Trying to Be Friends with Iran -Barry Rubin
In response to a casual question, US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates dropped a historical bombshell, an offhand remark telling more about how the Middle East works than 100 books.
U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said: "I have been involved in the search for the elusive Iranian moderate for 30 years." Gates then revealed that Jimmy Carter's national security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, met top officials of the new Islamist regime in November 1979 to pledge U.S. friendship to the government controlled by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Brzezinski's position was: "We will accept your revolution....We will recognize your government. We will sell you all the weapons that we had contracted to sell the shah....We can work together in the future." The Iranians demanded the U.S. turn over to them the fugitive shah, whom they would have executed. Brzezinski refused. Three days later Iran seized the U.S. embassy in Tehran.
Washington did everything possible to negotiate, conciliate and build confidence. We'll do almost anything you want, Carter and Brzezinski offered, just be our friend. Far from persuading Khomeini that the U.S. was a real threat, the U.S. government made itself appear a pitiful, helpless giant, convincing Tehran - as Khomeini himself put it - that America couldn't do a damn thing. So why should we expect such a tactic would work today?
How long does it take to get the message: This is an ideological revolution with huge ambitions to which America is inevitably a barrier. Appeasement, talks, apologies, confidence-building measures won't convince Tehran that America is its friend, only that it's an enemy so weak as to make aggression seem inevitably successful.
Gates noted: "Every administration since then has reached out to the Iranians in one way or another and all have failed....The reality is the Iranian leadership has been consistently unyielding over a very long period of time in response to repeated overtures from the United States about having a different and better kind of relationship."