Thursday, April 2, 2015

Deal with Iran seems to leave much unsaid, and perhaps even more undone

Details of the agreement struck between Iran and the west are still emerging, but based on what has been reported so far, it's hard not to see this as a victory for Iran, and at best, a temporary reprieve for the U.S., Saudis, Israel and Europe. In looking at the initial reports it seems that Iran will get to keep a significant part of its nuclear infrastructure intact in exchange for agreeing to a more intense inspection regime and the removal of some nuclear materials from the country. It may in fact be many years before history decides whether Secretary Kerry and President Obama have pulled off a brilliant diplomatic victory or merely punted the problem down the road, but perhaps between now and June , when the final agreement is supposed to be reached, we will begin to see indications of what the future may hold.

What really struck me about the early coverage of this announcement is that there was practically no mention of the other terrible things that Iran is apparently free to continue doing without incurring the wrath of the West. I guess as long as Tehran doesn't fight the US on inspections, they'll be allowed to continue to sponsor groups and acts of terror that kill and maim  citizens of the US and allied countries. I realize I'm engaging in a bit of hyperbole here, but only a little - throughout the talks with Iran it has appeared that negotiators have focused solely on the country's pursuit of nuclear weapons and ignored the rest. It's understandable that the pursuit of nuclear capabilities was at the top of the agenda, but why should Tehran get a free pass on everything else?

I'd like to see a real dismantling of the Iranian nuclear program through diplomacy as much as anyone rise, but when the deal made is one that focuses more on removing technical capabilities and less on deterring the underlying aggression behind the program, an important opportunity is lost. The message that Tehran should have taken away from this process is that belligerence and genocidal threats  will not be tolerated - not that the only thing that counts is the number of centrifuges you have and what their stated purpose is.  If the leaders of Iran walk away thinking that this was a matter of technical ability and not one of  the moral calculus modern statehood demands, it will only be a matter of time before they turn their attention once again to acquiring nuclear weapons, in the meantime using conventional forces and political repression to terrorize anyone they can, at home and abroad. 

Over the next few months the world will be watching Iran closely to see how it behaves and whether or not those in charge comply with both the letter and the spirit of whatever final agreement is reached. If they do, I suppose this would be one kind of progress, but the world should demand much more - at the end of the day it's not the centrifuges spinning that represent the ultimate threat to peace and stability, but the ideology and attitude which seeks to direct the products of this process toward destructive ends. Ultimately it is this attitude, this worldview, that needs to be dispensed with. How we can achieve this goal is anybody's guess, but a deal that ignores this deeper issue may prove, in the end, to be no deal at all.

Copyright Daniel E. Levenson 2015.

1 comment:

  1. I write from Hungary where great strides were made by my own group, RtL, the Wiesenthal Centre, USHMM, and others in recasting potentially revisionist HS textbook away from serving to undo the shame of teachers, publishers, and government in "truth telling of history." Stonewalling of opposition to the texts may be one answer to the problem you address --although it will arouse deepest discomfort for many. It rests on a simple view --we, as older folks, hardly matter, but what matters is the future of our children. 1. After 25 years grandmothers could talk wit their grandchildren, show pictures, perhaps weep together about the Holocaust. 2. For such youth then to go to school and be fed lie would arouse their resistance. But if forced to swallow it, they --and their friends --would variously sicken. 3. When presented by sympathetic voices, the very same message as from USHMM, the US Embassy, etc. seen as antagonists, were heard and acted on. 4. The same sympathetic voices could help make understandable that to "spend billions to lie to children, would also bring into question any trust in business cooperation." What was achieved was a "correction" in historically derived self-knowledge, away from the tragedy of 1849, the execution of all Hungarian generals by the Hapsburg, to awareness that the real Golgotha of Hungarian history rests with the destruction of 160,000 children in 1944 in three short months. Indeed, an enormous gain. But comparatively simple, as it dealt merely with lie and shame.
    But the concerns you address correctly are deeper --existential. Yet if one is to be heard, the tendency to close off divergent voices must be resisted. As is, a GroupThink discolours all discourse, and the Jewish view is misunderstood as "fear mongering."

    Present funding sources for Hillel USA, and other groups, shut out seemingly opposition voices in conferences. That is, we hear and reinforce each other, over and over, as if in a cocoon.

    Hellen seeks to come to Europe. One manner, across the years to come, to lessen this problem in communication is to understand that Hillel in Europe --when conferencing --must include Arab voices of dissent which are not extremist but seek understanding, but dissent nevertheless. If Hillel USA is simply transplanted to Europe, it will minimally serve the mutual understanding we were able to achieve in Hungary.