Iran Deal “Doomed to Succeed,” Dennis Ross Says

Amb. Dennis Ross at Har Zion Temple

Amb. Dennis Ross at Har Zion Temple

Former Ambassador Dennis Ross says he does not know if the final result of the negotiations with Iran was the best deal possible, but he believes it will go forward. At the same time, Ross recommends steps he wants from the administration to address the agreement’s shortcomings.

Ross spoke on July 28 about the agreement negotiated by the U.S., Russia, China, the United Kingdom, France and Germany (the P5+1), and now pending review by the Congress. The talk held at Har Zion Congregation in Wynnewood, PA, and sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia was also simulcast downtown and webcast over the internet. The video is still available online. (Skip ahead 100 minutes to avoid the recording taken while the room was being set up.)

There is no easy answer to the question what to do with the Iran agreement, according to Ross. If the U.S. refuses to approve the agreement, it is likely that international sanctions against Iran will collapse anyway, and we will have no bargaining power sufficient to achieve any better deal. Thus Ross concludes that the agreement, despite its “vulnerabilities,” needs to be considered.

Good News

Ross laid out the favorable elements of the agreement: For 15 years Iran will not have a nuclear weapon. The amount of fissionable material allowed under the agreement, 300 k.g., is inadequate to manufacture even one bomb. By comparison, Iran has approximately 10,000 k.g. of fissionable material in its stockpile today.

Moreover, the supply chain for the development of fissionable material will be monitored for 25 years. Ross explained the two paths to secure fissionable material:

  • enrichment of uranium through cascades of centrifuges, or
  • development of plutonium in a heavy water reactor.

Either process requires extensive equipment and operations. Based on the successful experience of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in identifying past Iranian nuclear development, Ross is optimistic as to the effectiveness of the inspection regime under the new agreement.

Other positive elements of the Agreement were pointed out:

  • In addition to disposing of most of its fissionable material, Iran must remove and destroy the core from its heavy water plutonium reactor.
  • Its modern centrifuges must be removed for 10 years.
  • The inspection rights of the U.S. under the agreement are stricter than any international program ever instituted, other than the program we operated in Iraq after we took over that country.
Courtesy of Cartoon Kronicles  @ cartoonkronicles.com.

Courtesy of Cartoon Kronicles @ cartoonkronicles.com.

Bad News

Ross also provided his opinion of the “bad news”: Iran does not have to entirely dismantle its nuclear infrastructure and can produce highly enriched uranium, although at a much lower pace than at present. Iran will be free after 15 years to move into weapons-grade uranium development as rapidly as it wishes.

Sanctions relief for Iran will arrive as soon as it has completed dismantling facilities and reducing its stockpile. This might occur in as little as six months although Ross believes it is more likely to take a year. Although sanctions may snap back if Iran violates its agreement in whole or in part, if that occurs there is language indicating that Iran is not obligated to obey the limits on its nuclear program.

Ross accepts the probability that sanction relief will permit Iran to raise the levels of financial support it presently provides to Hamas and other terrorist activities. But he reiterates the prospect that sanctions will disappear, whether Congress approves the agreement or not.

Ross suggests that the U.S. add teeth to the agreement by announcing that it will resume the use of sanctions if there is any cheating by Iran. He urges that we develop specific further agreements with our European allies as to when and how their sanctions would be automatically reimposed in case of a breach, especially in the likely case of minor breaches.

After year 15, Iran would be a nuclear threshold state and could acquire a bomb quickly enough that sanctions would not be a sufficient deterrent. Accordingly, Ross recommends that we immediately clarify that even after 15 years we would not tolerate the development of nuclear weapons by Iran and that we would apply force if we saw that happening. Of course, even if we say we will do this, Iran might not believe us. In that case, to ensure that Iran is deterred from weaponizing their nuclear material, Ross recommends that we arm Israel with the GBU-57A/B Massive Ordnance Penetrator along with the B-52 bombers necessary to carry them. This 30,000-pound “bunker buster” bomb is really a “mountain buster bomb” and no one doubts that Israel would be willing to use these weapons if need be.

Audience members asked about the strain in Israel’s relations with the U.S. Noting that fully 70% of Israelis are unhappy with the agreement, Ross pointed to the very real threat they face from Iran and its support of Hamas. Although relations between the Netanyahu government and Washington are strained, Ross predicts no permanent impairment, noting our shared values and the democratic qualities of the State of Israel that are unique in the Middle East.

When questioner asked whether Israel remains free to attack Iran despite the agreement, Ross noted that entering the agreement implies that the U.S. will support, not sabotage the negotiated program. But this does not mean the U.S. is required to prevent action by Israel that is not a signatory to the P5+1 agreement with Iran.

Overall, Ross emphasizes the favorable aspects of the terms reached with Iran and concludes that the negotiated agreement, like the title of his book on the U.S.-Israel relationship, is “doomed to succeed.”

Stopping Radical Islam: An American Muslim’s View

Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser gave a fascinating and encouraging talk on a cold, rainy Tuesday evening before an audience of 120 at Har Zion Temple in Penn Valley, Pennsylvania. “Stopping Radical Islam: An American Muslim’s View” opened with introductions by the Israel Consul General of the Mid-Atlantic region, Yaron Sideman, and StandWithUs directors Ferne Hassan and Yossi Puder. Internationally recognized political Islam expert Dr. Jasser founded the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, which advocates for the preservation of the founding principles of the U.S. Constitution and counters the ideology that fuels radical Islamists. He is the author of the book A Battle for the Soul of Islam: An American Muslim Patriot’s Fight to Save His Faithand has been featured in several documentaries, including Islam v. Islamists, and The Third Jihad. He has been published extensively in national news media and appeared on national broadcast and cable TV and syndicated radio programs. He regularly testifies and briefs congressional staff members and caucuses on the threat of radicalization within the American Muslim community.

Islam v. IslamistsThe Third Jihad

Dr. Jasser’s family story is instructive. He spoke of being a first generation American of Muslim Syrian parents who fled the oppressive Baath regime in the 1960s. His family believed in the ideals of this country, where they could practice their faith freely. He was raised to serve and consequently went on to earn his medical degree with a U.S. Navy scholarship. He was the past president of the Arizona Medical Association, and now teaches and advises on medical ethics. He proudly wears a U.S. flag pin on his jacket lapel.
[Read more…]

Sen. Arlen Specter’s funeral a tribute to his life of service


Arlen Specter and his wife, former City Councilwoman Joan Specter, enjoyed the Barnes Foundation opening gala this past May a few months before Specter learned his cancer had returned for the third and final bout. Photo: Bonnie Squires


Barack Obama and Joe Biden attend a press conference welcoming Arlen Specter to the Democratic Party at the White House April 29, 2009. Photo: Ron Sachs-Pool/Getty Images.


Sen. Arlen Specter and Gov. Ed Rendell during Specter campaign rally in Philadelphia, May 15, 2010. Photo: AP.


Sen. Arlen Specter was carried in a flag-bedecked limousine from Temple Har Zion to his eternal resting place at his family’s plot in Shalom Memorial Park. Photo: Daniel Loeb.

— by Bonnie Squires

Har Zion Temple was the site of the funeral for Senator Arlen Specter, and the thousands of people who poured into the main sanctuary, which had to be opened up to include the ballroom behind it, represented a cross-section of America.

Judges and lawyers and U.S.  Attorneys and academics and heads of charities and former Specter staffers by the score populated the seats at Specter’s funeral.  Candidates and former candidates from both sides of the aisle came to pay tribute to a mover and shaker who according to every speaker, did the right thing, the fair thing, even when voting for President Obama’s stimulus package would cost him his seat in the Senate.

Specter’s influence crossed political boundaries, racial differences, and economic backgrounds, as evidenced by the huge diversity of those in attendance to pay their respects to Joan Specter and her family.

Federal officials, past and present, like Senator Bob Casey, former Senators Ted Kauffman and Harris Wofford, and former Congresswoman Marjorie Margolies; state officers, including Governor Tom Corbett; federal and state judges; leaders of academia; and hundreds and hundreds of other notables, like Gwen Goodman, former executive director of the National Museum of American Jewish History, and Lee Ducat, founder of the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation.  Ducat nodded as each speaker mentioned Specter’s passionate defense of funding for cancer research and stem cell research, even when various Presidents decided to cut funidng of the National Institutes of Health.

Chief among the notables, however, was Vice President Joe Biden, who teared up as he spoke about Arlen Specter, his dear friend, who always was there for him, especially in times of personal crisis.

Biden and Specter seved in the U.S. Senate, and Biden said in his remarks that he knew he had spent more time with Specter than anyone else in the sanctuary, sitting with him in the Senate and especially in the Judiciary Committee meetings and hearings.

Biden also let people know that he had foregone campaign stops in two critical swing states, Colorado and Nevada, to pay tribute to his dear friend at Har Zion Temple.

President Obama that very morning had ordered all American flags to be flown at half-staff on all government properties, military bases, embassies, etc., in the nation and around the world, to salute Senator Arlen Specter on the day of his funeral.

But the people asked to speak by Joan Specter were close personal friends, like Biden.  Like Ed Rendell.  Like Flora Becker, widow of Judge Ed Becker.  Like Judge Jan DuBois.  Like Steve Harmelin, Esq.  Like Shanin Specter’s long-time law partner, Tom Kline.  Like Shanin Specter, the Senator’s son, and two of Arlen’s four grand-daughters.

Perhaps most remarkable, in all of their praise of Specter’s fairness and acumen, was the telling of how, less than two weeks before his demise, Specter insisted on teaching his class on the Constitution at Penn Law School.   I guess that was why Penn President Amy Gutmann was also in attendance.

Probably half the people in the throng owed their careers to Arlen Specter, either through having been hired by him when he was either District Attorney, or having been appointed by him when he chaired the Judiciary committee.

Although each of the speakers, including life-long friends Flora Becker, Judge Jan DuBois, attorney Steve Harmelin, Governor Ed Rendell, Specter’s son Shanin, and Vice President Biden shared wonderful anecdotes and memories of Specter, going back to Penn undergraduate and Yale Law School days, it was two of Specter’s granddaughters who made the greatest impact.  Sylvie Specter, by the way, is a friend and classmate at Penn of Biden’s own granddaughter.

Sylvie and Perri Specter told us that their grandfather had spent two weeks before his passing, working on yet another book – one that was a memoir with photographs from his amazing collection.  They announced that the family plans to complete the book and have it published, joining the array of Senator Specter’s other remarkable books.

Rabbi Kieffer, Rabbi Knopf and Cantor Vogel of Har Zion contributed to the testimonials, making this a remarkable send-off for a remarkable man.

“Paper Clips” Documentary Shown at Har Zion Temple


— by Bonnie Squires

The award-winning documentary, Paper Clips, was shown Sunday, at Har Zion Temple in Penn Valley, and Sandra Roberts, the eighth-grade teacher from Whitwell, Tennessee, who supervises the project, spoke to several hundred Har Zion Hebrew High School students, parents, friends and community members.  Seen here welcoming Ms. Roberts are (left to right) student Seth Selarnick, his mother Nancy Selarnick, both of Penn Valley; Ms. Roberts; and Norman Einhorn, co-principal of Har Zion’s Hebrew High School.

Ms. Roberts  was asked by her principal in the late 1990s to create an after-school project to each tolerance and understanding, particularly in light of the lack of diversity in their small-town middle school.  When Roberts learned that her students just could not fathom what 6 million would be, in studying the Holocaust and the extermination of Jewish communities in Europe, she challenged them to come up with a collection of 6 million somethings so they could touch and feel the enormity.

The students did research and learned that Norwegians wore paper clips on their collars during Wolrd War II as a way of showing quiet sympathy for the Jews who were perishing in concentration camps.  So Whitwell students began writing letters to famous people, journalists, companies, asking everyone to donate a paper clip in memory of someone lost in the Holocaust.

The Holocaust Project mushroomed, and an article in the Washington Post really helped launched the project.  The film, which was done about ten years ago, criss-crosses the country, raising awareness and teaching students and their families to work to stamp out prejudice.