– Barack Obama, April 2, 2015
... here is the paper which bears his [Adolf Hitler’s] name upon it as well as mine... We regard the agreement signed last night... as symbolic of the desire of our two peoples never to go to war with one another again... I believe it is peace for our time.
– Neville Chamberlain, September 30, 1938
As more and more details emerge, one thing is chillingly clear. Only the dogmatic, the delusional or the disingenuous could deny the deadly dangers that pursuit of Barack Obama’s Iran initiative will almost certainly usher in.
One need not be an obdurate Obamaphobe, or a radical right-wing Republican, to arrive at this daunting conclusion.
Even The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg, considered by many as Obama’s “court journalist,” seems to be aware of the improbable “rationale” (for want of a better word), purportedly underlying the administration’s approach to the prospect of a nuclear Iran.
This, according to Goldberg, involves the idea that: “reaching an agreement with a terror-sponsoring regime that is known to cheat on nuclear matters (and... calls for the annihilation of Israel, a country the majority of Americans support) will make the world a safer place.”
And if this was not implausible enough, Goldberg concedes: “That’s a difficult thing to do, especially when one way to actually reach a deal, American negotiators believe, is to ‘preserve the dignity’ of the Iranian side.”
It is hard to know whether Goldberg is aware of how appallingly absurd the position he laid out really is.
For what he is in fact saying is this: We are being asked to believe that if we allow a bloodthirsty regime (he admits “Iran is ruled by very bad men”), known to regularly renege on its commitments, and actively propagating violence abroad, to acquire the capacity to develop the most destructive weapon on the planet, it will somehow become... less threatening to world. Really? Moreover, the preferred method of approach to these “very bad men” is to be very nice to them, lest their “dignity” be offended.
It might be possible to conceive a more patently preposterous prescription than this, one that is more unequivocally self-contradictory and self-defeating. That, however, would be extremely difficult.
After all, for the Iranian regime, weaponized nuclear capability is not an optional accessory, nice if you can have it, but not absolutely essential. To the contrary, it is an indispensable imperative that derives from the nature of the regime; a sine qua non for fulfilling its divinely designated destiny and ordained purpose of hegemonic dominance.
Accordingly, it is not a capability that it can forgo. It will continue to strive to attain it whether by stealth, subterfuge or saber rattling. For Iran, sanction relief cannot be an inducement to abandon its pursuit, but rather a means for facilitating it.
Indeed, Iranian resolve and resourcefulness have gone a long way toward imposing international resignation – even recognition – as to the inevitability of Iran attaining its nuclear goal.
Thus, as I pointed out last week, in a January 29 appearance before the US Senate Armed Services Committee, Nobel Peace laureate Henry Kissinger was at pains to detail this international capitulation. He lamented: “Nuclear talks with Iran began as an international effort, buttressed by six UN resolutions, to deny Iran the capability to develop a military nuclear option. They are now an essentially bilateral negotiation over the scope of that capability.
Accordingly, he warned: “... The impact of this approach will be to move from preventing proliferation to managing it.”
Kissinger, the architect of some of the US’s most dramatic strategic diplomatic initiatives, reiterated this sea change in international attitudes, in a recent article, co-authored with another former secretary of state, George Shultz.
In “The Iran Deal and Its Consequences,” they write: “For 20 years, three presidents of both major parties proclaimed that an Iranian nuclear weapon was contrary to American and global interests – and that they were prepared to use force to prevent it.”
Echoing Kissinger’s previous caveat, they observe: “Yet negotiations that began 12 years ago as an international effort to prevent an Iranian capability to develop a nuclear arsenal are ending with an agreement that concedes this very capability...”
The result of this ongoing erosion of international resolve and continuous retreat from previous demands has been dramatic and disturbing. As Kissinger and Shultz point out: “Mixing shrewd diplomacy with open defiance of UN resolutions, Iran has gradually turned the negotiation on its head. Iran’s centrifuges have multiplied from about 100 at the beginning of the negotiation to almost 20,000 today.”
Indecision on the part of the international community, headed by the US, has precipitated a perilous predicament. According to Bloomberg’s Eli Lake, earlier this week, Obama’s energy secretary, Ernest Moniz, who is taking part in the US-led Lausanne talks with Iran, acknowledged that Tehran was merely two-three weeks away from producing “enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon.” Lake cites intelligence sources acknowledging that Iran’s ability has been known for some time but was only declassified at the beginning of this month – ironically on April Fool’s Day.
This continual back-pedaling by the democratic powers in the face of a determined tyranny, bent on expansion and extending its span of control, cannot but lead to comparison with another era.
In an impassioned open-letter to Barack Obama, published Tuesday on the Iranian dissident website www.khodnevis.org, Mahmood Moradkhani, nephew of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, wrote: “... this regime has done great damage to Iranians and to the international community. We can find a historical example of this kind of deception prior to the Second World War. Hitler manipulated and deceived German people and European countries and the hesitation in addressing the problem with Hitler led to a great disaster.”
A graphic account of the calamitous chain of ceaseless concessions that such “hesitation in addressing the problem” entailed was provided by Winston Churchill in his epic The Gathering Storm: “Look back and see what we had successively accepted or thrown away: a Germany disarmed by solemn treaty; a Germany rearmed in violation of a solemn treaty; air superiority or even air parity cast away; the Rhineland forcibly occupied and the Siegfried Line built or building; the Berlin- Rome Axis established; Austria devoured and digested by the Reich; Czechoslovakia deserted and ruined by the Munich Pact, its fortress line in German hands, its mighty arsenal of Skoda henceforward making munitions for the German armies... the services of 35 Czech divisions against the still unripened German Army cast away... all gone with the wind.”
And so Iran, determined and undeterred by rhetoric, however stern, went from a paltry 100 centrifuges to a formidable 20,000.
The striking parallel between the political process regarding tyrannical Germany in the previous century, and tyrannical Iran in the current one, has been repeatedly referred to by longtime Obama supporter Harvard professor Alan Dershowitz.
Dershowitz, who twice voted for Obama, observes that despite meritorious measures in the domestic socioeconomic field, Chamberlain would be remembered for “his failure to confront Hitler.”
He cautions: “That is Chamberlain’s enduring legacy... So too will Iran’s construction of nuclear weapons... become President Barack Obama’s enduring legacy. Regardless... of whether he restores jobs and helps the economy recover, Mr. Obama will be remembered for allowing Iran to obtain nuclear weapons.”
In his assessment: “History will not treat kindly any leader who allows so much power to be accumulated by the world’s first suicide nation – a nation whose leaders have not only expressed but... demonstrated a willingness to sacrifice millions of their own people to an apocalyptic mission of destruction.”
Indeed, since early 2012 Dershowitz, has warned that “President Barack Obama is in danger of going down in history as the Neville Chamberlain of the 21st century... the person who... didn’t recognize the greatest evil of the century, as Chamberlain did not.”
Three years later, with the onset of the emerging deal, he reiterated: “This is a very bad deal, a bad deal for the United States, a bad deal for the international community.”
He bemoans: “All it stops them from doing, or requires them to go underground to do, is their centrifuges... it allows them to remain a threshold nuclear power... it has a sunset prevision. After a few years... they can go on and do whatever they please.”
Dershowitz expresses his concern “that whether it’s this year or next year or 10 years from now, Barack Obama is going to go down in history as the Neville Chamberlain of the 21st century, if Iran ever does develop nuclear weapons.”
Ominously, he forecasts: “We will point to this point in history and say, this was the turning point. This was the point where the president could’ve recognized the greatest threat to the world in the 21st century and, like Chamberlain in the 20th century, he failed to do it. That will be his legacy...”
This question of the “deal’s” ramifications in the post-Obama era is clearly of major significance and exposes yet another grave lacuna in the administration’s approach.
Obama, in an endeavor to assure concerned critics regarding the prospective agreement, has declared repeatedly: “I’ve been very clear that Iran will not get a nuclear weapon on my watch.”
While that may well be true, it is hardly the point.
For there is a considerable body of authoritative opinion, buttressed by persuasive reasoning, that holds that even if the current deal would preclude Iran from weaponizing its nuclear capability “on Obama’s watch,” it will make it virtually inevitable that this will occur on somebody else’s watch, quite possibly even that of his immediate successor.
As Pulitzer-prize winner Bret Stephens, a former editor in chief of The Jerusalem Post, wrote this week, “the administration’s Mideast abdications are creating a set of irreversible realities for which there are no ready US answers.”
Stephens envisions a forbidding future: “...the president is marching us past the point of no return on a nuclear Iran and thence a nuclear Middle East... When that happens, how many Americans will be eager to have their president intervene in somebody else’s nuclear duel?” Accordingly, he warns: “Obama is bequeathing not just a more dangerous Middle East but... one the next president will want to touch only with a barge pole.”
So much for “not-on my watch”...
Obama has tried to rebuff critics with a taunting challenge: “What is your alternative – implying that to reject his initiative is to precipitate war.
Look closely at the following quotation: “What is the alternative to this bleak and barren policy of the inevitability of war? In my view it is that we should seek by all means in our power to avoid war, by analyzing possible causes, by trying to remove them, by discussion in a spirit of collaboration and goodwill. I cannot believe that such a program would be rejected by the people of this country, even if it does mean the establishment of personal contact with dictators.”
If you didn’t know that it was Neville Chamberlain on Nazi Germany, you might well have believed it was Barack Obama on Islamist Iran.
Indeed, Obama has frequently assured skeptics that Iran will be held to its obligations, and if it violates them, the US will know and respond. But how? With war? Against an Iran with enhanced capabilities, due to sanction relief? In their previously cited article Kissinger and Shultz remark: “The threat of war now constrains the West more than Iran.” They diagnose behavior typical of the Chamberlain prescription: “While Iran treated the mere fact of its willingness to negotiate as a concession, the West [eager to avert war] has felt compelled to break every deadlock with a new proposal.”
Thus Iran, secure in the knowledge that it is immune from coercive military response, can continue, covertly or otherwise, in its relentless quest for offensive nuclear capabilities.
One does not need to be a learned expert in strategic affairs to know that this will not end well.
Indeed, as the current US naval build up in Yemen shows, America may soon be forced into a military confrontation with Tehran.
So what would be strategically preferable? That such confrontation take place with a nuclearized Iran? Or a non-nuclear one?
Martin Sherman (www.martinsherman.org) is the founder and executive director of the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies (www.strategic-israel.org).