Although the Obama administration considers its negotiations with Iran a bold new strategy of engagement, every presidential administration since Jimmy Carter has had its own diplomatic initiative with the Islamic Republic—and these have consistently failed. Perhaps, write Michael Rubin, something should be learned from prior experience:
Too many American diplomats . . . are committed to the belief that talking is a cost-free, risk-free strategy. . . . But [this is] to project American values onto others. Americans may not see willingness to talk as weakness, but other cultures do. . . .
Only twice in history has the Islamic Republic reversed course after swearing to a course of no compromises. The first time was about what it would take to release the American hostages [of 1979], and the second about what it would take to end the Iran-Iraq war. After the hostages were released on the first day of the Reagan presidency, Carter’s associates credited the persistence of diplomacy. This is nonsense; . . . Iraq’s invasion of Iran had rendered Tehran’s isolation untenable. Khomeini needed to release the hostages or his country would have crumbled. Likewise, Khomeini considered ending the Iran-Iraq war in 1982, but the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps pushed him to continue it until “the liberation of Jerusalem.” After six years of stalemate and another half-million deaths, Khomeini reconsidered.