There are a number of questions one could ask about Michael Rubin’s Washington Post op-ed this morning attacking Senator Joe Biden’s past judgment on Iran. Such as: Given that Biden has, for five of the last seven years, been a member of the minority in the Senate, how dumb is it to blame him for the fact that President Bush has no coherent Iran policy? Monumentally dumb? Or just profoundly dumb? And given that Rubin, who formerly worked in the Office of Special Plans and now works out of the neoconservative American Enterprise Institute, is up to his ears in the Iraq debacle, and thus is himself an accessory to the spread of Iran’s influence throughout the region, should one really ever assume that Rubin argues in good faith?
While mulling those questions, consider what Rubin writes here:
Between 2000 and 2005, in an effort to engage Iran, European Union trade with that country nearly tripled. Yet far from assuming a moderate posture, “the elected representatives in Iran” allocated nearly 70 percent of the hard currency windfall into military and nuclear programs.
What could have happened between 2000 and 2005 that might have undermined Iranian moderates, strengthened Iran’s own neoconservatives, and convinced the regime that a greater investment in its military and nuclear program was prudent? Well, there was President Bush’s casting of Iran as a member of the “axis of evil,” which came three months after Iran had aided the U.S. against their mutual enemy the Taliban in Afghanistan. According to Ismail Gerami-Moghaddam, a member of Iran’s moderate Reformist Party, “Including Iran in the ‘axis of evil’ led the Iranian people to grow increasingly skeptical of American slogans”:
Our political rivals … attacked us. They said sympathizing with a country that puts us in the “axis of evil” will take you down a dead-end road, and they were actually correct.
And then later, of course, there was that thing where the U.S. invaded and occupied Iran’s neighbor Iraq.
But getting back to counter-productive rhetoric, Rubin writes:
In the Dec. 7, 2007, official sermon, Ayatollah Mohammad Kashani speaking on behalf of Iran’s supreme leader, declared, “This Senator [Biden] correctly says Israel could not suppress Hizbullah in Lebanon, so how can the U.S. stand face-to-face with a nation of 70 million? This is the blessing of the Guardianship of the Jurists [the theocracy] . . . which plants such thoughts in the hearts of U.S. senators and forces them to make such confessions.” The crowd met his statement with refrains of “Death to America.”
As Ilan Goldenberg notes, Rubin is basically suggesting that American politicians should avoid criticizing policies they disagree with, because of the possibility that that criticism may be used as enemy propaganda. (What do you think the odds are on Rubin following his own advice under a Democratic administration?)
Here’s what Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, speaking for himself, said this past June:
Look at behavior of the US president and members of his team, their words are like those of the mentally ill… Sometimes they threaten, sometimes they order assassinations … and sometimes they ask for help – it’s like mad people staggering to and fro.
Devastatingly for Rubin’s thesis, Khamenei criticized the Bush administration without any signaling whatsoever from Joe Biden.
Finishing off the article with a touch of class, Rubin labels Biden “Tehran’s favorite senator.” Given that AEI’s various goofy schemes for reordering the Middle East have thus far succeeded only in extending Iran’s influence in the region, it’s not hard to guess which is Tehran’s favorite think tank.