Elliott Abrams

Pressure Points

Abrams gives his take on U.S. foreign policy, with special focus on the Middle East and democracy and human rights issues.

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Iran’s Obligations, and Ours

by Elliott Abrams
November 29, 2011

The decision of the Iranian regime to attack the British Embassy in Tehran is a subject I address here, in The Weekly Standard. Briefly, I argue that the United States should back President Sarkozy’s proposal of last week for sanctions against Iran’s central bank and for a cut-off of Iran’s oil exports.

President Obama’s reaction to the looting of the Embassy is pathetically weak. He said today that “for rioters, essentially, to be able to overrun the embassy and set it on fire is an indication that the Iranian government is not taking its international obligations seriously.”

Not taking its international obligations seriously? A regime that is the greatest state sponsor of terrorism in the world? That continues to defy UN Security Council and IAEA resolution after resolution? That supplied IEDs to kill countless Americans in Iraq and Afghanistan?

If that is the strongest language he can muster, President Obama is not taking his own obligations seriously. After all, we are but weeks from the Iranian effort to kill the Saudi ambassador in Washington—for which the regime paid absolutely no price. His mild response suggests they will likewise pay no price—or at least none involving the United States—for this latest abuse. The ayatollahs must wonder why anyone seriously expects them to abandon their nuclear program when they appear free to kill Americans, undertake terrorist plots in our capital, and now—in a striking reminder of how they entered the scene, with the 1979 hostage crisis at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran—attack embassies without evoking anything from Washington.

The Iranian regime returned those hostages on the day Ronald Reagan took office. There’s a lesson here in Iran reacts to strength, and how it reacts to weakness.

Post a Comment 17 Comments

  • Posted by canadiansyrian

    last night Hizballa fired rockets from lebanon into Isreal , today , Iranians attacked the embassy ,dont you think the Iranians are afraid for Assad and trying to help the ” resistance ” ?
    the demise of Assad is not playing very well with the cazy mullas`s dream .

  • Posted by MJ

    This is why Jeffrey Goldberg is wrong about taking Obama seriously when it comes to not permitting an Iranian nuclear bomb…and why Israel will eventually have to act on it’s own. Israel knows that Obama will never act against Iran.

  • Posted by smile

    what do you want mr abrams another war? you have almost banned every thing from iran and there is nothing left. what did you get from wars in iraq and afghanistan?

  • Posted by Paul

    “A regime that is the greatest state sponsor of terrorism in the world”? Are you speaking about Iran, Mr Abrams or perhaps America ?

  • Posted by Dean Smallwod

    I won’t call Obama a gutless , dissembling boob . I’ll just call him “Jimmy Carter Lite”…or is that being too hard on him ?

  • Posted by William Barnes

    Mr. Abrams,

    This is not 1981 right after the Iranian Hostage Crisis. Why not do something simple and restore diplomatic relations with IRAN? This act does not lend “approval” of the Iranian President and the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic. This act would not be at the expense of the democratic opposition. It allows for the United States to have direct communications with a government with whom we have terrible disagreements. In resumed diplomatic relations, the Secretary of State can give an earful to the Iranian ambassador at any time. Talking is different than starting wars and shooting at people and ever so much better than bombing another country. Talking and listening require special skills yet to be acquired by our State Department with regard to IRAN.

  • Posted by canadiansyrian

    to William Barnes ,
    ask Mrs Clinton to give an earful to the Iranians telling her about how they are waiting for the Mahdi who will come from the sky sent by God to establish the great Shia`a kingdom , I`m sure that will be a great start to talk and hopefuly Clinton would ask them to stop supporting Hizballa and Hamas and all the assassins and assur them Assad is staying in power , and might as well sell them the bomb .
    this is what they want by “talking”.

  • Posted by William Barnes

    To Canadian Syrian,

    I’m sure the Soviets were eager to discuss dialectical materialism with the first U.S. Ambassador plus furnish the collected works of Comrade Stalin.

    No matter how broad the gap is between competing ideologies at first, once the initial rhetorical salvo has been launched, relations can proceed. At what point did our great country become afraid to talk with such an extremist Ahmadinejad? By failing to talk, we can only resort to talking by threat of use of weapons. The USA does not lose face by maturely staring down the Iranians and insist on the elimination of exported terror. We lose nothing by insisting on the Iranian government observing human rights for its citizens.

  • Posted by canadiansyrian

    to William
    too bad we killed Bin Laden and Hitler , we should`ve sat down with them and begged them to stop killing . we would`ve lost nothing by insisting on Bin Laden to observe human rights .

  • Posted by canadiansyrian

    one last thing,
    what so scary is , when “some powers” sit down with butchers in the back rooms and ask of them what we want, it always sacrifice human fights , keeping Saddam in power came with a terrible consequences , the same thing with Ghaddafi and the stability of the flow of oil or Assad`s family mafia.
    you can not get anything honest or trust butchers and thugs who wants to act like a supper power.

  • Posted by @Velhabomba

    Eventhough these guys above started their discussions far from the point,they have gotten there fast.We can never blame the Iranian people for the behavior of their leader,as we were not blaming Lybians for Qaddaffi,bt we simply cannot continue to support tyrants wherever they are,we cannot tolerate their abuses forever.We must make them stepdown from power and hand it over to the people.What these guys didn´t understood is that the President of the US follows rules,nd won´t attack first,unfortunately.

  • Posted by William Barnes


    By your logic, we should never have established talks and relations with China. The Chinese Communist Party killed millions through purges, invasions, and bungling of the economy and food supply. The Great Leap Forward led to a massive famine in 1957-58.

    Elliott Abrams and John Bolton can fume all they want about the current foreign policy. Exactly what has our military adventurism brought us in 10 years? Dead terrorists and hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqis and many dead Afghans and a thoroughly discredited posture. Our country is out of money for pursuing this fantasy of American domination. Abrams’s solution leads to a military confrontation with IRAN. He is fixated on a policy that will lead to how many dead Iranian civilians just because we can’t bring ourselves to get over events in 1979 and 1980 and act like a principled nation?

  • Posted by Bob

    The writer has a point.

    Not only does this attack represent a clear breach of the Geneva Convention, and a worrying trend on the part of Iran; but it displays a foreign policy of convenience on the part of the Obama Administration. I am all for peaceful resolutions; I am all for foreign policy and negotiations based on dialogue; but this was a blatant attack on a western embassy – the embassy of one of Washington’s closest allies – and it attracted barely a boo from the US President.

    Clearly the “special relationship” isn’t so special after all, and America’s allies can expect luke warm support in their times of respective crisis.

  • Posted by canadiansyrian

    to Mr, WIliam.
    the Afghans are more than glad the Taliban are gone .
    the Iraqis are more than glad Saddam is gone.
    the Lybians are more than glad Ghaddafi is gone.
    ask all of them if they would rather have Saddam , Ghaddafi , and the Taliban back ?
    NON of them would want that.
    the price they paid with hundereds of thousands of dead was worth it with comparison to the dead count that those butchers caused.
    I`m sure the Iranian free poeple would love the trade in for freedom of the crazy Ayatollas so is the poor brutalized Syrian people who are dying for the devil himself to free them and if the price is 100 thousand people so be it . you know why , its because butcher Assad or the Mullas of Iran are ready to slaughter 2 million to stay in power.

  • Posted by Pablo Schwartz

    “After all, we are but weeks from the Iranian effort to kill the Saudi ambassador in Washington.”

    .. a fantastic story still / one that, if repeated often enough, may become true. ..but, really, why weren’t all Saudi officials turned out of this country after 9/11? do their vast investments in our economy somehow trump any sense of national self-protection? it’s a simple matter, really: al-Qaeda is a spin-off from the 200 year old Wahhabi cult, the Saudi state religion. and, by the way, do you know the difference between Saudi Arabia and Iran? the latter has a Jewish population (as does Syria / that is until the Salifists take over ..).

  • Posted by fereydoun barkeshli

    With parliamentary election nearing and race for Pastor Street residancy getting closer,we must expect events similar to the British Embassy envasion or even worse more frequently during the coming months.Perhaps President Ahmadi nejhad is now even more eager to approach the United States as he is more volnerable at home.

  • Posted by prediksi togel singapura

    Thanks for sharing such a nice opinion, post is pleasant, thats why i have read it fully

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