The Iran deal: A mistake of politics, policy, and principle

The US will bear the harsh judgment of history because of its current president's folly.

Rabbi Menachem Genack,

OpEds Rabbi Menachem Genack
Rabbi Menachem Genack
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In September 1938, during the prelude to the Munich appeasement, Winston Churchill wrote to Lord Moyne, his long-time political ally, “We seem to be very near the bleak choice between War and Shame. My feeling is that we shall now choose Shame, and then have War thrown in a little later, on even more adverse terms.”

The “Shame” that Churchill was referring to was England’s moral obtuseness in entering the Munich agreement -- the willingness to sacrifice Czechoslovakia, the willingness to ignore Hitler’s explicit anti-Semitic program, in short the willingness of Baldwin, Chamberlain, and the rest of the British establishment to wink at evil and pretend it did not exist. They went forward despite the immorality inherent in the Munich agreement, and we all know the catastrophic consequences of that fatally flawed decision.  

In our own era, our country is reliving the same choice between Shame and War as we now confront the deal with Iran. If the deal is implemented, our country will bear the Shame of an historic mistake, and there is a good chance that we will end up with War down the road, in Churchill’s prophetic words, “on even more adverse terms.” 

Viewed from the perspective of politics and policy the agreement with Iran is indefensible.

Most important, beyond politics and policy, the agreement is an abdication of principle and a gross moral failure.

The Obama Administration’s policy toward Iran, a policy whose underlying long-term strategy is the attempt to engage Iran in the vain hope that the Iranian regime will somehow transform itself into a useful and productive member of the community of nations, represents a colossal political miscalculation. President Obama could have capitalized on the regional antipathy against Iran and used it to galvanize the traditional allies of the United States -- Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the Emirates – into a regional realignment to stymie Iranian expansionism.

This realignment could have had other beneficial results as well. With Israel and its Arab neighbors sitting on the same side of the table to address their common strategic concerns, a greater openness to solving the Israeli-Palestinian stalemate could well have ensued.

This rare opportunity was lost due to the current Administration’s deliberate decision to ignore its traditional allies and adopt a misguided policy of courting Iran. Bent on transforming the relationship with our long-standing friends, the Administration gave short shrift to Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, a loyal United States ally for decades, during the convulsions of the Arab Spring. After General Sisi became President of Egypt, the United States treated him coolly as well, delaying military aid to Egypt and constantly making noises about reassessing the relationship with Egypt.

Instead of creating a realignment of forces in the Middle East that would have fostered a closer relationship between the United States and its traditional allies and put Iran on the defensive, the United States has antagonized its allies and earned their mistrust while laying the groundwork for Iran to become the most significant regional power in the Middle East.


We have seen throughout history that moral failure leads inevitably and inexorably to the collapse of policy.
Beyond failing to orchestrate a strategic realignment of powers in the Middle East, the Administration’s underlying policy towards Iran has been characterized by capitulation masquerading as flexibility. It is unlikely to assume that Saudi Arabia, faced with a nuclear Iran, will not begin to assemble its own nuclear arsenal over the coming decade. Instead of attaining its professed goal of limiting nuclear proliferation in the Middle East, the Iran deal will lead to greater nuclear proliferation.  

Ultimately, this flawed agreement represents a moral failing in confronting an evil regime. Iran is motivated by evil and has made no secret of its animosity against the United States and its allies and against the Western democratic tradition. It is a gross moral failure on the part of the United States to ignore Iran’s evil as though it does not exist, to shrug off Iran’s explicit genocidal fulminations against Israel as though they are harmless political harangues designed merely to tell the domestic populace what it wants to hear.

We have seen throughout history that moral failure leads inevitably and inexorably to the collapse of policy. Abraham Lincoln, in his December 1862 Annual Message to Congress, said, “We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country. Fellow citizens, we cannot escape history.” 

As Lincoln’s and Churchill’s generations were confronted with crisis, now it is the turn of our generation. We now must disenthrall ourselves of the current Administration’s incomprehensible plan to make Iran our partner for seeking stability in this most volatile region of the world. We cannot escape history. If we permit our nation to sacrifice its principles, we will bear the harsh judgment of history.   




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