Local Senators Ensure Approval of Iran Deal

Projected JCPOA Voting in the Senate as of September 2. (Washington Post)

JCPOA Voting in the Senate (Washington Post’s Sep. 2 projection).

Senator Barbara Mikulski of Maryland has announced her intention to support the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), better known as the “Iran Deal,” guaranteeing President Obama the 34 votes he needs to sustain a veto.

Short before, Senators Bob Casey (PA) and Chris Coons (DE) have announced that they will vote in favor of the Deal. (The full statement by Casey can be found below.)

On Tuesday, the Senate will return from its summer break, and its first order of business is a resolution to keep the U.S. out of the JCPOA.

Stop the Iran Deal Rally speakers: Donald Trump, Glenn Beck, Ted Cruz

“Stop the Iran Deal Rally” speakers: Donald Trump, Glenn Beck, Ted Cruz.

On Wednesday, the Tea Party Patriots, Center for Security Policy, and Zionist Organization of America will weigh in with their Stop the Iran Deal Rally with keynote speakers Glenn Beck, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz.

Eleven more Senators are either neutral or leaning toward supporting the deal:

  • Neutral: Senators Susan Collins (ME), Michael Bennet (CO), Benjamin Cardin (CO), Barbara Mikulski (MD), Heidi Heitkamp (ND), Cory Booker (NJ), Mark Warner (VA), Maria Cantwell (WA) and Gary Peters (MI).
  • Leaning toward: Senators Richard Blumenthal (CT) and Joe Manchin (WV).

[Read more…]

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.”

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.

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…]

Amb. Rice: U.S. Will Stand With Israel to Prevent Nuclear Armed Iran

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

— by Max Samis

Yesterday, new sanctions were imposed on Iran that effectively cut off the country’s central bank from the global economy. Following this announcement United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice appeared on MSNBC, where she discussed the sanctions with Andrea Mitchell:

The President has been very clear. The United States will stand with Israel and the rest of the international community to take the steps necessary to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. This is a matter of great importance to our national security, as well as to countries in the region, obviously including Israel. We want to continue to increase the pressure on Iran-the economic pressure-to change its behavior, to change course and come clean about its nuclear program. We have ratcheted up the sanctions at every stage. The United Nations in June 2010 passed the broadest and harshest sanctions to date on Iran and those are having a real bite. We have passed, on a national basis, ever tougher sanctions. The EU has done the same. Countries in the Gulf Region and Asia, Canada, and many others around the world.  

And Iran is really starting to feel economic pressure-by their own admission-from the highest levels they’re saying that it’s crippling and biting. We think that pressure needs to have an opportunity to play its course. As the President has said repeatedly, we have taken no options off the table. But we hope and believe that it might be possible yet for this situation to be addressed through diplomacy. That is our hope. We will continue these efforts while ratcheting up the pressure on Iran and be clear in our determination that they will not gain nuclear weapons.

Ambassador Shapiro Promises Obama Will Stop Iran

— David Streeter

President Barack Obama’s Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro participated in an extensive interview with Israel’s Ma’ariv newspaper in which he emphasized that the President is determined to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.

Shapiro said regarding the Iranian threat:

It should be clear that the United States treats the Iranian threat just as Israel does. It is an existential threat to you and to other countries in the region and in the Persian Gulf, and to our interests and our forces in the area, and, potentially, this threat applies to us as well. We see eye to eye with you the gravity of the situation and the importance of preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. The President said he would prevent Iran from acquiring them, and he means it…. The goal has not been achieved. Iran continues to violate gravely its international commitments, and since achieving the shared goal is so important, then it should be clear that all options are open. Furthermore, we are examining all options actively and making the necessary plans to ensure that the options exist, and I’m not ruling out any resolute measure in this area….

More after the jump.

The President is resolute and clear in his statements, to prevent the Iranian nuclear threat from becoming a reality. It is a dangerous matter for us and our allies, and that is why heavy international pressure is being applied on Iran, and that is why we are making sure all options are open, available and ready. This is not a containment strategy.

Shapiro explained regarding existing and proposed sanctions against Iran:

[T]he debate surrounding the sanctions on the Central Bank is not about whether they should be imposed, but rather how to do it most effectively. If the Iranian Central Bank is the pipeline through which Iran receives payment for its oil, and they find a way to sell oil despite the sanctions with the attendant impact on rising oil prices, then the result could end up being the opposite to the one we wanted. Instead of decreasing Iran’s profits, it could increase them. The goal of the sanctions is to prevent Iran from receiving payment for its oil, and the question is how to do this. The Senate passed the sanctions by an overwhelming majority, nearly unanimously, and the wording was reached by careful negotiation. Now there is a final version and it is very powerful.

Since the President signed this into law, we have launched a worldwide diplomatic campaign, our embassies have approached all the governments to find out whether they purchase Iranian oil and are assisting them in obtaining alternative suppliers. We are working with key countries that are still buying Iranian oil and helping them find alternative sources, in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere. We are pressuring governments to pressure businessmen in the private sector to stop making deals and money transfers with the Iranian Central Bank. I think that we are now attempting to influence international behavior on everything regarding Iran, and we are already seeing clear results, like the collapse of the Iranian currency and the economic difficulties it’s experiencing, and in the Iranian political behavior.

Ma’ariv reported this exchange regarding the military option:

I asked the ambassador what ‘making plans’ meant, and if it includes training. After all, foreign sources have reported that the Israeli Air Force is training intensively. … ‘Look,” said Shapiro, ‘we have a massive presence in the Gulf.’ If he were less polite, he would simply explain that when the United States has hundreds of bombers aboard aircraft carriers facing Iran, Israel’s need to train is immaterial. ‘In any case,’ added the ambassador, ‘when I say planning, I mean that we are guaranteeing that the military option is ready and available to the President at the moment he decides to use it.’

Shapiro also said about Obama’s support for Israel:

President Obama does not change… I don’t deal with political matters, but I promise you that our policy is consistent and won’t change, either before or after the elections. We have so many values and interests in common with Israel, and that is why we are both so close. I have great confidence that if we sit here next year, you will hear the exact same things from me.

Click here to read the full interview.  

Extensive US-Israel Missile Defense Exercise

–by Jordan Rohde

The United States and Israel will participate in a large-scale joint military exercise in 2012 to strengthen the coordination between the two countries’ missile defense systems. The defense exercise, called Operation Juniper Cobra, will prove to be “one of the most complex and extensive yet” between the United States and Israel. The Obama Administration’s commitment to participate reinforces the already strong ties between the United States and Israel and reiterates to the world that the Obama Administration is fully behind Israel.

More after the jump.
The Jerusalem Post reported:

In the face of Iran’s continued pursuit of a nuclear weapon, Israel and the United States will hold a large-scale missile defense exercise in the beginning of next year aimed at improving operational coordination between both countries’ defense systems…

The purpose of the exercise is to create the necessary infrastructure that would enable interoperability between Israeli and American missile defense systems in case the US government decided to deploy these systems here in the event of a conflict with Iran, like it did ahead of the Gulf War in Iraq in 1991.

‘Juniper Cobra shows us how to defend not only with Israeli assets but also with American assets,’ Arieh Herzog, head of the Defense Ministry’s Homa Missile Defense Agency, said on Monday at the 2nd Annual Israel Multinational Missile Defense Conference near Tel Aviv.

Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance Frank Rose discussed the continued partnership between the U.S. and Israel:

Together we can work to protect what our adversaries would put at risk, both now and in the future…. Our mutual commitment to cooperation on missile defense research and development, on deploying proven technologies and weapon systems such as the Arrow, and on gaining operational experience through joint exercises and training, will go far in enhancing Israeli security and our mutual interests, and in further cementing and expanding our partnership.

The Jerusalem Post continued:

Col. Shahar Shohat, commander of the Israel Air Force’s Wing, responsible for Israel’s missile defense systems, expressed hope that the country’s enemies will realize that their investment in rockets and missiles is not worthwhile due to the deployment of new defense systems.

‘This could happen if they understand that we have effective systems and they will not be able to attack what they want to attack,’ he said.

Shohat also praised the effectiveness of the Iron Dome missile defense system, which received crucial support from the Obama Administration. Shohat said:

The presence of the Iron Dome provided a response by intercepting the rockets and gave the leadership room to maneuver and make decisions…