The Europeans’ determination to keep the appalling Iran nuclear deal going, following President Trump’s decision to pull the US out of it, makes very little sense on its own declared terms.
Leave aside the shocking determination of Britain, France and Germany to continue to milk one of the deal’s most disturbing features: that it enabled the Iranian regime to pocket more than $1.7 billion which it used to fund Hezbollah and Hamas, build its missile infrastructure to destroy Israel and attack the west, and deploy proxy armies to bring conflict and chaos in Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen and elsewhere.
Leave aside also whether Britain and the Europeans will be forced to choose between trade deals with America and trade deals with Iran – in which it is hard to imagine they would choose Iran. The essence of a deal is that the parties give something to each other. What do Britain and Europe think they can plausibly show they will now get from Iran?
First, the regime blustered that the end of the deal meant they would restart uranium enrichment on which they had made great strides (so much for the deal supposedly having put a stop to all that). Then Iran’s President, Hassan Rouhani, said he would seek to salvage the deal with the Europeans regardless of the US departure.
Britain and the Europeans have maintained with a straight face that the deal had stopped Iran’s nuclear weapons programme. Why should the regime even pretend to stop its nuclear programme for them, though, given that the Iranians’ main incentive, to get sanctions lifted by the US, has now vanished? To put it another way, why would it (ostensibly) provide what the US wanted, only to receive nothing from the US in return?
The only conclusion is that Iran has no intention of making any concessions and Britain and the Europeans simply don’t care. What they want to extract from Iran is not an end to its nuclear weapons programme – which of course the nuclear deal never purported to provide. What Britain and Europeans want to extract from Iran is wealth.
At root, through is the broader belief, which is an article of faith on the left and a defining feature of EU ideology, that defending the west is in itself an act of belligerence. To this way of thinking nothing in western culture is worth defending, after all, and those who attack the west only do so because of the harm the west has done to them.
This pathological moral inversion, in tandem with Trump Derangement Syndrome, has been on widespread display in the British media reaction to Trump’s decision.
In the Financial Times, Philip Stephens wrote: “Donald Trump is what he has always seemed: a nationalist bully set on bending American power to deep personal prejudices. Quitting the Iran nuclear deal is not the pursuit of a foreign policy; rather an act of boastful defiance”.
In the Guardian,Simon Tisdall wrote: “Trump’s torpedoing of the Iran nuclear deal on highly specious and misleading grounds is an act of wanton diplomatic vandalism” for which (get this) European allies must ensure “escalating, punitive diplomatic and economic sanctions are levelled at Washington”.
In the Evening Standard Matthew D’Ancona wrote: “This was not a show of strength or statesmanlike audacity but the globally-televised tantrum of a man-baby” and the product of “laughable egomania” and “machismo”.
Others not on the left, though, put their distaste for Trump to one side to pay some attention to reality.
Thus Ian Martin in The Times asked: “What if Donald Trump is right about Iran?” and observed that the regime’s goals remain “ regional domination and religious war”.
And in the Daily Telegraph, Allister Heath wrote that the nuclear deal had freed Iran “to focus on overseas adventures and developing missiles”, that “appeasing expansionist, rogue states rarely works” and it was “absurd that so many ‘experts’ in the West continue to support the nuclear deal.”
Absurd indeed. But just why can’t they see the Iranian regime for the utterly implacable threat that it is? Well, they probably think it only threatens Israel and America. America can look after itself, they think, and as for Israel – well, just look at it throwing its weight around all the time and always playing the Holocaust card too.
That dismaying view is, unfortunately, never far from the surface.
On the Unherd website, Michael Burleigh wrote: “So enter Israel’s self-styled saviour, for whom it’s always 1938 with another Holocaust imminent” (although it wasn’t clear from the syntax whether this supposedly ludicrous idea that the Iranian regime aims to slaughter every last Jew in Israel – which of course isn’t ludicrous at all but is all too true – was being credited to Trump or the Israelis).
Burleigh also wrote that that Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu “having repeatedly cried wolf about what Iran was doing” had resorted to a “ludicrous conjuring act” in his presentation of the Mossad’s coup in extracting Iran’s nuclear archive; and that Netanyahu’s aim all along was “to get the US into a shooting war with Iran” which might cause some “America Firsters” to “object about foreign dictation of US foreign policy”.
Iran threatens without remission to wipe Israel off the map. Its proxies have targeted Jews for mass murder around the world. Its Supreme Leader belongs to a sect, the Twelvers, which believes that wiping out Israel and America in an apocalypse will bring the Shia messiah to earth. But hey, we all know that these damned Jews just won’t shut up with these paranoid delusions about a second Holocaust and go round manipulating America to do their dirty work for them.
The Iranian regime is clearly in a state of panic. For years it played the west like a chess grandmaster. Now the assumptions behind that strategy have gone belly-up.
This is where anyone one with a functioning brain would press home the advantage, exploit the weakness and finish the regime off altogether. But in their cravenness, greed and myopia Britain and Europe want to throw the regime a lifeline. They are behaving as if the biggest threat to the world is not the genocidal fanatic jihadi regime in Tehran but Donald J Trump.
And so now we have the surreal situation in which the Sunni Muslim world – much of which has itself been waging jihad against the west – is now cheering Trump and Israel on, while Britain and Europe are lining up against them on the side of the fanatical and murderous Iranian regime. The division now is between an alliance of America, Israel, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states versus an axis comprising Britain, France, Germany and Iran.
Have Britain and Europe lost their minds as well as their moral compass?