Updated: December 30, 2013 11:29AM
Wishful thinking and audacious hope too often dominate thinking about the Mideast, and they remain remarkably oblivious to the reality of the region’s unforgiving politics and the ceaseless threat of Islamist radicalism.
We see three examples today.
The newest test of hope vs. reality is the interim agreement between the United States plus five other nations and Iran aimed at achieving another, more permanent arrangement to contain Tehran’s ambition to develop nuclear weapons.
The thinking behind this effort is that it’s the hostility of the West, particularly the United States, to Iran and not its own Islamist revolutionary aspirations that are at the root of the cold war between the two.
Yet in word and deed over more than three decades, from the outrage of taking U.S. diplomats hostage in 1979 to Iran’s supreme leader the other day stirring up a crowd chanting “Death to America,” Tehran’s radical regime has demonstrated implacable hatred for all things Western.
Tehran is at the negotiating table only because sanctions crippled its economy. It won an infusion of billions of cash and the possibility of starting an erosion of the broader range of sanctions in exchange for a brief time-out from increasing its nuclear capability.
The reality is that Iran has invested billions of dollars and even more in political capital in its nuclear weapons program. Now, we’re asked to believe, it’s willing to abandon all that and turn its nuclear facilities over to peaceful power generation — this a country with the Mideast’s second-largest reserves of oil and gas.
Wishful thinking reared its head again this week with the announcement of a January peace conference to resolve the Syrian civil war. The goal is to find a way to a transitional government, that is, one without President Bashar Assad.
Why would he go quietly into the night? He knows the fate of dictators who relinquish power. They end up in the dock of justice like Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak, Serbia’s Slobodan Milosevic and Chile’s Augusto Pinochet.
Assad is as guilty of war crimes as those men. One such crime, the gassing of thousands of Syrians, worked in his favor. He got to kill his enemies, escaped punishment promised by President Barack Obama, and saw his regime gain legitimacy as the West, at the behest of his ally Russia, negotiated with him over destroying his chemical devices, weapons he could in any event no longer use. The tide of civil war shifted in his favor, so he and his coterie of military and political supporters will cling to power.
A perennial source of wishful thinking centers on negotiations to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The never-ending dream is that there’s just one more concession Israel should make and the Palestinians and their Arab enablers will welcome the Jewish state into the fold of Mideast nations.
This hopeful nonsense has cost Israel much blood. For example, in 2000 Israel offered the Palestinians the most generous deal ever to have their own state. Led by the arch-murderer Yasser Arafat, they replied with a terror war that killed and maimed thousands of Israeli women, children and elderly civilians.
Hope may be audacious, but it and wishful thinking also can be deadly.