It is, without question, to be considered good news that the earth is still spinning on its axis. Things being what they are these days, one might begin to wonder.
But the fact that my head is also spinning is not exactly cause for celebration. Without a doubt, the record breaking heat we are experiencing here in Israel exacerbates this sensation, but there’s a whole lot more going on than high temperatures. What happened to quiet August, when things slow down and everyone is on vacation? This August, it’s difficult to keep track of everything that is going on from day to day. And it’s not even just that a great deal is happening, but also that there’s a sense of the ground slipping out from under us.
It’s not possible to track everything, of course, and so I will focus on a handful of the most significant issues…
There is some good news with regard to Democratic members of Congress who are declaring opposition to the Iran deal. It is not exactly a surprise, but welcome none-the-less, that Democratic Senator Robert Menendez of NJ – ranking minority member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee – has now officially come out strongly against the deal.
In a lengthy speech at Seton Hall University in NJ yesterday, he made his position clear (emphasis added):
“I have looked into my own soul and my devotion to principle may once again lead me to an unpopular course, but if Iran is to acquire a nuclear bomb, it will not have my name on it. It is for these reasons that I will vote to disapprove the agreement and, if called upon, would vote to override a veto.”
Bravo! A politician of integrity. May others follow his example.
If you live in NJ, please contact the senator and express your appreciation, not just for his position, but for his integrity, his leadership, and his incisive thinking about the issues (see more below). http://www.menendez.senate.gov/contact
The Senator outlined the reasons for his opposition.
The sanctions relief, combined with a lifting of the arms and missile embargoes on Iran during the course of the next decade, will leave the U.S. in a “weak position,”
“…let’s remind ourselves of the stated purpose of our negotiations with Iran: Simply put, it was to dismantle all — or significant parts — of Iran’s illicit nuclear infrastructure to ensure that it would not have nuclear weapons capability at any time.
“We have now abandoned our long-held policy of preventing nuclear proliferation and are now embarked – not on preventing nuclear proliferation – but on managing or containing it, which leaves us with a far less desirable, less secure, and less certain world order…”
The agreement, he believes, will merely
“kick today’s problem down the road for 10 to 15 years.”
What is important is that he did not just stand against the deal. He has come forward with an alternative. Rejecting the notion that to refuse to accept the current deal means war, he said, (emphasis added):
“We can disapprove this agreement, without rejecting the entire agreement.
“We should direct the administration to re-negotiate by authorizing the continuation of negotiations and the Joint Plan of Action — including Iran’s $700 million-a-month lifeline, which to date have accrued to Iran’s benefit to the tune of $10 billion…
“A continuation of talks would allow the re-consideration of just a few, but a critical few issues, including:
“First, immediate ratification by Iran of the Additional Protocol to ensure we have a permanent international arrangement with Iran for access to suspect sites.
“Second, a ban on centrifuge R&D for the duration of the agreement to ensure that Iran won’t have the capacity to quickly break out…
“Third, close the Fordow enrichment facility. The sole purpose of Fordow was to harden Iran’s nuclear program to a military attack. We need to close the facility and foreclose Iran’s future ability to use this facility. If Iran has nothing to hide they shouldn’t need to put it under a mountain.
“Fourth, the full resolution of the ‘possible military dimensions’ of Iran’s program. We need an arrangement that isn’t set up to whitewash this issue…
“Fifth, extend the duration of the agreement. One of the single most concerning elements of the deal is its 10-15 year sunset of restrictions on Iran’s program…
“And sixth, we need agreement now about what penalties will be collectively imposed by the P5+1 for Iranian violations, both small and midsized…
“At the same time we should: Extend the authorization of the Iran Sanctions Act, which expires in 2016, to ensure that we have an effective snapback option…
“The president should unequivocally affirm and Congress should formally endorse a Declaration of US Policy that we will use all means necessary to prevent Iran from producing enough enriched uranium for a nuclear bomb, as well as building or buying one, both during and after any agreement.
“We should authorize now the means for Israel to address the Iranian threat on their own in the event that Iran accelerates its program and to counter Iranian perceptions that our own threat to use force isn’t credible.
“And we should make it absolutely clear that we want a deal, but we want the right deal — and that a deal that does nothing more than delay the inevitable isn’t a deal we will make.”
There are others, including Robert Satloff, executive director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, who believe a better deal is possible.
If you live in NJ, please also contact Cory Booker, your junior Senator, a Democrat, and the first African American elected to the Senate from this state. Calls are most effective.
While there is reason to believe he may still come out in opposition to the Iran deal – he has extraordinarily strong ties with Jewish community and close friendship with Rabbi Shmuely Boteach, who is adamantly opposed to the deal – he has not yet declared his position.
(202) 224-3224 (973) 639-8700
And then I acknowledge with appreciation African American Congressman David Scott (D-GA 13th), who has come out against the deal, saying:
“Many of our allies in the region fear that Iran will dominate the entire Middle East. The United States must continue to enforce sanctions fully until any Iran nuclear weapons option is completely eliminated.”
Note: I am mentioning the African American identity of Senators and Congresspersons here – whereas I likely would not in other circumstances – because Obama incessantly plays the “race card,” calling on African Americans to support him for reasons of racial unity. Extraordinary pressure is being placed upon them, which is why, in a case such as that of Booker, it is critical that he be contacted.
There is, however, no dearth of bad news with regard to putting a stop to the deal with Iran.
What has made the news in the last few days, in various permutations, is the suggestion (not sure if it is a “fact”) that even if Congress manages to over-ride Obama’s veto, Obama would have sufficient clout in the matter to take down sanctions against Iran. Here I will just mention this situation, because I have not been able yet to zero in on it with any precision. It is a vastly complex situation, with a whole regime of sanctions.
No matter how Congress votes, the president may or may not possess the ability to unilaterally lift various sanctions imposed on Iran, depending on the origin of those sanctions: Whether they were imposed via legislation or by executive order. There seems to be no question that certain parts of the sanctions regime were imposed via the executive.
What I will simply say now is that members of Congress are keenly aware of this situation, and working to impose legislation or otherwise tighten the situation so that it is more effectively under Congressional control. It is quite likely that I will come back to this.
What’s coming out from certain sources in Iran is interesting, although it’s difficult to know how much credence to give to what is being said. But it seems to be the case that it may not be a done deal from their perspective either. Wouldn’t it be ironic if in the end Iran rejected it?
There is, first, this:
”The Iranian legislators in a statement underlined that the implementation of a recent nuclear agreement between Tehran and the world powers would have no legal grounds if it does not receive the approval of the Parliament and the Guardian Council first.
“In their statement on Sunday, the lawmakers appreciated the Iranian team of nuclear negotiators for their efforts, but meantime, said that based on the Constitution, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) should be scrutinized by the parliament and all relevant bodies are required to present information and cooperate with the legislative body in this regard…”
This appeared to me not much more than a lot of talk, for Iran is not exactly a democracy. “based on the Constitution”? Khamenei calls the shots. It did occur to me that this might be a face-saving device, should the US Congress actually succeed in voting it down.
But then there was this (emphasis added):
”Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei has reservations about a landmark nuclear accord reached with world powers, a prominent journalist wrote on Saturday.
“Hussein Shariatmadari, editor of the daily newspaper Kayhan and a representative of Ayatollah Khamenei, made the comments in an editorial Saturday.
“Iran’s parliament and the Supreme National Security Council will consider the agreement in the coming days…
“Shariatmadari said in the editorial that many parts of the deal threaten Iran’s independence, security and ‘the sacred system of the Islamic republic of Iran’ and that it would be ‘disastrous’ if Tehran implements the accord.
“He also referred to a speech by Ayatollah Khamenei last month during which the Leader said, ‘Whether this text is approved or disapproved, no one will be allowed to harm the main principles of the (ruling) Islamic system.’
“The editorial noted: ‘Using the phrase ”whether this text is approved or disapproved” shows his lack of trust in the text of the deal. If His Excellency had a positive view, he would have not insisted on the need for the text to be scrutinized through legal channels … It leaves no doubt that His Excellency is not satisfied with the text.’”
While the situation described above lacks clarity, what is crystal clear is that Iran is not in any way moderating its expressed attitude or behavior since the accord was announced.
Steve Emerson, Director of the The Investigative Project on Terrorism, says, in fact, that Iranian officials have ratcheted up its genocidal rhetoric since the deal has been completed.
“While some in the United States and among its Western allies may hope that a nuclear weapons deal with Iran might steer the Islamic Republic in a new, more responsible direction, hardliners draw new lines and issue new threats.”
Emerson does not explicitly say so, but, among those who hope the deal might steer Iran towards a more responsible direction, there is, of course, Obama. Not so long ago, in an interview, he said:
“I think there are hard-liners inside of Iran that think it is the right thing to do to oppose us, to seek to destroy Israel, to cause havoc in places like Syria or Yemen or Lebanon. And then I think there are others inside Iran who think that this is counterproductive. And it is possible that if we sign this nuclear deal, we strengthen the hand of those more moderate forces inside of Iran.”
Poppycock. Do not be taken in by this, as all evidence points in the other direction: The deal will embolden Iran’s aggressiveness.
In addressing a post put out by Khamenei, Lt. Col. (ret.) Michael Segal, writing for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, reflected the same perspective as Emerson (emphasis added):
“…the Iranian leadership with Supreme Leader Khamenei at the forefront has been affirming again and again that the deal has no connection with any other issue in the Middle East. They maintain that the antagonistic relationship between Iran and the United States will not change. Khamenei also keeps declaring that Iranian and U.S. interests, in the Middle East in particular and in the world in general, are completely opposed to each other. Iran, which continues to view the United States as an enemy and as the Great Satan, will keep fighting it even after the signing of the deal, and will keep helping its friends in the Middle East (Syria, Hizbullah, Hamas, etc.). Khamenei, along with the religious-political and military leadership, keeps emphasizing Iran’s expanding influence in the Middle East and asserting that this is a reality that cannot be changed.”
There is the possibility that members of Congress still sitting on the fence with regard to the Iran deal might be convinced to oppose it, on the basis of statements about Iran’s continued intransigence, arrogance and declarations of hostility to the West. Please, if you have not yet contacted your elected representatives in Congress, do so, citing the sort of information that I have provided.
The “ghost” of negotiations for a “two state solution” lurks around several diplomatic corners. It never goes away, and there will surely be attempts to bring it to life once again. I will be tracking these efforts, which include such things as the threat by the PA to go to the UN Security Council. Recently the French, who had indicated intention of doing just that, have reversed themselves. They are now talking about “recognizing Palestine.”
Here, I want to address just one factor in this on-going situation: a growing rapprochement between the PA/PLO and Iran.
A little over a week ago, a senior PLO official, Ahmed Majdalani, traveled to Tehran for a meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Zarif. While there, utilizing Zarif as conduit, Majdalani carried a letter from Mahmoud Abbas to Iranian president Rouhani.
Among the topics discussed in the letter:
“Israeli assaults against our people and their holy sites…”
Of late, the Iranians, who have been significant supporters of Hamas, have been irritated with this group’s interaction with [arch-enemy] Saudi Arabia. There seems little question but that the PLO is seeking to parlay this to its advantage. This week Majdalani spoke about the possibility that the Iranian ambassador to Amman might also serve as “non-resident ambassador to Palestine.”
Abbas is also – no surprise – seeking funds from Iran, and has spoken about his hope that he can visit Tehran in November.
Whether the Iranians will, in the end, be receptive to this remains to be seen. For there are signals that they are eager to patch up their relationship with the more radical Hamas.
My comment here: Those eager to promote “two states,” who have found our government decidedly resistant to considering this option, haven’t seen anything yet! A state in Judea and Samaria with ties to Iran? Ludicrous and unthinkable.
But speaking of Judea and Samaria, I want to end on a high note:
Republican presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee is here. And he has done something that presidential candidates never do: He visited Shilo, in the Shomron, yesterday, and he said,
“I wish that every candidate, Republican or Democrat, would come to Israel to show solidarity with the country that most reflects the mirror image of the American spirit…If you are going to visit Israel, you should visit all of Israel and that would include Judea and Samaria.” (Emphasis added)
An aside here: I sought a URL to provide Huckabee’s quote. Got it at the JPost, above, but what did the headline say? “Huckabee: All presidential candidates should visit all of Israel, including W. Bank settlements.”
But excuse me, that is not what he said. He got it right, referring to Judea and Samaria. In fact, Shilo, where he held a fund-raising dinner, is not “just” a community in Judea and Samaria. It is the biblical site where the ancient Tabernacle rested – indicating not only sanctity, but the tie of the Jewish people to the land. Yesterday, Huckabee spoke about this sacred spot that has been preserved for people of faith. Mike Huckabee is an evangelical believer.
Herb Keinon, writing analysis in the same JPost, had this to say (emphasis added):
“What Huckabee, a strident critic of Obama’s Mideast policy…is doing with his Shiloh visit is saying that Obama had it dead wrong: that the settlements are not illegitimate, as the president and this administration like to say, nor is it the Mideast’s problem…
“…it does matter what Huckabee has to say because he has a big voice and is on a huge stage.
“…the candidate will be asked…about the settlements. His answers…will be different than those usually heard; he will paint a different picture of the settlements than the one generally pained in America’s public discourse.
“And since this is a campaign, his pro-settlement positions could push the needle on the issue among other Republican candidates…Huckabee’s forceful position on this matter may compel them to speak about the settlements in ways not generally heard in US political discourse.
“Today, most discussion on the settlement issue among US politicians starts from the premise that they are illegitimate and an obstacle to peace. If some high-profile politicians inside the Republican Party begin to challenge that premise, and those arguments are heard by the American people, it is not a matter [de]void of significance.
“…it could mean the anti-settlement Orthodoxy promulgated by the Obama administration will be challenged, and that the other side of the issue will get a wider haring by the American public.”
And so, from the bottom of my heart, I say, Thank you, Mike!
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.
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