(Previously published in The Jerusalem Post)
I woke up on July 14 to a much more dangerous world. The world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism, with the support of world’s leading democratic nations, was in ascendancy. Meanwhile, the IDF, the most moral army in the Middle East and probably the world, was placed on the docket of the International Criminal Court for war crimes during the Mavi Marmara incident of 2010. While sanctions on the infamous Iranian al Quds Force were evaporating and Iran’s right to buy and sell all manner of weapons was legitimized, boycotting Israel was becoming part of mainstream EU policy.
Why was this happening? Why had the US president not only acquiesced to end nuclear sanctions, but also incomprehensibly agreed to remove the restrictions on Iran’s ability to buy and sell conventional weapons and ballistic missiles? This, after the president promised that the negotiations were only about nuclear-related activity, and that sanctions relief would not include sanctions imposed for other reasons, i.e. terrorism and human rights abuses.
On the day of the announcement, the president promised to veto any legislation that changed one iota of the deal. Clearly, he is more married to legitimizing Iran than to advancing US interests through congressional recommendations. Is Secretary of State John Kerry infallible? Can there be no improvements to bolster American interests? In the short term, the world is a much more dangerous place. An emboldened Iran will increase support of its terrorist proxies Hezbollah, Hamas, Syria and the Houthis.
The Sunnis, who represent 80 percent of the Muslim world, already feel abandoned. They are likely to become more radicalized, and turn to Islamic State (IS) and its allies as the only Sunni army that can confront the Shi’ite terrorist proxies of Iran. The autocratic Sunni monarchies are more likely to become unstable, increasing the chances that extreme Sunni radical groups like IS could take over whole countries.
IS and Iranian-sponsored Hezbollah and the like are two sides of the same coin. America’s goal should be to weaken both, not embolden one over the other. Unfortunately, the president has decided to support a terrorist entity, replicating his misguided support of the Muslim Brotherhood as a “moderating force” in the Islamist world.
Where do we go from here? Does Israel have any choices? The president will continue to insist that this is a good deal. He will point out that the parties agreed to the most intrusive inspection criteria ever. He also will argue that the time required for Iran to produce enough weapons-grade uranium for one nuclear weapon has been expanded to 12 months. Unfortunately for America, the president abandoned the right to inspect “anytime, anywhere” – despite his promises to the contrary. Top US negotiator Wendy Sherman labeled as “rhetorical flourish” the concept of “anytime, anyplace” access to inspect. Obama’s deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes had the audacity to tell CNN, “We never sought anytime/anywhere inspections.”
Let’s go to the videotape of Rhodes telling us in April, “We will have anytime, anywhere access to the nuclear facilities.”
This administration will say just about anything to convince lawmakers that this is an incredible deal. According to Politico, Rhodes said that if Iran violates the deal, the “White House was prepared to use force.” Is there anyone who actually believes that? The White House also told Jewish members of Congress that the tens of billions of dollars in sanctions relief would be invested in the Iranian economy.
Will Congress buy this, despite overwhelming historical evidence and contradictory promises? The deal allows a full 24 days before Iran can be inspected, more than enough time for the habitual cheaters to move or destroy evidence of non-compliance. The president’s bold assertion that we somehow will know everything rings as hollow as the CIA’s assertion that its was sure about WMDs in Iraq. In fact, we know little about what is going on in Iran. For years, we were clueless about the illicit Iranian nuclear program, including their large underground nuclear facilities in Fordow and Natanz.
Our intelligence assessments need to be tempered with humility.
If Congress derails the agreement, the president will veto that decision.
The chances of overriding the veto are slim. However, if over 60 Senators vote to override (66 are needed), it will send a strong message that a solid majority of the Senate finds this deal to be against American interests. If 60 votes are cast against the deal, it will give a strong hand to the next president to act when Iran inevitably cheats again.
Israel is in an unenviable position.
Once the deal is passed and sanctions relief takes hold, the president and his supporters will offer Israel money for more advanced anti-missile systems, and promise to increase military aid over the next 10 years. But all Iran has to do is sneak one conventional missile through the anti-missile defense system to unnerve Israel, knowing that the next one could be nuclear.
This shifts the burden totally onto Israel for self-defense; increasing the chance Israel will make a calculated decision for a preemptive strike – with war to follow.
Be prepared for the president, J Street and The New York Times to parade a long queue of Jews and non-representative Israeli security figures to laud the deal.
Hold your nose as you hear a litany of the president’s supporters repeat the talking point that there is no alternative to this deal. They will offer more “rhetorical flourishes” in support of Israel. In the end, however, it will be hard not to conclude that the United States sold out Israel, fraying the US-Israel relationship in the process.
This is a once-in-a-lifetime moment in Middle East history, affecting America’s standing in the world and threatening Israeli security interests on multiple levels.
Tell your Senators and friends in Congress how you feel. Tell them that the day after they vote, your continued support cannot be taken for granted.
The author is the director of MEPIN (Middle East Political and Information Network), and a regular contributor to The Jerusalem Post. MEPIN is a Middle East research analysis read by members of Congress, their foreign policy advisers, members of the Knesset, journalists and organizational leaders. He regularly briefs members of Congress on issues related to the Middle East.