We all should be angry right now about the disastrous “general understanding” with Iran about its nuclear ambitions. According to its terms, Iran will not shut down a single facility, will not dismantle a single centrifuge, and will not ship its stockpile of enriched uranium out of the country. Various inspection regimes and “sanctions snap-back” are supposed to punish Iran for cheating on its commitments, but those are empty threats. Worse yet, sanctions will be lifted upon signing, at least according to the Iranians. This means billions will pour into the coffers of the Republican Guard, money that will finance its current expansion throughout the region and support for terrorists.
The simple fact that will result from a formalization of these “key parameters” is that Iran will become a nuclear power and the regional hegemon, with serious consequences for our own and our allies’ security and interests. What is depressing about this failure is that it has happened so many times before, a history that should have aroused some prudence and caution in our leaders. Munich is everybody’s favorite analogy these days, but that disaster was the culmination of nearly two decades of wishful thinking, feckless idealism, and short-term thinking. Central to that dismal failure were arms agreements that in the end did nothing to prevent war, and instead armed the aggressors.
The pending agreement with Iran, for example, recalls England’s foolish naval agreement signed with Germany in 1935. This deal followed 15 years of Germany’s serial violations of the Versailles Treaty’s disarmament clauses. For example, Germany was allowed by the Treaty to build no more than 6 armored ships of 10,000 tons. Yet the British knew that two recently constructed “pocket-battleships,” allowed by the treaty, were in fact 26,000-ton light battle cruisers. Yet despite this “brazen and fraudulent violation of the Peace Treaty,” as Churchill described it, the government decided to negotiate the Anglo-German Naval Agreement. And this took place even as the British were protesting Hitler’s blatant violations of the Treaty’s limitations on Germany’s military development. So too today, Iran’s numerous violations of 6 Security Council resolutions––and its missile and nuclear weaponization programs unmentioned by the framework––are on the brink of being rewarded by a deal favorable to the violator.
The terms of the Anglo-German agreement were as detrimental to England’s security and imperial interests as those conceded to Iran will be to ours. The German Navy could not exceed 35% of the size of the British, but the German submarine fleet could reach 45%. Worse yet, Germany was given the option to raise that to 100% if circumstances warranted. The Germans gave heartfelt assurances that their U-boats would never be used against merchants, and we know now how much that promise was worth––2,779 allied ships. But the real flaw in the agreement was that Germany’s fleet was so much smaller than England’s that reaching the 35% limit would, as Churchill wrote, “set her yards to work at maximum activity for at least ten years. There was therefore no practical limitation or restraint of any kind imposed on German naval expansion. They could build as fast as was physically possible.”