Finally, after many long months of negotiating and behind-the-scenes drama, a U.S.-led international coalition and the government of Iran have arrived at what can probably be best described as a mutually agreed upon framework for a future agreement. As vague as that sounds, there are some actual specifics that come along with it: Iran will agree to drastically downgrade the number and quality of centrifuges it uses to enrich uranium, limit its uranium-enrichment activities for at least 15 years, destroy its plutonium-producing reactor at Arak, and allow international inspectors access to all its nuclear facilities and its nuclear supply chain. In return for meeting these commitments, the United States and the European Union will suspend sanctions related to Iran’s nuclear program (while maintaining the sanctions “architecture” so that they can be quickly reinstated should Iran violate the agreement).
I’m not going to pretend that I’m some sort of expert in international diplomacy or nuclear non-proliferation and render judgment on the strength of this pre-agreement agreement. I do feel like I can say one thing with a fair amount of confidence, though: it’s not worse than Hitler.
Ever since it was first announced that the U.S. and its allies would be entering into talks with Iran to curb that country’s nuclear ambitions, conservative hawks have been attacking the diplomatic effort as a repeat of the 1938 Munich Agreement, in which the Western powers agreed to let Nazi Germany annex large portions of Czechoslovakia in an ultimately futile effort to prevent war. Comparisons of President Obama to Neville Chamberlain, the British prime minister who brokered the Munich Pact and boasted of “peace in our time” afterward, have been the stuff of many a hot take.
That those same conservatives had no idea of what the actual agreement with Iran would look like was immaterial – the very idea of diplomacy with Iran was viewed as weakness. Now that they actually have a sense of what the terms are, the Godwinning of the Iran debate is kicking into overdrive. Here’s the reaction from “moderate” Republican Mark Kirk, senator from Illinois:
“Neville Chamberlain got a better deal from Adolf Hitler,” Sen. Mark S. Kirk of Illinois said in a statement. “Under today’s deal, the United States and its international partners will dismantle the sanctions regime against Iran, while Iran, the world’s biggest exporter of terrorism, will be allowed to keep vast capabilities to make nuclear weapons.”
And it wasn’t Kirk’s only indulgence in gross hyperbole:
But Kirk wasn’t done, forecasting that lifting any more sanctions on Iran “dooms the Middle East to yet another war,” one that Israel will have to clean up, perhaps in a nuclear fashion.
“We should be a reviewing presence to see how this unfolds,” Kirk said of Congress’ role, adding: “Which we all know is going to end with a mushroom cloud somewhere near Tehran.”
There’s a lot to chew on here. First, let’s contrast Kirk’s reaction to that of Sen. Lindsey Graham, a person who spends a significant portion of his existence fantasizing about doomsday scenarios in front of television cameras:
Congratulations, Sen. Kirk: you did the unthinkable and out-demagogued Lindsey Graham on foreign policy.
Second, the idea that this pre-agreement agreement with Iran is worse than the Munich Pact is quite a bold assertion. Here’s the Munich Pact. You can read the text if you like, but the basic gist of it is: Hitler demands territorial concessions from Czechoslovakia and the release of political prisoners, and Czechoslovakia will provide to Hitler those territories and prisoners by certain dates. It was a very pro-Hitler agreement. The immediate consequence of the Munich Pact was a massive refugee crisis in the ethnically German portions of Czechoslovakia as Jews, gypsies, and other targets of Nazi repression fled ahead of the German occupation. A great many were sent off to concentration camps and murdered. The Munich Pact also led to the non-aggression pact between the Nazis and the Soviets, which freed Hitler’s hand to invade Poland and start the bloodiest war in human history. If Kirk is arguing that this agreement with Iran – which, again, isn’t even an agreement yet – is worse than that, then he should probably start making his case.
The logical conclusion of that case, as Paul Waldman rightly pointed out earlier this week, is war. The people who spout off about Munich and Chamberlain are arguing without actually saying it that we should take military action against Iran to halt its nuclear ambitions. There’s really no other way to interpret it when you’re casting Iran in the role of Nazi Germany and belittling the very idea of conducting diplomacy with an enemy. Kirk at least will admit that he sees armed conflict on the horizon, only he’s punting responsibility to the Israelis.
Anyway, chances are excellent that in the next few days you’ll see someone on Twitter or the Senate floor making the Munich comparison and complaining that by entering into a diplomatic agreement with Iran we’re only increasing the chances of going to war. This is disingenuous bullshit. War is the outcome they’re working towards.