When Iran Peace Deal Means War
I think “a prelude to war” describes the “interim” Geneva agreement with Iran. The nuclear ayatollahs of Tehran will hardly abandon a stance that keeps benefiting them — that is, belligerence — and neither the Israelis nor the Saudis, let alone the Egyptian junta, have enough confidence in the Obama White House to rely on it for protection. This means preparations for war, plus a near-certain re-entry of Russia as a Middle East player, with incalculable consequences.
Notice that I’m not even contemplating the consequences of the resumption of Iran’s quest for nuclear weapons, a development this agreement all but ensures. Letting the ayatollahs play with explosive toys is criminally negligent of big powers, and suicidal of small powers in the region. Stopping the ayatollahs at the next “red line”, as Obama proposes, if they continue, is ludicrous, for it requires believing his administration would do the hard way what it didn’t do the easy way. Just continuing the current sanctions regime — in essence, doing nothing — would have cost the West little and it was clearly hurting the theocrats in a big way. Unfortunately, it wasn’t hurting them enough to desist, just enough to bring them to the conference table — and triumph.
Some thoughtful people take a different view. My friend and frequent neighbour on these pages, Conrad Black — no Obama fan, to put it mildly — writes elsewhere that he would give the president and his secretary of state a (barely) passing grade this time, “an electrifying improvement over the horrifying shambles of their responses to events in Syria and Egypt.” And if this sounds like damning with faint praise, an Israeli scholar and diplomat, Efraim Halevy, a career intelligence officer and head of Mossad between 1998-2002, has warned repeatedly about overreacting to Tehran’s nuclear ambitions. With a self-confidence reminiscent of Churchill (Halevy was born in Britain) he sees the theocrats digging their own grave. Tehran’s bomb creates an existential moment, all right, but for Iran rather than for Israel.
Are such commentators whistling in the graveyard? They’re not the type. As men of action as well as men of words, Halevy and Black may be concerned that the unholy fuss some circles make of Iran’s nuclear potential only emboldens Tehran’s rulers to think that they’re onto a good thing. When bullies buy into their own press and believe themselves to be invincible reincarnations of Igor the Undead, they may redouble their efforts live up to their billing.
True, taunting a bully is infantile. You don’t want him to feel inferior and think he has something to prove. But you sure as hell don’t want a bully to feel superior and think he has nothing to fear. Either way he may pull the trigger, and if he’s got his finger on a nuclear trigger, it’s going to be a big bang.
Non-aggression pacts are sure signs of aggressive intent. Who else would bother?
My own reason for opposing the Geneva “plan” (as it is sometimes called) isn’t for its provisions as much as for its existence. My aversion to such “plans” goes back to high school when our geography teacher wanted to discuss the causes of war and chose to call on me:
“All right, Jonas, why did Turkey and Japan never sign a non-aggression pact?”
Had I been paying attention I would have known that the answer he wanted was “proximity,” but I was still deep in my reveries. In our school, though, when asked, you replied.
“I guess, sir,” I said, “because neither wanted to attack the other, sir.”
The class laughed, and my teacher said: “So, in your opinion, Jonas, non-aggression treaties are signed by countries intending to go to war with each other?”
I knew I was pushing the envelope, but I couldn’t resist it. “Yes, sir. Who else would bother?” I said, then added: “The French call it a ruse de guerre.”
I was merely trying to play the class clown, as the geography teacher pointed out, to mask my inattention, but while he was right about that, he didn’t see that I accidentally hit the nail on the head. Non-aggression pacts are sure signs of aggressive intent. Who else would bother?
In a recent article, Clifford D. May, one of the foremost advocates of the sanctions regime, quoted a line from the Geneva plan’s preamble: “Iran reaffirms that under no circumstances will Iran ever seek or develop any nuclear weapons.” May, president of a policy institute focusing on national security, went on to make his own point, but the quote stopped me cold.
The mere existence of such a line would stop me from signing a document that contained it. A line like this is either true or it’s a lie. If true, it makes the agreement superfluous (tits on a bull, as one of my editors would say.) If a lie, it makes it worthless. Why sign a superfluous or worthless piece of paper? Unless you are a fool or have an agenda — and the two aren’t mutually exclusive.
George Jonas has published 16 books, including the international best-sellers Vengeance (1984) and By Persons Unknown (1977).
December 01, 2013
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