Let Iran Be the Side That Failed the Talks

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has stated that under no circumstances would Iran agree to destroy any of its centrifuges.

— by Steve Sheffey

Those who favor the Kirk-Menendez Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act are not warmongers. They favor the bill because, in their view, it will increase the chance for diplomacy to succeed.

Those who oppose the bill are not soft on Iran and are no less concerned about Iran obtaining nuclear weapons. They oppose the bill because, in their view, the bill violates the interim agreement, would lessen the likelihood of a diplomatic solution, and weaken the sanctions architecture.

This is not some kind of a litmus test. There are strong friends of the U.S.-Israel relationship on both sides of this issue. No one should equate support for new sanctions with support, or lack of support, for Israel.

Some people are judging the interim agreement by the standards of what we hope will be the final agreement.

The purpose of the interim agreement is to delay, not end, Iran’s progress, so that Iran cannot run out the clock while we negotiate. It cannot and will not be the final agreement. If Iran does not fulfill its obligations under the interim agreement, it will lose even a limited sanctions relief.

More after the jump.
If talks with Iran fail, the world must know that they failed because of Iran, not because of the U.S.

If talks fail, we will need a unified international community to back us on increased sanctions or military action. If we impose sanctions that might contravene the interim agreement, the world will perceive — with some justification — that we, not Iran, are the intransigent party.

As Steven Spiegel wrote in Roll Call, “if the interim agreement is seen to have been upended by actions of the U.S. Congress, both the potential sanctions and military options will be threatened.”

It will be much more difficult, even almost impossible, to gain international support for sanctions and military action if the talks were seen to have broken down because of a controversial action by the U.S. Congress.

In that sense, voting for sanctions now could create the worst of both worlds: Iran will walk away from the talks as the offended party, and sanctions will be diminished as the Iranians develop an excuse to complete their nuclear ambitions. Congress should not give Tehran an opportunity for such a victory.

In a long but important article in the New York Review (I do not agree with all of it, but I agree with most of it), Jessica Matthews wrote that, “The bill’s authors, Senators Robert Menendez and Mark Kirk, argue that it strengthens the president’s hand. It does the reverse by making even more acute Iranian doubts that the president can deliver the relief from sanctions they are negotiating for.”

Its passage, as an act of bad faith on the U.S.’s part after having just agreed not to impose new sanctions during the term of the six-month deal, would probably cause Iran to walk away from the negotiations. Rouhani would risk political suicide at home if he did not.

Alternatively, in the all too familiar pattern of the past decade, he might stay at the negotiating table and match unacceptable American demands with his own so that blame for failure would be muddled.

America’s negotiating partners and others whose support makes the sanctions work would feel the sting of bad faith as well. The sanctions regime that has been so painstakingly built through ten years of effort by determined American leaders of both parties could easily unravel.

Mathews concluded that, “A final agreement is by no means assured, but the opportunity is assuredly here.”

The price of an agreement will be accepting a thoroughly monitored, appropriately sized enrichment program in Iran that does not rise over 5 percent. The alternatives are war or a nuclear-armed Iran. Should this be a hard choice? Astonishingly, too many members of Congress seem to think so.

In Bloomberg, Jeff Goldberg wrote that, “Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has just stated that under no circumstances would Iran agree to destroy any of its centrifuges. I would also like to note that this unequivocal statement, if sincere, means that there is no possibility of a nuclear deal between Iran and the six powers set to resume negotiating with it next month.”

And if that is the case, we will need all the international support we can muster for whatever comes next. Maybe now is not the time to muddy the waters with sanctions legislation that could scuttle the talks and undermine our international coalition.

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Netanyahu: “I Wish We Could Believe Rouhani’s Words”

Yesterday, at the United Nations General Assembly, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged vigilance in protecting the world from Iran’s nuclear ambitions:

The Jewish people’s odyssey through time has taught us two things: Never give up hope. Always remain vigilant. Hope charts the future. Vigilance protects it. Today, our hope for the future is challenged by a nuclear-armed Iran that seeks our destruction.

In the wake of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s recent campaign to present a moderate face, Netanyahu reminded the world body that the new Iranian president has a long history in his country’s nuclear weapons program.

More after the jump.
Netanyahu said:

Rouhani was also Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator between 2003 and 2005. He masterminded the strategy which enabled Iran to advance its nuclear weapons program behind a smokescreen of diplomatic engagement and very soothing rhetoric. Now I know Rouhani does not sound like Ahmadinejad. But when it comes to Iran’s nuclear weapons program, the only difference between them is this: Ahmadinejad was a wolf in wolf’s clothing and Rouhani is a wolf in sheep’s clothing — a wolf who thinks he can pull the wool over the eyes of the international community. Like everyone else, I wish we could believe Rouhani’s words. But we must focus on Iran’s actions. And it’s the brazen contrast, this extraordinary contradiction between Rouhani’s words and Iran’s actions that is so startling.

B’nai B’rith International has issued the following statement in response:

B’nai B’rith would very much like to see the issue of Iran’s nuclear program resolved in a way that puts Iran out of the nuclear weapons business. At the same time, we cannot dismiss 20 years of deception by Iran.

Iran’s centrifuges continue to spin. Tehran has made several feints before while negotiating the nuclear issue, and has continued to hide and build its nuclear program. This is why we must remain skeptical of Iran’s intentions this time.

Israel Responds to Rouhani’s Hypocritical UN Speech

— by Israeli Consul General Yaron Sideman

Yesterday, the world witnessed one of the most cynical and hypocritical displays ever made at the U.N. General Assembly, as Iranian President Hassan Rouhani took the stage. Here are some of the reasons why, clearly articulated in Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s response to the Iranian President’s speech:

  • Rouhani spoke of human rights even as Iranian forces are participating in the large-scale slaughter of innocent civilians in Syria.
  • He condemned terrorism even as the Iranian regime is using terrorism in dozens of countries around the world.
  • He spoke of a nuclear program for civilian purposes, even as an IAEA report determines that the program had military dimensions, and while any rational person understands that Iran, one of the most oil-rich nations, is not investing capital in ballistic missiles and underground nuclear facilities in order to produce electricity.
  • It is no coincidence that the speech lacked both any practical proposal to stop Iran’s military nuclear program, and any commitment to fulfill U.N. Security Council decisions. This is exactly Iran’s strategy — to talk and play for time in order to advance its ability to achieve nuclear weapons. Rouhani knows this well.
  • He bragged that a decade ago, he succeeded in misleading the West, so that while Iran was holding talks, it simultaneously advanced its nuclear program.

Continued after the jump.

The international community must test Iran not by its words, but by its actions.

The Israeli delegation absented itself from Rouhani’s speech in order not to grant legitimacy to a regime that does not recognize the existence of the Holocaust, and which publicly declares its desire to wipe the State of Israel off the map. As the Prime Minister of Israel, the state of the Jewish people, I could not allow the Israeli delegation to be part of a cynical public relations ploy, by a regime that denies the Holocaust and calls for our destruction.

Actions speak louder than words. The international community should examine Iran according to its actions, which clearly indicate an acceleration of Iran’s military nuclear program, and continue intensifying economic and diplomatic pressure on Iran until Iran completely dismantles its military nuclear capabilities.  

AP Claims Rouhani Speech “Absent” of Anti-Israel Rhetoric

Courtesy of The Cartoon Kronicles.

(CAMERA) An AP story today opened by informing readers that “The Iranian president’s first speech to world leaders was absent anti-Israel rhetoric….” The problem is, Rouhani in fact leveled some of the harshest, most inflammatory anti-Israel slurs available during his U.N. speech yesterday, describing Israel as engaging in “brutal repression,” and as practicing something even worse than apartheid.

In language that differed little from the predictable anti-Israel venom often heard from Iranian leaders, Rouhani told delegates at the United Nations:

What has been — and continues to be — practiced against the innocent people of Palestine is nothing less than structural violence. Palestine is under occupation; the basic rights of the Palestinians are tragically violated, and they are deprived of the right of return and access to their homes, birthplace and homeland. Apartheid as a concept can hardly describe the crimes and the institutionalized aggression against the innocent Palestinian people.

More after the jump.
Much later in the piece, the AP reporter, Lara Jakes, did assert that Rouhani “briefly touched on what he described as Palestine’s depravation and subjugation.” But obviously this understated elaboration does not eliminate the need for an opening sentence that does not misinform.

It is also worth noting is that, while Jakes mentioned that Rouhani referred to “crimes the Nazis created toward the Jews,” she inexplicably omitted any reference to the more controversial part of his statement to CNN: “I have said before that I am not a historian, and that when it comes to speaking of the dimensions of the Holocaust it is the historians that should reflect on it” — an equivocation that virtually all other reports recognized was relevant to the story.

CAMERA had informed CNN of the errors and the omission and called for a correction. The first sentence has been fixed to say “The Iranian president’s first speech to world leaders toned down anti-Israel rhetoric…” and the other sentence was fixed to say that “Rouhani briefly criticized Israel for what he described as Palestine’s deprivation and subjugation.” By the time this article was posted in the Philadelphia Jewish Voice, the omitted holocaust statement was still not included in the article.

What Did Iranian President-Elect Rouhani really say?

Hassan Rouhani

— by Steve Sheffey

Contrary to what you might have read elsewhere, Iranian President-elect Hassan Rouhani did not say that “the Zionist regime has been a wound on the body of the Islamic world for years and the wound should be removed.” Iran is a genuine threat to Israel and the world, and there is enough real evidence of it’s intentions. We only lose credibility by repeating statements that are easily proven false. For more detail and analysis of what Rouhani really said, read this article by Ron Kampeas: Rouhani’s statement, its distortion, and what it all means.

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