Morning Report: January 18, 2006

Iran roundup. News media report: 'France rejected Iran's request for more talks on the Islamic republic's nuclear program, saying Wednesday that Tehran first must suspend its atomic activities. Iran asked for a ministerial-level meeting with France, Germany, Britain and the European Union, but its decision to resume some uranium enrichment-related activities "means that it is not possible for us to meet under satisfactory conditions to pursue these discussions," French Foreign Ministry spokesman Denis Simonneau said in Paris. "Iran must return to a complete suspension of these activities." ' Via Regime Change Iran, The Times reports: 'BRITAIN, France and Germany announced yesterday that they would seek an emergency meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency early next month to have Iran referred to the United Nations Security Council, where Tehran could face sanctions for its controversial nuclear programme. After a day of talks in London with diplomats from America, Russia and China, the three European powers signalled that the meeting on February 2-3 would mark the end of years of mediation with Tehran. All six nations agreed that Iran must suspend its nuclear programme. The move means that the spotlight will now fall on the 35 member states of the IAEA, the nuclear watchdog. ... Russia, which has a $1 billion (£560 million) contract to build Iran’s nuclear reactor as well as lucrative arms deals with Tehran, has been more reluctant to act against its trading partner but now appears willing to work with the West.' Amir Taheri writes: 'Treating the issue of Iran's alleged nuclear ambition as a hot potato, the European trio of Britain, Germany and France, has decided to pass it on to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and thence to the United Nations' Security Council. "Our talks with Iran have reached a dead end," says Germany's new foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier. The truth, however, is the trio's talks with Iran, which lasted three years, started at a dead-end. ... ' Ahmadinejad, says Taheri, at least deserves credit for his honesty toward the "corrupt midgets" of Europe. And how did it get this way? 'European-style appeasement, partly motivated by a desire to pull faces at Washington, has encouraged the most radical faction in Tehran and helped bring Ahmadinejad to power. All the diplomatic gesticulations that are likely to follow will only compound that effect.' Read the rest at the link. Meanwhile, Michael Ledeen foresees "the inevitable showdown with Iran": 'This administration, like every other Western government, has hoped against hope that it would not come to this. President George W. Bush, for reasons good and bad, threw in with the Europeans' phony-negotiation scheme, even though he knew it would fail. Like the others, he hoped that revolution would erupt, and that decisive action on our part would not be necessary. Like the others, he preferred not to face the hard fact that revolutions rarely succeed without external support. Had Ronald Reagan been around, he would have told W. that the democratic revolution that ended the Cold War only finally succeeded when the United States supported it.' (various)

Schadenfreude squared: Bad guys versus bad guys in Iraq. Christopher Hitchens notes: 'The best news from Iraq this year would certainly be the long New York Times report of Jan. 12 on the murderous strife between local "insurgents" and al-Qaida infiltrators. This was also among the best news from last year. For months, coalition soldiers in Iraq had been telling anyone who would care to listen that they had noticed a new phenomenon: heavy fire that they didn't have to duck. On analysis, this turned out to be shooting or shelling apparently "incoming" from one "insurgent position" but actually directed at another one.' Hitch stresses three points: first, MSM caricatures notwithstanding, Iraqi society is not neatly divided into "camps" but includes a large number of mixed or intermarried families whose loyalties will be more complex than anything Zarqawi can elicit; second, the "insurgency" will soon be defeated and isolated; and finally, with even moderate success on the part of the democratic process, terrorism itself will have been discredited and humiliated in the Middle East. (Hitchens at Slate)

Schadenfreude, part two: Bad guys versus bad guys in Syria. Iran-watchers must constantly bear in mind that not every entity that is "anti-regime" is "pro-democracy". So too in the case of Syria. Lest we imagine that Syria’s exiled former Vice President Abdul Halim Khaddam - now championing the cause of "opposition" - is some kind of democracy activist, Michael Totten writing at Tech Central Station fills us in: 'The man is no democrat. In the 1950s, when the Baath Party was still an isolated group on the fringe, he was among the first to join. He spent his entire career, up until June of last year when he left Syria for Paris, as an “old guard” hardliner who rose to power under Bashar’s late and more ruthless father Hafez Assad. The reason he resigned seven months ago is not because the younger Assad is too brutal, incompetent, of for any other reason hopeful observers might wish to project onto him. Khaddam resigned because Bashar Assad slowly diminished his power and influence since assuming the presidency after his father’s death in 2000.' Short and sweet: He's no good guy. Read the whole thing to learn more. (MJT at TCS)

More bad guys: Wretchard on the heirs of Commander Toothpick. Citing another Hitchens piece, The Belmont Club takes us into the world of deranged warlords and their sometimes equally deranged avengers. 'A couple of traces of Commander Toothpick's past existence still turn up on a Google Search but all of the links are dead as is presumably Commander Toothpick. But his mantle had apparently been taken up by Norberto Manero, who like Joseph Kony, found himself powerful protectors among the different factions jockeying for power. A stone killer is never idle in a lawless Third World country. Manero's greatest claim to notoriety lay in his brutal murder of Italian Catholic priest Father Tulio Favali, after which he consumed parts of the priest's brain. My path crossed Manero's but very indirectly, when I noticed that he had been awarded an Industrial Forest Plantation by the Philippine Government at a time when he should have been in jail ... ' Wretchard concludes: ' In my more cynical moments I'm convinced that nobody gives a damn about children or human rights or the environment in the wilder places of the world: just power.' (Hitchens; The Belmont Club)

COMMENTARY: Today's items should remind us of what is at stake in the Middle East and elsewhere. As I've argued before, the evolution from an eye-for-an-eye mentality of "victim entltlement", toward a worldview based on freedom and true justice, is fundamental and necessary for civilization to continue. Defeating the bad guys is necessary but not sufficient. In the long run, only a policy based on liberty and justice will save us. Otherwise we will all find ourselves living in "the wilder places of the world".