Is Bibi Right? (Nov. 25, 2013)

So, does the deal “cut off Iran’s more likely path to a bomb” as President Obama claims, or does it “make the world a much more dangerous place” as Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu claims?

While the world hopes and prays the President is right, history is on Bibi’s side.

According to Obama, the current deal with Iran trades $7 billion for a six month partial freeze on Iran’s nuclear efforts. Bibi describes the deal somewhat differently – he says it allows “”the most dangerous regime in the world” to continue enriching uranium in exchange for “cosmetic Iranian concessions that can be cancelled in weeks.”

So who’s right?

In the last 50 years, at least five countries took steps to become nuclear powers, including India, Pakistan, Iraq, Syria and North Korea. Three succeeded: India, Pakistan and North Korea. Two failed: Iraq and Syria. And, lest we forget, one country gave up its nuclear weapons: The Ukraine, former satellite of the Soviet Union.

To their credit, all U.S. Presidents since Eisenhower have tried to prevent new entrants from joining the nuclear club, but as the mixed results have shown, were only partially successful.

What worked? Limited military action, in the case of Syria and Iraq. While both countries are still a hotbed of violence and political strife, fortunately they don’t have nuclear weapons to make matters much worse. Their reactors were destroyed by Israel. In the case of the Ukraine, economic strangulation worked. The arms race bankrupted the Soviet Union, leading to its breakup and the newly independent Ukraine giving up their nuclear weapons.

What didn’t work? Threats of economic retaliation, in the cases of India and Pakistan, and negotiation, in the case of North Korea. In 1994, as you may recall, the Clinton administration traded aid for a North Korean promise to give up its nuclear activity…a promise they did not keep.

If history is our guide, Bibi is unfortunately more likely to be proven right. The economic sanctions should be increased until the government of Iran either capitulates or collapses.

Diplomacy alone, coupled with “threats” of additional economic pressure, may work this time. But I wouldn’t bet my country on it.