Reuters on Monday published photos taken earlier that day showing “Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif… lay[ing] a wreath at the grave of assassinated Hezbollah military commander” Imad Mughniyeh, a terrorist who was killed in 2008 after having spent literally decades killing Americans and others on behalf of his paymasters in Tehran.
Celebrating a mass-murdering terrorist is a bad choice for any foreign minister, but the decision by Tehran’s top diplomat to so brazenly honor a terrorist like Mughniyeh, who killed hundreds of Americans, within hours of inking an agreement with the U.S. and members of the P5+1, sends a very negative and unmistakable signal about Iran’s true intentions.
Mughniyeh, the leader of Iran’s global terror network, in fact began his career as the mastermind of the deadly 1983 attacks on the U.S. embassy and Marine barracks in Beirut, killing more Americans than any terrorist except Osama Bin Laden. He subsequently engineered the hijacking of TWA Flight 847, as well as the kidnapping, torture and murder of Americans in Lebanon throughout the 1980s, including the CIA’s Beirut station chief William Buckley, who was eventually slaughtered after 15 months of being horrifically tortured on film by Mughniyeh and Iran’s terrorist army, Hezbollah.
Orde Kittrie – a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a tenured professor of law at Arizona State – quickly noted that, as a sign of where Iran stands on the eve of medium-term negotiations with Washington over the Islamic republic’s illicit nuclear program, Zarif’s move to honor the terrorist “signals insincerity.”
The controversy over Zarif’s gesture is likely to criss-cross multiple levels of the political and policy debate.
Most straightforwardly, it threatens to heighten criticism that the Obama administration is walking on eggshells to avoid offending Iran, while the Iranians are indulging in anti-American extremism at the highest levels.
That perception, in turn, risks eroding the White House’s position in a legislative battle over a proposed bipartisan Senate bill that would impose sanctions on Iran should negotiations over its nuclear policy fail. The bill has gained 59 co-sponsors and whip counts have it garnering a veto-proof majority, but the White House has gone to war with supporters of the bill, accusing both Democrats and Republicans of warmongering.
The White House does not claim that the legislation would violate the Joint Plan of Action (JPA), which sets the framework for upcoming negotiations with Iran. Rather, the White House’s position is that the bill would violate the spirit of the JPA and drain the good will necessary to achieve a more comprehensive deal.
Zarif’s memorial for Mughniyeh- which was celebrated with even more pictures on pro-Iranian social media pages – seems to radically undercut that notion. Tehran’s top diplomat, who served in New York as Iran’s Ambassador to the U.N, has close ties to a pro-regime Iran lobby NIAC, and fully understands the meaning of his visit to celebrate the arch terrorist. Zarif’s move is strong signal that the Iranians do not put much stock in the importance of bilateral good will.
At times, Iran and Hezbollah denied having ties to Mughniyeh. The claims were risible, but were nonetheless accepted and amplified by some foreign policy “scholars” and “journalists” who advocated engaging the terror group and its Iranian sponsors. When Mughniyeh was killed Hezbollah dropped its pretenses and embraced him as an “essential pillar” of the group, and those experts duly reversed themselves.
Despite past mistakes, like blindly parroting Iranian propaganda denying Tehran’s ties to terrorism, certain corners of the media and foreign policy community continue to be eager to amplify Iranian and Hezbollah talking points. Concerns about such willful denialism have deepened since the election of Iranian president Hassan Rouhani, a revolutionary-era cleric and regime insider who has appointed mass murderers to top cabinet posts and pledged to bolster Hezbollah and Syria’s Bashar al-Assad regime, but nonetheless has been hailed by some in the media and policy world as a “moderate,” a term which has no real meaning in the context of Iran, where all decisions of consequence are made by the Supreme Leader, and “moderates” Rouhani and Zarif are just as likely as the head of Iran’s Quds Force to be found honoring terrorists and celebrating their acts of violence.
[Photo: Iran.Military / Facebook]