Category Archives: The Iran Deal

Will Senate Democrats take Violations of the Iran Deal Seriously?

(Previously published in The Jerusalem Post)

Will Democratic senators and members of the House follow their consciences and defend American national security interests, or will they march in step with Obama?

The contentious debate over the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action has not ended, but simply moved into its next predictable phase: dealing with Iranian violations of the JCPOA and UNSC Resolution 2231.

Back in the summer of 2015, Democratic Senators wrestled over the difficult choice of trusting the president on Iran or risking the wrath of the administration and the Democratic leadership by opposing the deal because it would weaken American national security interests. In the end, most begrudgingly choose political allegiance over principle, but publicly promised disappointed constituents that they would meticulously monitor for Iranian violations, and be quick to respond with “snapback” sanctions if Iran reneged on the deal.

Fast-forward to Spring 2016, and the Iranian transgressions of both the JCPOA and UNSC resolutions on missile tests are clear to everyone.

Furthermore, Iran’s continued support of the genocidal Syrian dictator Bashar Assad, with Iranian- backed Hezbollah shock troops, has unquestionably broken all human rights standards, being the very definition of state-sponsored terrorism. Just ask the tens of thousands of Syrian civilians Syria has tried to starve to death with Iranian financial support.

During my briefings on Capitol Hill in March, I reviewed two pieces of new Senate legislation, The Iran Ballistic Missile Sanctions Act of 2016 and the Iran Terrorism and Human Rights Sanctions Act of 2016 (S. 2726). Both called for tangible consequences for Iranian missile tests, human rights abuses and support of terrorism. They simply follow the president’s promises that there would be “snapback sanctions” if Iran violates the deal, as it obviously is, flagrantly violating UNSC Resolution 2231 and the JCPOA . The most recent missile tested by Iran can carry a nuclear payload and is capable of reaching both Israel and Europe. President Barack Obama and his administration are pressuring Democrats to forget about the “snapback sanctions.” The legacy deal is more important than the truth.

The administration, with the good graces of Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and “Shomer of the Senate” Chuck Schumer have told fellow Democrats that all of this is a “Republican” ruse to destroy the president’s legacy, leaving the world in a dangerous predicament without the deal in place. They tell fellow Democrats not to vote for this “Republican legislation,” as it would be a political win for them, and that’s what counts.

Instead the administration is trying to pull the wool over the eyes of the American people by trying to extend the toothless Iran Sanctions Act, which will allow the president to continue to waive any meaningful sanctions on Iran.

Even more troubling is that the administration never told the American public that the Iranian Parliament never actually approved the American version of the JCPOA given to Congress. The Majlis (Iranian Parliament) only approved an amended Iranian version that among other things disallows snapback provisions.

Yet Secretary of State John Kerry told the Senate on July 23, 2015, ‘‘We will not violate the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action if we use our authorities to impose sanctions on Iran for terrorism, human rights, missiles… the JCPOA does not provide Iran any relief from United States sanctions under any of those authorities or other authorities.”

Over the past four months Iran has launched multiple banned missile tests, all of missiles capable of carrying a nuclear payload, in breach of the JCPOA .

UNSC Resolution 2231 was sold to Congress as an endorsement of the JCPOA , both touted as major achievements to stop Iran’s quest to build and deliver a nuclear bomb. Unfortunately, Iran never accepted UNSC Resolution 2231 as valid or enforceable.

When the administration realized during the negotiation last year that Iran would not allow any teeth to be attached to the JCPOA for future violations of the agreement, the administration pulled a fast one on Congress and the American public by moving anything objectionable to the Iranians, i.e. banning missile tests, to an obscure Annex B in UNSC Resolution 2231, but absent from the JCPOA .

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and deputy foreign minister Abbas Araghchi made it clear that they viewed the two documents as different from the start.

In July 2015, according to a MEMRI translation Araghchi said, “We told them [the Americans] explicitly [that if you insist on including these articles on the arms and missile embargoes in the JCPOA , then], ‘There is no agreement,’ and we will not accept an agreement in which embargoes on weapons and missiles continue….”

As reported in MEMRI, “The Iranian perspective regarding UNSCR 2231 hinges entirely on its non-binding nature. Iran deems only the JCPOA to be binding… Iran insisted on relegating disputed issues (arms embargo, ballistic missiles) to UNSCR 2231 with the clear intent of violating it.”

2231 “calls upon” Iran to refrain for up to eight years from activity, including launches, related to ballistic missiles designed with the capability of delivering nuclear weapons. But Russia, as should have been expected, has defended its Iranian client and said the wording on Iranian missile tests is not legally binding. Putin 1, Obama 0.

Senator Mark Kirk, who has been insisting on Iranian accountability while defending American national security interests in regard to Iran’s quest for nuclear capability, said, “I reject our current posture of willful ignorance and inaction towards Iran’s terrorist activities, illegal missile testing, funding Assad’s war, and human rights abuses. The administration’s response cannot once again be it’s ‘not supposed to be doing that’ as Iran continues to walk all over US foreign policy and the international community.”

Democratic senators who reluctantly voted for the JCPOA claimed the Obama administration would hold tough and respond to violations immediately if the Iranians pulled any shenanigans. In addition, the president promised that the JCPOA and UNSC 2231 were in no way going to stop sanctions on Iran for its state sponsorship of terrorism or human rights abuses.

So much for the president’s promises.

Missile tests breaking UNSC resolutions evoke only rhetorical grumbles and shrugged shoulders from the administration, like what-can-we-do parents whose kids are misbehaving.

Which brings us to Congress’ foreign policy obligations to impose sanctions on Iran for breaking the JCPOA and UNSC 2231.

Will Democratic senators and members of the House follow their consciences and defend American national security interests, or will they march in step with Obama? The key is Democratic ranking member of the Foreign Affairs Committee Ben Cardin of Maryland.

Cardin, to his credit, voted against the JCPOA , but has received the runaround from the administration on consequences for Iran’s transgressions.

Ben, do the right thing.

Also calling senators Gillibrand, Coons, Booker, Wyden, Cantwell, Blumenthal, Schumer, Murphy and Peters.

The author is the director of MEPIN™.

Iranian Transgressions and Ongoing Palestinian Terrorism

Today’s VLOG asks two questions:

The first: Is there any Iranian violation or transgression of the JCPOA or of long-standing sanctions that would cause this administration to consider imposing a tangible consequence?

According to news sources, the White House said it had “strong indications” that Iran violated UN Security Council resolutions with a ballistic missile test this week. Yet White House press secretary Josh Earnest said it wouldn’t affect implementation of the nuclear deal with Iran. “Iran has demonstrated a track record of abiding by the commitments that they made in the context of the nuclear talks.”

A factually inaccurate, and a troubling response.

The second question deals with the ongoing Palestinian terrorism.  Is this the beginning of a third intifada?

Watch the VLOG below:

Here is a related article I wrote for the Jerusalem Post 6 months ago: Does Mahmoud Abbas Want His Legacy to be the Third Intifada?” 

As always, please share your thoughts. 

Dr. Eric R. Mandel
Director, MEPIN

Can the burning flames within American Jewry be lowered after the Iran deal?

(Previously published in The Jerusalem Post)

No matter where you stand on the Iran debate or what you think about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, coming together to fight the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement should be common ground.

In the aftermath of the intense debate over the Iran agreement, a pervasive noxious cloud has enveloped the American Jewish community. An appeal has been issued from organized Jewry to tone down the level of vitriol against fellow Jews.

The White House’s strategy to politicize the debate to overcome the congressional majority against the deal won the day. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ill-timed visit in the spring didn’t help either.

Democratic Jewish Americans were forced to choose between party loyalty vs. independently judging the dangers of the agreement for American and Israeli national security interests. The administration’s strategy challenged the American Jewish Diaspora on the very meaning of what it means to be a pro-Israel American Jew.

The president persuaded the majority of Jewish congressional legislators to back his deal. This infuriated Democratic and Republican Jewish Americans opposed to the agreement, who think security interests were compromised for a partisan victory and a presidential legacy. Progressive American Jews trust the president on Iran, and believe him when he says this is the best deal that could have been negotiated, the only other choice being war. Political allegiance suffocated independent thought for those who reflexively supported the president.

As I have reminded members of Congress, this is not the end but the beginning of a new reality with Iran. As the president has said, the agreement leaves Iran as a state sponsor of terrorism that remains both fiercely anti-American and anti-Semitic. Over the next 16 months, the president will do whatever is in his power not to undermine this deal by imposing any new congressional sanctions on Iranian human rights violations or terrorism. American Jewish supporters of the agreement will be challenged to remain supportive of the president and defend the Islamic Republic if Iranian financial, military and technical support to Hamas, Syrian President Bashar Assad, or Hezbollah succeeds in killing more Americans and more Jews in the near future.

What will truly intensify the divide within American Jewry is the likely event that the president turns his attention back to his vision of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The American progressive Left is at the forefront of encouraging the president to re-engage and pressure Israel to make concessions, as they provide much of the ammunition to criticize the current Israeli government. Groups like Jewish Voice for Peace actively call for a one-state solution, i.e.

the destruction of Israel. The progressive J Street organization whose positions have been embraced by the administration gives legitimacy to pro-boycott advocates by providing a Jewish platform for them to speak from, angering mainstream American Jewry.

The Iran deal brought to the fore the divide in the American Jewish community. A younger generation steeped in universalism is uncomfortable with Jewish particularism, especially Zionism. They find no hypocrisy in both condemning Jewish nationalism while championing Palestinian national aspirations.

Palestinian Arab misogyny, corruption, anti-Semitism and homophobia seem beside the point, and shouldn’t get in the way of a Palestinian state.

Many young Jewish adults are predisposed to thinking the worst of Israel, as they have heard little but criticism of Israel during their formative years in some congregations.

On campus, they find university professors who are overwhelmingly hostile to Israel, and often cross the line from legitimate criticism to anti-Semitism. Jewish students who want to defend Israel must confront the growing SJP (Students for Justice in Palestine) movement, which refuses dialogue and advocates the destruction of Israel.

So what are some possible remedies to lower the flames of vitriol between Jewish Americans with differing political outlooks? IT BEGINS with education. I recently spoke to a Reform congregation about my meetings in Congress on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). After the talk, I heard from many people who were surprised by how much information was new to them. Too often in our hyperpolarized world, we listen to and read only points of view we agree with.

If American Jewry is to come together, we must begin with the American synagogue. American Jews have a delicate balance in their relationship with their rabbis on political issues. Too many rabbis mix their personal politics with their teaching of Jewish values.

American Jews need to respectfully insist that personal politics in the guise of teaching Jewish values should find no home at the community’s pulpit. The alternative will be synagogues that turn into monolithic places of thought, where congregants of differing viewpoints feel unwelcome, and vote with their feet.

American Jews of all persuasions, like their Jewish brethren in Israel think they know everything! However if American Jewry could show some humility and restraint in telling a fellow Democratic nation that it knows what is best for that country’s security interests, it would lower the flames within American Jewry. All one needs to do is realize that it is Israeli mothers and fathers that place their children in harm’s way. American Jews of the Left and Right can also come together to support Congress to create new sanctions for Iranian human rights abuses and terrorism.

This has bipartisan support in Congress, so it should be a consensus issue.

One issue all American Jews should be able to come together on is fighting the growing menace of anti-Semitism on college campuses, especially when it is hides behind anti-Zionism. Last week the California Board of Regents acknowledged that anti-Semitism on the UC campuses is a real problem.

American Jews should endorse our State Department definition of anti-Semitism which says that if you use a different standard for Israel than for any other nation, or if you question Israel’s right to exist, or if you use Nazi symbols to describe Israel, that is anti-Semitism, plain and simple.

We all want our American Jewish kids on the college campus to live in a safe environment. This would be a great place to start and for American Jewry to say with a single voice, no to anti-Semitism in the guise of anti-Zionism.

Finally, no matter where you stand on the Iran debate or what you think about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, coming together to fight the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, whose goal is the destruction of Israel, should be common ground for the overwhelming majority of synagogues of all denominations. So how about Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist and Orthodox synagogues in America come together with a banner or ad that says: “Wherever We Stand, We Stand With Israel, Wherever We Stand, We Stand Against Boycotts” American Jews need to find common ground, lower the rhetorical flames of infighting, and support a strong US-Israel relationship for the benefit of both nations.

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 advisors, members of the Knesset, journalists and organizational leaders. He regularly briefs members of Congress on issues related to the Middle East.

What’s Next With Iran and the U.S.?

The political manipulations of the Iran negotiations are not over.

The Obama administration is intent to show the world that its outreach to Iran on the nuclear deal will bear fruit to transform the regime into a member in good standing of the international community. The Iranians will be happy to play their part and continue to fool the West. So, expect Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian and three other Americans, unlawfully imprisoned by Iran, to be released and exchanged for Iranians jailed for sanctions violations in the West. This “magnanimous” Iranian gesture could even come during or right after Secretary of State Kerry meets with the Iranian Foreign Minister at the General Assembly next week. President Obama is reportedly still chasing President Rouhani for a meeting on the sidelines of the GA, but Rouhani is playing hardball just like during the negotiations. The majority of the UN General Assembly, which is composed of non-democratic nations, will give a standing ovation to the Iranian President whose nation wants to “annihilate” a member state of the UN, while that state’s Prime Minister will speak to a half empty auditorium because of anti-Semitism in the guise of anti-Zionism.

If Iran Cheats can Israel Still Strike?

(Previously published in The Jerusalem Post)

An Israeli pre-emptive attack against Iranian nuclear facilities is theoretically still a reality.

Will President Barack Obama again say to Israel “atem lo levad” (“you are not alone”), if Israel strikes Iran? Will the American administration commit to approve an Israeli military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities if Iran violates the agreement? In April, opposition leaders Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni of the Zionist Union proposed just that in a position paper, according to Yediot Aharonot.

Despite the recent revelation by former defense minister Ehud Barak that both he and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu favored an Iranian strike, but were stymied by Yuval Steinitz, Moshe Ya’alon, Meir Dagan and Gabi Ashkenazi, an Israeli pre-emptive attack against Iranian nuclear facilities is theoretically still a reality.

(The rationale, of course, is that the Iranian leadership repeatedly calls for Israel to be “annihilated” or “wiped off the map.”) Whether this is wise or unwise in the post-Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action world is another story.

According to Norman Podhoretz writing in The Wall Street Journal: “With hardly an exception, all of Israel believes that the Iranians are deadly serious… to wipe the Jewish state off the map… once Iran acquires the means to make good on this genocidal commitment, each side will be faced with only two choices: …rely on the fear of a retaliatory strike… or… launch a pre-emptive strike of its own.”

In light of this overwhelming Israeli sentiment, here are four questions: • If Israel decides, for self-preservation, to strike Iran after a deal is in place, what happens to the US-Israel relationship? • Would Israel choose not to strike to preserve that relationship, which in the eyes of many is of existential importance to Israel? • Are you confident that Iran won’t give Hezbollah a nuclear device? If not, are you confident Hezbollah would not put it on a missile headed for Tel Aviv? • Would the world be safer if Israel did strike, upending conventional wisdom? Just as the pre-emptive Israeli strikes on the Iraqi reactor in 1981 and (allegedly) the Syrian reactor in 2009 made the world a less dangerous place, a strike against Iran, even post-agreement, has the potential for many unintended consequences, not all of them necessarily bad. Imagine the apocalyptic scenarios we could be facing today if the Syrian reactor had not been struck in 2009. A nuclear weapon might now be in the hands of the Syrian regime or Islamic State – both of which have already used chemical weapons. When the US president tells Israeli supporters that he has Israel’s back, they should look at how he turned his back on the Kurds.

This may all be moot as it assumes Israel still has the capability to deliver a meaningful strike, setting the Iranian nuclear program back many years. But the recent Russian announcement that it will sell the advanced S-300 anti-missile system to Iran in defiance of existing sanctions may close Israel’s window of opportunity.

Those Russian missiles could actually force Israel to strike sooner rather than later.

President Obama believes American interests are best served by the nuclear deal. Yet the American people and an overwhelming majority of Israelis, from the Right to Left, think the nuclear deal is dangerous. This is because the agreement spared Iran the need to choose between its nuclear program and economic prosperity. Iran received both in the deal.

Four more questions to ponder: • Could Israel, against the wishes of every nation on the planet, pre-emptively attack Iran to save itself? • What would follow an Israeli strike? • Will international terrorism rise; will the Iranian proxy Hezbollah and Iranian ally Hamas coordinate a conventional attack against Israel? • Would Iranian hegemonic ambitions be dampened or accelerated? With the conclusion of the deal, Iranian proxies and allies may feel freer to ramp up terrorism against Jews in Europe and South America again, testing Israel and the American response. There is no doubt that the administration would condemn such actions, but then rationalize that no military response should be allowed to threaten the greater benefits of the deal.

Netanyahu and the Israeli public may not be so forgiving if Hezbollah emerges from underground tunnels in the north, Hamas joins them via tunnels dug with Iranian largesse, missiles fly from the south or north to the heartland, or Jewish civilians are killed on a tourist bus in Prague, London, or Nairobi.

Perhaps the greatest damage caused by an Israeli strike would be to the US-Israeli relationship. Could it mean a permanent end to the special relationship? Would the president allow UN Security Council sanctions against Israel? American military support might be suspended or could end during this administration. The president might even welcome the opportunity as part of his long-term goal of realigning American interests to the Muslim world.

AT THE same time, allies of Israel in Congress will worry that the most important US ally in the region will be weakened and isolated, hurting US national security and surveillance interests. On the other hand, there is a potential backlash of anti-Semitism if Israel is perceived as drawing the US into another Middle East war.

When the deal becomes effective, most pro-Israel members of Congress and Jewish organizational leaders will have a two-fold strategy: increase US military aid to Israel to compensate for the deal’s devastating impact on Israeli security interests, and lobby the Israeli government not to strike Iran – even if the US imposes no consequences when Iran cheats.

If Israel strikes Iran before President Obama’s term ends, the president will likely stand aside as the European nations and the international community lead the charge to make Israel a pariah nation. But what would the next American president do? It is likely he or she will try to bridge the divide between the countries.

However, if the world is significantly destabilized by Iranian retaliations either in the form of terrorism or economic blockades of the Straits of Hormuz and Bab el Mandeb, then many on the Democratic side of the aisle will demand that the US remain permanently distanced from Israel.

The fraying of the US-Israel relationship as we know it is real – especially if the United States does not impose consequences for Iranian cheating. Congress, the American people, the American Jewish community and, most importantly, the next American president must anticipate this eventuality and act to prevent it.

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 advisors, members of the Knesset, journalists and organizational leaders.

He regularly briefs members of Congress on issues related to the Middle East.

 

The Iran Debate: The View from Congress

Last week I was privileged to speak with members of Congress and the their foreign policy experts as the deliberations and votes on The Iran Deal were taking place.  My objective was to explain that despite the manipulative political machinations that deprived the American people of an up or down vote on the agreement, there was much that can be done.

The emphasis needs to change from the focus of sanctions on nuclear weapons that the president will waive, to enacting new sanctions on the Islamic Republic for its egregious support of terrorism and human rights abuses, which threaten both our allies and our national security interests.

Watch my latest vlog to learn more about The Iran Debate:

 

 

 

The Price President Obama Will Demand from Israel for Increased Military Aid After the JCPOA

(Previously published in The Jerusalem Post)

To the president, this deal is not so much about nuclear weapons. It’s about the president’s outreach to the Muslim people as articulated in both his Cairo speech of 2009 and in other statements.

There may be a threatening quid pro quo on the horizon for Israel, namely that the truly consequential armaments it needs to defend itself will be withheld unless Israel concedes to a Palestinian state.

There has been an unexamined consensus in Congress that Israel will automatically be given a dramatic increase in both the quantity and quality of military aid to make up for the dangers the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) has created for it. Those dangers include a strengthened Hamas and Hezbollah, the increasing presence of more dangerous conventional missiles and the looming threat of an Iranian nuclear-tipped missile directed toward the Jewish state.

There is no doubt more aid is forthcoming, if for no other reason than to give cover to Democratic members of Congress who will vote with the president on the deal, but will soon be seeking campaign donations from concerned pro-Israel political donors.

But what is not appreciated is that there will likely be a huge price Israel will be asked to pay to receive what it needs to survive.

Pundits following the Iran deal have misunderstood what the deal is really about. Almost everyone has been focused on the nuclear weapons aspect of the deal, but that is not primarily what this agreement (JCPOA) is all about. If it were, we would have negotiated a much better deal.

This deal is just the first step in President Barack Obama’s vision for creating a new Middle East. It began with Iranian rapprochement, but it will not end until a Palestinian state is created, a passionately held desire of the president, his advisors and his progressive supporters. The president and his allies, for example J Street, still believe that the Israeli- Palestinian conflict is the Middle East’s primary problem. Israel to them is the linchpin, and Israel remains to its critics the intransigent and immoral party in the dispute.

There is little doubt that resolving the conflict in some way that secures Israel would have positive consequences.

But to focus attention here is to miss the point that almost all of the problems of the Middle East, from Islamic State (IS) to the Sunni- Shi’ite divide, have nothing to do with Israel, except for Israel’s role as a convenient scapegoat.

For all of the administration’s condemnations of the Bush administration agenda – trying to bring democracy to the region with American hubris and exceptionalism – this president’s plan is in actuality much more ambitious: to transform the region with an American progressive footprint. The more the president protests that this deal is just about nuclear weapons, the less you should believe it. You just have to look at the dramatic concessions made on conventional and ballistic missiles.

The Iran deal is less about nuclear weapons and more about strengthening Shi’ite Iran as a counterweight to balance the power of the Sunni Gulf states before moving on to solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with the same progressive footprint. If the president thinks his pivot to Iran reassures the other regional players, he is dangerously mistaken. The half a trillion dollars in money freed up with sanctions relief over the next five years will ignite the Sunni-Shi’ite world, not quiet it. American aid to the Sunni world in turn is simply kerosene being thrown in the Sunni-Shi’ite fire, with American soldiers likely to end up being killed as a result. The president’s wishful thinking is that Iran will work with the US against IS, help resolve the genocidal Syrian civil war, and with billions in economic relief choose butter over guns to revitalize its domestic economy, rather than beef up its military and that of its proxies. Good luck with that.

To the president, this deal is not so much about nuclear weapons. It’s about the president’s outreach to the Muslim people as articulated in both his Cairo speech of 2009 and in other statements.

So after Congress fails to override the president’s veto, he will turn to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which is directly related to the Iran deal as part of an overall strategic vision.

It will next be about pressuring Israel to accept a Palestinian state based on the 1967 lines, which until the Obama administration was the Palestinian starting point for negotiations.

The Israeli view is secure and defensible borders. The American stick to Israel will be the threat to abstain from vetoing an expected French proposal in the UN Security Council to recognize a Palestinian state. The carrot is the advanced military aid Israel needs in response to the concessions the JCPOA created.

For the real consequential military “goodies” that Israel needs, there will be a quid pro quo: bend to our vision of resolving the conflict or pay the price.

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 advisors, members of the Knesset, journalists and organizational leaders. He regularly briefs members of Congress on issues related to the Middle East.

What Should Congress do if the Iran deal is Approved or Overridden?

(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.

Iran: The Deal That Keeps Getting Worse

Today’s Vlog begins with the new Israeli Defense Force Strategy (IDF) for the next year.  This is particularly noteworthy because it is the first time in over half a century that it has been publicly released.

A significant change could be looming for the US peacekeeping force in the Sinai: its withdrawal.  In the aftermath of the Iran Deal, it may be a signal to both Egypt and Israel of the administrations displeasure with both governments, and its seeking to withdraw from another region of the Middle East.

Iran is still front and center in the news, especially with false statements and scare tactics being used by far too many people involved in the debate. We will present five questions for Congress to ask itself before they vote on the deal in just a few weeks. These questions are also a good source for you in your discussions with friends, to see if they are open minded about understanding its potential consequences, or if they are married to their political ideology and party.

Many people don’t realize that Iran has already been challenging the administration by transgressing current sanctions. Watch the following video and then decide for yourself if this deal will ever have consequences attached to Iranian provocations.

For more information on this topic, read my latest Jerusalem Post column: “What Should Congress Do It the Deal is Approved or Overridden.”

The Democratic Challenge: National Interests vs. Politics on the Iran Deal

(Previously published in The Jerusalem Post)

As Congress heads home for the August recess, members can anticipate hearing from constituents, both vehemently in favor and against the controversial Iran nuclear deal.

“I strongly believe the world could and should have a better deal than that set forth in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which I will therefore oppose…I believe the inspections procedures…are flawed…The immediate sanctions relief provided Iran in the deal would incentivize the funding of terrorism…the deal before us now is simply too dangerous for the American people…I have every confidence a better deal can be realized.” – Democratic Congresswomen Grace Meng 

As Congress heads home for the August recess, members can anticipate hearing from constituents, both vehemently in favor and against the controversial Iran nuclear deal.

For most Republican and some Democratic members of Congress, the weakness of the final deal was no surprise as the interim agreement of November 2013, and the framework agreement of April 2015 had already crossed all of President Barack Obama’s stated red lines, as well as their own.

But for Democrats torn between their constitutional obligation to weigh in on a major foreign policy decision with profound consequences for future generations, and their presumed duty to support the foreign policy legacy of their standard bearer, the choice is much more complex. Threats of retribution by fellow Democrats if they vote against this deal are not just a speculation, but are a reality.

Senate Whip Dick Durbin and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi both immediately endorsed the deal without taking time to even seem to consider it carefully. It seems they would have endorsed almost anything the president proposed, out of sheer party loyalty.

Those in favor of the deal seem comfortable with the outsourcing of American foreign policy to the international community.

They didn’t object when the president sent the agreement to the UN Security Council before the promised Congressional vote, betraying a clear understanding negotiated between the president and Republican Foreign Policy Chair Senator Corker, and Democratic ranking member Senator Cardin that he would not do that.

Undecided members of Congress will have to grapple with the fact that they will be forced to make their decision knowing that the full agreement and concessions given to Iran are being concealed from them.

There are “confidential agreements” between the IAEA and Iran that the administration admits incomprehensibly not to know the details of. This is essential because it directly deals with the past and current military dimensions of the Iranian nuclear program. How can we monitor the deal if we don’t know what is the starting point? The president promised “unprecedented verification,” but the administration has refused to even acknowledge whether there are additional side deals between the US and Iran, which it won’t reveal to Congress. Do you remember the heady days of 2009 when the president said, “We will work together to ensure the public trust and establish a system of transparency”? American national security interests will be profoundly affected by the consequences of this deal for years to come. For Israel, this is an existential issue.

So when the president and Secretary of State John Kerry say they know better than the Israeli government that this agreement is in Israeli interests, it truly strains credulity. An overwhelming consensus of Israelis of both the Left and Right think this deal is a bad one.

This week I attended an emergency meeting of the Council of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, where I heard an analysis of the deal by Dore Gold, the Foreign Ministry director general, and Amos Yadlin, former head of military intelligence and head of INSS (the Institute of National Security Studies), Israel’s leading center-left security think tank.

From both ends of the political spectrum they are in accord on the Iran deal, both are decidedly against it. General Yadlin, who would have been defense minister if the Left had prevailed in the last election, traveled to America to tell Congress that there is a strong consensus across the political spectrum in Israel against this deal. As General Yadlin said, “My parameters for a good deal were crossed…

this deal is much more dangerous than no deal.” Despite this, the pro-deal American Jewish Left continues to assert that the Israeli Left is strongly in favor of the deal, and has even falsely claimed that General Yadlin himself is a supporter of the deal.

Both men made unambiguous statements that in the long run this deal guarantees an Iranian nuclear bomb, with the blessings of the world. Yadlin said the worst thing that can happen would be for Iran to keep to the letter of the deal, as this will guarantee its ability to have a bomb. He said that if Congress overrides the deal, Iran would likely adhere to the deal to allow the international sanctions against Iran to continue to collapse. Yadlin estimates that Iran will receive a half a trillion dollars in sanctions relief over the next five years, which could be used largely for conventional weaponization, nuclear development and terrorism.

For those undecided members of Congress, who take their responsibility to defend the republic as their primary decision- making compass, there will be much to think about in the next six weeks. I have read the 159 pages of the deal and have learned a lot beyond the talking points of both parties.

We must hope Congress and their foreign policy experts independently read it with an open mind. But how many members will simply read the administration and J Street talking points, and use them to defend the deal? Lets hope not many, for America’s sake.

In the short term, there are some advantages to this deal, although the disadvantages still outweigh them. The advantages are some more oversight, which relies too heavily on Iranian compliance, a decrease in the stockpile of enriched uranium and mothballing of some older centrifuges.

The premise of the president’s concessions rests on the hope that the Iranian people will be able, during the years of the deal, to force their repressive government to moderate its behavior. So how can one explain the logic of throwing a financial lifeline of hundreds of billions of dollars to the very terrorist regime you want to weaken? Even if the majority of Iranians are potentially pro-American and want to join the international community, authoritarian regimes are by nature small groups of thugs who detain, torture and repress their own citizens. This deal enables the regime to continue its hold onto power and abuse its citizens.

President Obama’s red line before November 2013 was to dismantle the Iranian nuclear program, the illicitly built nuclear sites of Fordow and Natanz, and the plutonium site of Arak. All have been crossed.

This doesn’t even count the promise that the deal would only be about nuclear issues.

The agreement shockingly gives Iran conventional weapons relief, advanced R&D on the next generation of centrifuges and the ability to buy and sell ballistic missiles in eight years.

Most egregious is that this treaty masquerades as an executive agreement, yet is likely to be the most consequential foreign policy decision for Congress in the first half of the 21st century.

Another talking point of those in favor of the deal is that the international community will abandon American sanctions if Congress overrides the president’s veto. This is not necessarily true. As far as other nations abandoning America, the binary choice to offer them is to choose between trading with Iran, a third rate economy that is the world’s largest supporter of terrorism, or continue trading with the unipolar superpower with the world’s largest consumer market. With additional congressional legislation, this can easily come true.

Here is another alternative to this misguided deal. The president’s defenders repeatedly claim alternatives to this deal do not exist. Not true.

So will Democrats and Republicans follow the thoughtful and brave choice that Democratic Congresswomen Grace Meng made in choosing American national security interests over politics? Lets hope that our public servants remember that their allegiance is first to our country, not to their party.

And as for those concerned about Israel’s future, they should remember the words of Harvard scholar Ruth Wisse: “This is the first time the US will have deliberately entered into a pact with a country committed to annihilating another people – a pact that doesn’t even require formal repudiation of the country’s genocidal aims.”

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.