Understanding the Iran talks (JERUSALEM POST OP-ED) By JAY BERGMAN 06/04/12)
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As a professional historian, I normally do not place much stock in
historical analogies. They usually obscure and confuse more than they
But in the case of the recent P5 + 1 talks in Baghdad that will
resume in Moscow later this month -- when the five permanent members
of the UN Security Council, plus Germany, will try again to negotiate
an agreement with Iran that will prevent its nuclear program being
used to develop nuclear weapons -- an analogy comes to mind that
suggests what the results of these negotiations are likely to be.
The analogy is with the Munich conference at the end of September
1938, at which Nazi Germany, Italy, France, and Great Britain forced
Czechoslovakia to cede to Germany the so-called Sudetenland, in the
western part of the country, where some (but by no means all) of the
three million ethnic Germans living there were demanding, in the name
of self-determination, that it become part of Germany.
Hitler favored this because it made easier the destruction of
Czechoslovakia, which in turn would facilitate the acquisition of
lebensraum (living space) in Russia for the Aryan race. Additionally,
the Czech government was required by the Munich agreement to cede to
Poland all parts of Czechoslovakia where the population was more than
50% Polish, and to Hungary all territory where the population was
more than 50% Magyar.
THAT THE agreement was negotiated by the four heads of state --
Hitler, Mussolini, Edouard Daladier for France, and Neville
Chamberlain, the British Prime Minister -- rather than by their
foreign ministers underscored its significance. Hitler had scheduled
an invasion of Czechoslovakia for October 1 - a fact known to the
British and the French -- if it did not meet the Sudeten Germans´
demand, and for that reason the Munich agreement seemed to preclude a
European war. In reality it merely postponed it.
Conspicuously absent from the conference were the United States, the
Soviet Union, and Czechoslovakia itself, whose vital national
interests the participants at Munich did not consider legitimate
enough for the Czechs to be present to protect. The closest any
representatives of the Czech government got to the negotiating table
was a room adjacent to it, where two lowlevel functionaries sat in
silence, forbidden to participate in the negotiations.
For good reason Munich has become code for the appeasement of regimes
that cannot be appeased because there is no limit to the demands they
The obvious analogue of Czechoslovakia in the P5 + 1 talks is Israel.
Like Czechoslovakia in 1938, it is the only country whose existence
is deemed illegitimate by a participant in the talks, namely Iran.
The Iranian government has repeatedly, and with increasing vehemence,
threatened to annihilate Israel -- most recently by Major General
Hassan Firouzabadi in a speech in Tehran this past Sunday.
Nonetheless, Israel is not represented at the talks; there are not
even any Israelis in an adjacent room. And like Nazi Germany in 1938,
Iran will not be deterred by any agreement it signs from its
longstanding intention of acquiring nuclear weapons for the purpose
of annihilating Israel and dominating the entire Middle East. Like
Hitler, who six months after Munich ordered German troops to occupy
the rump that remained of Czechoslovakia, the Iranians several times
have agreed to limits on their actions, for example on the percentage
to which they will enrich low-grade uranium, only to ignore these
limits when it became possible politically to do so.
By consenting to America´s participation in these talks, President
Obama is acquiescing in a process that can only jeopardize the lives
of the six million Jews (and the one million Arabs) who live in
Israel. That he is doing so while claiming "to have Israel´s back" is
an act of cynical calculation worthy of the appeasers at Munich.
The writer is a Professor of History at Central Connecticut State
University and the author, most recently, of Meeting the Demands of
Reason: The Life and Thought of Andrei Sakharov. (© 1995-2011, The
Jerusalem Post 06/04/12)
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