THE JERUSALEM POST
October 5, 2008
The Region: Just be our friend
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. And a former US Marine commander added an equally big revelation about long-ago events quite relevant for today.
Almost 30 years ago, president Jimmy Carter tried to show what a nice guy he was by pressing the shah of Iran not to crush the revolutionaries. After the monarch fell, national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski met top officials of the new Islamist regime to pledge US friendship to the government controlled by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. At the time, I wrote that by approaching some of the milder radicals, the administration frightened the more militant ones. US-Iran relations must be smashed, they concluded, lest Washington back their rivals. In fact, as we'll see in a moment, the Carter administration offered to back Khomeini himself.
Three days after the Brzezinski meeting, in November 1979, the Islamist regime's cadre seized the US embassy and its staff as hostages, holding them until January 1981. This was our introduction to the new Middle East of radical Islamism. Carter continued his weak stance, persuading the Teheran regime that it could get away with anything.