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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Obama the peacenik versus Putin the hegemon -- This contest is not likely to end well -- By Clifford D. May, The Washington Times

Illustration by Linas Garsys/The Washington Times(Illustration by Linas Garsys, The Washington Times)

Russia's Vladimir Putin, seething over the collapse of the Soviet Empire, wants to become the hegemon of Eurasia — at least. Iran's Ali Khamenei, outraged by the decline of Islamic power, wants to become the hegemon of the Middle East — at a minimum.

President Obama wants to "end wars," "give diplomacy a chance," extend the hand of friendship to those who regard themselves as America's adversaries and enemies, and, most importantly, cast the United States as an equal member — and no more than that — of "the international community" in the 21st century, which he believes will not be nearly as bloody as were the 19th and 20th centuries.
I fear this is not going to end well.

Pull up almost any photo of the negotiators in Vienna last week and you'll see European foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif grinning broadly. It makes me wonder: What's so amusing?

Lady Ashton and the other Western European diplomats sitting across the table from Iran's envoys have a critical mission: To persuade the Islamic republic's rulers to verifiably terminate their nuclear weapons program. If they fail, the nuclear non-proliferation effort is dead. The chances that nuclear weapons will spread and be used over the coming decades increases exponentially.

The United States and Europe are holding out a carrot: They are willing — indeed, eager — to terminate all economic sanctions on Iran and, what's more, to fully integrate the regime into the international economic system. It's a straightforward deal, but American officials, ensconced at Vienna's elegant Palais Coburg, have termed the talks a "Rubik's Cube." I suspect they've let process replace purpose.

The diplomats palavering with Iran represent the so-called P5 plus 1: the United States, Germany, France and Britain — but also China and Russia, whose commitment to preventing Iran from achieving a nuclear capability appears less than rock-solid.

And no one — diplomats, Western leaders or the major media — seemed terribly distressed by this: Last week, Ahmed Shaheed, the United Nations' "Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran," issued a report on the egregious persecution and discrimination of religious minorities and dissidents in that country. He noted that Iran has incarcerated at least 895 "prisoners of conscience" and "political prisoners," including 379 political activists, 292 religious "practitioners" — including dozens of Christians — 92 human rights defenders, 71 civic activists, 37 journalists and 24 student activists.

I'd guess Lady Ashton agrees with the American official who quickly absolved "moderate" Iranian President Hassan Rouhani of any blame. "These are indicators that President Rouhani has no influence over hard-liners, who remain fully in charge of the judiciary and security apparatus, government entities that are responsible for the most severe abuses against religious minorities," Dwight Bashir, deputy director for policy at the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, told FoxNews.com.

Those darned "hard-liners" also must be responsible for Iran continuing to top the list of terrorism sponsors. Al Jazeera — not exactly a conservative news outlet — this month aired a documentary making a convincing case that the bombing of Pam Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988 was commissioned by senior Iranian officials and sanctioned by then-Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini himself.

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