In the fall of 1938, a defiant British MP Winston Churchill rose to deliver a speech denouncing the “Munich Agreement” recently negotiated by Europe’s leaders to “appease” Adolf Hitler by ceding part of Czechoslovakia to Nazi Germany, in a futile attempt to avert WWII. Churchill was vilified by his opponents as a war monger who would deny “peace in our time” and drag Europe into needless conflict. One year later, Germany invaded Poland and WWII fell on Europe, just as Churchill had predicted. Shortly thereafter a desperate England would turn to Churchill to help lead it against the Nazi onslaught. The rest, as they say, is history.
But history also really does seem to repeat itself. In 1986, nearly a half century after the Munich debacle, President Ronald Reagan travelled to Reykjavik, Iceland, to meet with Russian President Mikael Gorbachev. Reagan was under enormous pressure from U.S. allies and some critics at home to abandon his adamant opposition to the Soviet Union and instead forge an historic nuclear weapons reduction agreement with Gorbachev. But Mr. Reagan held firm to his conviction that the Soviet Union was an irredeemable blot against human freedom, and he rejected a nuclear deal he felt would have left the world even more vulnerable to Soviet aggression. Ronald Reagan, like Winston Churchill before him, was denounced as a danger to world peace by the appeasers of his time. Yet within three years, Reagan’s steadfastness would be vindicated with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet empire.
Fast forward to our own time — nearly three decades after the Berlin wall came down — and the world has again been faced with threats from belligerent dictatorial regimes in Iran and North Korea that could drag the world into nuclear holocaust. And again, the natural instinct of the international community has been to appease and reward these rogue regimes with hollow nuclear agreements that only left the world in greater danger.
Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Iranian nuclear deal has been vociferously opposed by timid European allies and modern day appeasers in our own country. Their insistence on peace at all costs has blinded them to the belligerence and aggression of the Iranian regime, and the predictable danger that Iran will eventually continue to pursue its nuclear ambitions in concert with its spreading of conventional warfare and terror in the Middle East.
Iran today is heavily involved in a proxy war in Syria that further threatens stability in the region and poses an existential threat to Israel, the one steadfast ally the U.S. has in the Middle East. Unlike European nations which stand at a safer distance from disastrous conflict, Israel must face constant barrages of Iranian rockets based in Syria and the ever present danger of incursions of Iranian backed forces in both Syria and Lebanon.
So yes, President Trump’s firm position that Iran must irrevocably give up both its nuclear ambitions and its support for terror is the right one. By placing maximum sanctions pressure on the Iranian regime, there is a far better chance that the Iranian ayatollahs will finally get the message that their aggression doesn’t pay. Iran today is a nation in deep conflict with itself. The economy there is in shambles, and young Iranians are especially disillusioned by a theocracy that strangles their both aspirations for a better life and more personal freedom. For every fanatic who chants “death to America,” there are many other ordinary Iranians who silently and desperately hope for fundamental change in their country.
Is there some risk in Trump’s position? Of course, as there is with any bold break from staid diplomatic norms. But the consistent message the Trump administration has sent both North Korea and Iran has real promise. When Mr. Trump assailed North Korea’s Kim Jong Un for his nuclear ambitions and promised “fire and fury” if Kim continued to threaten his neighbors, it seems Mr. Kim finally got the message that the U.S. was dead serious about countering North Korea’s danger to the world. Now there may finally be a real chance to reach a lasting peace deal on the Korean peninsula.
The same could hold true with Iran. Standing on the shoulders of leaders like Churchill and Reagan, holding firm against those demanding “peace now,” Donald Trump may be laying the foundation not just for a shaky peace with Iran in our own time, but peace for the long-time.
This column was originally published in the Long Island Herald Community Newspapers.
Former Senator D’Amato served a distinguished 18-year career in the U.S. Senate, where he chaired the Senate Banking Committee and was a member of the Senate Appropriations and Finance Committees. While in the Senate, Mr. D’Amato also Chaired of the U.S. Commission on Cooperation and Security in Europe (CSCE), and served on the Senate Intelligence Committee. The former Senator is considered an expert in the legislative and political process, who maintains close relationships with Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle. He is regularly called upon for his advice and counsel, and is recognized for his incisive analysis of national and international political affairs. The former Senator will share insights gained from his years in Washington “with a clear-eyed view of the political forces that shape the world we live in today.” To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.