Meeting with a group of foreign policy writers last week, President Obama once again held open the possibility of engagement with Iran.
“President Obama put the issue of negotiating with Iran firmly back on the table Wednesday in an unusual White House session with journalists,” reported David Ignatius last week in the Washington Post. The president’s message, said Ignatius, who attended the meeting, “was that even as U.N. sanctions squeeze Tehran, he is leaving open a ‘pathway’ for a peaceful settlement of the nuclear issue.”
Others came away from the meeting with a somewhat different impression. Robert Kagan, who also attended, the White House meeting, wrote that:
The president went out of his way to note that the Iranians are masters of delay and deception. He explained in some detail why the deal Turkey and Brazil struck with Tehran was a nonstarter. He repeatedly acknowledged that the regime may be so "ideologically" committed to getting a bomb that no amount of pain would make a difference. He did make clear that the door was, of course, open to the Iranians to change their minds, that sanctions did not preclude diplomacy and engagement, and that if the Iranians ever decide they wanted to "behave responsibly" by complying with the demands of the international community, then the United States was prepared to welcome them.
Whether the president was holding the door wide open to engagement, per Ignatius, or just a crack, per Kagan, there is a moral issue here, and it was highlighted by a speech yesterday by Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. MSNBC reports:
Speaking at a Tehran conference, Ahmadinejad said there was no evidence that the death toll at New York's World Trade Center, destroyed in the attacks, was as high as reported and said "Zionists" had been tipped off in advance.
"What was the story of September 11? During five to six days, and with the aid of the media, they created and prepared public opinion so that everyone considered an attack on Afghanistan and Iraq as (their) right," he said in a televised speech.
No "Zionists" were killed in the World Trade Center, according to Ahmadinejad, because "one day earlier they were told not go to their workplace."
"They announced that 3,000 people were killed in this incident, but there were no reports that reveal their names. Maybe you saw that, but I did not," he told a gathering of the Iranian news media.
A complete listing of those who perished on 9/11 is widely available online. Ahmadinejad’s statement, together with his repeated assertion that the Holocaust—in which some six millions European Jews were murdered—is also a fabrication, yet again reveals that Iran’s head of state is a fantasist from the gutter.
The prospect of an American discussion ending in a handshake with such a regime should fill one with disgust. Of course, for peace it will be worth breathing the stench, some will say. But we’ve heard that bargain promoted before—most notably in the mid-point of the 20th century—and it did not avert war; it only fed ambitions that helped bring war about.