Hillary Clinton 298.88.
(photo credit: AP)
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is catching considerable flak from competitors in her own party for flip-flopping on Iran. In July she blasted Barack Obama for saying he would meet with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, calling his stance "irresponsible and naive." On Thursday Clinton said: "I would engage in negotiations with Iran, with no conditions, because we don't really understand how Iran works. We think we do, from the outside, but I think that is misleading."
Obama was quick to retort, "I'm not sure any of us know exactly where she is standing on this issue. But I can tell you this - when I'm president... the world will always know where I stand." This is a bit rich coming from Obama, given that he introduced a bill to impose sanctions on Iran, yet he chose to be absent on (and said he would have voted against) a bipartisan provision backed by three-quarters of the US Senate to designate the Iranian Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization.
The effect of that amendment was precisely to tighten economic sanctions against the Iranian regime. There was nothing in it that even hinted at authorization of the use of force. Yet Obama bowed to the hard left in his party and opposed the strategy he had supposedly endorsed, that of tightening sanctions as the primary hope of averting both military action and a nuclear Iran.
Clinton sensibly voted for that amendment, and now seems to be tacking the other way with her pledge to engage Teheran's Islamofascist regime.
As Democrats, it is hardly surprising that Clinton and Obama are opposed to giving President George Bush a blank check on anything, including a confrontation with Iran. But they seem to have nothing to say to those many of their supporters who are much more concerned about Bush than about Ahmadinejad. Whenever the two leading Democratic candidate start down the road of sanctioning Teheran - to say nothing of military action or helping the Iranian people rid themselves of a hated regime - they are yanked back into a hyper-pacifist position by the ostrich wing of their party.
Perhaps all this can be dismissed as a function of the politics of primaries, in which each party's more extreme wing tends to flex its muscles. Yet, what is more difficult to shrug off is how Clinton explained her latest position, that of supporting talks with Teheran.
The Bush administration, and previous administrations of both parties before it, have talked to Teheran. While such talks have generally backfired both politically and on the ground, talks per se are not to blame but the usually fuzzy-headed thinking behind them.
There is a big difference, for example, between giving the Iranians an ultimatum that they had better abandon their nuclear program and support for terrorism and, on the other hand, pretending that Iran shares an interest in a stable Iraq - as argued by the thankfully forgotten Baker-Hamilton report.
Clinton, however, justifies talks on even more bizarre grounds: "we don't really understand how Iran works." This is an astonishing statement, in that it suggests that what Iran really needs is an encounter session.
We know how Iran works: It is an aggressive, reactionary dictatorship seeking the most potent weapons on earth to enhance and project its power. Would Clinton have suggested that America needed to better understand how apartheid South Africa, or Pinochet's Chile, or Marcos's Philippines, or Stalin's Russia, or Hitler's Germany "worked"?
We know too much about how the Iranian regime works; how its president denies, at Columbia of all places, the existence of homosexuals; how it stones women to death for alleged adultery; how it leads the world in executions of children; how it has jailed thousands of regime opponents; and how it has been blowing up Americans in Iraq, funneling weapons into Lebanon, and opposing peace between Arabs and Israelis with all its might.
However much Americans distrust Bush, they - along with Europeans, Israelis, and free peoples everywhere - understand that the Iranian regime is a menace that must be stopped. Any candidate for leader of the free world has the duty to explain how they would do so, not least to those members of their own party who have become blind to the most urgent global threats to everything they claim to believe in.