Is Geneva of 2013 the new Munich of 1938?
The news that the “Great Powers” of the United States, United Kingdom, France, Russia, China, and Germany have reached an agreement with the Islamic Republic of Iran over Iran’s controversial nuclear program has been greeted with immense skepticism among Iran’s foes.
Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the other Gulf States are very concerned about the potential for Iran to develop nuclear weapons. They do not trust the Iranians, and increasingly, they do not trust the Obama Adminstration to follow through with either enforcing the agreement (which they believe is too weak anyway), or to follow through with punishing Iran if Tehran violates the agreement.
Critics of agreement reached in Geneva point to several factors to justify their concerns. The U.S. made a lot of noise over North Korea’s nuclear development, yet did nothing to halt the North Koreans from growing their nuclear capabilities. Today, North Korea is a nuclear-armed state. While that is not Obama’s fault, critics point the the use of chemical weapons by Syria and the “red-line” threat made by President Obama. Syria crossed that red line by using chemical weapons to kill Syrian civilians. Despite rather explicit warnings, the Obama Administration did nothing substantive to punish the Assad regime. An agreement was reached whereby Syria said they would divest themselves of the chemical weapons, but many critics, including the Israelis, expect Syria to not follow through and surrender all of their weapons. With this example, it is no wonder that those that know the Iranians best, the Israelis and Saudis, do not believe that the U.S. will do anything to enforce the Geneva agreement if/when Iran cheats on their end of the bargain.
While President Obama and his Secretary of State, John Kerry, believe they have averted war, as they did with the Syrian crisis earlier this year, what they have really done is made an attack on Iran by Israel, with possible aid from the Saudis and others, much more likely. Israelis often use the lessons of history related to the Nazi regime, the Holocaust, and World War Two to explain their extreme reluctance to trust others, and especially not to trust those who constantly threaten them with destruction. In 1938, Hitler wanted to annex part of Czechoslovakia, and was threatening war to get what he wanted. The Great Powers of that time, Britain, France, and Italy, gathered with Hitler in Munich to discuss the crisis. Wary of war, the British and French agreed to a deal with Hitler that literally gave away part of Czechoslovakia to the Nazis. The Czechoslovaks had not been invited to the Munich conference. Their fate was decided by others. By the time the actual shooting war in Europe began in September, 1939, Hitler had already reneged on the Munich Agreement and had seized the rest of Czechoslovakia, in partnership with other Czech neighbors. Britain and France did nothing to aid the Czechs and Slovaks from being dismembered. With the annexation and occupation of Czechoslovakia, the Holocaust began in that sad country. With lessons like this in their memory, Israel has good reason to neither trust the intentions of the Iranians, nor to trust the promises of the “Great Powers.”
Similar to the appeasement of Hitler by the British and French in Munich in 1938, the appeasement of the Iranians at Geneva in 2013 will lead to a greater chance of war in the near future. Israel looks to the lessons of history and to the lessons of believing President Obama at his word. Neither of these examples provides Israel any reason to expect a good outcome. The engines of war are warming up. This will not end well for anyone.