If President Obama thought that the recent nuclear weapons deal with Iran would lead to a rapprochement with the Islamic Republic, he might need to think again. The New York Times reports that anti-American agitation, complete with mobs chanting “Death to America!” have been ramped up. Almost as important, the Iranian government has increased the repression of its own people, in effect sticking a thumb in the collective eye of the United States.
The backlash comes as Iran is preparing for parliamentary elections in February that constitute a litmus test of Mr. Rouhani’s policies. It seems that hard-liners, using the intelligence unit of the Revolutionary Guards Corps, have started rounding up journalists, activists and cultural figures, as a warning that the post-nuclear deal period cannot lead to further relaxation or political demands.
“In recent days at least five prominent figures were arrested by the intelligence unit, among them Isa Saharkhiz, a well-known journalist and reformist, who was released from jail in 2013 after a conviction for his alleged involvement in the 2009 anti-government protests. On Sunday, Ehsan Mazandarani, the top editor of a reformist newspaper, Farhikhtegan, was arrested by the same unit, the semiofficial Tasnim news agency reported. On Tuesday, they arrested the well-known actress and newspaper columnist, Afarin Chitsaz, the Amadnews website reported.”
The United States and Iran, allies before the fall of the Shah and the hostage crisis, have been at daggers drawn for the past 45 or so years. It is no secret that President Obama harbors that fantasy of going to Tehran, just as Nixon went to China, and reopening relations between the two countries. However, significant differences exist between China of 1972 and Iran of 2015.
China needed a new ally to counterbalance the threat of the Soviet Union, with which it had become increasingly hostile. Moreover, with the ravages of the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s, China was ripe for a kinder, gentler form of communism that would admit to the possibility of private business and free trade. Nixon and Henry Kissinger, his secretary of state, exploited these factors brilliantly. China remains a problem country, thanks to its human rights record and its aggressive moves in the South China Sea and the East China Sea. But it can be dealt with diplomatically, thanks to Nixon and Kissinger.
None of these factors apply to Iran. Iran’s main enemy, besides the United States, is the State of Israel, and not even Obama is prepared to make common cause against the Jewish state. Thanks to the lifting of sanctions, Iran is going to have all the trade it wants, subject to the nuclear weapons deal holding.
More importantly, while China had drifted into a form of pragmatism by the early 1970s, the leaders of Iran have adopted a virulent form of anti-Semitism not seen since the fall of the Third Reich,as George Will pointed out. The ideology is self-sustaining and is impervious to diplomatic cajoling or even military deterrence. The anti-Semitism that permeates the rulers of Iran contains the inexorable logic of genocide. Even if President Obama had the charm and powers of persuasion that he thinks he has, he would not be able to move the Iranian regime from its purpose, to finish the job Hitler started by the illumination of a nuclear flash over Tel Aviv. Only regime change will stop a modern-day holocaust. The cost of such a policy is likely to be enormous.