The key to the Iran agreement: Western vs. Iranian perspectives on time

Much of the debate over the Iran nuclear agreement is very technical, focusing on numbers of centrifuges, kilograms of uranium, verification procedures and sanctions. The most important element of the agreement, however, is really time. The advocates of the deal trumpet the fact that various restrictions are placed on Iran for as long as 25 years (most for less than 15). For the United States these may sound like onerous time constraints, but for a nation with a history dating back more than 2,500 years, it is a blink of an eye.

Iran’s leaders, as well as other radical Muslims, have faith that they will ultimately prevail over the infidels (including Muslims that don’t meet their standards of piety) because time is on their side. In many ways their historical perspective is much wiser than that of most other peoples. After all, when Americans talk about the “good old days,” they might be referring to the 1950s or 1960s. When Muslims reflect on their glorious past, they refer to the 950s or the 1250s or the 1450s. And who can blame them for such nostalgia? The Muslims had an empire that lasted for more than a thousand years, stretching from Asia to Spain. During that period, Muslims were the dominant force in their half of the world in almost every aspect of civilization from science to literature to architecture.

Given the perspective of centuries, the current situation in which Israel is viewed as the region’s dominant power (and the U.S. is the global superpower) is considered a temporary phenomenon. Thus, for example, you hear Arabs say things such as, “The Crusaders conquered Palestine and it took 200 years to drive them out, but we did. Now the Zionists have conquered Palestine, and it may take us 200 years, but we’ll drive them out as well.” From the Muslim perspective, they’ve only been working toward this goal for 100 years, they’ve still got another 100 to go. Or, as the political adviser to Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas put it bluntly in the title of his book, “The End of the Jewish State: Just a Matter of Time.”

Besides faith, on what do Muslims base their optimism that time is on their side? There are two main reasons — the demographic bomb and the atomic bomb.

Today, the Muslim population of the world is 1.4 billion and it is growing rapidly in Western countries. According to a Pew forecast, by 2030, the total Muslim population in Europe will increase from approximately 18 million to nearly 30 million. Muslims are projected to make up more than 10% of the total population in 10 European countries.

Growing numbers of these Muslims are becoming radicalized as we see from the numbers joining ISIS. In 2007, before the Arab Spring and rise of ISIS, John Esposito and Dalia Mogahed published a Gallup study that claimed to represent 90 percent of all Muslims and reported that only 7 percent are “radicals,” which they defined as people who believed that the September 11 attacks were “completely” justified and hold unfavorable opinions of the United States. Consider, however, that 7 percent represents approximately 90 million Muslims.

The report actually significantly underestimated the number of Muslims holding extreme views; the proportion expressing a “radical” view was actually 13.5 percent. Another 23.1 percent said the 9/11 attacks were in some way justified, which means that nearly one-fourth of all Muslims expressed some support for the terror bombings. As the Washington Institute’s Robert Satloff noted, a “moderate” Muslim, according to Esposito and Mogahed, is “a Muslim who hates America, wants to impose Sharia law, supports suicide bombing, and opposes equal rights for women but does not ‘completely’ justify 9/11.”

To achieve superpower status, and possess the means to implement their agenda to impose Islam on the world, the radicals need a nuclear weapon. The Iranian mullahs understand this, which is why they are pursuing a nuclear capability, and are comfortable waiting for what they consider a brief moment in the history of Persia and Islam.

The U.S. administration considers it a great diplomatic victory to have persuaded Iran to accept time limits on its nuclear program. This is like the American tourist who believes he negotiated a good deal in the bazaar without knowing he was fleeced. The Iranians have been engaged in the art of bargaining for centuries and they are very good at it, as they demonstrated by convincing the West to release tens of millions of dollars and make dangerous concessions in exchange for what Iran sees as a fleeting delay in their plan.

Sadly, the cost of not understanding the people you are haggling with in this case is not overpaying for a trinket; it is providing Iran the ability to become a threshold nuclear state, to destabilize the Middle East for years to come, to endanger our regional allies, to intensify its global terror campaign and to increase the threat to Western interests. The Israelis and Arabs, who are also masters of the bazaar, recognize the West has been taken and are understandably apoplectic about the Iran deal.

The President is content to repeatedly tell the world that he got a great deal, like the tourist who paid $30 for a Rolex watch in a street market. It is now up to Congress to tell the president the cold hard truth that the Rolex is a fake, and insist that he send our best hagglers back to the bazaar and insist on securing a nuclear deal with Iran on our terms — and our time frame — not theirs. If that is not possible, instead of going along with the Iranian con, the negotiators should walk away and give the Iranians the choice of harsher sanctions, military intervention or acceptance of our conditions.

About the Author
Dr Mitchell Bard is the Executive Director of the nonprofit American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise (AICE) and a foreign policy analyst who lectures frequently on U.S.-Middle East policy. Dr. Bard is the director of the Jewish Virtual Library, the world's most comprehensive online encyclopedia of Jewish history and culture. He is also the author/editor of 24 books, including The Arab Lobby, Death to the Infidels: Radical Islam’s War Against the Jews and the novel After Anatevka: Tevye in Palestine.
Related Topics
Related Posts