Reliving Munich in Vienna
How fitting that US Secretary of State John Kerry’s nuclear deal with Iran should be signed in Vienna.
Vienna is the city of the Anschluss — the forced union of Austria with Germany. It is the city that eagerly opened its gates and rapturously welcomed Adolf Hitler in March 1938. Half a year later Britain, the hyper-power of the day, solemnly assigned Czechoslovakia to the same dark force.
Hitler had now, according to the rational calculations of British prime minister Neville Chamberlain and his foreign minister Lord Halifax, been drawn into a web of rational diplomatic cooperation with the Western democracies. Chamberlain, old fool that he was, was convinced he had won the hard-earned respect of the Nazi führer.
Hitler, of course, saw things rather differently. “I saw my enemies at Munich,” he boasted afterwards. “They are worms.” Can anyone seriously doubt the ayatollahs of Tehran see their negotiating partners from Washington in exactly the same way?
US President Barack Obama and Kerry are about to make the same fateful mistake as Chamberlain and Halifax. Filled with the same ignorance, vanity and boundless confidence in their own infallibility, they are about to throw their country’s security and that of their allies to the wolves, just as the British appeasers wrote off Czechoslovakia.
There are several differences. Czechoslovakia had only been an independent democracy and ally of Britain and France for less than 20 years when it was sold down the river at Munich. Saudi Arabia has been an ally of the United States for more than 80 years.
Britain protected the Gulf states for even longer. The United States took over that historic obligation in the 1970s. The US commitment to defend the Gulf in general and Kuwait in particular led to the fateful first Gulf War to liberate Kuwait from Saddam Hussein in 1991.
The United States has benefited mightily from its long-lasting alliances with Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey and Pakistan in particular — the four great pillars of stability in the modern Middle East. For 36 years, those four nations have been bulwarks against the revolutionary threats emanating from Iran.
But today, Obama administration policymakers in Washington are convinced that Tehran has become the magic key to peace in the Middle East. After wrecking the region themselves by their naïve and witless enthusiasm for perpetual revolution dressed up as the “Arab spring”, they have now decided that there is a magic Band-Aid to heal all the chaos and suffering their own irresponsible stupidity has caused: That Band-Aid, that magic solution, is revolutionary Iran.
To quote the science fiction writer Isaac Asimov: “Such folly smacks of genius. A lesser mind would be incapable of it.”
The meaning of the nuclear deal in Vienna is very clear: It is a second Munich. It threatens Iraq in particular with the fate of Austria in 1938 — a second Anschluss, or forced union, this time with Iran playing the role of Hitler’s Germany.
US policymakers are convinced that Iran’s tactical cooperation in its own interest against the forces of the Islamic State (ISIS) in Iraq will make it a strategic ally for the 21st century. Chamberlain and Halifax harboured similar ludicrous fantasies about Hitler.
The writing is not just on the wall: It is clear in all the headlines of the world. Obama and Kerry have ignored Winston Churchill’s warning about choosing between war and shame at Munich. They have chosen shame. They will also have war.
Arab leaders who warned clearly and repeatedly in vain against this suicidal folly will recognise the coming dangers and act accordingly.