The Iran Nuclear Deal: Opposition and Rejection
Exploring the background of the Iran nuclear deal, this article is third in a series of six.
Opposition by Israel and American Pro-Israel Groups
Benjamin Netanyahu, the hard-nosed leader of Israel, has publicly lambasted a deal with Iran from the very beginning and refuses, at this point, to accept any form of compromise with the Obama administration. This correlates with the Israeli government's refusal to participate in any efforts to reduce the threat of nuclear warfare by international treaty or diplomacy. Remember that Israel is one of the very few nations, along with India, Pakistan, and North Korea, that refused to sign the Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons of 1968, or even admit that it has nuclear weapons in its arsenal. These actions are despite the fact that Israel is the top beneficiary of U.S. foreign military financing in FY2015, receiving $3.1 billion. This is one of the major reasons why there are important people in Israel who are criticizing Netanyahu's actions in opposing the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action JCPOA.
The Obama administration has launched an aggressive campaign to try to mitigate the fears of its allies in the Middle East over the deal. Senior administration officials are making the strongest overtures to Israel and Saudi Arabia to assure them of our continuing long-term solidarity ever since President Truman recognized Israel on May 14, 1948: the day it was established.
U.S. pro-Israel groups are divided on the deal. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) opposed the agreement, and formed a new 501(C)(4) group to run a $25 million television advertising campaign against the JCPOA. From mid-July to Aug. 4, 2015, the AIPAC-created group, "Citizens for a Nuclear Free Iran," spent more than $11 million running network television political advertisements opposing the agreement in 23 states, spending more than $1 million in the large states of California, Florida, New York, and Texas.
In contrast to AIPAC, the J Street organization (which describes itself as a pro-Israel organization that supports peace between Israel and its neighbors) supports the agreement, and announced plans for a $5 million advertising effort of its own to encourage Congress to support the agreement. During the first week of August, J Street launched a $2 million, three-week ad campaign in support of the agreement, with television ads running in Colorado, Maryland, Michigan, Oregon, and Pennsylvania.
In a separate public letter to Congress released on July 26, five former U.S. ambassadors to Israel, both Democratic and Republican, and three former Under Secretaries of State expressed their support of the agreement. The former officials wrote: "We are persuaded that this agreement will put in place a set of constraints and monitoring measures that will arrest Iran's nuclear program for at least fifteen years and assure that this agreement will leave Iran no legitimate avenue to produce a nuclear weapon during the next 10 to 15 years. This landmark agreement removes the threat that a nuclear-armed Iran would pose to the region and to Israel specifically."
The Price of Rejecting the Iran Deal.
On Aug. 14, Jacob J. Lew, our Secretary of the Treasury, wrote in the New York Times: "The Iran nuclear deal offers a long-term solution to one of the most urgent threats of our time. Without this deal, Iran, the world's leading state sponsor of terrorism, would be less than 90 days away from having enough fissile material to make a nuclear bomb. This deal greatly reduces the threat of Iran's nuclear program, making Iran's breakout time four times as long, securing unprecedented access to ensure that we will know if Iran cheats and giving us the leverage to hold it to its commitments.
"Those calling on Congress to scrap the deal argue that the United States could have gotten a better deal, and still could, if we unilaterally ramped up existing sanctions, enough to force Iran to dismantle its entire nuclear program or even alter the character of its regime wholesale. This assumption is a dangerous fantasy, flying in the face of economic and diplomatic reality."
Killing the deal would infuriate many of our allies, isolate America rather than Iran, and ultimately increase the risk of ayatollahs using nuclear weapons. The accord, although flawed, is better than any of the alternatives. First, the principal goal of preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons would be achieved. Iran would go from possibly having only a few months to develop a bomb to at least a year. The agreement doesn't solve the underlying problem but it may buy 15 years and a lot of change can occur in that time span.
Nicholas Kristof, a New York Times correspondent who writes frequently on international issues, said: "Everyone knows Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel opposes the deal, but not everyone realizes other Israelis with far more security expertise support it. Ami Ayalon, former head of Israel's Shin Bet security service, describes it as "the best possible alternative."
And Efraim Halevy, former head of the Mossad, says, "What is the point of canceling an agreement that distances Iran from the bomb?" As he further said, it's true that Iran may try to cheat, but it's easier to catch and stop the cheating with the deal than without.
Finally, let's take a pessimistic viewpoint if all else fails. David Petraeus, retired four-star general and former head of the C.I.A., said: "I strongly believe that there will continue to be a viable military option should Iran seek to break out and construct a nuclear device after the expiration of many of the elements of the inspections regime at the 15-year mark of the agreement."
General Brent Scowcroft, formerly a Republican spokesman on national security issues, supported the Iran deal in part because it exemplifies American leadership on a crucial global issue. If Congress had killed this agreement after months and years of diplomacy and negotiation it would have constituted a tremendous setback to American global leadership and probably increase the odds that Iran will create a nuclear weapon.
In Article Four of The Iran Nuclear Deal series we will provide details to you about how Congress and Iran approved the deal together with some remarks about the nature of the debate in Iran's mainstream media as well as various layers of Iranian society.