Bush in Europe: The Visiting Emperor

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Despite the generally cheery press reports of Bush's reunification trip to Europe, the President is sticking hard and fast to a foreign policy that aims to expel evildoers from our midst, i.e., Iran, unless it changes its ways.

The President's tone throughout has been more that of a visiting emperor than a unifier—telling the Russians to shape up and smacking down the Germans for shilly-shallying. It's the righteous language we heard before we invaded Iraq, with Bush issuing threats under the guise of a "higher morality."

Earlier today he made clear to Russian President Vladimir Putin that the U.S. is unhappy about Russia's backsliding on democratic reforms and put out by their offering nuclear technology to Iran. For his part, Putin claims Iran has no interest in building nuclear weapons. As for democracy, he pointed out that Russia has a history of strong czars who have played an important role in the lives of the people. Bush, the BBC reports, "rejected that notion."

Yesterday, in a press conference with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, Bush dismissed Germany's demand that the U.S. give Iran incentives for abandoning its nuclear weapons program. "They were caught enriching uranium after they had signed a treaty saying they wouldn't enrich uranium," he said. "They're the party that needs to be held accountable, not any of us."

The Europeans have been trying to persuade Iran to back off its nuclear programs in exchange for guaranteeing its security and providing economic help. For example, Schroeder suggested letting Iran join the World Trade Organization. The U.S. opposes such a move.

"Let me just make this very clear," Bush said. "The party that has caused these discussions to occur in the first place are the Iranians."

For a long time, Bush and his neocon advisors have aimed to use the liberation of Afghanistan and the overthrow of Saddam as a lure to woo Iranians into overthrowing their mullah leaders. In reality, things are not moving in this direction. The rise of the Shia in Iraq and the probable installation of a Shiite leader as prime minister are apt to give heart to the religious Shiite leaders who run Iran—if only symbolically. The Iraq elections, moving as they do toward creating a theocracy, could make the overthrow of religious leaders in Tehran more difficult. But Bush apparently thinks not. He thinks policy should follow the "hopes and aspirations of the Iranian people."

"We believe that the voice of the people ought to be determining policy, because we believe in democracy and freedom."

If the "people" feel Iran is being threatened with an attack by the U.S., or its surrogates in Israel, they are not likely to push forward a revolution. But they are more apt to rally behind the fundamentalist mullahs in an upwelling of nationalist sentiment.

Bush talks about "voice of the people," but neither the U.S. nor Europe have shown any interest in taking up Iran's ghastly human rights record.

"Even after the rigged February elections, the State Department had hardly anything to say," writes Kaveh Ehsani of the University of Illinois-Chicago in a Middle East Research and Information Project report. "European negotiators, for their part, have reacted with alarm when Tehran seemed to be backtracking on promises not to enrich uranium, but merely tut-tutted at the arbitrary imprisonment of pro-democracy reformers. These virtual silences send ordinary Iranians the message that the world can easily tolerate them languishing under oppressive and corrupt clerical rule."


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