No, that’s not a facile, partisan jab. What just went down in Geneva is, in fact, a replay of the greatest diplomatic tragedy of the 20th century.
The Munich deal rested on the ridiculous notion that Hitler could be satiated. The new pact builds on the equally ludicrous idea that Iran would give up the means to build a nuclear weapon that will serve as the tip of its foreign-policy spear.
The saddest part of this negotiated fiasco is that everyone agrees why Iran came to the bargaining table. The sanctions worked; the mullahs had run out of cash, and Tehran determined that the easiest way to get the funds flowing was to get the West to back off.
This is where the realists and the idealists part company. Realists knew that the sanctions were good for only one purpose: to weaken the regime to the point where it would collapse or be overthrown. They crossed their fingers, hoping that would happen before Tehran got a nuke it could turn on the West. Regime change remains the only realistic option to bombing or bearing the danger of living with a nuclear-armed Iran.
Idealists, on the other hand, held that sanctions were the magic button for getting the Iranians to be reasonable. Once Tehran started on the path to accommodating the West (they theorized), the mullahs would realize that the benefits of collaboration and transparency outweighed the burdens of isolation and confrontation.
The parting of the ways between realists and idealist is not about two different visions of the path to a peaceful future. In the case of this particular foreign-policy conundrum, the realist approach is based on a full awareness of whom the West is really dealing with.
The idealists’ assessment is delusional. They see a “freeze” as a confidence-building measure, the first step in disassembling Iran’s weapons program. But where there is freeze, there can also be a thaw. Nothing in this agreement prevents Iran from just picking up where it left off. Nothing in this agreement affects Iran’s effort to improve its long-range ballistic missiles. Nothing can stop Iran from continuing to work on how to weaponize (build a bomb suitable to be put on a missile) a nuclear device in secret.
In return for getting precious little, the negotiators oppose Iran at the table gave up the one thing the mullahs really feared – a continuing squeeze on Tehran’s dwindling bank account.
The only “fact” offered so far to prove that the pact will lead to something other than a good deal for Iran is the blithe assurance that the deal was negotiated by really smart people who know what they are doing. After all . . .
The British think the deal with Iran makes sense. Then, again, it was a British government that believed Munich meant we could all get a good night’s sleep now.
The Russians laud the deal. But it was a government in Moscow that believed the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact solved all its problems.
Our White House likes this deal. But, our White House also thinks its policies in Iraq, Libya, Egypt, and Syria have been just super.
The cold fact about the Iranian nuclear freeze is this: Any diplomatic deal that is not grounded in shared interests or a common sense of justice will surely fail. There is no evidence Iran shares either with the West. The negotiations with Iran bear too many similarities with the most spectacular failures in diplomatic history to leave any hope for optimism.
- James Jay Carafano is vice president of foreign- and defense-policy studies at the Heritage Foundation.
Originally appeared in National Review Online.