OpinionMiddle East

Iran and the failure of diplomacy

Some policymakers still seem to believe that reasonableness can prevail in the face of a regime that feels more emboldened every day.

Ambassador Zahra Ershadi of Iran attends a U.N. Security Council meeting in New York called at Russia's request after the Islamic Republic's embassy compound in Syria was hit by missile, April 2, 2024. Credit: Lev Radin/Shutterstock.
Ambassador Zahra Ershadi of Iran attends a U.N. Security Council meeting in New York called at Russia's request after the Islamic Republic's embassy compound in Syria was hit by missile, April 2, 2024. Credit: Lev Radin/Shutterstock.
Simone Rodan-Benzaquen
Simone Rodan-Benzaquen

The Iranian regime unleashed an unprecedented attack against Israel on the night of April; 13-14: a barrage of 170 drones, 30 cruise missiles and 120 ballistic missiles.

Remarkably, and thankfully, Israel and its allies—the United States, the United Kingdom, France and Jordan—intercepted 99% of them.

However, too many in the West are adopting the Iranian regime’s rhetoric as their own, arguing that the Iranian attack was a response to an alleged Israeli airstrike on an Iranian “consulate” in Damascus. Never mind that this building was no consulate; rather, it was the local headquarters of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the sword and the shield of the Iranian regime.

Iranian officials eulogized Gen. Mohammad Reza Zahedi, killed in the attack, for his “strategic role in forming and strengthening the resistance front as well as in planning and executing the Al-Aqsa Storm,” Hamas’s name for the Oct. 7 terrorist attacks in southern Israel. The implication that Israel just woke up and randomly decided to strike a diplomatic compound is absurd and outrageous. By the Iranian regime’s own admission, the justified targets of the April 1 strike in Damascus were the planners and perpetrators of Tehran’s campaign of terror.

The Iranian missile barrage revealed to the world what Israelis have known for decades—that the Islamic Republic is dedicated to Israel’s erasure. Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has called Israel a “cancerous tumor” that “will undoubtedly be uprooted and destroyed.” The regime’s long-held approach in pursuit of this murderous goal has been to act through proxies—Hezbollah, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the Houthis, and Shi’ite militias in Iraq and Syria—that have given Iran a thin layer of plausible deniability to those willing to be fooled. Last weekend, Iran took the mask off.

For too many years, diplomats have excelled in the art of denial and compromise. For too many years, leaders have refused to act out of fear of having to impose a political vision. This is how the European Union, especially under the leadership of Josep Borrell—who dug in with professorial tones behind spurious legal justifications, claimed that the European Union cannot designate the IRGC as a terrorist group until and unless an E.U. court has determined that first.

But this Western weakness is not exclusive to Europe. It has also reached Washington, where some policymakers seem to believe that reasonableness and diplomacy could prevail in the face of a regime that feels more emboldened every day.

It is also particularly strident at the United Nations, which has enthroned Iran as president of its Conference on Disarmament (which it presided over from March 18 to 29 and will again on May 13 to 24).

The resolute response and military support of the United States, the United Kingdom, France and Jordan to the assault finally marks an essential change in tone, but the voices of restraint are already mounting.

Political activist and former chess champion Garry Kasparov said a few weeks ago that the major problem with the Western world is that its presidents and prime ministers “are managers, not leaders, and managers manage. So they babble about avoiding escalation and destabilization on the allied side while the terrorists and dictators escalate and destabilize.”

The days ahead will be crucial. If an international coalition does not form to impose new sanctions, including “snap back” sanctions on Iran’s nuclear program and those targeting missiles, and if the E.U. doesn’t finally designate the IRGC as a terrorist organization—especially after the Düsseldorf state court proved its direct involvement in the plot to attack a synagogue in Bochum in 2022—then we shouldn’t be surprised if the peoples of the West, who have several key elections in 2024, end up voting for the extremes, who fill the vacuum with what they make out to be a vision and leadership.

Only firmness will prevent the mullahs from pursuing regional hegemony, and Russia, North Korea and China from strengthening their ties and further weakening the West and its allies. Only moral clarity and the reaffirmation of values will save the West.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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