It pays to be America’s enemy


It seems that there is no wrong Iran could do to undermine the U.S. determination to pursue conciliatory diplomacy with the Islamic Republic. In the past week and during the latest round of indirect talks between Iran and the U.S. in Vienna, the Iranian official state policy of assassinating the author Salman Rushdie nearly came to fruition, the Department of Justice exposed an IRGC assassination plot targeting former U.S. officials, and the Iranians continue to demand major unreasonable concessions; yet neither the U.S. nor the EU is willing to confront Iran on its behavior. With enemies like these, who needs friends?

(via EMET Online)

In 1989, the founder of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Khomeini, issued a murderous decree in the form of an Islamic legal opinion, fatwa, against the British Muslim author Salman Rushdie as a punishment for his book “Satanic Verses.” Due to the status of the man who issued it, the fatwa acquired the status of both state policy and an Islamic Shia binding ruling. Despite later Iranian ambiguity on the issue, current Iranian supreme leader Ali Khamenei openly considers the ruling to be solid and irrevocable.

Last Friday, after decades of evading murder and living in hiding, Rushdie was stabbed by Hadi Matar, a 24-year-old Lebanese immigrant and New Jersey resident. Matar was apparently a Revolutionary Iran enthusiast and had contact with IRGC officials.

The Iranian attempts to distance the regime from this murderous act remain wholly unconvincing — not just because of the $3 million dollars bounty it declared for the head of Rushdie, but also because of the glee with which Iranian official media and state officials celebrated the murderous assault.

But even if the Iranians still feel there is room for denial, much less room for such denial is available for their other assassination plots. On August 10th, the DoJ announced it is charging a member of the IRGC with a plot to murder former National Security Advisor John Bolton on U.S. soil. According to the unsealed court documents, Shahram Poursafi, aka Mehdi Rezayi, a 45-year-old man who resides in Tehran, attempted to pay $300,000 to individuals in the U.S. to carry out the murder in the D.C.-Maryland area. Poursafi was unveiled to be a member of the IRGC Quds Force, formerly headed by arch-terrorist Qassem Soleimani.

Moreover, according to the records, Poursafi also promised a consecutive assassination contract for one million dollars. This is likely to have targeted either former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo or former President Trump.

One would think that such a murderous rampage on U.S. soil, planned to take place during diplomatic talks between the U.S. and the Iranians, would toughen the American posture toward Iran.

Somehow, the situation seems to be the complete opposite. Iran is the one toughening its position toward the negotiations, and the American and European negotiations are scrambling around to find a way to satisfy Iranian demands. The Iranians continue to insist on demands no U.S. administration could or should give, such as guarantees that they will reap the benefits of the deal even after the departure of this administration. The Biden administration cannot guarantee the survival of the deal beyond its remaining two and a half years remaining in its terms, and if it provides any of such guarantees this will be unprecedented sabotage of both current and future American foreign policy.

Other unreasonable demands include removing the IRGC from the U.S. Foreign Terrorist Organization list, and forcing the IAEA to close its Safeguards investigation in Iran. This investigation process is mandated by the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) to ensure states do not divert material from a peaceful nuclear program to an arms program. Instead of taking a firm position against such Iranian manipulation, European and American officials are still trying to find what compromises can satisfy the Iranians, whom they have no reason to back down by now. The Europeans are trying to persuade the Americans to take a much softer stance on the murderous IRGC and cooperate on the IAEA investigation issue. With the record and behavior of this administration when it comes to Iran, one could only fear that we heading to a deal that is much worse than the original JCPOA.

Veteran U.S. diplomat Henry Kissinger once said, “it may be dangerous to be America’s enemy, but to be America’s friend is fatal.” One wonders if this has now changed and if it actually pays to be America’s enemy.

This content was originally published on and has been edited for length.

Hussein Aboubakr Mansour is the Director of the EMET Program for Emerging Democratic Voices from the Middle East at the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET).

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