Netanyahu is right to be concerned about Iran
Reprinted from Daily Alert, Friday February 27, 2015
Sadly, the straws in the wind suggest that a bad deal on Iran’s nuclear ambitions is a real possibility. A leak to the Associated Press raises the possibility that America would phase out all sanctions if Iran were to accept temporary constraints on its nuclear program for the next 10 or 15 years.
If the West lifts sanctions and allows Iran’s leaders to fill their coffers with oil revenues, in return for graciously agreeing to defer their ambition to be a nuclear threshold state until somewhere between 2025 and 2030, then that would not be good enough. The whole point of this immense diplomatic effort was to remove the threat posed by a nuclear-armed Iran for the foreseeable future. Simply deferring that possibility by a decade or so – and then leaving the future leaders of the West to deal with the consequences – would be cowardly and unconscionable.
That is particularly true when Iran’s own difficulties are weighed in the balance. Sanctions and a collapsing oil price have combined to crush the Iranian economy. The result is that Iran’s morally bankrupt “Supreme Leader,” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, needs a nuclear deal far more than we do. Now is exactly the moment for the West to show more steel. (Telegraph-UK)
News leaked Monday that President Obama had accepted the Iranian demand that any restrictions on its program be time-limited. After which, the mullahs can crank up their nuclear program at will and produce as much enriched uranium as they want. Sanctions lifted. Restrictions gone. Nuclear development legitimized. A few years of good behavior and Iran would be home free. The agreement thus would provide a predictable path to an Iranian bomb. Indeed, a flourishing path, with trade resumed, oil pumping and foreign investment pouring into a restored economy.
Meanwhile, Iran’s intercontinental ballistic missile program is subject to no restrictions at all. Why is Iran building them? Their only purpose is to carry nuclear warheads. Such an agreement also means the end of nonproliferation. When a rogue state defies the world, continues illegal enrichment and then gets the world to bless an eventual unrestricted industrial-level enrichment program, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty is dead and regional hyperproliferation becomes inevitable.
The deal now on offer to the ayatollah would confer legitimacy on the nuclearization of the most rogue of rogue regimes: radically anti-American, deeply jihadist, purveyor of terrorism from Argentina to Bulgaria, puppeteer of a Syrian regime. In fact, the Iranian regime just this week, at the apex of these nuclear talks, staged a spectacular attack on a replica U.S. carrier near the Strait of Hormuz.
There is a third choice in addition to appeasement or war. Don’t give away the store. Keep the pressure, keep the sanctions. Indeed, increase them. After all, previous sanctions brought Iran to the negotiating table, and that was before the collapse of oil prices, which would now vastly magnify the economic effect of heightened sanctions. Congress is proposing precisely that. We are on the cusp of an epic capitulation. History will not be kind. (Washington Post)
Western diplomats have continually projected pragmatism onto their ideological opponents. They have often assumed that our enemies are driven by the same sort of national interest calculations that motivate most regimes. They have assumed that economic interests would trump ideology and religion – that prudent calculation and statecraft would trump megalomania. They assumed that Islamic radicals could not really want to send their region back into the 12th century.
The Obama administration is making a similar projection today. It is betting that Iran can turn into a fundamentally normal regime, which can be counted upon to put GDP over ideology and religion and do the pragmatic thing.
Obama has made a series of stunning sacrifices in order to get a nuclear agreement. All of this might be defensible if Iran is really willing to switch teams, if religion and ideology played no role in the regime’s thinking. But it could be that Iran finances terrorist groups and destabilizes regimes like Yemen’s and Morocco’s for a reason. It could be that Iranian leaders are as apocalyptically motivated, paranoid and dogmatically anti-American as their pronouncements suggest they are. Do we really want a nuclear-capable Iran in the midst of all that?
If the Iranian leaders believe what they say, then U.S. policy should be exactly the opposite of the one now being pursued. Instead of embracing and enriching Iran, sanctions should be toughened to further isolate and weaken it. Instead of accepting a nuclear capacity, eliminating that capacity should be restored as the centerpiece of American policy. Instead of a condominium with Iran that offends traditional allies like Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Israel, the U.S. should build a regional strategy around strengthening relations with those historic pillars. (New York Times)
Concerns that a final deal restricting Iran’s nuclear program will “sunset” any agreement as early as 2025 have thrown a new jolt into Israeli officials. “Ten years is nothing. It’s tomorrow from our point of view,” said Yaakov Amidror, who served as national security adviser to Netanyahu. “It’s a license for Iran to be a threshold nuclear state.” “When do bad people become good people? When a time is over – or when they change?”
Critics say that after the expiration of any deal, Iran would be free to produce as much fuel for nuclear weapons as it likes. Citing reports of a 10-15-year sunset period at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing Tuesday, the panel’s top Democrat, Robert Menendez, called that “a matter of time that is far less than anyone envisioned.” Obama officials deny that any specific sunset clause has been agreed to in the talks.
“We certainly can’t know what Iran will look like in 10 to 15 years,” said Gary Samore, who handled the Iran nuclear portfolio in the Obama White House until 2013. A 10-year time frame would be a “catastrophic mistake,” said Ray Takeyh of the Council on Foreign Relations. Iran is “a system permeated by ideology, so Khamenei dying tomorrow is not likely to change the system dramatically.” (Politico)
To deter Iran’s leaders from making the decision to break out of an agreement and produce nuclear weapons, any deal should meet three requirements. First, it should have rigorous monitoring measures to convince Iran that any attempt to violate and break out of the agreement at either declared or covert sites would be detected very quickly. This would require intrusive verification provisions that go beyond the measures contained in the International Atomic Energy Agency’s additional protocol, including frequent access to centrifuge production facilities, detailed reporting of nuclear-related procurement and robust inspection procedures.
Second, the accord should ensure that the time Iranians would need to produce one bomb’s-worth of weapons-grade uranium would be long enough to enable the U.S. to intervene decisively to stop them. The Obama administration is seeking to increase this “breakout time” from the current two-to-three months to at least one year. Getting to one year would depend on a package of interrelated constraints, including on the number and type of operating centrifuges and the amount of enriched uranium Iran would be allowed to retain.
Third, it is necessary to convince Iran’s leaders not only that breakout would be detected promptly, but also that they would face a harsh international response that would prevent their breakout from succeeding. To supplement any agreement, the Obama administration should collaborate with its international partners and the Congress on contingency plans – including both economic and military options – to ensure that the threat of a decisive response to a breakout attempt is credible. The writer, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, served on the U.S. delegation to the Iran nuclear negotiations from 2009 to 2013. (New York Times)
The future nuclear deal is about to grant Iran entry back into the heart of the international theater, without having to meet even minimal admission requirements outside the nuclear context. It will allow the Revolutionary Guards to continue their extensive terrorist activities, without inhibitions, restrictions, or supervision by any international forum. The writer is a professor of international relations at the University of Haifa. (Israel Hayom)
Netanyahu’s Speech to Congress
Speeches by foreign leaders to Joint Meetings of Congress are routine events, and often among the more forgettable. So it might have been with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s address to Congress next Tuesday. But leave it to the political wizards of the Obama Administration to turn it into the global diplomatic event of the year.
This week the Administration unleashed a withering personal and political attack that is unprecedented against a close ally. National Security Adviser Susan Rice even said the speech is “destructive of the fabric of the relationship” between Washington and Jerusalem. That’s some claim against one speech, and it’s worth asking why the Administration has gone to such extraordinary lengths to squelch it. Mr. Netanyahu is expected to make the case against President Obama’s looming nuclear deal with Iran, and perhaps the Administration knows how vulnerable it is to such a critique.
The Prime Minister did nothing more than accept an invitation from a co-equal branch of government, with its own important foreign-policy role. If there is partisanship here, it is from a president whose Iran policy is no longer trusted by much of his own party.
Israelis are naturally wary of becoming estranged from their most important ally. Then again, Israelis are even more wary of a nuclear Iran. The trashing of Mr. Netanyahu has done nothing but increase public interest in his speech. Recent polling finds Americans overwhelmingly in favor of giving the Israeli leader a fair hearing in Congress. (Wall Street Journal)
Former U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told Israel Hayom that the focus on Netanyahu’s visit rather than on his message is an “unfortunate distraction” from the important issue – the Iranian threat. “Iran is a critical issue and Israel is an important ally, and there is nothing inappropriate at all for the speaker to invite the prime minister or for the prime minister to come over. Historically he is a good friend of the U.S….and I find it stunning to see the comments out of the White House on this issue.”
“They have said things that are undiplomatic and inconsistent with the relationship between our two countries and its importance, and I can’t imagine that, among the American people, it will affect our relationship adversely in any way. I’m really amazed at the rudeness, at the undiplomatic way this administration is handling this issue.”
“It is unfortunate because it damages, or appears to damage, the relationship with an important ally for the United States. I think it is exactly what the Iranians are happy to hear – it has to be encouraging for them. But it is also unprofessional.” (Israel Hayom)