(Previously published in The Jerusalem Post)
“There is not a better deal to be gotten… Iran has adopted an agreement in which they are forbidden forever from having one [a nuclear bomb].” – John Kerry, August 2015
In our hyperpolarized political world of “I win, you lose,” discussing the merits and dangers of the Iran deal (the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA ) has come down to reciting talking points that often strain credulity. Give the Obama administration credit; it remain on message. It is our deal or war, this deal is the best that could have been agreed to, and it makes America and Israel safer. Legitimate disagreements are immediately stigmatized as either right-wing propaganda meant to damage the president, or with the odious innuendo of American Jewish dual loyalty. Jewish members of Congress beware.
Catchy slogans like US National Security Advisor Susan Rice’s “distrust but verify” sound good until you wake up and realize you are dealing with a regime that uses religiously sanctioned deception, taqiyya. Agreements between nations are ultimately based on your ability to trust your partner. Iran is perhaps the least trustworthy nation in the world, right up there with North Korea.
Last week US Secretary of State Kerry said, “Ayatollah Khamenei – has issued a fatwa…declaring that no one should ever pursue one [a nuclear weapon] in Iran, and that they will not.” The existence of that fatwa is in question, and with taqiyya firmly in place with 30 years of deception, how can Kerry take the supreme leader at face value? Agreements (treaties) between nations that truly work have clearly specified consequences for specific detailed transgressions. This agreement sadly has not one.
To review, let’s ask five simple questions:
1. Does anybody believe Iran can be trusted?
2. Do we have the mechanisms in place or the will and international cooperation that would be needed for “snap back” sanctions for Iranian transgressions?
3. Does anyone believe the president when he says according to the agreement “Iran is never allowed to build a nuclear weapon,” or that military force is still an option?
4. Does anyone believe this agreement makes America or American allies safer?
5. Does anyone really believe there will be any consequences for Iranian transgressions as the deal is currently written?
In the unlikely event that a bipartisan Congress overrides the president’s veto, what will happen? Will there be a catastrophe or war as the administration predicts? Here is what is likely to occur: not much.
1. There will be lots of noise, but not much else. Nobody is going to war. In the short term the Iranians will likely abide by the agreement as a strategy to divide the P5+1 nations.
2. Initially rational Iran will be more likely to avoid overt support of international terrorism.
3. Then Iran will begin testing the world with borderline provocative acts, both in support of its terrorist allies, and in nuclear development.
4. Remember, this deal will not stop Iran from getting a bomb. That is a fantasy. Iran is a nuclear weapons threshold state with or without this deal. Only regime change can really change this, and favoring such a change should be a high-priority objective of our foreign policy. The Iranian people should know that the grass is greener on the other side of the fence, and that friends await them there.
If Congress and the next president can work in concert, Iran will come back to the table when teeth can be put into future Congressional legislation. Remember, American treaties are often renegotiated. Although this is not a treaty, it should be due to its monumental importance for American national security interests in both the near and long term.
So what should Congress do if it cannot override the president’s veto? Start writing bipartisan legislation.
1. Immediately write legislation to impose consequences for Iranian transgressions of the JCPOA.
2. Write legislation to economically punish nations that violate any remaining American sanctions.
3. Write legislation to mandate the public documentation of Iranian transgressions.
4. Write legislation that imposes consequences for future Iranian support of terrorism, and the purchase or development of conventional and ballistic weapons that could be used in an offensive capacity.
5. Write legislation to impose penalties if Iran’s financial windfall from sanctions relief is used to support State Department-listed sponsors of terrorism, i.e. Hezbollah and Hamas.
6. Write legislation that supports transferring to Israel deep bunker-busting missiles with the means to deliver them, as a warning to Iran.
Finally, we must not misunderstand what this deal really is. It is not a treaty, it was not signed, and it may not even be an executive agreement. The next administration will certainly be hampered by the UN Security Council resolution and European nations doing business with Tehran, but the proposed agreement does not have the power or protection of a treaty. It should have been proposed as a treaty, but the administration knew it could never get it passed and chose the executive prerogative route to ensure the president’s wishes for this, his “legacy.”
As Robert Satloff of the Washington Institute opined, “Repair a glaring gap in the agreement, which offers no clear, agreed-upon penalties for Iranian (transgressions)… the solution… reach understandings now with America’s European partners… on the appropriate penalties to be imposed for a broad spectrum of Iranian violations.”
What a shame that the United States of America has to deal with this brutal, mendacious, evil-intentioned dictatorship of Iran, a shameful blot on the history of an ancient people, daily chanting their vows to kill us, with an administration who wants to pretend we are dealing with leaders who will behave properly if only we show them friendliness, respect and billions in sanctions relief.
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.