Lessons from Ukraine for the Iran Deal

—by Dr Jürgen Bühler, ICEJ President

“We all woke up in a different world today!”

So said Annalena Baerbock, the German Foreign Minister, on the morning of 24 February. And yes, everything did change that morning. Russian armored columns began pouring into Ukraine, and European leaders were surprised.

“We never thought he would really do it,” was the common refrain heard in the halls of European parliaments. “He lied to us all!” insisted a frustrated Baerbock.

This even though American and British intelligence had been warning for weeks that Russian strongman Valdimir Putin was about to invade Ukraine.

And when he did, the old order began falling apart. Western leaders who believe in the power of economic diplomacy were suddenly emperors without clothes. Thomas Friedman’s ‘Golden Arches theory’ – that no two countries which both have McDonalds have ever gone to war – collapsed overnight.

German politicians were especially convinced that economic engagement was the sure way to tame the Russian bear. They were certain Putin would never dare endanger the multibillion-dollar deal bringing the Nordstream 2 gas pipeline to Germany. Until last Thursday!

When Princeton professor Francis Fukuyama first posited that we had reached the “end of history,” he meant that the collapse of Soviet Communism marked the triumph of liberal democracy and free market economies, with no other rivals in sight. He later backed away from that theory somewhat, yet it has still survived in the minds of many Western leaders who simply believe ‘Money Talks!’ But Putin has now made clear – for some nations and leaders their political, religious and/or nationalist aspirations far outweigh any economic considerations.

Consequently, we are currently witnessing the most radical shift in European and even world history since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. And most surprisingly, Germany’s Green party (Die Grünen) is helping lead the charge. They rose to power with an agenda of global disarmament. Taking their slogan from the prophet Isaiah, who envisioned the nations beating their “swords into ploughshares,” the Greens hoped that by their pacifist ways they could usher in a messianic age of peace and tranquility for all. This week, together with their coalition partners, they signed off on a € 100 Billion weapons package for the German army, the largest in recent German history.

So since last Thursday, ‘history’ has returned with full force and everyone can see that a well-oiled economy is not the ultimate goal for some world despots and their supporters and enablers. This reality also can be seen in today’s Middle East, where geopolitical and religious aspirations can easily dwarf the financial benefits of peace.

Right now, we are just weeks, if not days, away from the signing of a new nuclear deal with Iran. The base assumption with Iran is the same as with Russia: If we just economically engage them with large and attractive enough deals, their economy will grow and they will just give up their plans to annihilate Israel and America – the ‘Little Satan’ and ‘Great Satan.’

As with Putin, the intentions of Iran are well stated. Ayatollah Khomeini openly declared that his revolution aimed to eliminate Israel. Former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad stood before podiums emblazoned with the vision “The World Without Zionism.” Former ‘moderate’ president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani once described tiny Israel as a “one-bomb country.” This same basic call to wipe Israel from the map has been echoed by nearly every other Iranian leader since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. And the means for carrying out this genocidal pledge was fully exposed by former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu when he revealed the secrets of Iran’s nuclear military program found in that Tehran warehouse, leading Western intelligence agencies to already conclude Iran has been lying all along.

So, the world needs to understand that if the breaking of promises can happen in Europe, it is even more possible with Iran. After all, Iran has clearly shown its intentions by arming to the teeth its proxies Hizbullah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza. Both terror militias have impoverished their own people in order to build arsenals brimming with tens of thousands of rockets pointing at Israel.

I fear that with a renewed Iran deal, the West will fall again into the very same trap as just transpired with Putin. But Israel and indeed our entire world cannot afford another moment of watching bewildered Western leaders pleading: “He lied to us,” or “We did not see it coming.”

Today, any economic benefits dangled in front of Iran must be accompanied by a strong unified stand from the international community denying it any type of nuclear program whatsoever. The deal now in the making will bring Iran dangerously close to an atomic weapon. Israeli leaders are gravely concerned with this dangerous outcome from the renewed negotiations in Vienna.

Instead, America and its Western allies must take a bold move and radically reverse their placid approach to Iran, in the same way they have just reversed – for their own safety – their failed policies towards the Kremlin. It is the least we can do to demonstrate to Israel, the only true democracy in the Middle East, that they can count on us.