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Fueling Iran’s Hostility

The Iran nuclear deal was the centerpiece of Obama’s multi-year diplomatic campaign to extend a hand of friendship to Tehran. Six months later, where do things stand? Thanks to the deal, which includes lifting economic sanctions and paying out billions of dollars, Iran has reaped a financial windfall. Quite predictably, Iran has continued funding and arming jihadist groups. But another consequence of the deal — again, in line with predictions — deserves particular emphasis: Iran’s swaggering disdain for us.

You can observe that in the words of the regime’s president, Hassan Rouhani. While touring around Europe last month to recruit foreign investment, he explained that:

The Americans know very well that when it comes to important regional issues [in the Middle East] they cannot achieve anything without Iran’s influence or say. . . . It’s possible that Iran and the United States might have friendly relations. But the key to that is in Washington’s hands, not Tehran’s.

Though hardly new, this Iranian presumption of holding the moral high ground is amped up. Our diplomatic wooing of the ayatollahs — and the nuclear deal in particular — has fueled it.

Beyond the financial reward, the deal bestowed on Iran an undeserved moral endorsement as a nation that can be dealt with through persuasion, despite its vicious character and goals. Whatever else our diplomats might say, mildly remonstrating with Iran here and there, we’ve given our affirmation that its theocratic regime is legitimate. A natural result of that was to increase the confidence of a regime that declares itself — and has proven to be — the vanguard of a holy war against the West. Moreover, you can see how our implied endorsement of Tehran would reinforce their view of America as morally bankrupt: economically and militarily, America is the world’s most powerful nation, yet it stoops to appease a far weaker adversary. Thus we encourage in them contempt for us and (added) self-righteousness about their jihadist path.

The Iran deal has cast a searing light on an obscene spectacle. To adapt in the present context one of Ayn Rand’s observations: America has assumed the role of a cringing, bargaining victim, while Iran stands as a self-righteous, resolute aggressor.

(Originally published on Times of Israel.)