When the Iranian nuclear agreement was revealed recently, a former Swedish prime minister tweeted: “I think the work of the Nobel committee of the Norwegian Parliament this year just got much easier.”
The work of the Nobel committee has not been flawless overall. They bestowed the honor on Yasser Arafat before the world discovered that the old terrorist had not changed his spots. And, in 2009, they awarded it to a newly elected U.S. President Barack Obama, apparently as an aspirational move intended to recognize things the committee hoped he would do, rather than anything he had already done.
If the parties involved in the Iranian deal receive the Nobel, it will be no less aspirational, although we all hope for the best.
The amount of ink (or its digital equivalent) spilled on the subject of the Iranian nuclear deal possibly surpasses that associated with any diplomatic arrangement in history. The Treaty of Versailles, the Munich Agreement (“Peace in our time!”) and the Potsdam Agreement took place in times when not everyone had a squawking lectern, as we all now do in the digital world. The volume of opinions – in both the auditory and magnitudinal senses of the term – have been vast.
This is one of the reasons, as acknowledged in last week’s issue, that we have not devoted enormous space to the topic. One would need to be a hermit to have avoided the agitated attitudes on one side of the topic or the other.
Yet there has been very little nuance in this discussion. Either the agreement, as the American politician and cable news mouthpiece Mike Huckabee says, leads Israelis “to the door of the oven,” or it guarantees Iran, as the “pro-Israel, pro-peace” organization J Street posited in a big spread in the New York Times, “Zero pathways to the bomb.”
There is, frankly, no way to tell at this point whether the agreement augurs peace or disaster. Everything you hear about it is opinion, conjecture. It will take 20, 50, 100 years or more to know whether this was a good deal or a catastrophic one.
By this very statement, we acknowledge the significance of the issue. Whatever one thinks about the agreement, this is nothing less than an existential matter. Extreme comments may well be excused because the stakes are literally as high as they could possibly be for the Jewish people. The Western powers have made a deal with a theocracy that has sworn repeatedly, emphatically and unequivocally to eradicate Israel from the planet.
The agreement is intended to prevent that genocidally obsessed regime from obtaining nuclear weapons. If it succeeds, it will remove an unparalleled threat to the Jewish people. If it fails, the outcome is unthinkable. The problem we face as people living in the present is that we cannot foresee which outcome the agreement portends. But the question is, what’s the alternative?
There is a campaign afoot to convince members of the U.S. Congress to reject the deal, which would scupper it. (Iran’s “parliament” has also scheduled a vote – after the American vote, presumably so they don’t look like dupes should the legislators of the Great Satan reject it after they have endorsed it.)
But the alternative to an imperfect deal has been the issue from the start. According to experts, the Iranian nuclear infrastructure has been built specifically to protect it from most external military threats, developed in missile-proof bunkers and diverse locations that make military intervention exceedingly difficult.
In an ideal and less dangerous world, of course, the mass of Iranian people – whose grandparents and even parents recall life as part of the pre-revolution world – would rise up against their oppressors and demand a democratic society determined to live in peace with their neighbors and the world.
In the meantime, we are faced with this: a terrible, hateful Iranian regime that has made at least a kabuki of a diplomatic overture, which evokes the words of Moshe Dayan. “If you want to make peace, you don’t talk to your friends. You talk to your enemies.”