and even today, the Iranian leadership has had a consistent record of antipathy toward diplomatic convention and violation of agreements.....

....[a detailed history of Iranian duplicity in negotiations is provided]....

While diplomacy necessarily involves talking to adversaries, it is dangerous to assume that both Washington and Tehran operate from the same set of ground rules. From its very inception, the Islamic Republic eschewed the convention of international relations and diplomacy. Khomeini sought to establish a theocracy on Shi‘ite religious principles. As such, his writings are illuminating. In several essays, he spoke of the Shi‘ite concept of taqiya, religious dissimulation. Railing against the plots of the West in a series of lectures delivered in Najaf in 1970, Khomeini spoke of the necessity to engage in such religiously sanctioned lying. While many analysts are unaware of taqiya and many academics stigmatize discussion of its extent and derivations for fear of portraying Iran in a negative light, the concept nonetheless influences Tehran's diplomacy. If the Islamic Republic perceives itself as under threat, its leaders may not only feel compelled to lie, but may also feel justified in so doing. From a religious and political perspective, the ends justify the means. .... Tehran may still conduct diplomacy to fish for incentive and reward--and they may demand apologies and use the rhetoric of victimization to win further concessions and position--but, at its core, Iranian diplomacy is insincere. The Iranian leadership will say anything and do anything to buy the time necessary to acquire nuclear capability.

Michael Rubin is a resident scholar at AEI. AEI research assistant Jeffrey Azarva provided research assistance and editorial associate Nicole Passan worked with Mr. Rubin to edit and produce this Middle Eastern Outlook.

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