On Sept. 30, 1938, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain stepped off an airplane at London’s Heston Aerodome bearing glad tidings from Adolf Hitler. Proudly displaying a piece of paper that bore both his and the German chancellor’s signatures for all to see, Chamberlain told his excited audience that he had struck a deal that would keep Europe from tail spinning into another World War.
“The settlement of the Czechoslovakian problem, which has now been achieved, is, in my view, only the prelude to a larger settlement in which all Europe may find peace.”
With that declaration, millions of people across Europe — including Adolf Hitler — breathed a collective sigh of relief. While much of the continent took the pact at face value, anticipating a return to business as usual, Herr Hitler used the agreement as a distraction to continue Germany’s military mobilization. Less than a year later, Nazi tanks steamrolled into Poland, triggering World War II.
Fast-forward three-quarters of a century to this past weekend in Geneva, Switzerland.
Seven countries exited diplomatic discussions to triumphantly announce that they’d reached a compromise that will allow Iran to continue its uranium enrichment program.
Iranian officials declared the beginning of a new era, while skeptics in the United States and its ally nations lambasted the agreement as surrender. Whether it’s compromise or capitulation, I find the arrangement terrifying.
Remember, this is an Iran whose last president stated that Israel “must vanish from the pages of time.” Sure, the new Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, hasn’t been as much of a handful as his predecessor, but we all know the man who pulls the strings in Tehran isn’t the president. Though the current face of that nation has softened a bit, the country is still managed by the Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, a hard-line Iranian Revolutionary whose leadership has spanned four decades.
The most troubling part of the new agreement was noted by our very own U.S. Sen. Bob Corker. On Sunday, the senator said, “My greatest concerns are seeing follow through. This administration is very big on announcements and less so on follow through.” Yes, indeed.
If this settlement between Iran and the rest of the world’s powers goes awry, it will make the Obamacare launch fiasco look like a minor bump in the road. Iran has a proven history of hostility to the West and Israel, smuggling weapons and funneling money to terrorist groups across the globe.
Yes, parameters were set in place to make sure Iran’s uranium enrichment can’t reach nuclear weapons capacity, but as Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., stated, “We are very concerned as to whether Iran will live up to these agreements. Congress needs to be prepared.” I don’t know if that last sentence is supposed to make us feel better or worse.
I’m leery about how this will pan out. But, you know who’s not scared? Iran’s Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif. He’s excited because as he sees it, “The current agreement has a very clear reference to the fact that [the] Iranian enrichment program will continue, and will be a part of any agreement now and in the future.” So there you have it, we’ve crossed the uranium Rubicon. Actually, Iran has done the crossing. We will be on the diplomatic defense now.
This “first” deal has a six-month time stamp on it. While I want this “prelude to a larger settlement” to move all parties in the right direction, I’m certainly not getting my hopes up.
After Neville Chamberlain made his initial announcement at the airport after returning from Germany, he made more public remarks later that day at 10 Downing Street.
Referencing the work he and his team had made, he closed with “I believe it is peace for our time. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Go home and get a nice quiet sleep.”
I don’t think so. Not this time.
David Martin is an adjunct professor of history at UTC.