On May 28 –- Memorial Day –- U.S. ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker sat down with his Iranian counterpart in Baghdad for the first official talks between the two countries in over two and a half decades.
Mr. President, what were you thinking? While you are visiting Arlington National Cemetery honoring America’s fallen warriors, your ambassador is sitting down with the representative of a pariah regime that has American blood on its hands – including the blood of those same warriors we remember on that holiday.
An American diplomat meeting with the likes of Hassan Kazemi Qomi on any day is problematic, but to do so on Memorial Day is an insult to anyone who has ever worn a uniform. Kazemi is a former member of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Qods Force, the Iranian special forces group that is involved in the training and arming of Iraqi Shia militias, particularly the jaysh al-mahdi (Mahdi Army) of radical anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. The Iranian-supplied weapons include the explosively-formed penetrator used in roadside bombs that have killed over 100 U.S. soldiers. Of course, the Iranian ambassador denied any support to the Shia militias – what did you expect him to say?
Why are we meeting with the people responsible for killing our troops? I know why the Iranians want to meet with us. Anytime a pariah nation like Iran can convince the United States – the only remaining superpower – to meet as equals, it bestows legitimacy on that regime and provides a platform for hurling insults veiled as diplomacy. It also sends a chilling message to the moderate, Western-aligned Gulf Arab nations, as well as Jordan and Egypt, that Iran is fast becoming “the” power broker in the Persian Gulf. An American ambassador meeting with an Iranian ambassador seems to underscore that status, something Iran has been seeking for a long time.
During the meeting, Kazemi offered his country’s assistance to train and equip the Iraqi army and police. This is great: the organization responsible for supporting some of the worst violence in Iraq – sectarian fighting between the Sunni and Shia Muslims – is going to come in and solve the problem? To be sure, they just might “solve” the problem, but do we really want that kind of solution? Do we really want Shia-dominated security and military forces imposing Iranian values on the entire country?
Let’s remember who we are talking about – the Iranians. These are the people that created Hezbollah in Lebanon, seized the American embassy in Tehran, took American diplomats hostage, murdered Marine Lt Col Rich Higgins and CIA officer Bill Buckley, continue to support a variety of terrorist organizations – Hamas and Islamic Jihad included –- and are pursuing a nuclear weapons program. Not exactly the best recommendation for potential negotiators.
However, Mr. President, if you absolutely insist on talking to –- and I mean talking “to” not “with” –- the Iranians, start acting like the leader of a superpower instead of treating these thugs as equals. I do agree with your position that any talks should be limited to the security situation in Iraq.
Here are suggested talking points: Stop providing weapons and training to Iraqi militias. You can deny it, but here’s a news flash -- we don’t believe you! You have American blood on your hands and we will no longer tolerate it. Your diplomatically-protected facilities in Iraq are nothing more than operating locations for the Qods Force. That has to stop -– either you stop it or we will.
Say it, mean it, then do it.