Update from AIJAC
Sept. 4, 2015
Number 09/15 #01
Much of the ongoing debate about the Iranian nuclear deal in the US is being presented in partisan terms – Republicans versus Democrats, supporters of President Obama versus his critics. President Obama now seems to have the numbers to sustain a veto if the deal is rejected by Congress, as remains likely. Nonetheless, there appears to be an emerging consensus among informed commentators that, at a bare minimum, the deal needs to be strengthened with a number of measures that do not involve re-opening negotiations with the Iranians, but do require additional agreements and credible measures to ensure deterrence of Iranian cheating or other misbehaviour.
Moreover, there seems to be broad agreement what these measures should consist of. Among the early exponents of the common list of measures is Washington Institute head Dr. Robert Satloff – see here. His latest effort to explain the five categories of additional measures he believes are needed is this open letter to undecided members of Congress.
We lead with a statement from two former senior officials in the Obama Administration, first term advisor on Iran Dennis Ross, and former CIA director David Petraeus. After identifying the strengths and weaknesses in the agreement, they argue that the verification measures in the agreement are not sufficient unless there is also a regime of deterrence – meaning clear consequences for Iran if it is caught cheating. Among the measures they urged be included to achieve this is a clear statement force will be used if, during or after the deal, Iran dashes toward nuclear weapons, including by making highly-enriched uranium; providing Israel with military means to create its own deterrence; and setting up arrangements and agreements to ensure Iran knows there is “a price for every transgression, no matter how small, and that we will raise the cost to them of de-stabilizing behavior in the region.” For their full argument, CLICK HERE.
The next argument comes from Richard Haass, veteran American diplomat and advisor to politicians on both sides of politics, and, more recently, long-serving president of the Council on Foreign Relations. Haass calls for Congress to endorse the agreement, though saying it is a close call, but then advocates for a whole series of additional measures to try and address the shortcomings of the deal. Among the seven points he calls for Congress and the Administration to agree on are several similar to those suggested by Ross and Petraeus: clear threats of force, sanctions for even minor violations of the agreement by Iran, preparation of new sanctions if necessary to counter Iranian terrorism and destablising regional behaviour, and a ban on Iran acquiring highly-enriched uranium. For Haass’ full set of provisions to strengthen the deal, CLICK HERE.
Finally, Israeli journalist Shmuel Rosner discusses a photo which has sparked intense debate in Israel. It shows an Israeli soldier attempting to arrest a Palestinian boy for throwing stones – and then being hit, bitten and grabbed by a group of Palestinian women and girls. Rosner discusses the views that different sides of the Israeli spectrum have read into the photo, the genuine dilemmas for Israel it represents, as well as what it says about the attempts to portray Israel’s military as merciless killers. For Rosner’s complete analysis, CLICK HERE.
Readers may also be interested in:
- Joining Satloff, Ross, Petraeus and Haass in calling for putting in place further measures to contain Iran and strengthen the nuclear agreement is former senior State Department figure turned academic Nicholas Burns, one of the Iran deal negotiators under Obama, Robert Einhorn, as well as top Israeli strategic thinker Amos Yadlin
- Despite Obama’s success in gaining the support of enough Democrat Senators to allow the deal to proceed, the latest poll shows public opinion is opposed to it by a large majority and the polling trends show opposition is growing, which may hurt Congressional Democrats who support the deal.
- Some interesting leaks of bragging by an Iranian negotiator, paraphrasing the Russian Foreign Minister, about how little Iran actually promised under the deal to get both its nuclear enrichment legitimised and sanctions lifted.
- Former IAEA deputy director Olli Heinonen says the IAEA’s side deal with Iran to allow Iran to supply samples and photographs from the Parchin suspected weaponisation research site is unprecedented and problematic, as is the secrecy surrounding the side-deal.
- Military expert Michael Eisenstadt raises question about Obama’s claims that at the conclusion of the deal “all options are and will remain on the table” and a future President will be able to apply preventative military action if necessary.
- Iranian leaders continue to promise to destroy Israel.
- Michael Rubin on the claims on both sides of the debate about how either accepting or rejecting the deal will affect American credibility – and also what the North Korean precedent shows about what will happen if suspicions arise that Iran is cheating on the deal.
- Russia is reportedly putting “boots on the ground” in support of the Assad regime in Syria, in the form of pilots actually flying combat missions there. More on the implications of this here and here.
- Important comments from Michael Totten and Martin Kramer on the destruction of Palmyra’s ancient Temple of Bel by ISIS.
- Isi Leibler calls for the abolition of Israel’s chief rabbinate.
- Some examples from the many stories and comments now appearing at AIJAC’s daily “Fresh AIR” blog:
- A short video of Indian-born writer Sadanand Dhume, exploring both the recent surge in Israel-India relations and the state of Islamist extremism in Indonesia – where Dhume lived as a correspondent for several years.
- AIJAC’s statement on the decision of NSW police not to prosecute radical Hizb ut-Tahrir preacher Ismael Alwahwah , for the public statement he made last year calling for the destruction of Jews.
- For those who have not seen it in today’s Herald-Sun, AIJAC recommends the piece by Palestinian human rights activist Bassem Eid on what is really needed to achieve Palestinian statehood.
Many members of Congress continue to grapple with the nuclear deal with Iran - and so do we. Like us, the undecideds see its benefits: The deal would block the uranium enrichment, plutonium separation and covert paths to a nuclear bomb for the next 15 years. Compared with today, with an Iran that is three months from break-out capability and with a stockpile of 10 bombs’ worth of low-enriched uranium, there can be little doubt that a deal leaves us far better off, producing a one-year break-out time and permitting the Iranians less than one bomb’s worth of material for the next 15 years. We also don’t believe that if Congress blocks the deal, a better one is going to be negotiated. Will the other members of the P5+1 be ready to return to the table because Congress says no? Will they even know who defines the U.S. position and what it is? We doubt it.
So if the deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), has clear benefits and there is no obvious negotiated alternative, why are we still undecided? Put simply, because the deal places no limits on how much the Iranians can build or expand their nuclear infrastructure after 15 years. Even the monitoring provisions that would continue beyond 15 years may prove insufficient as the Iranian nuclear program grows. And Iran’s ability to dramatically increase its output of enriched material after year 15 would be significant, as Iran deploys five advanced models of centrifuges starting in year 10 of the agreement.
In terms of the size of its nuclear program, Iran will be treated like Japan or the Netherlands – but Iran is not Japan or the Netherlands when it comes to its behavior. It is, after all, one of three countries designated by the United States as a state sponsor of terrorism. Perhaps in 15 years we will see a very different Iran – not a sponsor of terrorism, not a threat to its neighbors, not led by those who declare that Israel, another U.N.-member state, should be eliminated. But, while we hope that Iran may change, we cannot count on it.
The fact that President Obama emphasizes that the plan depends on verification – not trust – also means that he is not assuming Iran will change. But verification means only that we can catch the Iranians if they cheat; what matters even more is that the Iranians recognize that they will pay a meaningful price when we catch them.
In other words, deterrence is the key to ensuring not just that the Iranians live up to the agreement but also to preventing them from developing nuclear weapons. Iran must know that we will not permit it to become a nuclear weapons state ever.
Now is the time to make it clear that there will be a firewall between Iranâs threshold status and its having a nuclear weapon. Now is the time for the Iranians and the world to know that if Iran dashes toward a weapon, especially after year 15, that it will trigger the use of force. At that point, it would be too late for sanctions to preempt an Iranian nuclear fait accompli.
It is critically important for the president to state this clearly, particularly given his perceived hesitancy to use force. Indeed, were Obama to be unequivocal about the use of force should Iran violate its commitment not to seek nuclear weapons, the international community would accept the legitimacy of military strikes in response.
In a letter to Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), Obama takes account of the importance of deterring Iran “from ever obtaining a nuclear weapon.” Even more significantly, he says that his administration “will take whatever means are necessary” including military means to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. That is an important statement, but it is followed by devaluing language: “Should Iran seek to dash toward a nuclear weapon, all of the options available to the United States â including the military option â will remain available through the life of the deal and beyond.”
Surely if the Iranians are dashing toward a weapon, especially after year 15, there is a need not to speak of our options but of our readiness to use force. The threat of force is far more likely to deter the Iranians.
The Iranians also should know that if they produce highly enriched uranium – for which there is no legitimate civilian purpose â that we would see that as an intention to make a weapon and would act accordingly. There is no mention of highly enriched uranium in the president’s letter. Although Obama speaks in the letter of providing the Israelis with the BLU-113, a 4,400-pound âbunker busterâ bomb, it would not be sufficient to penetrate Fordow, the Iranian enrichment site built into a mountain. For that, the Israelis would need the 30,000-pound massive ordnance penetrator (MOP) and the means to carry it. While some may question whether we would act militarily if the Iranians were to dash to a bomb, no one questions whether the Israelis would do so.
Bolstering deterrence is essential in addressing key vulnerabilities we see in the deal. A blunter statement on the consequences of Iran moving toward a weapon and of producing highly enriched uranium would allay some of our concerns. Providing the Israelis the MOP and the means to carry it would surely enhance deterrence â and so would developing options now in advance with the Israelis and key Arab partners to counter Iranâs likely surge of support for Hezbollah and other Shiite militias after it gets sanctions relief.
Deterrence would be more effective – and full implementation of the agreement more likely – if the Iranians understand that there will be a price for every transgression, no matter how small, and that we will raise the cost to them of de-stabilizing behavior in the region. The president’s letter to Nadler was useful but fell short of addressing our concerns. It is still possible for the administration to do so.
Dennis Ross, a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East policy, was special assistant to President Obama for the Middle East and South Asia from 2009 to 2011. Gen. David H. Petraeus, who retired from the Army in 2011 after commanding U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, was director of the CIA from September 2011 to November 2012.
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Simply approving the agreement doesn’t address its many shortcomings. Here’s what Congress should do.
Wall Street Journal, Aug. 28, 2015
The agreement to constrain Iran’s nuclear capacity, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which the U.S. Congress will vote on next month, places significant limits on Iran’s nuclear program for a decade or longer. At the same time, the accord allows Iran access to resources that will enhance its ability to carry out a worrisome agenda throughout much of the Middle East. In addition, the agreement in no way resolves the problems posed by Iran’s nuclear program. To the contrary, these problems could well grow as most of the restrictions on centrifuges and enriched uranium run out after 10 and 15 years respectively.
So what should Congress do? Just to be clear, it is not being asked to vote on whether the accord is good or bad but whether the U.S. would be better or worse off with it. Nor should the vote be based on hopes the agreement will bring about a more moderate Iran. This is possible, but so, too, is the opposite. We cannot know if Iran will be transformed, much less how or how much. The agreement is a transaction that should be judged on its merits.
It is a close call. The JCPOA like any pact is filled with compromises, some understandable, others questionable. Unfortunately, renegotiating the accord is not an option. The U.S. would quickly make itself rather than Iran the issue. International support for sanctions would erode.
Rejecting the agreement would make it likely that Iran would resume nuclear activity in one or more areas the agreement prohibits. That would bring closer a difficult and far-reaching decision on whether to use military force in a preventive strike. Rejecting the agreement would also reinforce questions around the world as to American political dysfunction. Reliability and predictability are essential attributes for a great power that must both reassure and deter.
On the other hand, simply voting in support of the agreement does nothing to address its shortcomings.
There is, however, a third option: to make any vote in favor of the agreement conditional on the U.S. adopting policies and positions that supplement and clarify the JCPOA. The following seven points would address many of the legitimate questions and concerns voiced by members of Congress and others in a manner that would protect U.S. interests and position the U.S. to deal with the Iranian challenge for the long haul. These points could be made in a White House communication, congressional resolution, or both:
• The U.S. continues to have vital national interests in the Middle East and Persian Gulf, including the security of friends and allies, opposition to terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and ensuring the continued availability of the region’s energy supplies and the freedom of navigation essential for the normal functioning of the global economy. An attempt by any state or nonstate actor to destabilize or gain a dominant position in the region will be viewed as a threat to vital U.S. interests. The U.S. is committed to protecting and supporting its interests by any means necessary, including with military force.
• The development or acquisition of nuclear weapons by Iran would constitute a threat to vital U.S. interests that will not be tolerated.
• The U.S. expects Iran to comply fully with the JCPOA. Any behavior by Iran judged by the U.S. to be inconsistent with the terms of the JCPOA will be met with sanctions and other proportionate responses. The U.S. will make sure the International Atomic Energy Agency has the information and resources it needs to carry out its mission and will insist that the IAEA hold Iran to the highest standards.
• The U.S. is unalterably opposed to nuclear proliferation in the Middle East and Persian Gulf. It is prepared to discuss and, where mutually agreed, enter into security arrangements with friends and allies, as well as furnish them with relevant military capabilities, to provide them with confidence that they have no need to acquire nuclear weapons. The U.S. will also provide its friends and allies with the quantity and quality of military assistance they need to meet threats posed directly or indirectly by Iran.
• Existing sanctions in response to Iranâs support for terror and its gross human-rights violations will be maintained. Other sanctions will be introduced and other measures taken as warranted. In addition, the U.S. will work to discourage the flow of military and ballistic-missile technologies to Iran even if United Nations sanctions are rescinded.
• The U.S. government will begin consultations with the other signers of the JCPOA – China, France, Germany, Russia, and the U.K. – on a follow-on agreement that would extend limits on Iranâs nuclear program to include a ban on Iranâs stockpiling highly-enriched uranium. The executive will consult as well with Congress on the terms of reference for any such follow-on agreement.
• The executive branch will provide comprehensive, semiannual reports to the Congress on Iran, including the implementation of the JCPOA, its compliance with the agreement, sanctions relief, evidence as to how Iran is using resources released pursuant to the JCPOA, Iranâs regional activities, and Iranâs treatment of its own citizens.
Others may have their own ideas as to what needs saying and doing in order to protect U.S. interests. This is to be expected. President Obama, in an Aug. 19 letter to Rep. Jerrold Nadler and other members of Congress, signaled his readiness to engage in such a conversation. There is ample time to develop a position acceptable to both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue. The stakes warrant both branches going the extra mile so that the U.S. can speak with a single, strong voice.
Mr. Haass is president of the Council on Foreign Relations.
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by Shmuel Rosner
Jewish Journal, August 31, 2015
There is something inherently confusing about an IDF soldier that is attacked by Palestinian women as he attempts to arrest a Palestinian boy. The photo of such a soldier was published the other day, and it ignited a fierce debate among Israelis.
It is confusing because the situation is not exactly clear. Is the soldier a victim – because he is clearly hurt and still wouldn’t use force against his attackers – or is he the aggressor because he is the one that was trying to arrest a young boy?
Should these women be treated with contempt because they attacked one of ours, or with admiration because they defended a crying Palestinian child?
Take a look at this photo and see how baffling it is. Take a look at the video and see how confused the soldier himself seems to be. His father, interviewed by Israel’s radio, said that he was proud of him. This was a trap, and the soldier did not fall into the trap. “It was no coincidence that there were people and photographers around”, the father said. Indeed, it was no coincidence.
Every Israeli father must look at this short clip and imagine his own son or daughter in that same situation, having to respond to provocation, having to keep his or her cool under these circumstances. Every Israeli father must look at this short clip and think about the way he’d respond had it been his own son or daughter having to chase that Palestinian boy, having to suffer the humiliation, having to make a tough call under the burning Judea sun.
It is not a pretty scene to watch. A Palestinian boy throws stones at soldiers. They try to arrest him. They are disrupted by Palestinian women. The boy’s family argues that the soldier used too much force against the boy. The IDF says this is not the first time this family is involved in violent protest against soldiers. The bottom line: They struggle, and eventually the soldiers quit. A humiliating defeat for the military â or a victory for a sober cool-headedness?
Some Israelis look at these photos and see disaster. They look at these photos and see them as proof that Israel is in the wrong. They look at them and do not want their own sons to have to be in a similar situation only because Israel will not make peace with the Palestinians. They think that the soldier is a victim of the Israeli government’s indecision – its inability to evacuate settlements, its reluctance to negotiate an agreement.
Other Israelis also look at these photos with dismay. They also donât want their sons to have to be in such a situation. And they also blame Israel â they think that Israel is projecting weakness, is not determined enough to deter its enemies, is too sensitive to the complaints of NGOs. They too think that the soldier is a victim of the Israeli governmentâs indecision â its reluctance to demand victory, its inability to provide useful guidelines for soldiers who find themselves in such situations.
No one wants to see Israeli soldiers having to fight twelve-year-old boys. But what should they do when a twelve-year-old boy is throwing stones at soldiers? No one wants to see Israeli soldiers having to battle with Palestinian women. But what should they do when these women attack them and wonât let them do their job?
It is easy to dismiss all the questions concerning this incident by saying “it is all because of the occupation.” Of course it is. It is also easy to dismiss all questions concerning this incident by saying it is all because the Jews decided to come back to Israel some decades ago and because Palestinians and other Arabs never agreed to accept their presence. It is easy to look at the big picture and say that if we only did this or did that the soldier would not have to be there.
But for the time being – until the leaders make up their minds, until there is world peace, until Arabs and Jews live happily ever after â this photo is an opportunity to focus on the young Israeli soldiers and the way they handle a tricky situation.
A young soldier in such a situation could make things worse. He could panic, and he could become much more violent. This soldier did not panic. He was under a lot of pressure, but he remained restrained within reason. So next time when someone tells you that the IDF is merciless â that its soldiers show no restraint when dealing with Palestinians â remember this photo of a soldier that did not use his gun and did not hurt the civilians around him. Next time when someone tells you that the IDF is merciless, remember this photo of Palestinian women and children feeling confident enough to attack an armed IDF soldier. Do they seem worried about his possible response? Do they seem fearful? Would they dare attack a soldier of a truly merciless military in such a manner?