Iran Nuclear Talks in Lausanne: Is This the Munich Conference of Our Day?

After Lausanne, who will rise and say 'no more!?' Israel tried — and the world turned its back.

Ari Shavit
Ari Shavit
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Head of Iranian Atomic Energy Organization Ali Akbar Salehi and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif during nuclear talks in Lausanne, Switzerland, March 29, 2015.
Head of Iranian Atomic Energy Organization Ali Akbar Salehi and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif during nuclear talks in Lausanne, Switzerland, March 29, 2015.Credit: AFP
Ari Shavit
Ari Shavit

A 10-year drama reached its peak Thursday — will there or won’t there be a deal in Lausanne? Will it be good or bad for the Israelis? Will it be good or bad for the Arabs and the Americans? Is Lausanne the Munich of our time, or the place that will bring the world new, real peace tidings?

Since the early 2000s, the United States, Europe, the Arab states and Israel have been fighting shoulder-to-shoulder against the Iranian nuclear program. Their joint struggle is based on the understanding that if Iran becomes a nuclear power, it will become a hegemonic power that would deepen the Suni-Shi’ite rift, strengthen the radical forces in the Arab world and cause more and more conventional wars.

Also, if Iran has nuclear bombs, so will Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey and the Gulf states. Thus, a multi-polar nuclear system will be created in the Middle East, which will be tantamount to a strategic nightmare.

They also understand that if Iran acquires nuclear capability, there’s a high chance that capability will spill over to sub-state organizations, which will turn the 21st century into a century of nuclear terror and nuclear horror.

The three American presidents who promised that containing Iranian nuclear weapons was not an option and that Iran would never become nuclear (Bill Clinton, George Bush and Brack Obama,) knew what they were talking about. Although neither Western nor Israeli public opinion ever internalized the Iranian challenge, the world leadership understood what was at stake and promised again and again to the Israelis and Arabs that it would not betray them. That they could trust the United States. That the West would not repeat the mistakes it made in the ‘30s and would not enable countries or groups that espouse an extreme ideology to purchase extreme technological means that would send the Middle East into a tailspin and undermine world order.

In 2012, it transpired that the results of the decade-old struggle against the Iranian nuclear program were complicated. The (impressive) attempts at covert warfare failed and the military option (seen as surreal) wasn’t implemented, while the belated (and harsh) sanctions succeeded beyond expectation. Consequently, in 2013 Iran stood on the brink of technological triumph and economic collapse. This is why it entered a process of moderation and negotiation, which led to Lausanne.

Iran’s purpose was to preserve (restrained) technological ability and add to it economic prosperity and diplomatic victory, which together would give it regional hegemony and international power.

The West’s goal was the opposite — to take advantage of the economic whip to dismantle Iran’s technological infrastructure and ensure that the sanctions would only be lifted after Iran’s nuclear capability was entirely sterilized. Plunging oil prices in the fall of 2014 made things easier for the West and more difficult for its rival.

In recent months the six major powers have faced a paper tiger, which only nuclear teeth would turn into a real tiger. But the powers’ incompetence and lack of resolve once again became Iran’s trump card. Just as it succeeded in deceiving the West for a decade of strategic wrestling, it succeeded in overcoming the West in a fateful year of diplomatic wheeling and dealing. The same combination of resolve, cunning and ingenuity that enabled Khamenai’s Iran to get as far as Lausanne, enabled it to maneuver in Lausanne and cast a giant shadow on world peace.

So the question that must be asked after Lausanne is who will rise and say “no more!?” Israel tried — and the world turned its back. The Arabs tried — and the world ignored them. Even the British lion roared and fell silent. So all that remains now is Iranian arrogance and Western public opinion. Only a last-moment awakening of public opinion in the free world in the face of Iranian audacity can stop the the most abject march of folly of our time.

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