The released videotaped footage of blindfolded British soldiers captured by the Islamic Republic was evocative of another Western humiliation in the hands of Iranian religious fanatics. On November 4, 1979, when the militants took over the American Embassy in Tehran, they also paraded their hand-tied, blindfolded hostages in front of the television cameras. Today, an analytical approach to Middle-Eastern terrorism cannot be complete without due consideration paid to that watershed event that kept the world transfixed for 444 days. During that crisis the militants kept pressing their luck to see how far they could go, and with the political school of moral vacillation then well represented in the White House, they soon recognized that they could go as far as they wanted to. They managed to accomplish an outright victory for anarchy and hooliganism from which the world has not yet recovered.
Prominent American historian J. Rufus Fears, in a lecture delivered in Princeton on October 8, 2003, points out the dangerous consequences of the Carter administration's mishandling of that far-reaching crisis. Answering a question put to him by one of his listeners, Professor Rufus remarked:
In 1999, I told an audience that our failure to act decisively at the time of the Iranian hostage controversy has left us with a bitter harvest that we will one day reap, and I have never been so sorry to be so right.
In fact, the seizure of the United States Embassy in Tehran presented itself as a possibility to the terrorists by a lesson they had learned from a preceding event. Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the leader of the revolution and his fanatical supporters had the shrewdness to realize that an America that lacked the backbone to stand by a long-time friend like the Shah, could not muster enough resolve to stand up to ruthless terror and blackmail.
Western democracies today are harvesting the lethal fruits of their past failure of judgment and their inability to foresee what was in store for them with the advent of Islamic fundamentalism. Furthermore, 25 years into the Iranian revolution with all the inherent lessons they still seem to be unable to face up to their enemies and back up their true friends. So-called “constructive engagement” and “creative diplomacy,” when applied to terrorist states, can only result in further exposing every citizen of the free world into the potential danger of being blown up or becoming a helpless, blindfolded hostage teetering between life and death.
The British government's policy towards the Islamic Republic is not a policy put together in the light of what the Iranian regime in reality stands for. It is rather sketched on the basis of what Jack Straw and some others in the Foreign Office hope one day it might evolve into. It is grounded in self-deception, bewilderment and irresponsibility. The mullahs on the other hand have no illusions about their enemies and their allies. Like all well-trained, well-experienced terrorists they can immediately sense the moral confusion and intellectual perplexity of their victims and use it to their greatest political advantage. They are toying with Jack Straw the same way they manipulated the weakness and confusion of the Carter administration.
Having successfully flexed their muscles in the Arvand Rood waterway (Shatt al-Arab in Arabic) by seizing the British vessel, the mullahs know full well that they face no retaliation. They are complacent in their assurance that all the dismay expressed by London over the abduction of their sailors will amount to nothing and is a mere face- saving exercise. As The Guardian reported in its July 2 issue, the Foreign Office is unlikely to consider a drastic response “since it cherishes its diplomatic links with Tehran.”
Accordingly the British government has adopted the same cringing, guilt-ridden, apologetic attitude as that of the Clinton administration (remember Madeleine Albright's apology to Iran for “past American errors”). Jack Straw is banking on what he calls “bit-by-bit, progress” in relations between Iran and the United Kingdom. In fact, what we witness seems increasingly like bit-by-bit surrender to the Islamic Republic of Iran rather than a clearly thought out and integrated foreign policy.
The British unwillingness to stand up to the regime in Tehran is partly due to what is taking place at the moment in Iraq. The war waged against Saddam Hussein with its obvious benefit of ridding the world of a cruel dictator has incurred huge human and material loss. The mullahs, instead of waiting for their turn to become the next dispatched member of the Axis of Evil, have been fighting the war for their survival on Iraqi soil by supporting the terrorists and sabotaging the establishment of democracy in that country. Their diabolical efforts have paid off. Fatigued both militarily and economically by the war in Iraq, the United States would have great difficulty in commencing a war on a new front.
This allied exhaustion has offered the clerical dictatorship a new lease on life, which the mullahs are using to push forward with their plan to acquire of nuclear weapons. On June 27, 2004 – in defiance of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) – the Iranian government decided to resume centrifuge construction. It is only a (brief) matter of time before the most dangerous regime on earth will be armed with the most destructive means to destroy human life. If such a nightmare is realized, Jack Straw's “bit-by-bit, progress” with Iran can only mean inching toward Hell on earth.