President Barack Obama came into office believing that diplomacy could change U.S. relations with Iran, which still officially regards this nation as the Great Satan and is outspoken in its desire to see Israel removed from the map of the Middle East. Now he is on the verge of an agreement that would gradually remove all United Nations sanctions on Iran in return for its concessions on the enrichment of uranium, a process needed to develop nuclear weapons.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thinks it is a very dangerous deal. And he could be terribly right.
Following a visit to Israel by Secretary of State John Kerry for a meeting in which the pending agreement was clearly discussed, Mr. Netanyahu went public with the following denunciation: “This is a bad deal — a very, very bad deal. It’s the deal of a century for Iran; it’s a very dangerous and bad deal for peace and the international community.”
According to the Israeli leader, Iran will not be required to stop enriching uranium or even reduce the size of its enrichment facilities. That means Iran will, at the least, retain the ability to produce nuclear weapons at some point in the future.
Emphasizing this point, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, said Friday, “The Islamic Republic of Iran makes no deal over its right” to enrich uranium.
So who is right about the best way to deal with Iran’s push for dominance in the Middle East? Iran’s surge is also seen in its all-out support for Syria’s embattled President Bashar a-Assad, who now seems to be winning the civil war.
Is it better to be accommodating or to apply maximum economic, political and military pressure?
The answer hinges on human factors, including the true intentions of Iran’s unelected supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Though President Hassan Rouhani was elected in June, the real power in Iran remains in the ayatollah’s hands.
The history of the war-torn 20th century also offers instructive clues.
When British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain chose to appease Nazi Germany at Munich in 1938, Adolf Hitler saw it as a sign of weakness — and an incentive for aggressive moves culminating in the invasion of Poland in 1939, triggering the European start of World War II.
The notion that accommodating Iran will bring peace looks like a similarly risky bet — especially if it does acquire a nuclear arsenal. Yet President Obama appears all too willing to take a leap of faith on behalf of Iranian rulers who have repeatedly lied about their nuclear intentions.
Prime Minister Netanyahu knows better. He warned Friday of the looming accord: “Israel is not obliged by this agreement and Israel will do everything it needs to do to defend itself and the security of its people.”
President Obama and Secretary Kerry should take Prime Minister Netanyahu’s concerns — and Iran’s ominous track record — seriously.
This deal looks like a winner only for Iran.