The leaders of Iran and Syria have learned the dirty little secret of dealing with an international community making demands them.
In the case of Iran, the U.S. and other countries are about to launch another round of negotiations with Tehran in an effort to prevent the Islamic revolution leaders from developing a nuclear weapon that threatens the region and the free world.
Next, in Damascus, President Assad is three weeks into dealing with a United Nations Security Council peace plan and up against another cease-fire deadline that would have him stop slaughtering his citizens.
What Assad and his allies in Iran have learned is that it is better to go along with international requests, even demands, for talks than to defy them. And all the while to continue the policy that prompted the demands in the first place, be it killing civilians on the streets or revving up a nuclear program to build a bomb. That’s because Damascus and Tehran have learned that for all the tough talk, the world powers are loathe to take military action against them. And only the very real threat of such action would cause them to consider changing their ways.
So they will go on stalling, making counter demands or even acquiescing to calls that they halt their dangerous ways. It’s just words, empty words. And unless and until they are convinced the international community is prepared to back up its threats with real force, they will prevail.
In the case of Syria, that would mean for the U.S. to throw its support to those seeking to oust Assad or for NATO to step in as it did in defeating Qaddafi in Libya, a less strategic country in the region than Syria. In the case of Iran, it would mean, at the very least, demanding that all activity in the nuclear program stop while the negotiations take place – negotiations that would call for the end of all enrichment and the removal from Iran of all enriched uranium. To back up words with muscle, the U.S. this week has dispatched a second aircraft carrier group to the Persian Gulf, a sign that, as President Obama has insisted at home, no option is off the table.
In the meantime, though, it seems more likely that the talking will go on. And so will the nuclear program in Iran and the killings in Syria.