Secretary Hillary Clinton took to the air yesterday to boast of the "toughest sanctions" yet imposed by the international community on Iran. Recall, this administration came to office three years ago offering olive branches to the mullahs who rule Iran. President Obama even sent Persian New Year greetings to the same men who held our hostages for 444 days in Tehran in 1979-81. Our American diplomats and Marines were subjected to daily beatings and threats of execution.
These clerics were the ones who invented suicide bombing, starting with the killing of 241 U.S. Marines and Navy corpsmen in Beirut in 1983. If we think they have somehow moderated, how can we explain their latest plot to bomb a Georgetown restaurant to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the U.S. With him, possibly, hundreds of Americans could have died.
Secretary Clinton wants to give diplomacy time to work. But three years have already been wasted in merry-go-round diplomacy. These are three years the locusts have eaten. All the while, the mullahs have been building, hiding, advancing their nuclear weapons program.
While some elements of their regime talk about possibly allowing UN inspectors back in, other parts of the same regime say Iran will never give up its nuclear research. Defiantly, they say that research is for peaceful purposes. This, from a regime whose mouthpiece, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, publicly calls Israel "a two-bomb country." He openly says he can foresee a world without Israel -- and without the U.S.
Winston Churchill was surely right that "jaw jaw is better than war war." Nobody wants a war with Iran. But the Iranian leaders have been at war with us for thirty years. They arm jihadists who have killed American soldiers in Iraq and in Afghanistan.
This administration frittered away its best chance of avoiding war with Iran when it held back from giving support to the pro-democracy demonstrators. These unarmed protesters filled the streets of Tehran after the patently rigged June 2009 elections. Then, we might have seen real regime change in Iran and with it the best hope of a peaceful resolution of the nuclear standoff.
This administration, so closely tied to MoveOn.org, quickly moved on. The blood had hardly dried in the streets of Tehran when the Obama administration was at the UN pushing for another round of sanctions.
Russia and China are not cooperating. Neither is Venezuela. This is the key to the crisis.
Iran can launder its oil money through Venezuela. Their rock-hard resistance will break the teeth of any UN sanctions.
This latest sanctions diversion will not work, cannot work. It's arguable that sanctions have never worked. Italy was sanctioned by the League of Nations in 1935 for invading independent Ethiopia. Those toothless sanctions in no way deterred Benito Mussolini from invading France, Albania, and Greece.
Have we forgotten "tough sanctions" against Iraq? Liberals argued for sanctions then, too. So sanctions were imposed. Millions of Iraqis suffered terribly from the sanctions. The brutal rule of Saddam & Sons suffered not at all. When we invaded and seized the twenty-four palaces of these desert despots, we found they were fully stocked with Western food, snacks, alcohol, drugs, and pornography.
Sanctions against Iraq also led to the "Oil-for-Food" program. Supervised by the UN, the ostensible purpose of this scheme was to relieve the suffering of the children of Iraq. Very quickly, that project became a cash cow for those closely connected with former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. It was the biggest corruption scandal in world history. It strengthened Saddam's regime while it provided little relief to Iraq's children.
Hillary Clinton told us in 2008 she was the tougher candidate. Her 30-second political ad was the most famous of that election year. It showed a telephone ringing at 3 a.m. in the White House. She assured us then that she would have the strength and judgment to handle any world crisis, anything that could bring a 3 a.m. wake-up call.
Madame Secretary should know this by now. She's the one placing that 3 a.m. phone call. President Obama is the one receiving those calls. And we are forced to rely on his judgment.
Even as he pledged on Sunday we "have Israel's back," he was taking it back on Monday. This dithering can have fatal consequences. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama will be the ones responsible to the American people to explain how Iran got the bomb, if they get the bomb.
Or perhaps that 3 a.m. phone call will be answered by a leader more realistic and more resolute than either President Obama or Sec. Clinton. Maybe that phone will ring in Israel in the residence of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. For the peace of Jerusalem and the world, let's pray he is the one who answers that phone.
Ken Blackwell is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and former U.S. ambassador to the UN Human Rights Commission. Bob Morrison was member of the Reagan administration, having served at U.S. Department of Education.