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Jewish World Review
Sept. 7, 2006
/ 14 Elul 5766
Khatami's propaganda tour
The Bush administration repeatedly warned that Iran would face serious
consequences if it defied international demands to shut down its nuclear
weapons program. So what did it do when Tehran blew off the Security
Council's Aug. 31 deadline to stop enriching uranium? It promptly issued
a visa authorizing one of Iran's leading theocrats, former president
Mohammad Khatami, to embark on a propaganda tour of the United States.
It is the first such visa issued to an Iranian president since 1979,
when Islamist radicals loyal to the Ayatollah Khomeini seized the US
embassy in Tehran and held American diplomats hostage for nearly 15
That'll show 'em.
When it comes to Iran, this administration has been consistent only in
its inconsistency. Time and again it has condemned the Tehran regime for
its sponsorship of Islamist terror, its domestic repression, and its
violent rhetoric. And time and again it has failed to back up those
condemnations with action. In September 2001, when President Bush warned
that "any nation that continues to harbor or support terrorism will be
regarded by the United States as a hostile regime," the mullahs might
have thought they had reason to be afraid. Today they know better.
This schizophrenia is perfectly captured in the State Department's inane
explanation for the decision allowing Khatami to enter the United
"We recognize that former President Khatami headed a regime that is a
leading sponsor of terrorism (and) human rights abuses, and presided
over Iran's secret nuclear program which is now the focus of possible UN
action. After careful deliberation, however, we determined that issuing
Mr. Khatami a limited visa, and allowing Mr. Khatami to present his
views directly to the American people, will demonstrate to Iran that the
United States upholds its commitment to freedom and democracy."
that? It's up to us to convince Iran that we really are free and
democratic. And how? By letting one of Tehran's senior propagandists
barnstorm across America. Only in Foggy Bottom could people get paid to
concoct such arguments.
And so, five years after the terror attacks that claimed 3,000 lives and
plunged the United States into a global war against Islamist radicals,
the former president of the world's oldest and most dangerous Islamist
dictatorship is on a multi-city US speaking tour. It began with
appearances in Chicago and New York; on Thursday Khatami is scheduled to
speak at the National Cathedral in Washington. Next Sunday, on the eve
of 9/11, he will deliver an address at Harvard University. His topic:
"Ethics of Tolerance in the Age of Violence."
When he became president in 1997, Khatami was reputed to be a moderate
democratic reformer. If he had lived up to that reputation, his arrival
in America might well be worth celebrating. True, his style was not as
incendiary as that of his successor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. But he was
just as committed to Khomeini's radical revolution and its goal of
worldwide Islamist rule. If there is one thing Khatami's presidency made
clear, it is that the man was no moderate.
His election as president came only after religious authorities
disqualified 234 potential competitors they considered too liberal. In
his own writings, Khatami has insisted that "only those who have
attended religious seminaries should have a voice in government."
Separation of church and state? Not for this theocrat.
And he is no more opposed to terrorism than he is to theocracy. As
minister of culture and Islamic guidance in the 1980s, Khatami oversaw
the creation of Hezbollah, the deadly terrorist group that would kill
more Americans prior to 9/11 than any other terrorist organization on
earth. During the recent war in Lebanon, he hailed Hezbollah as "a
shining sun that illuminates and warms the hearts of all Muslims."
Throughout Khatami's term of office, the US State Department identified
Iran as the world's foremost state sponsor of terrorism. It was on his
watch that President Bush named Iran a part of the "Axis of Evil."
In 1998, Khatami's intelligence agents brutally murdered Darioush
Forouhar and his wife Parvaneh, two well-known leaders of Iran's liberal
opposition. The following year, government thugs attacked student
dissidents at Tehran University. Several students were killed. Hundreds
were arrested and tortured.
Many Iranians had hoped that Khatami's accession to office would mean
more freedom of speech and of the press. But he presided over the
shutting down of at least 85 newspapers and the prosecution of numerous
journalists. Reporters Without Borders called Iran under Khatami "the
biggest prison for journalists in the Middle East." It was a prison as
well for Iran's religious minorities, all of which were severely
persecuted. In a letter protesting the National Cathedral's invitation
to Khatami, the chairman of the US Commission on International Religious
Freedom, Felice Gaer, notes that during Khatami's tenure "Jews,
Christians, Sunni and Sufi Muslims, Baha'is, dissident Shia Muslims, and
others . . . faced systematic harassment, discrimination, imprisonment,
torture, and even execution based on their religious beliefs."
Khatami's visa is a win for the mullahs, but a slap in the face to the
people of Iran. What a blunder by the Bush administration. What a
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