The Iran Nuclear Negotiations: a Neville Chamberlain Rerun?

Remember Neville Chamberlain, the UK Prime Minister who negotiated the Munich “agreement” with Hitler in 1938?  The deal was heralded by Chamberlain as ensuring “peace for our time.”  Less than a year later Hitler invaded Poland and, within a few short months, the Nazis were marching triumphantly around the Eiffel Tower.

The Holocaust which accompanied Hitler’s rise to power is viewed by the civilized world as among the most barbaric chapters in human history.  Iran, however, has disputed this view, denying that it ever happened.

At the same time, the Iranian regime has quite publicly promoted the goal of a holocaust of its own making.    In 2014 their “supreme” leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, pronounced that there was no “cure” for Israel other than annihilation, and offered his answers to nine “key questions” on how and why Israel should be eliminated.  Former President Ahmedinejad has long called for Israel to be wiped off the face of the earth.

Of course, Iranian truculence is not reserved exclusively for Israel.  Iran is the world’s most notorious sponsor of international terrorism, and chants of “death to America” have been a frequent mantra.  Iran is far nearer to Israel than to the US, but the advent of long range missile technology makes the world seem a much smaller place.

So, back to Neville Chamberlain, whose misplaced trust in the Nazis bought Hitler precious time to build up his military arsenal before launching an all-out blitzkrieg on Europe.

Iran, too, has been playing for time.  Over more than a decade of furtive and deceptive dealings, it has made steady progress in both nuclear enrichment and missile delivery systems.  It has done so even as it has engaged in protracted, hamster-wheel “negotiations” with diplomats who cling to the hope that Iran might transform itself into a responsible member of the community of nations.

At this point, any such faith in Iran is ludicrous.  Allowing Iran to acquire nuclear weapons is as treacherous as putting an ice pick in the hands of the deranged schoolyard bully.  It’s actually worse, for Iran has cultivated deep ties, and has supplied weapons, to terrorist organizations that are every bit as maniacal.

Hamas and Hezbollah, both Islamist terrorist organizations, have long been sponsored by Iran.  Remember a couple of weeks ago when Hezbollah operatives and an Iranian general were killed in the Golan Heights?  Hezbollah retaliated against Israel, and media coverage focused on whether there would be a new escalation between them.  But here is another question:  what was an Iranian general doing on Israel’s border (far from the ISIS front) with a gang of Hezbollah thugs?  There was, in fact, no reason for the media to focus on this, because Iran’s support of Hezbollah has long been out in the open, as is Iran’s goal of destroying Israel.

This is the same Hezbollah which was implicated in the 1983 bombings of the U.S. Embassy and American/French military barracks and the 1984 U.S. Embassy Annex bombing in Beirut, the 1985 hijacking of TWA Flight 847, the 1992 attack on the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires, the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing, and countless other terrorist acts.  You can thank Iran for its generous and steadfast support of such murderous endeavors.

Hamas, which in its very charter promotes the duty to obliterate Israel and spurn peace negotiations, will soon send political head Khaled Mashaal to Iran.  Iran has a long history of sponsoring Hamas, including the supply of missile technology.  With their common objectives, Hamas seeks to strengthen its ties to the Iran.

Iran’s longstanding support of Bashar Assad’s cruel and oppressive regime in Syria is also well known.  Less widely discussed is Iran’s illicit trade relationship with North Korea.  Noting their “common enemies,” Iran entered into an agreement to cooperate in science and technology in 2012.  North Korea has exported ballistic missile technology to Iran as well as to Syria.  It’s easy to be friends when you share so much in common.

Even if Iran’s rulers have clinched a spot in the Villainy Hall of Fame, this is not to say that a nuclear agreement is a bad idea.  In concept it’s a superb idea, but we can’t give up something concrete in exchange for a “promise.”  And, let’s not kid ourselves about “verification” of compliance, for history has shown that this can be an elusive if not entirely meaningless concept.

If “verification” means an international organization will periodically inspect Iran’s nuclear facilities, that is nothing more than a promise that Iran will allow the inspections to take place.  Example:  Iran agrees to inspections, and a year later either fails to fully cooperate or proclaims that the inspections violate its sovereignty and will not be permitted.  A few months later, when sanctions are reinstated, Iran issues a magnanimous proclamation of its willingness to negotiate.  Such tactics are a proven method to buy more time.

If this sounds overly cynical, consider a few of the highlights of Iran’s longstanding record of deception, stonewalling, foot-dragging, and non-compliance:

  • In 2002 dissidents revealed a previously-undisclosed underground enrichment complex at Natanz;
  • In 2003 the IAEA reported that Iran failed to meet its obligations under its Safeguards Agreement regarding the storage, processing, and use of nuclear material;
  • In 2004 the IAEA reported that it “deplored” that Iran submitted incomplete disclosures of its nuclear activities, and described this as a matter of “serious concern.”  U.S. Undersecretary of State John R. Bolton commented that IAEA reports would “keep Iran’s nuclear program and its efforts to deceive and obstruct IAEA inspectors at the center of international attention. . .”;
  • In 2005 Iran refused to suspend enrichment-related activities, despite an earlier pledge to do so.  The following year, the IAEA adopted a resolution calling on Iran to re-establish “full and sustained suspension” of all enrichment related activities, to be verified by the Agency.  It cited Iran’s history of a “policy of concealment” and “many breaches” of the Safeguards Agreement;
  • In 2007 the UN Security Council sanctioned Iran for its continued uranium enrichment, and cited its “continuing failure to meet the requirements of the IAEA Board of Governors” and failure to comply with Security Council resolutions;
  • In 2009 the U.S. and allies discovered that Iran was operating a secret uranium enrichment plant near Qum, described as “inconsistent” with a peaceful nuclear program (this further confirming the longstanding belief that Iran was developing a nuclear weapons program).  British Prime Minister Gordon Brown characterized Iran’s conduct as a “serial deception of many years.”
  • In September 2010, the IAEA again cited Iran’s failure to comply with Security Council resolutions, again called on Iran to suspend all enrichment related activities, and noted that since August 2008, Iran had “declined to discuss outstanding issues . . .  or to provide any further information or access to locations and people” necessary to address concerns about possible military dimensions of the program.  The report documents ongoing concern about the possible existence of “activities related to the development of a nuclear payload for a missile.”
  • [Skipping ahead for the sake of brevity] In November 2014, the IAEA again reported that it remained concerned about potential undisclosed activities “related to the development of a nuclear payload for a missile.” It further referenced a November 2011 report in which the Director General “provided a detailed analysis of the information available to the Agency at that time, indicating that Iran has carried out activities that are relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device,” but went on to note that Iran, rather than provide requested information, had “dismissed the Agency’s concerns.”

What is the net effect of more than a decade of negotiations and broken agreements?  Take it from Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif, who recently wrote in a Washington Post op-ed that “in the past 10 years, Iran has gone from 200 to 20,000 centrifuges, and enrichment capacity has risen from 3.5 to 20 percent.”  I’m not sure what his point was, but here’s a rational takeaway:  the international community has not been firm enough, and Iran has taken advantage of that.

But the fact is that sanctions, when enforced, have been crippling to Iran’s economy.  With the recent drop in oil prices Iran is especially vulnerable.  They want–and need–a deal for additional sanctions relief, but there can be no deal that involves any element of trust, for even if the current leadership of Iran could be trusted (which certainly is not the thesis of this op-ed), the next one cannot.

Examples of “deals” that might work?  Transfer all of Iran’s centrifuges into the custody of an international body that will destroy them.  Dismantle or destroy Iran’s nuclear enrichment facilities with unhindered verification.  Then, economic sanctions can be relieved.  In the meantime, robust sanctions are the best leverage we have, short of military intervention.  And under no circumstances can we who value peace and freedom–and wish for our children to enjoy the same privileges–tolerate Iran getting any closer to developing nuclear weapons.

About the Author
John C. Landa, Jr. is an attorney, entrepreneur, and writer in Houston, Texas. He spends weekends on a farm in the Texas countryside. He is a frequent presenter on Israel, and a devoted advocate of its right to exist in peace.
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