On April 2, 2015, President Barrack Obama stepped to the microphone in the White House Rose Garden and declared, “Today, the United States—together with our allies and partners—has reached a historic understanding with Iran, which, if fully implemented, will prevent it from obtaining a nuclear weapon.” Regrettably, history provides little comfort that the accord will prevent a determined Tehran from acquiring the bomb. On the contrary, numerous examples point in the other direction—the inevitable acquisition of nuclear weapons by an implacable enemy of the United States bent on dominating the Middle East, destroying Israel, and bringing the Islamic world under the control of the Supreme Leader in Tehran.
The treaty of Versailles that ended World War I severely restricted the number and type of armaments the Reichswehr could possess. These restrictions did not stop a determined Germany from cheating on the accord, even while the nation was governed by the democratic Weimar government. Instead, Germany embarked on an extensive program of military cooperation with its communist rival to the east, the Soviet Union. In the ten years before Hitler and the Nazi Party even came to power, an unholy alliance between Germany and the Soviet Union created the foundation for a revolution in military affairs consummated by the Wehrmacht between 1939 and 1941.
On September 30, 1938, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain addressed a crowd of supporters outside the prime minister’s residence at 10 Downing Street. Chamberlain had just returned from Munich, where he and French Premier Édouard Daladier had signed away Czechoslovakia’s sovereignty to Nazi Germany. “My good friends, for the second time in our history, a British Prime Minister has returned from Germany bringing peace with honour,” Chamberlain pronounced. “I believe it is peace for our time. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Go home and get a nice quiet sleep.” Across the Channel, Hitler was less charitable. “I have seen my enemies in Munich, and they are worms,” he remarked. Within a matter of months Hitler had ripped up the Munich accord, swallowing the remainder of Czechoslovakia in the process. World War II broke out shortly thereafter.
In 1994, the administration of U.S. President Bill Clinton, concerned over the proliferation of nuclear weapons to a rogue North Korea, considered launching an attack on North Korean nuclear facilities. Clinton decided against the attack, opting instead for negotiations. They produced an accord that promised a freeze in North Korea’s nuclear program in return for economic aid. A dozen years later (about the same timeframe covered by the Iran nuclear deal) North Korea tested a nuclear device. Today, the North Korean nuclear arsenal numbers somewhere between 15 and 20 weapons, and the regime of Kim Jong Un is working hard on producing the delivery systems to enable them to reach U.S. territory. North Korea routinely rattles the nuclear saber, most recently declaring that it would use nuclear weapons against the United States “and other hostile forces” if they “persistently seek their reckless hostile policy towards the [North] and behave mischievously.”
Effective arms control treaties require goodwill among the signatories to abide by the terms, effective monitoring mechanisms, and certain retaliation to enforce compliance should the parties decide to cheat. The Iranian nuclear accord lacks all three of these components. Absent an unlikely change in Tehran’s revolutionary outlook and foreign policy, at best the accord will delay for a matter of years the acquisition of nuclear weapons by a regime bent on destroying Israel and gaining hegemony throughout the Middle East. At worst, the Obama administration will have provided Iran the means to achieve its broader strategic goals, merely delaying a day of reckoning that might very well be signified by an exploding mushroom cloud.