The Law of Unintended Consequences

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As Americans turn their attention to the war against the Islamic State group, an old enemy is, no doubt, delighted that they are turning their attention away from it, as Iran races to enrich as much uranium and produce as much plutonium as it can, and finish the missile delivery system for a nuclear weapon before the looming Nov. 24 deadline.

It was recently learned that the P5+1 nations (the U.S., Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany) are trying to come up with some formulation to enable the Iranians to offer them yet another extension so that they can save face, and never go back on their vow not to weaken their nuclear capabilities.
However, it is the American face that truly needs saving.

One of the greatest foreign policy blunders of our time happened early in the Obama administration when, in June 2009, millions of freedom-loving Iranian dissidents demonstrated on the streets, only to have their skulls bashed in or to disappear into the notorious Evin prison, never to be heard from again, and the leader of the free world was silent, tragically choosing to support the Iranian mullahs over the dissidents. If the choice had been different, perhaps there could have been a velvet revolution in Iran at the time.

Obama went on to make an equally serious mistake with his Aug. 12, 2012, declaration that if he were to see the movement or use of chemical weapons in Syria, “that would be a red line.” A year later, on Aug. 21, 2013, our television screens revealed the terrifying images of more than 1,027 men, women and children, flinching, moaning and trembling in pain. This was followed by Obama’s now famous retreat from his 2012 declaration, saying in Stockholm on Sept. 4, 2013, that “I didn’t set a red line. The world set a red line.”

This only empowered the ruthless killing machine of Syrian President Bashar Assad and all the other tyrants of the world, such as Vladimir Putin of Russia, Kim Jong Un of North Korea and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei of Iran, who have seen the moral compass that America has always represented retreating into our back pockets, making the world an infinitely more dangerous place.

It is somewhat refreshing to see that the Obama administration has reversed its long-standing policy of retreat from the world stage. By going to war against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, however, it is inadvertently strengthening the hand of one of the most brutal actors in the region, Assad, and his ruthless puppet masters in Iran.

If morality is one of the factors driving us into this war, no one can hold a candle to the revolting immorality of Assad, who has starved, gassed and butchered 200,000 of his own people. I have seen videos of Assad’s forces butchering men, women and children, and burying them in mass graves while they are still alive and writhing in pain.

As The New York Times reported on Sept. 25, a Syrian diplomat stated, “The U.S. military leadership is now fighting in the same trenches with the Syrian generals, in a war on terrorism inside Syria.” And in New York, the new Iraqi prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, said in an interview that he had delivered a private message to Assad on behalf of Washington, reassuring him that the Syrian government was not the target of American-led airstrikes.

Not only has the U.S. strengthened the suffocating and sanguine grip of Assad, but it has consequently strengthened the true force behind Assad — the Iranian ayatollahs, who feel they will soon be the true eschatological heirs to the throne of the Muslim caliphate against their Sunni rivals.

As Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated at the United Nations on Monday: “Militant Islam’s ambition to dominate the world seems mad, but so too did the global ambitions of another fanatic ideology that swept into power eight decades ago. The Nazis believed in a master race. The militant Islamists believe in a master faith. They just disagree who among them will be the master of the master faith. That’s what they truly disagree about.

“And therefore, the question before us is whether militant Islam will have the power to realize its unbridled ambitions. There is one place where that could soon happen — the Islamic State of Iran. For 35 years, Iran has relentlessly pursued the global mission which was set forth by its founding ruler, Ayatollah Khomeini, in these words. ‘We will export our revolution to the entire world until the cry that “There is no god but Allah” will echo throughout the world over.’ And ever since, the regime’s brutal enforcers, Iran’s revolutionary guards, have done exactly that.”

In its eagerness for a deal, any deal, the United States has allowed itself to repeatedly be humiliated by Iran. On Jan. 14, 2014, after it had entered the Interim agreement in Geneva offering Iran millions of dollars in sanctions relief simply for deigning to talk to us, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani openly boasted in a tweet: “Our relationship w/ the world is based on Iranian nation’s interests. In # Geneva agreement world powers surrendered to Iranian nation’s will.” Iranian Foreign Minister Javid Zarif openly crowed to his people: “We have used the negotiations as a cover to advance our nuclear program.”

The U.S. has, once again, been rebuffed by the Iranians, who have refused to join the coalition against Islamic State. After Zarif was personally asked to join by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who has the final say on all matters in Iran, stated, “I said no, because they have dirty hands.”

The United States has constantly made the horrific error of ignoring one evil while focusing upon another. This has now led it to be willfully blinded to the fact that Iran is a tyrannical and evil regime. Almost immediately after the 1979 Islamic Revolution, Iran declared war on the United States by besieging the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and holding 52 American diplomats hostage. During the wars that America led against Iraq and Afghanistan, many U.S. servicemen came home seriously wounded or in body bags because of Iranian-made IEDs with Farsi imprinted on them. Iran has been long been listed by the State Department as the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism, supporting groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas. Human rights in Iran have been even more disgraceful under the regime of Rouhani than under that of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. More people have been killed in public executions since Rouhani assumed office than ever before (665 just in 2013), including many Christians and members of other religions, gays and women. Children have been raped and killed.

As the great Soviet human rights activist Andrei Sakharov once wrote, “You can tell a nation’s foreign policy by how they treat their dissident population.” My questions then become: Whom are we, intentionally or not, empowering? And: How much more heinous a power will they be once they cross the nuclear threshhold?

We must always be aware of the law of unintended consequences.

Originally published at Israel Hayom at

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About the Author

Sarah Stern
Sarah Stern is founder and president of the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET).

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