On Point: Syria and Iran: Major Western Powers Are out to Lunch


by Austin Bay
May 30, 2012

In response to dictator Bashir al-Assad's latest atrocity, the murder of 108 people in the Syrian town of Houla, "major Western powers" have threatened to expel Assad's resident diplomats. Denying the tyrant's ambassadors the restaurants of London and Paris — yup, that'll certainly imperil his murderous regime.

In response to the Iranian clerical dictatorship's pursuit of nuclear weapons, a necessary predicate to turning Israel into the "one bomb state," these same "powers" will ... well, they'll talk to the ayatollahs' diplomats. And keep talking, perhaps over lunch in Paris.

And why not? "Western powers" have been talking to Iranian mullahs and Revolutionary Guards for three decades, breakfast, lunch and dinner. They've discussed Tehran's terrorist connections. They've discussed uranium fuel, nuclear weapons and, ad infinitum, economic and political sanctions. Oh, sanctions have come and gone, sanctions have returned, and they remain on the table. Western diplomats assure us that sanctions will surely start to bite and bite hard — if not after the sanction entree, surely before the sanction dessert.

The rewards of this prolonged tete-a-tete? The regime remains vicious, malignant and violent, domestically and internationally. Talk buys time. While diplomats chew the fat, Iran pursues fissionable products. The Institute for Science and International Security analyzed the International Atomic Energy Agency's latest report on Iran's nuclear program (issued May 25) and concluded the ayatollahs have enough enriched uranium to produce five bombs.

Oh, as the chitchat proceeded, Iran changed a bit. Iran's clerical thugs are now as corrupt as the Shah and his cronies. While we talked, ayatollah insiders stole billions. The clerics do ace significant domestic opposition. In 2009, however, while the Obama administration hyped oh-so-serious nuclear weapons negotiations, the regime's secret police repressed the dissident Green Movement. Indeed, while we talked, Iran has seen change — change where hopes are crushed and crooks flourish.

Meanwhile, back in Syria: As Syria's Western embassies empty, Assad's dirty War on Neighborhoods continues.

Two months ago the Assad regime agreed to the ceasefire plan promoted by former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan. Yup, a negotiated agreement, the very symbol of diplomat success! Plan Annan was to take effect in late March. The Assad regime, however, kept right on killing. At that time, Assad's forces had slain 11,000 to 12,000 people, roughly 9-11's death toll times four. Two more months of dithering have added another thousand corpses to the bone pile.

Let's agree with the State Department stiffs who argue that preventing an Iranian-sparked nuclear war in Southwest Asia and Europe takes political, diplomatic, military and economic precedence over stopping Assad's dirty war.

However, Syria and Iran connect, intimately. Assad's struggling regime depends upon an Iranian umbilical of economic largesse, ammunition and security advisers. Fighters from Iran's Lebanese proxy, Hezbollah, reportedly buttress Assad's militias. A pro-Assad shabiha militia participated in the Houla slaughter.

U.N. observers reported that 49 of the dead were children and 34 were women. Tank shells killed some, but others were stabbed to death, the same technique used by the Lord's Resistance Army in Uganda and Hutu genocidaires in Rwanda. Shabiha translate as "thugs."

Perhaps the path to curbing Iran's thugs runs through Syria. Syria's rebellion has encouraged Iran's harried dissidents. So Tehran's dictators are making sure Assad prevails and demonstrates that brutal repression works.

Despite repeated condemnations, despite sanctions, despite ceaseless talks — repression is working. Why? The thugs running Tehran and Damascus don't believe anyone, or any group, has the guts to stop them, to stop them from acquiring nukes and committing mass murder.

"Major Western powers" was the BBC's description of the cadre of nations who promised to expel diplomats in the wake of Houla. It is a direct quote. During the BBC's World War II and Cold War heyday, the phrase had the iron ring of authority. In the context of Syria's ongoing bloodbath, Iran's nuclear quest and feckless Western posturing, it merely sounds ironic.

To find out more about Austin Bay and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

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