Via the Free Beacon, I’m tempted to read this as a willfully devious attempt to re-write history so that even Iran’s history of terrorism is somehow the fault of the Bushitler. But no, I think she’s just being doofy.
The point she’s trying to make here, in her own doofy way, is that the U.S. and Iran had a few shared interests after 9/11. America was about to invade Afghanistan and smash a bunch of Sunni fundamentalists; the great Shiite power next door obviously had reason to keep an eye on the border as it happened, whether to stop fleeing refugees/jihadis or simply avoid pissing off a very angry, wounded superpower. Besides, we were already thinking of hopping across their other border and smashing their archenemy Saddam. Better to lie low and play nice for awhile to keep that plan on track, they must have thought. In reality, though, Iran was already sheltering top members of Al Qaeda by the time Bush delivered his “axis of evil” line. Years later, a federal judge would find that Iran’s proxy, Hezbollah, helped teach Al Qaeda the ropes in bomb-building during the 90s, which led directly to the 1998 embassy bombings. This fallacy, that Sunni and Shiite jihadbots would never collaborate on mutual goals, is a canard that’s been drifting around since 9/11 even though there’s nothing new about bitter ideological opponents forming mutually beneficial alliances. They eventually crack up, as we’re seeing right now in Syria, but they happen. To think that Iran was in any way an “ally” of the U.S. just because it wasn’t eager to get kicked in the teeth at a moment when we were busy settling scores in the region is bizarre.
The punchline here is that, more than a year after the “axis of evil” line that Mitchell thinks dissolved the burgeoning U.S./Iran alliance, Iranian operatives reached out to Washington with an offer of a “grand bargain.” End sanctions, guarantee Iran’s security, and formally recognize the regime, the offer read, and Iran would be willing to make major concessions on terrorism and nukes. Needless to say, they didn’t float that offer because they missed their old “ally;” they floated it because they were terrified that Bush might squash Saddam and then decide to roll on to Tehran. America rejected the proposal, concluding that Iran’s “moderate” president either wouldn’t or couldn’t deliver on his promises. Fortunately, things have changed a whole bunch since then. Right, Barack?
Update: Via Jeff Dunetz, here’s the likely source of Mitchell’s “allies” comment. At the top of page six of the New Yorker’s recent biography of Qassem Suleimani, head of the Quds Force, Ryan Crocker recalls being told that Suleimani was enraged by the “axis of evil” line and cut off ties with the U.S. over it at a moment when he was contemplating pushing for restored relations. Crocker thinks the line was important; whether he’d also call Iran an “ally” at the time, and how he accounts for the subsequent “grand bargain” offer a year later (plus Iran’s relationship with Al Qaeda), is unclear.