Obama's Deal with the Devil

The White House, determined to bring Iran in from the cold, goes headlong into negotiations with the devil.

It is from Marlowe’s character Dr Faustus we learn that if you must bargain with the devil then prepare for the worst case scenario. The demon, right after holding out a deal to die for, went so far as to give Faustus fair warning. Mephistopheles warns him in so many words, Go ahead, sell your soul but remember, the horrors of hell await you.  Let no one accuse the devil of nondisclosure. He reveals his hand, knowing that discontents and risk addicts never heed bad omens. They reckon they’re smarter than the devil, which probably explains why pacts and the paper they’re written on are equivalent in value. In headlong pursuit of breaking news, misgivings are brushed aside while feted honour beckons like a pot of gold. The rewards are imposing and the dangers too remote.

The fate of Faustus was eternal damnation. But the gambling medic was not the President of the United States. Faustus sealed his own fate, not the fate of mankind, which is what the looming nuclear deal could seal. If team Obama won’t learn from the doomed headstrong doctor, there are lessons closer to home.

Diplomatic pacts with the devil teach what? Consider the case everyone quotes. In September of 1938 British and French negotiators, hoping to avoid war in Europe, allowed Hitler to annex the Sudetenland, thereby damning the Czech people, not even represented at the talks. Given the choice “between war and dishonour,” in Churchill’s ringing words, the deal-making appeasers chose dishonour, and Europe still had war. The Roma and Jews had genocide. The prize of ‘peace in our time’ crumpled like the piece of paper Chamberlain waved at ecstatic crowds.

A year later, Stalin made a pact with the same devil. Europe was now on the brink of war, and the Soviets sought a quiet window that would allow them to build military muscle. What did Hitler want with a non-aggression pact? He used it to invade Poland, unopposed. Then when he thought the time was ripe Hitler invaded the deal-maker’s country.

The devil in Britain’s Lancaster House agreement of 1979 disguised himself somewhat better. Zimbabwean leader Robert Mugabe took the helm filled with sweet reason before murdering his way to absolute power. The devil knew a thing or two about the worth of gentlemanly guarantees. From breadbasket to basket case, Zimbabwe was the ultimate in roads to hell paved with self-aggrandizement.  

Like Mephistopheles and Hitler and Mugabe before them, the mullahs of Iran will not strike a bad deal -- that is to say, a deal that’s bad for them. The grand bargain being struck with Iran is another road to hell paved with bad intentions.

Here’s a wager infinitely more reckless than Dr Faustus made with his demon. The medic gambled with his own soul. The so-called P5+1, bartering with the devil behind closed doors, gamble with the lives of six million Israelis and millions more Arabs. No doubt they’ll come away from the table with some glittering bauble and fitting sound bites. But it’s worth remembering, the devil never deals himself the bad card. He signs pacts with blood, and that’s another thing worth remembering. He tends to break pacts before giving the signatures time to dry, and that’s something else to keep in mind.

Faustus one can understand. He summoned the demon to relieve life’s monotony. Faustus was already damned when Mephistopheles answered the summons. Obama on the other hand summoned the mullahs from their perilous bottle for no clear rhyme or reason. And ever since, bold as daylight, they’ve been plying their black arts over the Middle East and beyond.    

Steve Apfel is Director of the School of Management Accounting in Johannesburg, and is a columnist and author. His books include: ‘Hadrian's Echo:  The whys and wherefores of Israel's critics’; ‘ War by other means,." (Contributor) , and ‘Enemies of modern Zion' which is due out this year.