Until the end there was doubt that this would actually happen. But it happened. Heaven help us now. The fools who were negotiating in Vienna have reached an agreement. And look how happy they appear, after the crushing damage they have fomented. (Of course Zarif of Iran, who is laughing the hardest, would be ecstatically happy.)
I share here some basics of the agreement, as described by Omri Ceren of The Israel Project (with my bolded emphasis added):
(1) The Iranian nuclear program will be placed under international sponsorship for R&D – A few weeks ago the AP leaked parts of an annex confirming that a major power would be working with the Iranians to develop next-generation centrifuge technology at the Fordow underground military enrichment bunker. Technically the work won’t be on nuclear material, but the AP noted that “isotope production uses the same technology as enrichment and can be quickly re-engineered to enriching uranium.” The administration had once promised Congress that Iran would be forced to dismantle its centrifuge program. The Iranians refused, so the administration conceded that the Iranians would be allowed to keep their existing centrifuges. Now the international community will be actively sponsoring the development of Iranian nuclear technology. And since the work will be overseen by a great power, it will be off-limits to the kind of sabotage that has kept the Iranian nuclear program in check until now.
(2) The sanctions regime will be shredded – the AP revealed at the beginning of June that the vast majority of the domestic U.S. sanctions regime will be dismantled. The Lausanne factsheet – which played a key role in dampening Congressional criticism to American concessions – had explicitly stated “U.S. sanctions on Iran for terrorism, human rights abuses, and ballistic missiles will remain in place under the deal.” That turns out to have been false. Instead the administration will redefine non-nuclear sanctions as nuclear, so that it can lift them…
(3) The U.S. collapsed on the arms embargo – Just a week ago Dempsey told the Senate Armed Services Committee that “under no circumstances should we relieve pressure on Iran relative to ballistic missile capabilities and arms trafficking.” Now multiple outlets have confirmed that the embargo on conventional weapons will be lifted no later than 5 years from now, and that the embargo on ballistic missiles will expire in 8 years. No one in the region is going to wait for those embargoes to expire: they’ll rush to build up their stockpiles in anticipation of the sunset.
(4) The U.S. collapsed on anytime-anywhere inspections – The IAEA will get to request access to sensitive sites, the Iranians will get to say no, and then there will be an arbitration board that includes Iran as a member. This concession is particularly damaging politically and substantively because the administration long ago went all-in on verification. The original goal of the talks was to make the Iranians take physical actions that would prevent them from going nuclear if they wanted to: dismantling centrifuges, shuttering facilities, etc. The Iranians said no to those demands, and the Americans backed off. The fallback position relied 100% on verification: yes the Iranians would be physically able to cheat, the argument went, but the cheating would be detected because of an anytime-anywhere inspection regime. That is not what the Americans are bringing home.
Last night, Ceren, who was in Vienna, was interviewed on Voice of Israel. He referred to the deal as a “staggering, staggering failure of US diplomacy, and a staggering failure of US leadership.”
You can see more on the deal as a Western catastrophe in the op-ed by Times of Israel editor David Horovitz:
President Obama’s speech today, celebrating the end of the deal, is so filled with lies and misrepresentations it is difficult to know where to begin:
“…the United States, together with our international partners, has achieved something that decades of animosity has not: a comprehensive long-term deal with Iran that will prevent it from obtaining a nuclear weapon.
“This deal demonstrates that American diplomacy can bring about real and meaningful change, change that makes our country and the world safer and more secure…
“Today, because America negotiated from a position of strength and principle, we have stopped the spread of nuclear weapons in this region. Because of this deal, the international community will be able to verify that the Islamic Republic of Iran will not develop a nuclear weapon.
“This deal meets every single one of the bottom lines that we established when we achieved a framework this spring. Every pathway to a nuclear weapon is cut off…”
If you have been tracking the breathtaking concessions made by the US, either via my posts or elsewhere, you can identify the whoppers for yourself. But let me take one very obvious example here: He says, “we have stopped the spread of nuclear weapons in this region [the Middle East]. Quite the contrary is the case.
As the Jewish Policy Center explains:
“We have not. Far from providing for better arms control, the deal will encourage Sunni powers in the region, including Saudi Arabia and Egypt, to reconsider their own nuclear programs, shredding the international non-proliferation protocol. The region will become increasingly unstable.”
Prime Minister Netanyahu calls the deal a “stunning historical mistake.”
Credit: Hadas Parush/Flash90
In his statement today, he said (emphasis added):
“The world is a much more dangerous place today than it was yesterday.
“The leading international powers have bet our collective future on a deal with the foremost sponsor of international terrorism. They’ve gambled that in ten years’ time, Iran’s terrorist regime will change while removing any incentive for it to do so. In fact, the deal gives Iran every incentive not to change.
“In the coming decade, the deal will reward Iran, the terrorist regime in Tehran, with hundreds of billions of dollars. This cash bonanza will fuel Iran’s terrorism worldwide, its aggression in the region and its efforts to destroy Israel, which are ongoing.
“Amazingly, this bad deal does not require Iran to cease its aggressive behavior in any way…
“In addition to filling Iran’s terror war chest, this deal repeats the mistakes made with North Korea.
“There too we were assured that inspections and verifications would prevent a rogue regime from developing nuclear weapons.
“And we all know how that ended.
“The bottom line of this very bad deal is exactly what Iran’s President Rouhani said today: ‘The international community is removing the sanctions and Iran is keeping its nuclear program.’
“By not dismantling Iran’s nuclear program, in a decade this deal will give an unreformed, unrepentant and far richer terrorist regime the capacity to produce many nuclear bombs, in fact an entire nuclear arsenal with the means to deliver it.”
“Israel is not bound by this deal with Iran and Israel is not bound by this deal with Iran because Iran continues to seek our destruction.
“We will always defend ourselves.”
The Security Cabinet has met and unanimously voted to reject the terms of the agreement, and stands by Israel’s right to defend herself.
And here we come to one essential aspect of what will now follow. There is a great deal of discussion regarding whether Israel can hit Iran, and whether Israel will opt to do so.
There are those who say declarations by Israel’s leaders are just bluff. I’m not sure that is true (see below), but those who call these words “bluff” are missing a very essential point: If Iran knows Israel is watching, and Iran is not sure if Israel is bluffing, the situation has a certain inhibiting effect on Iran’s behavior. This has already been demonstrated.
But in any event, as I said, we do not know that Israel is bluffing.
Military analyst Yaakov Lappin says that Israel will continue to develop means for attacking Iran, as long as Iran remains a threat: the military option is not off the table. However, it is only an attempt by Iran to break through to nuclear capability that would trigger an attack.
An attempt by Iran to break through remains a possibility because, historically, Iran cheats, and now the monitoring is sorely insufficient.
See this video of an interview of Naftali Bennett by BBC. He makes the point exceedingly well of how insufficient monitoring will be under the agreement:
A statement by MK Tzahi Hanegbi (Likud), Chair of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, reinforces the view presented by Lappin: Israel’s ability to attack is independent, he says. [I.e., no one controls us.] We won’t attack if they don’t cheat. “And we know that this entire program is based on fraud and deceit that the world is now accepting.”
Netanyahu has been saying that he never promised he could stop this agreement, as the Western leaders were determined to go forward with it.
What he has promised, he says, and that promise stands, is not to let Iran go nuclear. Lappin’s analysis gives teeth to this commitment. The capability of hitting Iran’s nuclear facilities is one Israel has no intention of forfeiting, Lappin says.
What I find more than a bit astounding is that in spite of widespread understanding in many quarters that the Iranian deal is badly flawed and dangerous, in all the world, Prime Minister Netanyahu is the only head of state who is speaking out forcefully.
In this, I believe he merits our whole-hearted support.
There are others, such as heads of the Sunni Arab states, who are truly horrified. But they are opting for a deafening silence.
The next focus of attention is Washington DC and Congress – which has 60 days now to review the deal. The president has already said he will veto a negative vote. We knew this going in.
Israel has plans to speak with Congressional leaders and to bring the case for rejection of the deal to the American people. The hope is that the deal can be stopped.
According to some sources, Obama, for his part, now plans a charm offensive: he will invite Netanyahu to the White House, offer arms, etc., in an attempt to sway Netanyahu to accept the deal without campaigning against. Make it worth Israel’s while, that is.
I do not expect this will work.
I’ve even read commentary that suggests that Netanyahu might secure guarantees from the US that if Iran attacked Israel, the U.S. would provide defense. Trust the U.S. to defend us? Get real.
I will return to this diplomatic situation, as it plays out, several times over, I am certain.
Here in Israel, the world sort of floats in limbo over the Pesach week; and so I thought that perhaps I would not post until the holiday was over. But life does go on, and I’ve decided to write.
But before I move to the serious matters calling for attention, let me share this lighthearted video for Pesach, done by the students of the Technion (a top notch university – Israel Institute of Technology) in Haifa, specifically for Pesach:
Then, moving on, and hoping your spirits have been lifted…
I’m seeing a huge number of commentaries regarding the Iran situation, and obviously cannot share any significant portion of them.
Actually, what I am finding most interesting is the way in which Obama is walking back several of his positions of last week. This is, of course, in response to severe criticism that has been directed at the framework agreement with Iran and at his hard-nosed attitude. I will come back to this.
Whatever my other disagreements and disappointments with Bibi Netanyahu, I continue to salute him for speaking out on the Iran issue. There are those (writing in some of those commentaries) who think he’s wasting his breath because no one is listening. I disagree. He has affected the dialogue on Iran and modeled a forthright approach.
Yesterday, Bibi asked some particularly pertinent questions (the deal is so full of holes there are always more questions):
“Why doesn’t the framework address Iran’s intercontinental ballistic missile program whose sole purpose is to carry nuclear payloads?” (Emphasis added)
And…”What is to stop Iran from using the over one hundred billion dollars that will be unfrozen as part of this agreement to fund aggression and terror in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen and elsewhere?”
Hmm…That first question is particularly pertinent, as Iran aims to develop intercontinental ballistic missiles that reach the US.
Joining Bibi in his forthright approach have been members of his government, such as Yuval Steinitz.
And I am pleased that Israel is is not alone in criticizing the agreement.
There are Arab nations highly critical of Obama, although their criticisms are less direct than Israel’s. See Khaled Abu Toameh’s piece on this:
“Arab leaders and heads of state were polite enough not to voice public criticism of the agreement when President Barack Obama phoned them to inform them about it. But this has not stopped Arab politicians, political analysts and columnists reflecting government thinking in the Arab world from lashing out at what they describe as ‘Obama’s bad and dangerous deal with Iran.’”
Most significantly, there are key members of Congress speaking out.
Right after the framework deal was announced, Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) blasted it in no uncertain terms (emphasis added):
”Neville Chamberlain got a lot of more out of Hitler than Wendy Sherman [State Department negotiator] got out of Iran,” he declared.
There’s nothing for Iranians to do but go at breakneck speed to a nuclear weapon. We’re moving straight to forcing Israel to clean up this mess … when the West does nothing, Israel over and over has done something….we shouldn’t force our best ally in the region to clean up the mess.”
A man who pulls no punches.
On April 14, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will be voting on the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015, which would require the Obama administration to submit the final nuclear deal with Iran to Congress for review and approval.
Committee Chair, Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said on Sunday that ”it’s very important that Congress is in the middle of this, understanding, teasing out, asking those important questions.”
Then on Monday, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell stated that:
“We cannot forget that Iran is pursuing a full-spectrum campaign to expand its sphere of influence in the greater Middle East.
“The administration needs to explain to the Congress and the American people why an interim agreement should result in reduced pressure on the world’s leading state sponsor of terror.”
It is a matter of certainty that Obama will veto this bill, and so 67 votes supporting it are needed to override that veto. Senator Corker has indicated that there are already 65 who will be voting in favor. Two more votes are necessary.
And so, please! contact your Senator without delay. If you are certain that he or she will be voting for this bill, offer thanks and express your understanding of how important this is. If you are in doubt as to whether your Senator will be supporting the bill, urge that he or she do so. Say it is a matter of critical importance, and that you will be watching.
Now, as to the Obama walkback: nothing is more astonishing (and disingenuous!) than his new, improved stance on Israel. In an interview with Tom Friedman on Sunday, he declared that:
“It’s been a hard period. It has been personally difficult for me to hear” accusations that “this administration has not done everything it could to look out for Israel’s interest…if anybody messes with Israel, America will be there.”
This is best read on an empty stomach. What would be personally difficult for most of us would be to swallow this self-serving drivel. But I imagine that, unfortunately, there are some who will buy it.
Obama now feels so kindly disposed to Bibi that he is planning on inviting him to the White House after the coalition is formed.
Yes, this is the same Obama who refused to see Bibi when he came to address the Congress.
Elliot Abrams, Former US Deputy National Security Adviser, has penned a potent response to Obama’s hot air assurances to Israel (emphasis added):
“Several times in this interview the President went out of his way to suggest that he fully understands Israel’s security problems, but the full text suggests that he does not–because he believes that his statements that ‘if anybody messes with Israel, America will be there’ and would ‘stand by them’ actually solve any of those problems…
“What does ‘messes with Israel’ mean? No one has the slightest idea. The President unfortunately uses this kind of diction too often, dumbing down his rhetoric for some reason and leaving listeners confused. Today, Iran is sending arms and money to Hamas in Gaza, and has done so for years. Is that ‘messing with Israel?…Iranian Revolutionary Guards, along with Hezbollah troops, are in southern Syria now near the Golan. Is that ‘messing with Israel?’ And what does the President mean by ‘America will be there?’ With arms? With bandages? With the diplomatic protection his administration is now considering removing at the United Nations?”
At some level, Bibi has little choice but to accept this new approach at face value – i.e., he will have to go to the White House. It falls to him to spin it so that it is of maximum utility to Israel – perhaps extracting certain military guarantees. Unfortunately, the “two state” solution is likely to be at the top of Obama’s agenda when they meet. (And in coming days I’ll have much to say about that issue, which never dies.)
One of the most convoluted statements that has been offered by Obama on the benefits of the deal is this, from an NPR interview:
It is, he said “a relevant fear” that “in year 13, 14, 15, [the Iranians] would have advanced centrifuges that enrich uranium fairly rapidly, and at that point the breakout times would have shrunk almost down to zero.
“Keep in mind, though, currently, the breakout times are only about two to three months by our intelligence estimates. So essentially we’re purchasing for 13, 14, 15 years assurances that the breakout is at least a year…that if they decide to break the deal, kick out all the inspectors, break the seals and go for a bomb, we’d have over a year to respond. And we have those assurances for at least well over a decade.
“And then in years 13 and 14, it is possible that those breakout times would have been much shorter, but at that point we have much better ideas about what it is that their program involves. We have much more insight into their capabilities. And the option of a future president to take action if in fact they try to obtain a nuclear weapon is undiminished.”
Immediate and vociferous criticism followed this statement: The president, went the charge, has now admitted that the deal would not stop Iran from every getting a nuclear weapon, as promised. It would simply make it perhaps a bit more difficult for some 15 years, after which breakout would be close to zero.
Spokespersons for the White House argued that the “zero breakout time” the president referred to was only if there was no deal.
Our prime minister certainly isn’t buying this. Iran’s post-deal breakout time will be zero, he says. And with good reason:
Iran’s foreign minister, Javad Zarif, has now announced that once a deal is signed at the end of June, and sanctions are lifted, Iran will move over to using its most advanced centrifuges.
These are the IR8 centrifuges, which enrich uranium 20 times faster than the current IR-1 models, meaning they would radically reduce the breakout time needed for Iran to obtain a nuclear arsenal. (Emphasis added)
Dear friends, digest this information carefully. Be very afraid of where this is leading, and very furious at the president of the US, who has the gall to promote his deal.
The good news here – if there is any good news on this – is that there really is no deal. Not yet. And so there’s time to stop what Obama would like to achieve.
Bret Stephens, writing in the WSJ, tells us that:
”what the president calls ‘this verifiable deal’ fails the first test of verification—mutual agreement and clarity as to what, exactly, is in it….
“The deal cannot be verified,” he says, as “there are significant discrepancies between the U.S. and the Iranian versions of the deal.”
According to Steve Emerson’s Investigative Project on Terrorism, the French have still another version.
Times of Israel editor David Horovitz writes, in “The unfolding farce of Obama’s deal with Iran” that:
”Time and again, President Barack Obama and his indefatigable secretary of state promised that they and their P5+1 negotiating partners would not sign a bad deal with Iran on its nuclear weapons program.
“And, lo, they were as good as their word. They didn’t sign a bad framework deal in Lausanne, Switzerland, last week. They just agreed on one in principle, and left it unsigned, allowing for multiple conflicting interpretations.” (Emphasis added)
Of course, it is Obama’s deepest hope that this unsigned agreement will go through in one version or another (likely the version most satisfactory to Iran – regardless of what the president has told his people and the world), and become a signed deal by the end of June.
But it is the responsibility of every individual who can see past the president’s hype to the dangers looming large, to do everything possible to make sure it does not become a signed deal.
In the US, the most important vehicle for blocking Obama is Congress – a Congress that must be informed by its constituency of its urgent concern.
But it is also important to inform those Americans who may be buying what they are told. Write letters to the editor and Internet talkbacks on this issue. Speak to people.
In Israel, we must pray that our government will have the strength to do whatever must be done.
Tomorrow night is holiday again – the seventh and in Israel the last day of Pesach. (Outside of Israel, there is an eighth day.)
I want to end here with one of my very favorite songs, which I have shared before: Yehi Sheamda.
This video features Yaakov Shwekey and Yonatan Razel, who wrote the vocal arrangement, at the piano.
The words. The words are straight out of the Pesach Haggadah:
And so it has stood for our fathers and for us, that it wasn’t just one nation alone that rose up against us to destroy us, and The Holy One, Blessed is He, saves us from their hand.
A song of faith and of hope. Appropriate for this Pesach season, and for this time of threats to the Jewish people. Our history is a story of miracles. Let it be so now.