Rep. Nadler: Iran Deal “Makes Both the United States and Israel Safer”

Rep. Jerrod Nadler (D-NY 10

Rep. Jerrod Nadler (D-NY 10

— by Congressman Jerrod Nadler, U.S. Representative for New York’s 10th Congressional District. Nadler’s district contains the largest Jewish population in the country.

This September, we will face one of the most serious global security decisions in our history. It is a decision that I have taken my time to consider, knowing the stakes are too high to allow for anything but clear-headed and thoughtful analysis, with an acute awareness that there are sharply divided opinions and passionate feelings on both sides.

I believe there is one overriding objective against which we must judge the P5+1 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA): preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear bomb.

Although we know that Iran will remain a major menace to the region and the world, even without nuclear weapons, a nuclear armed Iran would represent an unacceptable threat to the United States, to Israel, and to global security. With respect to this objective, the interests of the United States and of Israel are identical, even as there are different views on how to achieve it.

I bring to my analysis the full weight of my responsibilities as a member of Congress, and my perspective as an American Jew who is both a Democrat and a strong supporter of Israel. I have sought to ignore the political pressures, as well as the demagoguery and hateful rhetoric on both sides that I think has been harmful to the overall political discourse.

After carefully studying the agreement and the arguments and analyses from all sides, I have concluded that, of all the alternatives, approval of the JCPOA, for all its flaws, gives us the best chance of stopping Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. Accordingly, I will support the agreement and vote against a Resolution of Disapproval.

I am satisfied that the JCPOA components, including its inspections and verification provisions, are sufficient and are not based on trusting Iranian compliance. While I am concerned that many of the key elements expire in the 10–15 year timeframe, our debate must center on whether the deal is preferable to the available alternatives. The only decision that matters at this moment is whether to support or reject the agreement that is on the table now, not on whether we could or should have gotten a better deal. It has been my duty, therefore, to consider the consequences of supporting or rejecting the JCPOA, and having decided that, to continue to pursue ways to further guarantee the security of the United States and our allies.

The Agreement

In the last 15 years, Iran has unfortunately made substantial progress in its nuclear program. Prior to the Interim Agreement in 2013, Iran had progressed to the point where it was only 1 month away from producing enough fissionable material for a nuclear bomb. The Interim Agreement forced Iran to get rid of its 20 percent enriched uranium, moving the “breakout” timeline — the length of time it would take Iran to produce enough fissionable material for a nuclear weapon — to 2–3 months. That is where Iran is now — at the threshold of developing a nuclear bomb.

While U.S.-led international sanctions were successful in bringing the Iranians to the negotiating table, such sanctions did not stop them from moving very close to developing a nuclear weapon. While far from perfect, I believe the JCPOA is, at this moment, the best chance we have to prevent Iran from actually becoming a nuclear weapon state.

The terms of the agreement prohibit the Iranians from ever developing, or attempting to develop, a nuclear bomb. I believe the agreement, properly monitored and enforced, does a very good job of doing that, and of increasing the breakout time to over a year, for a time period of at least 12–15 years.

The JCPOA shuts off both the plutonium and uranium pathways to a nuclear bomb. By reconfiguring the Arak reactor so it can produce only minute amounts of plutonium, requiring that all spent fuel rods be shipped out of the country, prohibiting the construction of a reprocessing plant to extract plutonium from the spent fuel rods, and banning the construction of any other reactors that can produce significant amounts of plutonium, the agreement blocks all routes to a plutonium weapon. The agreement blocks the uranium pathway by requiring that the bulk of Iran’s stockpiles of low-enriched uranium be shipped out of the country, reducing it by 98 percent — from 12,000kg to 300kg. Iran’s future enrichment of uranium will be limited to 3.67 percent, far below the 90 percent necessary for weapons-grade material, and they will be not be permitted to exceed 300kg — far less than is needed for one nuclear bomb — for 15 years. To further guarantee this, Iran will be required to disconnect 14,000 of their 19,000 centrifuges and store them, subject to constant observation and verification, to be used solely for spare parts.

All of their nuclear facilities — reactors, enrichment plants, centrifuges, storage sites, etc. — as well as the entire nuclear supply chain, will be under 24/7 human, photographic, and electronic surveillance for 25 years. This will give the United States and our partners more access, more intelligence, more time, and more options to respond appropriately should there be any suspicion of Iran’s violation of the agreement.

International sanctions will be suspended only after Iran’s compliance with these required steps, a process that is likely to take 6–9 months. If Iran violates the terms of the deal, sanctions can be re-imposed at any time by the United States, through our veto of the continued suspension of sanctions. This so-called “snap-back” mechanism will enable the U.S. to compel sanctions unilaterally, even without the agreement of any other country.

If Iran fulfills its obligations, and sanctions are suspended, about $56 billion of Iranian funds, which are currently blocked in foreign banks, will be released to them. If Iran remains in compliance, the international weapons ban against Iran will be lifted in 5 years and the ballistic missile ban in 8 years. These provisions are the focus of many of the objections to the JCPOA. However, for reasons I will discuss, I do not believe they provide sufficient cause to reject the agreement.

There is no doubt that the Iranian regime remains a terrifying and remorseless danger to the world. Iran sponsors terrorism, threatens the destruction of Israel, backs regimes guilty of human rights abuses, and foments instability throughout the region. Unfortunately, the agreement does not provide answers to these problems, and so the United States and our allies will have to continue countering Iran’s illicit activities on numerous fronts. Yet, the JCPOA is not intended to, and cannot be judged on its ability to, solve these problems. Conventional threats must be distinguished from the nuclear threat. A nuclear-weaponized Iran is a game-changer for the region and the world. Beyond posing an existential threat to Israel, it would be more dangerous, more destructive, and more destabilizing; and deterring or countering Iran’s support for terrorism would be far more difficult. Prime Minister Netanyahu delivered this same warning to the United Nations. The key is to stop a nuclear Iran.

Criticisms of the Agreement

In order to fairly evaluate the deal, there are a number of key criticisms that must be addressed:

  1. We shouldn’t lift sanctions because that would provide a multi-billion dollar windfall to Iran, much of which would be used to support terrorism and continue illicit conduct. Nor can we allow the lifting of critical bans on conventional and ballistic weapons sales to such a dangerous regime.Saying we should never lift sanctions is saying that we should never negotiate — that any deal, whatever its terms, is unacceptable. Multilateral sanctions were imposed, with international cooperation, to force the Iranians to the negotiation table to reach a deal that would prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. The P5+1 countries and Iran have now successfully concluded such an agreement, and Congress can either support or reject the agreement. The lifting of the sanctions was always expected if we reached a deal. If we rule out the lifting of sanctions in exchange for any deal to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear bomb, there can be no conceivable incentive for Iran to agree to anything — no quid for the quo — and the only option left would be military action.

    In addition, the Iranians will almost certainly get this money whether Congress approves the JCPOA or not. These funds are held in foreign banks — mostly in China, India, South Korea, Japan, and Hong Kong. If the Iranians fulfill their obligations over the next 6–9 months, these countries, which are eager to do business with Iran again, will almost undoubtedly lift their sanctions in accordance with the terms of the deal, and the Iranians will get their money, regardless of Congressional support or rejection of the JCPOA. Congress can only reject the lifting of American, not foreign, sanctions.

    Because of the multilateral sanctions, the Iranian economy has declined by more than 20 percent. The bulk of the money from this sanctions relief will have to be used to improve their suffering economy, lest there be popular unrest that might threaten the regime. Nonetheless, it is reasonable to assume that some percentage of the money might be used for illicit purposes.

    Similarly, we know that the lifting of the conventional weapons and ballistic missile embargos will add additional resources to an already dangerous regime.

    It is clear that these are dangerous consequences. The United States will have to provide additional military and other aid to Israel and our other allies in the region. It should also be noted that the embargos on conventional weapons and ballistic missiles were established along with the nuclear sanctions. The Chinese and Russians, along with Iran, argued that, as part of the nuclear sanctions, the embargoes should be lifted after the Iranians fulfill their initial obligations in 6–9 months. This was a hotly contested issue in the negotiations, and a surprising issue for those not involved in the talks when it emerged in the final JCPOA. American negotiators, however, managed to delay the lifting of these bans to 5 and 8 years, respectively. Given the imperative of preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon — an existential threat that would make Iran’s conventional threats fundamentally more dangerous and difficult to counter — such sanctions relief, while a heavy cost, must be considered part of what is necessary to prevent an Iranian nuclear bomb.

  2. We should not trust the Iranians. They will attempt to covertly develop a nuclear bomb.This agreement is not built on trust. It is built on inspections and monitoring to verify compliance, and to detect any violations or cheating. While criticisms have been made of the monitoring and inspection provisions, they are more thorough and intrusive than in any previous agreement. More importantly, they are strong enough to guarantee that Iran will not be able to illicitly produce any fissionable material — either through uranium enrichment or plutonium production — without our knowing about it.

    In addition to the 24/7 monitoring of the full nuclear supply chain, the JCPOA has two categories of inspection: declared sites and undeclared sites. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will have full and complete access to all declared sites — round-the-clock human, photographic, and electronic surveillance. Inspectors will know immediately of any violations.

    The agreement also provides access to any undeclared site. If the IAEA suspects that illicit activity is taking place at an undeclared site, it can demand access to that site with as little as 24-hour notice. The Iranians, under certain circumstances, can delay the inspection for up to 24 days. But if uranium enrichment were taking place at that site, and the Iranians somehow managed to remove thousands of centrifuges, miles of piping, and all of the necessary uranium handling equipment within 24 days, without being observed, there would still be, for years, un-removable trace elements and other radioactive isotopes that would expose the covert enrichment. It is almost inconceivable that the Iranians could divert thousands of kilograms of uranium and thousands of centrifuges from the supply chain unobserved, could construct a massive secret enrichment facility unobserved, could bring in the uranium and centrifuges on fleets of trucks or barges unobserved, could supply massive amounts of electricity through secret power transmission lines, and could then dismantle that plant and the transmission lines and remove all traces within 24 days, all unobserved. It is also inconceivable that the Iranians could operate a totally secret supply chain without our noticing the secret mines and mills. I am convinced, therefore, that it would be almost impossible for the Iranians to cheat on uranium enrichment.

    They could not cheat on production of plutonium because this can only be accomplished in a nuclear reactor. Nuclear reactors are declared sites subject to constant inspection. Any attempt to use a potential secret reactor would be exposed because of the necessary diversion of uranium fuel for the reactor from the fully monitored supply chain.

    There are certain violations, however, such as computer modeling of bomb design or other weaponization research, that would be less easily detectable. The JCPOA is not foolproof in this regard, nor could any agreement be. But as long as the limits on production of fissionable materials — enriched uranium or plutonium — are rigorously enforced and monitored, other violations cannot lead to development of a nuclear bomb.

    Having spoken with experts and officials at the highest levels, I am convinced that the deal will stop Iran’s nuclear development from approaching weapons-grade levels for at least 15 years. Any violation will be quickly uncovered because the inspection and verification elements of the agreement are exhaustive, and, while not perfect, effective.

  3. While the JCPOA may do an effective job at delaying Iran from developing a nuclear bomb for 15 years, it “paves the way” for an Iranian bomb afterwards.The agreement certainly does not “pave the way” for an Iranian bomb. But there is cause for concern starting in the 10–15 year period. While under the terms of the deal, Iran is prohibited from ever developing a nuclear bomb and any actions clearly for that purpose would constitute a violation of the agreement, the provisions designed to enforce this will begin to be cut back after 10 years. Iran would then be permitted to install more advanced centrifuges, and the breakout timeline would begin to shrink. After 15 years, the limit of 300kg of 3.67 percent low-enriched uranium will sunset. Iran will be permitted higher levels of enrichment and greater quantities of enriched uranium overall, provided they submit an annually updated plan to the IAEA which justifies these levels and amounts for peaceful, civilian use. Legitimate civilian purposes — such as generating electricity — require no more than 5 percent enrichment, while a bomb requires 90 percent. If Iran began to produce higher grade uranium or greater quantities than necessary for civilian use, the inspectors would know it instantly.

    The problem is that, in 15 years, the Iranians may be legally permitted to deploy so many advanced centrifuges — for “peaceful” purposes — that, if they then decide to develop a bomb, they could enrich sufficient uranium quickly. However, to switch from producing 5 percent uranium to 90 percent, they would first have to reconfigure the centrifuge cascades — a process that requires time to implement. We would, fortunately, observe this conversion process instantly. So, in 15 years, if Iran begins to aggressively pursue the necessary nuclear material for a bomb, the breakout timeline, after being extended to over a year by the JCPOA, would shrink back down to 2–3 months.

    The only practical way, in such a short timeframe, to prevent them from developing a bomb at that point would be military action.

    Critics are right in their concern about a short breakout timeline and the limited options available. This appropriately makes many people, including me, uneasy. It is why I have struggled with this decision, why I have pressed the Administration and security experts with my concerns, and why many of my colleagues are unable to bring themselves to support the JCPOA. However, the very same concern exists today, in the absence of a deal.

    After examining the provisions and the shortcomings, we must decide if, on balance, the JCPOA gives us better odds of averting an Iranian nuclear bomb than any other available option.

    If the agreement is adopted, it will reliably prevent development of an Iranian nuclear bomb for at least 10–15 years. Even after 15 years, the options available to a future President to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear bomb would be, at worst, no different or more restrictive than the options available now. This conclusion follows from a sober assessment of the alternatives being suggested and the likely consequences of a rejection of the JCPOA.

Alternative Scenarios

If the United States rejects the agreement, there are several possibilities:

  1. First, Iran could pull away and reject the deal. The Europeans, Russia, and China, being eager to resume business with Iran, having agreed to voluntary sanctions only in order to coerce Iran into negotiating an agreement, and having reached what they regard as a reasonable agreement only to have Congress pull the rug out from under them, would certainly not want to maintain their sanctions. As former Bush Administration Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson has stated, it is “totally unrealistic” to expect the multilateral sanctions to stay in place should the United States decide to reject the JCPOA. The agreement, therefore, and the sanctions regime, would fall apart. Iran could then resume its enrichment program, and begin the 2–3 month countdown to a nuclear weapon. We saw prior to 2010 that American sanctions alone were not sufficient to deter Iran from aggressively ramping-up its nuclear development program. That would leave military action as the only option. That is why the President warns of war as the alternative to approving the JCPOA. And our generals tell us a U.S. military strike could, at best, delay the Iranian nuclear program for 3–5 years, with a likely considerable cost in American and Israeli lives, including many civilians.
  2. Second, Iran might accept the JCPOA without U.S. participation. In that case, the other countries might go along. In 6–9 months, all the non-U.S. sanctions would be lifted. Iran would resume doing business with most other countries, and would get its $56 billion, some of which would be used to sponsor terrorism and other illicit activities. There would be less diligent oversight, less fear of punitive action against violations, and Iran would enjoy full legitimacy and inclusion from the international community. Meanwhile, the United States — Israel’s closest ally and the only partner on the Security Council or in the P5+1 whose interests are as closely aligned in terms of preventing Iran from becoming an existential threat — would sit on the sidelines, separated from the JCPOA.
  3. Third, Iran might initially accept the JCPOA without U.S. participation. At any time after the sanctions are lifted and after Iran pockets the $56 billion and the benefits of trade with the Europeans, China, Russia, etc., Iran could then decide that, since the United States was not adhering to the terms of the agreement, it would not either. The Iranians could then kick out the inspectors and begin enriching as much as they want. The United States would not be able to get the other countries to re-impose sanctions since our former partners would blame us, not the Iranians, for the collapse of the deal. Plus, they would have powerful economic incentives not to halt their newly resumed trade and investments. And, as we have discovered, U.S. sanctions alone are significantly less effective.

This scenario also yields a much higher likelihood of having to choose between an Iranian bomb and military action in just a few years.

The alternative being suggested by many, however, posits that the United States, after rejecting the agreement, can, through our banking system, coerce the rest of the world into unwillingly boycotting Iranian banks. This scenario envisions use of such “secondary sanctions” to force the Iranians back to the negotiating table, where we would get a better deal. In other words, we would take on essentially the rest of the world, including all our closest economic and diplomatic allies, and, by threatening to cut off their access to the American economy through our banks, would coerce them into re-imposing sanctions when they believe the United States, not the Iranians, caused the problem by rejecting the JCPOA.

When anyone says we can get a “better deal”, this is the alternative to which they are referring.

There are several problems with this scenario: First, it is far-fetched, unlikely to work, and would create an economic disaster. The countries we would have to coerce are among the biggest economies in the world. As Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said in a recent piece; “If we were to cut them off from the American dollar and our financial system, we would set off extensive financial hemorrhaging, not just in our partner countries but in the United States as well.”

As Secretary Lew pointed out, 40 percent of our exports go to these countries, and those exports could not survive a cut-off of U.S. connections to their banking systems. Our trading partners know that we are not going to shut down our exports — with all the job loss and economic havoc that would entail here at home — nor are we going to cut off countries that hold 47 percent of foreign-held American treasuries.

I agree with this analysis that such a threat is too risky and not credible.

Second, the Administration has stated loudly and clearly that it believes cutting off banking relations in this fashion would create an economic disaster. Because of this belief, the Administration would not do it — they will neither threaten nor carry out such an action, and this alone removes this alternative from consideration, at least for the next 18 months.

And I do not believe that any new Administration, no matter what candidates may say in an election campaign, would really run the huge risk of causing a domestic and global economic collapse.

In summary: U.S. rejection of the JCPOA would almost certainly result in a far greater likelihood of Iran developing a nuclear bomb in relatively short order. This would leave us with only the terrible choice between military action — which would still only temporarily delay Iran’s nuclear weapons program — and accepting a nuclear-armed Iran. Accepting the JCPOA is clearly preferable to accepting the consequences of its rejection. This is a conclusion I have not reached alone — the overwhelming majority of military, security, intelligence and nuclear proliferation experts agree that the Iran deal is the best course available for achieving our objective. The JCPOA prevents an Iranian nuclear bomb for at least for 15 years, and perhaps indefinitely. This is clearly in the interests of the United States, Israel, and our other Middle East allies. The alternatives are either totally unrealistic or leave us with a likelihood of an Iranian nuclear bomb well before 15 years.

While I am supporting the JCPOA as better than any available alternative, it is true that the deal has some clear weaknesses. I discussed some of the weaknesses I found most concerning with some of my colleagues and constituents, and raised these issues in a recent Op-Ed [Link]. I also discussed these concerns directly with the President, as did others. The President responded directly to the issues we raised in a letter addressed to me [Link]. I am gratified that the President’s response satisfied some of these concerns. But I recognize they do not cover every challenge in the agreement.

The Public Discourse

While I am firmly convinced that the agreement is the best course of action amongst the alternatives, I am well aware that there are those who strongly disagree. I accept there will be many who will say that the assurances my colleagues and I sought from the Administration are inadequate and that they fail to mitigate some of the most serious concerns raised with the JCPOA’s shortcomings. And there will be those who believe that my evaluation of the agreement versus its alternatives, and their respective implications, is flawed. But again, I have made this decision according to my principles, with thorough research and careful consideration. That is all I can do, and I hope it is enough for people to believe that it is a decision I reached honestly, without political calculation, and with the sole objective of protecting the United States, Israel, and the world from the menace of a nuclear-armed Iran.

Regardless of how my colleagues decide to cast their votes, I also respect their decisions and commitments to voting their consciences. And it is my assumption that all of my colleagues who care deeply about the security of the United States and of Israel, no matter whether they ultimately support or oppose this agreement, are honestly trying to reach the same objective — stopping Iran from getting a nuclear bomb and thereby protecting countless American and Israeli lives. It is a collective desire to bring safety and security in the immediate and long-term, to curb nuclear proliferation in a region that has experienced too much violence and bloodshed already, and to stand in the way of further destabilization and bad behavior by Iran in the form of terrorism and human rights abuses. While there may be disagreement on the best course for achieving these goals, there should be no doubt that there is a shared desire to find the best course.
There is an inescapable reality with this type of complicated, life and death decision — there are many uncertainties, both as to how the agreement would play out and how, if we reject the JCPOA, the alternative scenarios would play out. No one can pretend that we are choosing between a set of flawless options. These decisions are hard, involving close calls and uncertain future predictions.

In this situation, it is inevitable that people of good conscience and common goals will come down on different sides of the issue. This is why, despite the majority of the Israeli political establishment being opposed to the JCPOA, many members of Israel’s security establishment — including former heads of the IDF, the Shin Bet, and the Mossad — agree this deal is the best option available to protect Israel. That is how both sides of the debate in America are able to produce experts for their respective views. It is no surprise that Jewish members of the House and Senate are likely to be split down the middle in voting to support or reject the agreement.

It is with this perspective that I have become increasingly disturbed by the rhetoric being used by some on both sides of the debate. We have apparently reached the point in our public discourse where, if the stakes are high enough, if emotions run deep and opinion is sharply divided, ridicule and ad hominem attacks on the character and loyalty of those who differ become acceptable in the political dialogue. I condemn this and encourage others of good will to do the same.

I am outraged that some on the Left are making anti-Semitic accusations of dual loyalty or treason when someone, particularly a Jewish member of Congress, decides to oppose the agreement. I am also deeply disturbed that some opponents of the agreement have taken to questioning the sincerity of people’s support for Israel (or their “Jewishness”, if it applies) if that person believes the JCPOA is the best option we have for protecting Israel and the world from the threat of Iran as a nuclear weapon state.

Similarly, I disagree with those who suggest that Israel’s government or people must not interfere in seeking to shape American decisions on these issues, and I see such statements as a means of silencing an important part of the discussion. Israel and Israelis have an absolutely legitimate right to be concerned, given the existential threat they face, and to articulate that concern openly within the American political debate. If Iran were allowed to develop a nuclear weapon, that would represent a fundamental threat to the existence of Israel. A single nuclear bomb on Tel Aviv could destroy the homeland of the Jewish people, causing a catastrophic and irrevocable loss of Israeli lives and threatening the existence of our most important ally in the Middle East. Without Israel raising the alarm, the world might not have prioritized this threat and we would be in a weaker position than we are in today to respond to this terrifying question.

I have personally experienced this dangerous dynamic of poisonous rhetoric before, at another moment when opinion was sharply divided and some people placed politics and emotion above clearheaded thinking. When I voted against approving the use of force in Iraq, I did so not only because I was unconvinced by the justifications or arguments being made by the Bush Administration, but because of my understanding of the history and dynamics in the region. As I said at the time, Iran — not Iraq — was the real threat, and if we removed Iraq as a buffer to Iranian influence and expansionism, Israel and the United States would be left to suffer from the consequences. Suffice it to say, I took a lot of criticism for my vote, and both my American patriotism and my commitment to Israel were questioned. What made it even more difficult was the fact that the attacks on 9/11 centered in my district. And while history has proven my decision to have been the right one, the demagoguery is an unfortunate stain on that period.

It was wrong then and it is wrong now to question loyalties or motivations. A decision to support the JCPOA does not make someone anti-Israel. My decision to support the JCPOA is based on my conclusion that the JCPOA makes both the United States and Israel safer. I have been an extremely vocal and unrelentingly strong supporter of Israel for my entire career. I will continue to be so, and refuse to allow anyone to question my long record or my commitment. It is, in large part, because of my support for Israel that I have made the decision I am convinced is the best option for achieving our overriding security imperative.

Just as we can all agree that we must not let Iran become a nuclear state, we also can all agree that the JCPOA is not perfect. As I have said before, there are parts of the deal that are good and parts that are not. This is why it has been such a difficult decision for me and for so many of my colleagues. After the votes are taken, we must come together to advance our shared goals and security objectives. The stakes are simply too high. Going forward, the President, Congress, and all those concerned will need to work together to fill the gaps and strengthen the defenses of our Middle East allies. Poisonous rhetoric and scorched earth politics weaken our ability to do so. I look forward to working with my colleagues and other stakeholders on both sides of this decision in the critical days, months, and years ahead.

Torah, World Politics and Iran

5438[1]How does our Jewish community make a decision on the crucial issue of making sure that Iran is not able to produce nuclear weapons?

One classically Jewish approach: We could draw on the deep, ancient, and evolving wisdom of Torah, reading it anew in the light of the circumstances in which we find ourselves today.

The passage of Torah that leaps out as most relevant is Deuteronomy 20:10-11. It teaches that if we besiege a city (which is what the sanctions against Iran have been), we must proclaim Shalom to it. If it then agrees to decent terms that meet our conditions and fulfill our crucial needs, we must make sure it adheres to them and we must end the siege.

That is what the proposed agreement with Iran does. It does this by requiring Iran to abandon all the physical objects and scientific processes that could lead to nuclear weapons, and to subject itself to unprecedented intrusive inspections to make sure it is adhering to that regimen. It makes sure that if Iran’s government were to change its mind, decide to go nuclear, and expel inspectors, the world would have at least a year to take action before Iran could make even one nuclear weapon.

Yet we must test the Torah teaching against our present situation. In this case, what is an alternative approach that would make sure Iran cannot develop nuclear weapons?

Yet we must test the Torah teaching against our present situation. In this case, what is an alternative approach that would make sure Iran cannot develop nuclear weapons?

The same Torah passage that counsels proclaiming Shalom to a besieged city and bending it to our own will sees that the alternative to agreement would be an utterly destructive war.

And in our present situation, that expectation seems correct. If the Congress were to torpedo this agreement, the world-wide regimen of sanctions against Iran would almost certainly unravel and we would be left with no agreement, no inspections, no restrictions, and no sanctions. At that point, there would be intense pressures for war, on the grounds that there would then be no other way to ensure that Iran could not change its mind and proceed to acquire nuclear weapons.

War would begin with what its proponents would advertise as a one-shot military attack on Iran.Such an attack might well win a momentary victory, though Iran could respond in low-level ways that would have huge effects – like disrupting oil traffic in the Straits of Hormuz. But even an immediate military victory would not end there, any more than did the initial victorious invasion of Iraq.

Far likelier that any surviving Iranian government would then with absolute determination seek nuclear weaponry, in order to deter future attacks. To prevent that effort from succeeding, the attacking government would find itself hooked into a continuing, probably permanent, occupation. Its forces would be constantly harassed by guerrilla warfare from a furious and united Iranian people.

Such a war would be far worse for the US, Israel, and the whole Middle East than the Iraq War was. Worse in dead bodies, failure to meet urgent civilian needs, collapse of US influence abroad.

But what about the hostility that the Prime Minister of Israel has vehemently expressed to the proposed nuclear-control agreement?

Two factors are at work: Much of the Israeli Jewish community and predominant Israeli Jewish culture, feel the Holocaust as a constant nightmare in the constant present, stoking fear that any agreement with a hostile power will endanger the Jewish people — which their fear still defines as a powerless victim.

Yet the military/ security leadership in Israel has over and over spoken out in opposition to Mr. Netanyahu’s go-for-broke insistence on continuing the siege of Iran — refusing any agreement.

Why is the Prime Minister rejecting the advice of the security leadership? It is all too possible that an increasingly right-wing government is appealing to this ever-present subterranean fear in order to increase its own power — just as Prime Minister Netanyahu did just before the election.

It is the task of the American Jewish community to make up our own minds about this decision, drawing on our own Jewish values and our understanding of the broader consequences of the two choices, both in America and in the Middle East.

Here too we must take seriously the Torah’s teachings. The Torah counsels respect but not automatic obeisance to rulers. Instead it places strong limits on the power of kings – including the kings of ancient Israel. The passage (Deuteronomy 17:16) especially warns against the frequent inclination of many kings to pursue military power, as in “multiplying horses” for a horse-chariot army when cavalry was the aggressive weaponry of an imperious pharaoh.

That injunction applies to any secret nuclear-weaponry ambitions of Iran; to unwarranted militarism of any Israeli government; and to those in the US who thirst for military adventures now as they did twelve years ago when they targeted Iraq.

It will do Israel no good to curdle our love for it into idolatry toward some of its leaders. It will do America great harm for us to pursue war with Iran instead of a vigorously safeguarded shalom. For as our scriptures also teach (Psalms 115 and 135), those who erect dead objects and deadly ideas into their gods will become like their idols — dead. It is celebration of the ever-changing, ever-growing Breath of Life that gives life to ourselves and all our neighbors.

Obama Refutes Criticism of Iran Deal

Remarks by President Barack Obama at American University, August 5, 2015

Between now and the congressional vote in September, you’re going to hear a lot of arguments against this deal, backed by tens of millions of dollars in advertising. And if the rhetoric in these ads, and the accompanying commentary, sounds familiar, it should — for many of the same people who argued for the war in Iraq are now making the case against the Iran nuclear deal.


[Read more…]

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.”

The Real Reason for Netanyahu’s Iran Deal Criticism

A recent DEBKA article suggested that Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, had a change of heart regarding President Obama and the Iran nuclear deal:

Netanyahu has switched tactics for his struggle against the nuclear deal between Iran and world powers… Instead of an all-out effort to block the deal’s passage through Congress, Netanyahu will propose to Congress new laws to specify the issues on which Iranian violations would make US administration penalties mandatory. In Tehran, the Guards chief has rejected the UN resolution as “crossing Iran’s red lines.”

july-22-2015-bibi-and-obama

Cartoon courtesy of The Cartoon Kronicles: http://cartoonkronicles.com/

It looks like Netanyahu only wants to criticize the plan. By doing so during the negotiations he increased the leverage the allies had over the Iranian and by doing so now he decreases the probability that Iranians will reject it as a concession to the “Little Satan.”

However, now he sees a possibility that Congress might actually do what ostensibly he had been asking them to do — reject the treaty — and even Netanyahu does not want that. (I cannot avoid thinking of the analogy of a dog chasing after a car. The dog would not know what to do if it actually “caught” the car.)

Those who prefer how things were last month with sanctions to how things will be in the future with a treaty are just engaging in wishful thinking. We cannot turn back the clock. International sanctions are already scheduled to expire if Congress rejects the treaty. The coalition we formed included countries like Russia and China who are basically sympathetic to Iran and would feel betrayed by the U.S. Any new sanctions would have to be unilateral and would likely be no more effective in bringing Iran back to the table than the unilateral Cuban sanctions were in toppling Fidel Castro.

In short, rejecting the treaty would undo all of the progress we have made in recent years in rolling back Iran’s nuclear program, and it would deny the us the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to require Iran to turn over 97% of its existing stockpiles of highly enriched uranium, as well as its most effective means of generating more while putting the remainder of both under the constant monitoring of the inspectors, like those who successfully kept Iraq’s Saddam Hussein from getting a bomb. Despite his earlier rhetoric, it seems that Netanyahu knows this and is now acting accordingly.

US, Israel Must Assure Iran Agreement Is Implemented

What Position Should We Take On The Iran Nuclear Deal?

I received the above question from The Peace Team along with a retelling of why Alan Grayson, described as a bona fide progressive (His recent failure to back higher taxes on the top 0.01% not withstanding.), is strongly against the talks that led to the agreement. I have respected Grayson’s outspokenness in the past, but very much disagree with him on the Iran Nuclear Deal.

As an American Jew with relatives in Israel, I support the agreement as by far the best alternative. Absent implementation of this agreement would have two likely outcomes: war or a nuclear armed Iran. I am not the least bit interested in either.

A Military Solution?

Legions of the same people who cheer-lead the disastrous invasion of Iraq have for years been touting military action as the “best option” but they fail, as they did before, to take into account any of the likely corollary ramifications. In a Washington Post Op-ed, Hans Binnendijk ably relayed that it would be no easy task to degrade Iran’s nuclear capabilities via air strikes, and the prospect of hostilities expanding beyond “surgical” strikes looms large.

Binnendijk also pointed out the fact that Iran is effectively our ally in the fight against ISIL, and has a close relationship with Russia: one of our negotiating partners, with whom we have a host of significant diplomatic challenges.

Meanwhile, what will our “solid” allies do? Will Britain join with the U.S. as it did in Iraq? How about Germany? Or France? Or, will we be on an island with Israel, who would be targeted by Iran’s ballistic missiles? Iran is far from a toothless enemy, with clear capacity to create havoc in the Strait of Hormuz and the potential to cause significant damage to U.S. Naval forces.

Renewed Sanctions?

If Congress upends the agreement and we do not go to war, then what? The sanctions regime that brought Iran to the table will dissolve, Russia will move forward with providing Iran with more advanced weapons and we will have no leverage, no inspections, and almost certainly drive to nuclear weapons capability on Iran’s side. Meanwhile, the already badly strained U.S. relationship with Russia over the Ukraine, a powder keg of international disaster should it blow, would worsen, and the very same people arguing vociferously against this agreement will be agitating for tougher action against Russia. The level of risk of a widening conflict in the region and direct conflict with Russia is already far too great.

Courtesy of Mike Stanfill.

Courtesy of Mike Stanfill.


Trust Iran?

With the agreement in place it is possible Iran will try to take steps toward a nuclear weapon. But it will also be far more likely that they will get caught with inspectors actively working to detect cheating, even if they cannot get into each and every possible facility (and really, what government would permit unfettered access to all of their military installations?).

A perfect deal was never going to be struck with Iran. The reality of what has been agreed to is probably better than could be realistically expected. It should be supported.

In the end, it is in the best interest of the U.S. and Israel to implement the negotiated agreement and work vigorously to ensure that its implementation is as effective as possible.

Before Opposing Iran Deal, Consider the Alternatives

From left to right: Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, European Union High Representative Federica Mogherini, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, Head of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization Ali Akbar Salehi, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond and US Secretary of State John Kerry pose for a group picture at the United Nations building in Vienna, Austria, Tuesday, July 14, 2015, during their talks on the Iranian nuclear program. (Joe Klamar/Pool Photo via AP)

Iranian nuclear talks concluded on July 14, 2015 in Vienna.

President Obama announced a deal with Iran on Tuesday. Congress has 60 days to decide whether to block the deal. This decision will affect the lives of our children and grandchildren and is one of the most important votes Congress will take in our lifetimes. We are far better off with this deal than without it, and we could not have gotten a better deal.

Yet before the ink was dry, some groups announced pre-planned campaigns to defeat the deal. Rep. Robert Dold (R-IL) claimed he read and analyzed the deal Tuesday morning and published an op-ed opposing the deal that very afternoon. Dold had 60 days to make the most important decision of his congressional career, but he made it in a matter of hours. I guess he can use the remaining 59 days and 18 hours to campaign.

We owe it to ourselves to think this through. Don’t rely on weak versions of the administration’s case presented by opponents of the deal. Read the administration’s position in its own words. You don’t have to agree, but you’ve got to understand. President Obama’s press conference last week is mandatory reading for anyone who truly seeks to understand — he covers many key objections.

The 24-day inspection access requirement for non-declared sites (the deal gives us 24/7 access to all of Iran’s known sites) deserves special attention. Critics compare it to giving a drug dealer 24 days to cover up, but that’s a false and misleading analogy. As James Acton explains, an “access delay — even one of 24 days — wouldn’t make any material difference to the IAEA’s ability to detect undeclared nuclear activities.”

And if you still disagree? Then you have to ask what the alternative is. What happens after Congress blocks a deal that our allies and Iran think is a good deal? Those who tell us in such great detail what is wrong with this deal have an obligation to tell us their alternative in just as much detail, so that we can weigh the merits and decide which course is best.

Some argue that the alternative is not war, but a better deal. A better deal! Why didn’t Obama think of that? Jeff Goldberg is right:

I’m not going to judge this deal against a platonic ideal of deals; I’m judging it against the alternative. And the alternative is no deal at all because, let’s not kid ourselves here, neither Iran nor our negotiating partners in the P5+1 is going to agree to start over again should Congress reject this deal in September. What will happen, should Congress reject the deal, is that international sanctions will crumble and Iran will be free to pursue a nuclear weapon, and it would start this pursuit only two or three months away from the nuclear threshold.

No responsible person can oppose this deal without understanding the implications of blocking the deal and knowing what realistic alternatives we have. The “better deal” opponents want invariably turns out to be an deal that Iran would never accept and that our European allies do not think is reasonable or necessary for Iran to accept.

That leaves military action as the only realistic alternative. Military action can, at best, set back Iran’s program only a few years — while guaranteeing that Iran will pursue and obtain nuclear weapons in far less than ten years.

What About Israel?

Many in Israel’s military and intelligence community support the Iran deal. Former Shin Bet Director Ami Ayalon said that the deal is “the best possible alternative from Israel’s point of view, given the other available alternatives.”

Tel Aviv University physics professor Uzi Even, who served as a scientist at Israel’s Dimona reactor, supports the deal:

the deal that was signed is preferable to the current situation because it delays Iran’s ability to develop a nuclear bomb by at least 15 years and in practice ends its nuclear aspirations.

Yet many Israeli political leaders across the spectrum oppose the deal. We have yet to hear any arguments from those politicians that differ from what we’ve heard here, nor have we heard any realistic alternatives from them.

In this case, it’s not that they know something we don’t. Israel is more at risk from a nuclear Iran than the U.S. and Europe. Reading between the lines, it seems that they just don’t trust the U.S. and Europe to actually enforce the deal or to actively stop Iran on other fronts not covered by the deal. Six years of non-stop anti-Obama indoctrination from the Prime Minister hasn’t helped. This makes for a terribly uncomfortable situation, but what choice do we have other than to evaluate the deal on its merits and ask ourselves if there are better, realistic alternatives?

Everyone agrees on the urgent necessity of preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Before Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) even read the deal, he said President Obama wants “to get nukes to Iran.” His opponent, Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), believes that Congress should carefully review this deal, without rushing to judgment or resorting to reckless partisanship. (Kirk later walked back his statement without apologizing.)

The deal does not require Iran to recognize Israel, to stop terrorism, or to free American captives. The purpose of the deal is only to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. We negotiated with Iran because we are safer with an evil regime that does not have nuclear weapons than one that does.

Reagan and Nixon faced similar criticism for negotiating with the Soviet Union, which was also committed to our destruction. We negotiate with our enemies, not our friends.

This deal is consistent with the framework announced on April 2 and with the criteria established by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. By its terms, it is a good deal. Let’s ask questions, but let’s remember the stakes and let’s do so responsibly.

My message to Congress and staff: It’s not unusual for constituents to lobby you on issues that they know more about than you do. But on this issue, because of your access to the White House, you know more, and can get more information, than your constituents. Don’t doubt their passion and sincerity, but please make a fact-based decision and support this deal. Please also support any measures that would enhance Israel’s military and intelligence capabilities. No deal can provide absolute certainty, so it is incumbent upon us to provide Israel with the tools it needs if our worst fears are realized.

Video Satire: The Dealbreakers

Netanyahu: Iran Deal ‘Stunning Historic Mistake’

— by Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli Prime Minister

The world is a much more dangerous place today than it was yesterday.

The leading international powers have bet our collective future on a deal with the foremost sponsor of international terrorism. They’ve gambled that in ten years’ time, Iran’s terrorist regime will change while removing any incentive for it to do so. In fact, the deal gives Iran every incentive not to change.

In the coming decade, the deal will reward Iran, the terrorist regime in Tehran, with hundreds of billions of dollars. This cash bonanza will fuel Iran’s terrorism worldwide, its aggression in the region and its efforts to destroy Israel, which are ongoing.

Amazingly, this bad deal does not require Iran to cease its aggressive behavior in any way. And just last Friday, that aggression was on display for all to see.

While the negotiators were closing the deal in Vienna, Iran’s supposedly moderate President chose to go to a rally in Tehran and at this rally, a frenzied mob burned American and Israeli flags and chanted “Death to America, Death to Israel!” Now, this didn’t happen four years ago. It happened four days ago.

Iran’s Supreme Leader, the Ayatollah Khamenei, said on March 21 that the deal does not limit Iran’s aggression in any way:

Negotiations with the United States are on the nuclear issue and on nothing else.

And three days ago he made that clear again:

The United States embodies global arrogance, and the battle against it will continue unabated even after the nuclear agreement is concluded.

Here’s what Hassan Nasrallah, the head of Iran’s terrorist proxy Hezbollah, said about sanctions relief, which is a key component of the deal:

A rich and strong Iran will be able to stand by its allies and friends in the region more than at any time in the past.

Translation: Iran’s support for terrorism and subversion will actually increase after the deal.

In addition to filling Iran’s terror war chest, this deal repeats the mistakes made with North Korea. There too we were assured that inspections and verifications would prevent a rogue regime from developing nuclear weapons. And we all know how that ended.

The bottom line of this very bad deal is exactly what Iran’s President Rouhani said today:

The international community is removing the sanctions and Iran is keeping its nuclear program.

By not dismantling Iran’s nuclear program, in a decade this deal will give an unreformed, unrepentant and far richer terrorist regime the capacity to produce many nuclear bombs, in fact an entire nuclear arsenal with the means to deliver it. What a stunning historic mistake!

Israel is not bound by this deal with Iran and Israel is not bound by this deal with Iran because Iran continues to seek our destruction. We will always defend ourselves.

Obama: Iran Deal ‘Opportunity to Move in a New Direction’

President Obama praised the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action signed between Iran and the P5+1 countries — the U.S., Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany — to limit Iran’s nuclear program:

This deal meets every single one of the bottom lines that we established when we achieved a framework earlier this spring. Every pathway to a nuclear weapon is cut off.  And the inspection and transparency regime necessary to verify that objective will be put in place. Because of this deal, Iran will not produce the highly enriched uranium and weapons-grade plutonium that form the raw materials necessary for a nuclear bomb.

Because of this deal, Iran will remove two-thirds of its installed centrifuges — the machines necessary to produce highly enriched uranium for a bomb — and store them under constant international supervision. Iran will not use its advanced centrifuges to produce enriched uranium for the next decade. Iran will also get rid of 98 percent of its stockpile of enriched uranium.

To put that in perspective, Iran currently has a stockpile that could produce up to 10 nuclear weapons. Because of this deal, that stockpile will be reduced to a fraction of what would be required for a single weapon. This stockpile limitation will last for 15 years.

Because of this deal, Iran will modify the core of its reactor in Arak so that it will not produce weapons-grade plutonium. And it has agreed to ship the spent fuel from the reactor out of the country for the lifetime of the reactor. For at least the next 15 years, Iran will not build any new heavy-water reactors.

The president referred to the expected debate in Congress on the deal:

As the American people and Congress review the deal, it will be important to consider the alternative. Consider what happens in a world without this deal. Without this deal, there is no scenario where the world joins us in sanctioning Iran until it completely dismantles its nuclear program. Nothing we know about the Iranian government suggests that it would simply capitulate under that kind of pressure. And the world would not support an effort to permanently sanction Iran into submission. We put sanctions in place to get a diplomatic resolution, and that is what we have done.

Obama expressed hope for continuing to improve relations between the U.S. and Iran:

Time and again, I have made clear to the Iranian people that we will always be open to engagement on the basis of mutual interests and mutual respect. Our differences are real and the difficult history between our nations cannot be ignored. But it is possible to change. The path of violence and rigid ideology, a foreign policy based on threats to attack your neighbors or eradicate Israel — that’s a dead end. A different path, one of tolerance and peaceful resolution of conflict, leads to more integration into the global economy, more engagement with the international community, and the ability of the Iranian people to prosper and thrive.

This deal offers an opportunity to move in a new direction. We should seize it.

The President: Today, after two years of negotiations, the United States, together with our international partners, has achieved something that decades of animosity has not — a comprehensive, long-term deal with Iran that will prevent it from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

This deal demonstrates that American diplomacy can bring about real and meaningful change — change that makes our country, and the world, safer and more secure. This deal is also in line with a tradition of American leadership. It’s now more than 50 years since President Kennedy stood before the American people and said, “Let us never negotiate out of fear, but let us never fear to negotiate.” He was speaking then about the need for discussions between the United States and the Soviet Union, which led to efforts to restrict the spread of nuclear weapons.

In those days, the risk was a catastrophic nuclear war between two super powers. In our time, the risk is that nuclear weapons will spread to more and more countries, particularly in the Middle East, the most volatile region in our world.

Today, because America negotiated from a position of strength and principle, we have stopped the spread of nuclear weapons in this region. Because of this deal, the international community will be able to verify that the Islamic Republic of Iran will not develop a nuclear weapon.

This deal meets every single one of the bottom lines that we established when we achieved a framework earlier this spring. Every pathway to a nuclear weapon is cut off. And the inspection and transparency regime necessary to verify that objective will be put in place. Because of this deal, Iran will not produce the highly enriched uranium and weapons-grade plutonium that form the raw materials necessary for a nuclear bomb.

Because of this deal, Iran will remove two-thirds of its installed centrifuges — the machines necessary to produce highly enriched uranium for a bomb — and store them under constant international supervision. Iran will not use its advanced centrifuges to produce enriched uranium for the next decade. Iran will also get rid of 98 percent of its stockpile of enriched uranium.

To put that in perspective, Iran currently has a stockpile that could produce up to 10 nuclear weapons. Because of this deal, that stockpile will be reduced to a fraction of what would be required for a single weapon. This stockpile limitation will last for 15 years.

Because of this deal, Iran will modify the core of its reactor in Arak so that it will not produce weapons-grade plutonium. And it has agreed to ship the spent fuel from the reactor out of the country for the lifetime of the reactor. For at least the next 15 years, Iran will not build any new heavy-water reactors.

Because of this deal, we will, for the first time, be in a position to verify all of these commitments. That means this deal is not built on trust; it is built on verification. Inspectors will have 24/7 access to Iran’s key nuclear facilities.

*Iran [Inspectors] will have access to Iran’s entire nuclear supply chain — its uranium mines and mills, its conversion facility, and its centrifuge manufacturing and storage facilities. This ensures that Iran will not be able to divert materials from known facilities to covert ones. Some of these transparency measures will be in place for 25 years.

Because of this deal, inspectors will also be able to access any suspicious location. Put simply, the organization responsible for the inspections, the IAEA, will have access where necessary, when necessary. That arrangement is permanent. And the IAEA has also reached an agreement with Iran to get access that it needs to complete its investigation into the possible military dimensions of Iran’s past nuclear research.

Finally, Iran is permanently prohibited from pursuing a nuclear weapon under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which provided the basis for the international community’s efforts to apply pressure on Iran.

As Iran takes steps to implement this deal, it will receive relief from the sanctions that we put in place because of Iran’s nuclear program — both America’s own sanctions and sanctions imposed by the United Nations Security Council. This relief will be phased in. Iran must complete key nuclear steps before it begins to receive new sanctions relief. And over the course of the next decade, Iran must abide by the deal before additional sanctions are lifted, including five years for restrictions related to arms, and eight years for restrictions related to ballistic missiles.

All of this will be memorialized and endorsed in a new United Nations Security Council resolution. And if Iran violates the deal, all of these sanctions will snap back into place. So there’s a very clear incentive for Iran to follow through, and there are very real consequences for a violation.

That’s the deal. It has the full backing of the international community. Congress will now have an opportunity to review the details, and my administration stands ready to provide extensive briefings on how this will move forward.

As the American people and Congress review the deal, it will be important to consider the alternative. Consider what happens in a world without this deal. Without this deal, there is no scenario where the world joins us in sanctioning Iran until it completely dismantles its nuclear program. Nothing we know about the Iranian government suggests that it would simply capitulate under that kind of pressure. And the world would not support an effort to permanently sanction Iran into submission. We put sanctions in place to get a diplomatic resolution, and that is what we have done.

Without this deal, there would be no agreed-upon limitations for the Iranian nuclear program. Iran could produce, operate and test more and more centrifuges. Iran could fuel a reactor capable of producing plutonium for a bomb. And we would not have any of the inspections that allow us to detect a covert nuclear weapons program. In other words, no deal means no lasting constraints on Iran’s nuclear program.

Such a scenario would make it more likely that other countries in the region would feel compelled to pursue their own nuclear programs, threatening a nuclear arms race in the most volatile region of the world. It would also present the United States with fewer and less effective options to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

I’ve been President and Commander-in-Chief for over six years now. Time and again, I have faced decisions about whether or not to use military force. It’s the gravest decision that any President has to make. Many times, in multiple countries, I have decided to use force. And I will never hesitate to do so when it is in our national security interest. I strongly believe that our national security interest now depends upon preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon — which means that without a diplomatic resolution, either I or a future U.S. President would face a decision about whether or not to allow Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon or whether to use our military to stop it.

Put simply, no deal means a greater chance of more war in the Middle East. Moreover, we give nothing up by testing whether or not this problem can be solved peacefully. If, in a worst-case scenario, Iran violates the deal, the same options that are available to me today will be available to any U.S. President in the future. And I have no doubt that 10 or 15 years from now, the person who holds this office will be in a far stronger position with Iran further away from a weapon and with the inspections and transparency that allow us to monitor the Iranian program.

For this reason, I believe it would be irresponsible to walk away from this deal. But on such a tough issue, it is important that the American people and their representatives in Congress get a full opportunity to review the deal. After all, the details matter. And we’ve had some of the finest nuclear scientists in the world working through those details. And we’re dealing with a country — Iran — that has been a sworn adversary of the United States for over 35 years. So I welcome a robust debate in Congress on this issue, and I welcome scrutiny of the details of this agreement.

But I will remind Congress that you don’t make deals like this with your friends. We negotiated arms control agreements with the Soviet Union when that nation was committed to our destruction. And those agreements ultimately made us safer.

I am confident that this deal will meet the national security interest of the United States and our allies. So I will veto any legislation that prevents the successful implementation of this deal.

We do not have to accept an inevitable spiral into conflict. And we certainly shouldn’t seek it. And precisely because the stakes are so high, this is not the time for politics or posturing. Tough talk from Washington does not solve problems. Hard-nosed diplomacy, leadership that has united the world’s major powers offers a more effective way to verify that Iran is not pursuing a nuclear weapon.

Now, that doesn’t mean that this deal will resolve all of our differences with Iran. We share the concerns expressed by many of our friends in the Middle East, including Israel and the Gulf States, about Iran’s support for terrorism and its use of proxies to destabilize the region. But that is precisely why we are taking this step — because an Iran armed with a nuclear weapon would be far more destabilizing and far more dangerous to our friends and to the world.

Meanwhile, we will maintain our own sanctions related to Iran’s support for terrorism, its ballistic missile program, and its human rights violations. We will continue our unprecedented efforts to strengthen Israel’s security — efforts that go beyond what any American administration has done before. And we will continue the work we began at Camp David to elevate our partnership with the Gulf States to strengthen their capabilities to counter threats from Iran or terrorist groups like ISIL.

However, I believe that we must continue to test whether or not this region, which has known so much suffering, so much bloodshed, can move in a different direction.

Time and again, I have made clear to the Iranian people that we will always be open to engagement on the basis of mutual interests and mutual respect. Our differences are real and the difficult history between our nations cannot be ignored. But it is possible to change. The path of violence and rigid ideology, a foreign policy based on threats to attack your neighbors or eradicate Israel — that’s a dead end. A different path, one of tolerance and peaceful resolution of conflict, leads to more integration into the global economy, more engagement with the international community, and the ability of the Iranian people to prosper and thrive.

This deal offers an opportunity to move in a new direction. We should seize it.

We have come a long way to reach this point — decades of an Iranian nuclear program, many years of sanctions, and many months of intense negotiation. Today, I want to thank the members of Congress from both parties who helped us put in place the sanctions that have proven so effective, as well as the other countries who joined us in that effort.

I want to thank our negotiating partners — the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia, China, as well as the European Union — for our unity in this effort, which showed that the world can do remarkable things when we share a vision of peacefully addressing conflicts. We showed what we can do when we do not split apart.

And finally, I want to thank the American negotiating team. We had a team of experts working for several weeks straight on this, including our Secretary of Energy, Ernie Moniz. And I want to particularly thank John Kerry, our Secretary of State, who began his service to this country more than four decades ago when he put on our uniform and went off to war. He’s now making this country safer through his commitment to strong, principled American diplomacy.

History shows that America must lead not just with our might, but with our principles. It shows we are stronger not when we are alone, but when we bring the world together. Today’s announcement marks one more chapter in this pursuit of a safer and more helpful and more hopeful world.

Thank you. God bless you. And God bless the United States of America.

How Not To Advocate for Israel

Obama%20Fox%20530[1]Last week we saw four examples of how not to advocate for Israel:

1. Don’t back lawsuits you can’t win.

The Supreme Court struck down a law that forced the President, through the Secretary of State, to identify, upon request, citizens born in Jerusalem as being born in Israel even though the United States has never acknowledged Israel nor any other country as having sovereignty over Jerusalem.

President Bush did not enforce this law, and neither has President Obama. No one should have been surprised that the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Executive Branch. But as a result of this short-sighted lawsuit, which never should have been brought, the Palestinians are claiming victory and pro-Israel groups are upset.
[Read more…]