Sunday, January 22, 2006

Iran's nuclear crisis: Has Europe not learned from its past mistakes?

Kash Kheirkhah

If you'd like to know why Iranian journalist Amir Taheri lays the blame on Europe for the current Iran nuclear impasse, take a moment to have a look at this outlandish article in the Guardian , written by non other than Sir Simon Jenkins, recipient of knighthood for services to journalism in the 2004.

Mr Jenkins calls Iran "a serious country, not another two-bit post-imperial rogue waiting to be slapped about the head by a white man and whose political life is, to put it mildly, fluid." (as an Iranian, I was surprised to learn there exists a political life in Iran at all, let alone that it is fluid!).

In defense of Tehran's nuclear program, Jenkins becomes more catholic than pope, not only sympathizing with Tehran but justifying what he calls nuclear defense (something even Tehran hasn't fessed up to yet): "Iran is a proud country that sits between nuclear Pakistan and India to its east, a nuclear Russia to its north and a nuclear Israel to its west. Adjacent Afghanistan and Iraq are occupied at will by a nuclear America, which backed Saddam Hussein in his 1980 invasion of Iran. How can we say such a country has "no right" to nuclear defense?" This flawed reasoning best proves Amir Taheri's point when he says:" The Europeans are not prepared to acknowledge that the problem is not uranium enrichment but the nature of the Iranian regime. More than 20 countries, from Argentina to Ukraine, enrich uranium without anyone making a fuss. But who can trust the present leadership in Tehran not to embark upon some tragic mischief in the name of its ideology?"

But worst of all, it's Mr Jenkins's wrong-headed conclusion that delivers the punch line: "If you cannot stop a man buying a gun, the next best bet is to make him your friend, not your enemy," which in the words of Groucho Marx means: "Those are my principles. If you don't like them I have others."

This amazingly short-sighted mentality on the part of a prominent European journalist comes to me as a shock for it not only shows his detachment from the reality of today's world, but also serves as a sour reminder of the policy of appeasement of Lord Neville Chamberlain's Cabinet against the increasing threat of Hitlerite Germany, naively aimed at ensuring peace in Europe.

In the prelude to his excellent book " History of Second World War", historian B.H. Liddell Hart, in regard to the causation of the Second World War, writes:" To assume that the outbreak of the war and all its extensions were purely due to Hitler's aggression is too simple and shallow an explanation...Ever since Hitler's entry to power in 1933 the British and the French Governments had conceded to this dangerous autocrat immeasurably...At every turn they showed a disposition to avoid trouble and shelve awkward problems--to preserve their present comfort at the expense of future."

According to Hart, Western powers had been well aware of Hitler's expansionist dreams--lebensraum, living space for Germany's expanding population--long before he decided to fulfill them. At the time, European circles were abuzz with arguments for allowing Germany to expand eastwards. In fact, they showed sympathy for Hitler's idea and let him know it. They failed to realize that by appeasing Hitler, they were encouraging a dangerous regime to use the threat of force to its own purposes.

Europe's ill-fated appeasement policy culminated in Munich Agreement in September 1938, according to which European powers agreed that Germany would get Czechoslovakia's Sudetenland and also de facto control over the rest of Czechoslovakia as long as Hitler promised to go no further. For Neville Chamberlain, the Munich Agreement meant "peace for our time". For Hitler though, it was one further step toward his evil goals. For the world, it was a disaster waiting to happen (In an eerie repetition of history, the European powers have been encouraging Tehran for three years now to sign an agreement that would recognize Iran's peaceful nuclear program as long as it promises to go no further).

Hart also writes that what made Hitler, who had always disposed any thoughts of engaging in a major war with the UK, eventually change his mind was the encouragement he had long received from the complaisant attitude of the Western powers coupled with their sudden turn-about in the spring of 1939, a reversal in policy too late to do any good. In Liddlle Hart's own words:

"If you allow anyone to stoke up a boiler until the steam-pressure rises beyond danger-point, the real responsibility for any resultant explosion will lie with you. That truth of physical science applies equally to political science, specially to the conduct of international affair."

And that's where we find ourselves today once again, in the face of a growing threat by a dangerous theocratic regime, with a proven track record of sponsoring terrorism, breaking international commitments and suppressing democratic movements and all the logic we get from a European analyst is the same logic which not too long ago, wreaked havoc upon our world.

What has Europe learned from the consequences of war? What have all these WWII books, museums, movies and memorial services been in aid of? What was all that political hoopla in Europe over Iranian President's holocaust remarks for if all Europe has got to stop a hate-mongering leader from creating another world-wide crisis is suggesting "subtle engagement" instead of standing firm against him and his outrageous demands?

Is history not good enough a teacher to learn from?