Michael Rubin warns that the foreign-policy “experience” of Joe Biden consists mainly of getting the big questions wrong, especially on Iran. Biden has pressed for more than ten years to open relations between Iran’s hardliner regime and the West, especially in trade. His efforts failed to acknowledge the purposes of the ruling mullahs in Tehran, and Biden helped give them exactly what they needed to pursue nuclear weapons — hard currency:
Eleven years ago, on Aug. 4, 1997, Iranian President Mohammad Khatami proposed a dialogue of civilizations. The world applauded. Biden spearheaded efforts to seize the mantle of engagement. In September 1998, for example, Biden told the Czech foreign minister that cutting radio broadcasts into Iran might better encourage dialogue. Not long after President Bush declared Iran part of an “axis of evil,” Biden headlined a March 13, 2002, dinner at the American Iranian Council, an organization underwritten at the time by a dozen oil companies and dedicated to ending sanctions on Iran. At the gala (at which Biden also endorsed regime change in Iraq), he spoke of the dichotomy between hard-liners and the reformers led by Khatami. In order to encourage reform, he invited “the elected representatives in Iran, to meet with . . . members of the United States Congress.” Biden indicated that it would not be his first meeting with Iranian parliamentarians.
Fast forward a few years. Khatami left office in 2005 without implementing substantial reform. 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. The November 2007 National Intelligence Estimate affirmed the fruits of such investment when it found that Iran had pursued a nuclear weapons program until 2003. Although Biden’s embrace of engagement coincided with Iran’s nuclear warhead work, he acknowledged no error. He told reporters on Dec. 4 that Bush had “misrepresented” the intelligence in a drive to war and declared the same day, “You cannot trust this president.”
Such poor judgment was not lost on Iranian leaders. Indeed, one of Khatami’s top aides suggested that they came to count on it. At a June 14 panel with Iranian journalists and political advisers, former Khatami spokesman Abdollah Ramezanzadeh explained, “We had one overt policy, which was one of negotiation and confidence building, and a covert policy, which was continuation of activities.” He advised President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to soften his defiance, noting that: “During our negotiations and so long as we were not subjected to sanctions, we could import technology. We should have negotiated for so long, and benefited from the atmosphere of negotiations to the extent we could import all the technology needed.”
Barack Obama said early in the race that judgment means more than experience. He then proved he had neither by promising to meet with leaders of terror-sponsoring states with no preconditions, a position Obama has tried to retract ever since with little success. Unfortunately, his choice of Joe Biden as running mate proves Obama’s original point that experience without judgment has no value at all, and Biden’s experience hasn’t kept him from the same naïveté that Obama broached in that YouTube debate.
Even the Europeans have dismissed the “engagement” strategy as worse than useless. It was the EU that objected most strongly to the idea of presidential-level contacts without preconditions, as it undermines the approach they have taken for the last three years. Ramezanzadeh’s boasting did not fall on deaf ears, and the Europeans do not want to give Iran the means or the technology to speed their nuclear-weapons program to success.
Unfortunately, Biden still hasn’t learned from his own failures on appeasement. How could he tell the Czechs to stop providing information to the Iranian people? We have often asked why the US does not have a robust Voice of America operation focused on Iran as we did on eastern Europe during the Cold War, broadcasting warts-and-all truth to people who are oppressed by liars and madmen. After the fall of the Iron Curtain, the people of the nations oppressed by the Soviet Union — the Czechs among them — told us how effective VOA was in informing and inspiring them to freedom. Biden’s request of the Czechs is offensive on several levels, and certainly unconstructive in pursuing freedom and democracy as a strategy to deal with the danger of a nuclear Iran.
The foreign-policy experience of Joe Biden looks more and more like self-promotion.