by P. David Hornik
The difference between ordinary people and Western leaders is that while the former are wary of con men, the latter seem to seek them and need them. As State Department official Wendy Sherman said last week, “We know that deception is part of the [Iranians’] DNA.” It seems all the more reason for Western leaders to hurry to Geneva for the October 15-16 nuclear talks with Iranian representatives.
Chamberlain was eager to be conned by Hitler, paving the way to 60 million dead in World War II. In the early 1990s the Israeli left anointed Yasser Arafat as Israel’s peace partner even though not a single Arab leader would have believed a word out of his mouth. Israel then lived with Arafat’s terror right up to his death over a decade later.
The North Korean case was highlighted in Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s speech to the UN last week. North Korea, he noted, detonated its first nuclear device in 2006—a year after “agreeing” to give up all its nuclear activities. It remains a dangerous nuclear power to this day.
What U.S. and European leaders seek from con men is the message that there is no such thing as implacable, ideological hostility and never a need for military operations or even credible threats of them. There are no enemies out there, just grievances that can be satisfied. Everyone is ultimately reasonable and shares Western values, and the easy, luxurious life of Western elites can go on unruffled.
On Wednesday the Wall Street Journal reported that Iran was preparing proposals for the mid-October talks. They are said to include ceasing uranium enrichment to the 20% level, allowing “more intrusive” international inspections of its nuclear sites, and possibly closing down its underground enrichment site near Qom—in return for the easing of Western sanctions.
Israeli intelligence minister Yuval Steinitz called the proposals “a joke.” He pointed out that “closing the Qom facility means Iran will be able to produce five instead of six nuclear bombs in the first year, and giving up enrichment at 20% is less meaningful now that Iran has 20,000 centrifuges.”
In other words, even if Iran really did give up 20% enrichment, it now has such numerous (and such advanced) centrifuges that it could quickly and clandestinely convert part of its 3%-enriched stock to bomb-grade material.
And yet Western voices are already starting to sing in harmony with the seductive song. The Wall Street Journal article quotes a “former Western diplomat who has discussed the incentives with senior Iranian diplomats in recent weeks,” and who says “The Iranians are preparing to go to Geneva with a serious package.”
The Journal notes that:
By falling short of a complete shutdown of enrichment, the anticipated Iranian offer could divide the U.S. from its closest Middle East allies, particularly Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, who have cautioned the White House against moving too quickly to improve ties with Tehran.The momentum, however, may once again be on the appeasers’ side. AP already reported this week on a possible thaw in British-Iranian relations, with Foreign Secretary William Hague telling the House of Commons:
It is clear that the new president and ministers in Iran are presenting themselves and their country in a much more positive way than in the recent past. There is no doubt that the tone of the meetings with them is different.Hague added:
We must not forget for one moment that as things stand today Iran remains in defiance of six UN Security Council resolutions…and is installing more centrifuges in its nuclear facilities. In the absence of change to these policies we will continue to maintain strong sanctions.But with an opportunity to be conned beckoning, can prudence prevail over recklessness?
That will be the question as the P5 + 1 countries and Iran convene in Geneva on Tuesday. Sunni Arab states—which are themselves part of the conning culture and can’t be conned by Iran—and Israel—which has existed in the region long enough to shed Western illusions—will be watching. It is hard to be optimistic.
P. David Hornik
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