Paul Waldman nay-says comparisons of the Lausanne nuclear talks to UK prime minister Neville Chamberlain’s appeasement of Hitler with respect to Czechoslovakia (“No, the Iran nuclear negotiations aren’t Munich in 1938,” Washington Post, April 1).
I get where Waldman’s coming from — it’s annoying to hear American hawks on both sides of the aisle draw that analogy — but I disagree. Not so much because he gets it wrong as because he gets it backward.
The nuclear talks ARE a lot like Munich in 1938. But it’s Iran acting out the role of Chamberlain in response to a US strategy that’s textbook Hitler. There’s little doubt the Iranians will regret going to the trouble of hammering out the just-announced “framework.”
The Hitlerian method is this: Invent a “controversy” (for example, “ethnic Germans in Czech Sudetenland are oppressed”). Make a set of demands. If the demands are met, add new conditions. When you’ve pushed things as far as they can go and the other party finally refuses, accuse that other party of acting in bad faith and claim justification for doing what you wanted to do anyway (invade and occupy Czechoslovakia).
The Iran “nuclear weapons controversy” is an invented crisis of that Hitlerian type.
The US intelligence community says Iran doesn’t seem to be developing nuclear weapons, nor to have had a program to do so since at least as long ago as 2003. Iran’s “supreme leader,” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, says that development and possession of nuclear weapons is a sin against Islam and that his regime won’t engage in it. The International Atomic Energy Agency cites some resistance to its inspection protocols, but has never claimed that Iran is, or even might be, developing nuclear weapons. There’s just no “there” there.
Meanwhile, under the provisions of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Iran is fully entitled to develop civilian nuclear power without submitting to US demands concerning how it may do so.
Nonetheless, the US and its allies have imposed sanctions on Iran to force it to do … well, something. That something changes every time the Iranian government agrees.
At the end of March, all parties seemed ready to sign an agreement — so the US piled on new conditions, concerning export of spent nuclear material, at the last minute. After which the US immediately issued a statement blaming the Iranians for the impasse its own negotiators had intentionally created.
As I write this, the tentative outlines of an agreement have been announced. That agreement consists mostly of up-front demands on Iran with the dangling fruit of lifted sanctions in the future. I’m confident in my prediction that the US will break or void the agreement and trot out a new list of demands within a few months, having never lifted the sanctions. It’s the Hitlerian method in spades.
Appeasing the US in 2015 is a bad idea, for the same reasons (and likely to produce the same results) as appeasing Hitler was in 1938. But like Czechoslovakia back then, Iran now finds itself isolated and without friends.
It’s time for Americans to stand up for peace and demand that our government mind its own business. End the fake talks, the raw deals and the real sanctions.
Note: This op-ed was updated shortly after publication to reflect the announcement of an “agreement framework.”
Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.
- “Yes, Mr. Waldman, the Iran Nuclear Negotiations Are Munich in 1938,” by Thomas L. Knapp, Antiwar.com, 04/03/15