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Conversations with the Enemy

Conversations with the Enemy

Iran and Syria are as much our enemies today as the Nazi Reich was our enemy in an earlier era.


Should the United States turn to Iran and Syria for help in reducing the violence bloodying Iraq? James Baker's Iraq Study Group, out this week with its well-leaked recommendations, thinks direct talks with Tehran and Damascus would be a fine idea. I think so too -- right after those governments switch sides in the global jihad.

As things stand now, however, negotiating with Iran and Syria over the future of Iraq is about as promising a strategy for preventing more bloodshed as negotiating with Adolf Hitler over the future of Czechoslovakia was in 1938. There were eminent "realists" then too, many of whom were gung-ho for cutting a deal with the Fuehrer. As Neville Chamberlain set off on the diplomatic mission that would culminate in Munich, William Shirer recorded in The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, Britain's poet laureate, John Masefield, composed a paean in his honor. When the negotiations were done and Czechoslovakia had been dismembered, the prime minister was hailed as a national hero. FDR saluted him in a two-word telegram: "Good man." The Nobel Committee received not one, not two, but 10 nominations proposing Chamberlain for the 1939 peace prize.

But 1939 would see neither peace nor prize. Chamberlain and his admirers had been certain that Munich would bring "peace in our time." Instead it helped pave the way for war.

When democracies engage with fanatical tyrants, the world becomes not less dangerous but more so.

How many times does the lesson have to be relearned? There is no appeasing the unappeasable. When democracies engage with fanatical tyrants, the world becomes not less dangerous but more so.

That wasn't the fashionable view in 1938, however, and it isn't popular today. According to a new World Public Opinion poll, 75 percent of Americans agree that to stabilize Iraq, the United States should enter into talks with Iran and Syria. "I believe in talking to your enemies," James Baker declares. "I don't think you restrict your conversations to your friends."

But with totalitarian regimes like those in Iran and Syria, the effect of such "conversations" is usually negative. It buys time and legitimacy for the totalitarians, while deepening their conviction that the West has no stomach for a fight. No one was more pleased with Chamberlain's diplomacy than Hitler, for it proved that Germany was in the saddle, riding the democracies -- that the momentum was with Berlin, while London and Paris were flailing. The Baker panel's recommendations will bring similar satisfaction to Tehran and Damascus.

Shortly after 9/11, President Bush famously declared that every nation "now has a decision to make: Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists." At every step of the way, Iran and Syria have unambiguously been with the terrorists.

As the world's foremost sponsors of radical Islamic violence, the State Department reported in April, "Iran and Syria routinely provide unique safe haven, substantial resources, and guidance to terrorist organizations." While the Assad regime engineers the assassination of Lebanese politicians, Iran's rabid president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, calls openly for "death to America" and demands that Israel be "wiped off the map."

Syria was Saddam Hussein's most dependable Middle East confederate, and almost from the moment the Iraqi insurgency began it was clear that Damascus was pouring fuel on the fire. Iran, too, works overtime to intensify the Iraqi bloodshed. ABC News reported last week on the discovery of "smoking-gun evidence of Iranian support for terrorists in Iraq: brand-new weapons fresh from Iranian factories." Among the finds: "advanced IEDs designed to pierce armor and anti-tank weapons." In other words, to murder US troops.

No regimes on earth have more to gain from an American defeat in Iraq than the theocracy in Iran and the Assad dictatorship in Syria. They have every incentive to aggravate the Iraqi turmoil that already has so many Americans clamoring for withdrawal. "There is no evidence to support the assumption that Iran and Syria want a stable Iraq," writes Middle East Quarterly editor Michael Rubin, whose experience in the region runs deep. "Rather, all their actions show a desire to stymie the United States and destabilize their neighbor. More dangerous still . . . is the naive assumption that making concessions to terrorism or forcing others to do so brings peace rather than war."

The war against radical Islam, of which Iraq is but one front, cannot be won so long as regimes like those in Tehran and Damascus remain in power. They are as much our enemies today as the Nazi Reich was our enemy in an earlier era. Imploring Assad and Ahmadinejad for help in Iraq can only intensify the whiff of American retreat that is already in the air. The word for that isn't realism. It's surrender.

December 9, 2006

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Visitor Comments: 15

(15) sami, February 13, 2007 4:46 PM


hi i want 2 tell somethink .i'm a arabic person but i relly like israel it is our friend but syria and iran i hate it they are our enemy .i wish that israel can come in lebanon and kill all our enemy .and i wish that the israelien people can come and stey here in lebanon coz we like them they r like our brothers.and i wish 2 them a good future and life .and i like 2 work like a agent with the israel millitery i can give it any think .so good byeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.......

(14) David, December 13, 2006 4:10 PM

Reason to be calm, Something to Consider

Iraqi prime minister Nouri Al-Maliki actually was living in Iran in exile during saddam's regime, same with Al-Hakim, the head imam or shiekh of the iraq revolutionary party, the one who met with President Bush in the White House recently. Iran has very close ties with the new Iraqi government, and logically thinking, that would give them ties with the U.S government and Israel. Could the nuclear talks all just be a publicity stunt? Iran does sell oil to the United States, And Iran has had war with Iraq for a very long time. And im sure iran wouldnt want real terorrist groups to know they were talking with the U.S from before 9/11.. I believe jews should not have to fear Iran or Ahmedenijad, despite the publicity. I mean seriously think about this, U.S is the closest allies with Israel on the planet. Ok, and Ahmedinejad said ( and this got played out all over the media in the u.s ) that Israel should be wiped off the map etc. etc. Do you think they would let someone who really was a terrorist come to New York, which is the heart of america's jewish community, to speak at a UN meeting? I think not. You dont see Ismail Haniyeh going to NY. Seriously the only people jews should fear is hamas and hezbollah. I just hate the lies, and im so much against the government of israel from the time of september 11th, it saddens me all the propaganda... why cant they just be honest.. I hate the look on my grandparents faces, both holocaust survivors, anytime Ahmedenijad is brought up in conversation. I think Israel should go back to the time of Solomon and have a king.

(13) Shirin, December 12, 2006 8:11 AM

why his picture?

I am a jew from Iran that thank G-od lives in the U.s. I log into to Aish almost every day. These days some thing that gives a shock every time I go on your website is to see Ahmadinejad's picture on your website. If your want to write about our enemies do you have to put their picture on your holly website? Isn't it an insult to your website and all of us? I don't want to see his picture or any other of the Jewish nation's enemies on Aish. You are too good for that.

(12) Cheryl, December 11, 2006 2:10 PM

Thank G_d for

I thank G_d for, it is one of the few places where the truth is told! Listening to t.v. and radio news along with biased newspaper reporting is like listening to a brain washed person repeating the lies they have been told to say! I also must add the lies of former president Jimmy Carter!

Keep up the great work, and may HaShmes name be praised for all your truth and work

(11) Andy, December 11, 2006 11:55 AM

Appeasement seems to be the position of choice

It seems that the majority in the USA believe that victory in Iraq is not possible.There is no will among the American public to keep the war going or doing what is necessary to "win". Most do not know why we need to be there and they realize the Iraq is a deeply divided "nation" A face saving exit with a chance of"stability" is thought possible with Iran's support.Iran will be dealt with later if necessary.The thinking seems to be that in the short term Israel may be OK as Iran does not yet have nuclear weaponry. After the US is out of Iraq maybe Israel will be allowed to attack Iran. Does Israel have the will and ability to take on Iran now? I think not.Is US support there? Very questionable if the price is $100 + oil plus a further setback in relations with "moderate" Arab regimes.The alternative may be to pray and wait.

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