Elihu D. Richter
Elihu D. Richter

Stopping Iran’s Nukes: Go from Obama’s appeasement at Vienna to Jackson-Vanik’s amendment of the Helsinki accords

Does anyone remember Senator Henry Jackson? Henry Jackson was the US legislator in the 1970’s who put protection of human rights into the US-Soviet Helsinki détente accords.

The new Congress in the US now has the opportunity to do for the Vienna Accords on Iran what the Jackson-Vanik Amendments did to the Helsinki Accords between the USA and the Soviet Union in 1975: put protection of human rights of Iranians into the package and put real teeth into its enforcement. 2015 is the 40th Anniversary of Jackson-Vanik Amendments of the Helsinki Accords.

The story of the Jackson Vanik amendment of the Helsinki accords is a reminder of the possibility of using the easing of sanctions as leverage to not only to stop Iranian nuclearization, but for compelling Iran to respect human rights of its own citizens in Iran, but also to stop its Mein-Kampf type incitement to genocide and its support of terror–which now, according to recent reports, includes smuggling of weapons to Hamas cells in the West Bank. Iran remains the major epicenter for the worldwide network of Jihadist Genocidal Totalitarianism, supporting Hezbollah Hamas and Syria, and exporting terror worldwide.

A Munich type accord between the P5+1 to stop Iran from going nuclear did not come out of Vienna conference last month, apparently thanks to the Iranian perception that President Obama’s negotiators could be squeezed for more concessions to reach an agreement at all costs. Now, with a new, more vigilant Congress in the USA, the failure to close what many considered a Munich-type peace-at-all-cost deal could have been a blessing in disguise—if the US Congress shows the will to legislate in the spirit of the Jackson-Vanik Amendment to the Helsinki Accords and plays to win.

Let’s recall a little history. In 1974 the US and the USSR negotiated the Helsinki Accords to usher in détente. For the USSR, these accords recognized the permanent legitimacy of Soviet rule of the Baltic States. In return for recognition of this legitimacy, the USSR committed itself to a mutual non-aggression pact, the famous détente of Henry Kissinger—in return for which it would receive major trade benefits.

Kissinger, the architect of the Helsinki Accords, saw them as guaranteeing world stability and preventing war. However, two groups were strongly opposed to the Accords as originally drafted.
The first groups opposed to the accords were Americans of Eastern European descent, and they lobbied President Gerald Ford for amendments to require monitoring of human rights abuses throughout the Soviet bloc.

The second was Jewish organizations fighting for the right of Soviet Jews to emigrate. Ultimately, the accords did nothing to ease restrictions for Jews who wanted to leave the USSR.

Americans of Eastern European descent lobbied President Gerald Ford to include amendments in the accords which would protect human rights in the Soviet Union and its satellites. Jewish organizations lobbied to let the Jews are permitted to leave. Henry Kissinger, Ford’s Secretary of State, feared that amendments would torpedo Soviet willingness to sign the accords, however dissidents inside the USSR, Americans of Eastern European background, and Jews pressured persisted in lobbying for amendments.

Inside the USSR, the two most well-known advocates of change were supporters of Natan Sharansky and Andrei Sakharov, the inventor of the hydrogen bomb and later a Nobel Peace Prize winner.

Thanks to the leadership of Senator Henry Jackson and Representative Charles Vanik, both Houses of Congress ratified the Jackson Vanik Amendments, which made loosening of trade restrictions for the Soviet Union conditional upon the Soviets allowing Jews to leave—and over the years, many did. Contrary to Kissinger’s fears, the Soviets complied with the demands. The Helsinki Accords were modified to call for Soviet respect for the human rights clauses—and few expected much to happen.

But three years later, in 1978, human rights activists set up the Helsinki Watch committees, first in the USSR and then in Czechoslovakia, and then other countries to monitor compliance by Iron Curtain countries with the human rights clauses of the Helsinki Accords. Years later, Sharansky hypothesized that the Jackson Vanik amendment and the activities of Helsinki Watch committees led ordinary citizens to see that the USSR was not all powerful. The changed perceptions helped led to the breakup of the Soviet Union, Jewish emigration and the recovery by the Baltic States of their independence–and the Soviet Empire began to crumble.

Let’s fast forward 40 years to the end of 2014-2015. The P5+1 negotiations freezing Iran’s nuclear program say nothing about suppression of human rights in Iran, its horrible execution record, its support of terror around the world and its incitement to genocide. As 2014 ends, Iran is as oppressive than the USSR was in the 1970’s, if not more, and arguably more dangerous –should it acquire nuclear capacity.

Iran executes political dissidents, members of religious minorities, gays and huge numbers of persons convicted for criminal offenses, exports and supports terror and its leadership openly promotes the motifs of Mein Kampf.

If Sharansky was indeed correct and Jackson-Vanik and the Helsinki Accords catalyzed the internal changes which led to the crumbling of the Soviet Union— then the lessons for dealing with Iran today at the beginning of 2015 should be persuasive.

Here are my suggestions to those in the free world alarmed by the threats posed by Iran and sickened by its oppressive rule.

Putting a cap on Iran’s nuclear ambitions is not enough. Work with the new US Congress to do the following:
1. Include demands for guaranteeing human rights in Iran, as well as setting up mechanisms for monitoring them, as part of any agreement involving the US.
2. Monitor and require an abrupt end to incitement to genocide of Israel and Jews.
3. Monitor and require an end to funding terror groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas and other groups around the world

And of course, do a copy-paste of these demands and apply them to North Korea, Syria, Sudan, ISIL, Hamas and Hezbollah and their enablers and protectors.

In 2012, the US Congress repealed the Jackson-Vanik Amendment.

But the Helsinki Accords guaranteeing protection of human rights are still on the books. They should be applied to Iran.

Jackson-Vanik is the model for initiatives to extricate the P5+1 from sliding down the slippery slope to Munich-type appeasement as Iran ominously, continues to persecute dissidents, incite to genocide, export to terror, enrich uranium, and develops its missile systems.

The new year is the time to act.

Action is now more necessary than it was back in 1975–as we commemorate the 40th anniversary of Jackson-Vanik.

Vienna should be the next Helsinki, not the next Munich.

About the Author
Dr. Elihu D Richter is a founder of the Jerusalem Center for Genocide Prevention
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