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Monday, April 13, 2009

Roger Cohen unveils his "appease Iran" plan

What can you say about someone who is so consistently wrongheaded and stubborn as to keep digging himself deeper and deeper into a hole of insanity?

Today, Roger Cohen, the self-appointed guru of realpolitik, unveils his Grand Plan for Peace, Sunshine and Unicorns!
Iran ceases military support for Hamas and Hezbollah; adopts a “Malaysian” approach to Israel (nonrecognition and noninterference); agrees to work for stability in Iraq and Afghanistan; accepts intrusive International Atomic Energy Agency verification of a limited nuclear program for peaceful ends only; promises to fight Qaeda terrorism; commits to improving its human rights record.

The United States commits itself to the Islamic Republic’s security and endorses its pivotal regional role; accepts Iran’s right to operate a limited enrichment facility with several hundred centrifuges for research purposes; agrees to Iran’s acquiring a new nuclear power reactor from the French; promises to back Iran’s entry into the World Trade Organization; returns seized Iranian assets; lifts all sanctions; and notes past Iranian statements that it will endorse a two-state solution acceptable to the Palestinians.

There is a fundamental flaw when trying to apply realpolitik to the Muslim world.

Realpolitik by definition is not ideological - and Islam by definition is.

The vapid assumption that ideologically motivated Muslims such as the Iranian leadership can violate their core principles for practical considerations is breathtakingly wrongheaded. The Islamic Republic of Iran styles itself as being based on moral and religious principles, and in reality they are not subject to compromise unless they are backed into a corner, when the principles may be downplayed but never changed.

Cohen's plan is fundamentally flawed in another way as well. It assumes that Iran's leaders are not only practical, but that they are trustworthy. For someone who thinks of himself as an expert on Iran, this betrays an unparalleled amount of self-deception on Cohen's part. In the past few years, how many times have we seen Iran flout the IAEA and UN? How many times have we seen them promise that they were only working towards a peaceful nuclear program, only to find out later about secret military nuclear programs that the IAEA has been banned from inspecting? Even Cohen agrees that Iran is working towards a "virtual nuclear power status" - even as Iran denies that today! If Cohen agrees that Iran is lying today about its aims, why on earth would he believe them if they would "agree" under his plan to stop funding and arming Hezbollah and Hamas? They are doing it covertly now!

Iran, however, would love this plan. It can easily lie and bifurcate about its "commitments" all the while happily accepting its increased prestige and power that would be given to it. To take an example, Iran would - and does - insist that it carefully respects the human rights of all its citizens even as it persecutes dissidents and executes minors.

One other point that Cohen makes that comes out of Neverland: the idea that Iran has endorsed a two-state solution "acceptable to the Palestinians." The only thing I can think of was an incident from last year where Iran's flag was placed on an advertisement by the PLO pushing the Arab peace plan. Iran's reaction was pretty explicit:
Iran condemns "any move taken by some Arab countries to push the recognition of the occupying Zionist regime in any manner, including in Islamic conferences."
How moderate! How practical!

Cohen is another of a long line of people who think that if they just shut their eyes tightly enough and believe, that when they can see again the world will be magically aligned with their fantasies.