Thursday, January 10, 2002

Bill Safire chimes in today with the chorus of cackles at Palestinian denials that those arms on the Palestinian Authority ship, the Karine A, were bought and paid for by them. But the more interesting story, in some ways, is at the other end of the shipment, where Iran was loading those weapons onto the boat.

The Bush administration had actually been trying to build some kind of entente with the Iranians, building on the enmity between the Shiite Iranians and the Sunnis running the Taliban. Quoth another story in the Times,

Growing signs of cooperation between Washington and Tehran had emerged in recent months. Secretary of State Colin L. Powell says Iran has been generally helpful in the war in Afghanistan. Iran agreed in October to rescue any American troops in distress in its territory. Many refugees fled to Iran from Afghanistan, and Iran provided a port for shipping American wheat into the war zone.

"By and large, the Iranian role diplomatically has been quite constructive," Richard N. Haass, the State Department's director of policy planning, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last month. Iran sent observers to the talks in Bonn on forming the coalition government, and its diplomats played a key role behind the scenes, he said.

Which is just plain dumb. It's about time that the deep thinkers at Foggy Bottom realized that local thugs are like cheap beer and the Texas Legislature --- they can't be bought, only rented, and it isn't always pretty when the rent comes due.

Fortunately, as the Times story also reports, the Iran-Washington axis is coming apart, as the Iranians are looking with increasing alarm at the pro-Western tilt of the interim Afghan government. But if the Karine A reminds our own deep thinkers that the pro-Western kids demonstrating against the Ayatollahs will probably make better long-term friends than the government they are demonstrating against, that is all to the good.

Meanwhile, back in Israel, the Israeli government is demonstrating its moral superiority to the Palestinians, by responding to their lethal pointless violence (an attack on an Israeli outpost which killed four soldiers), with non-lethal pointless violence of their own, bulldozing a few dozen houses --- a shopworn retaliatory tactic which, at this point, has clearly had no effect beyond building up Palestinian resentment.


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