The 2015 Iran Deal.I.Overview

The Iran Deal


Howard Adelman

I was on my island up north in the week that the Iran deal was concluded. I was not connected to the internet. My reading and analysis was focused on continuing my blogs on the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) evaluation of the Gaza War. So when I returned, I not only had to read the 159 pages of the Iran deal, but the writings of over 100 commentators on that deal. Initially, in reading the terms of the agreement and the commentators over 36 hours, I began to think I was an alien in a foreign world. For I was reading a cascade of criticisms of the deal, initially without any commentator offering a positive response. However, before the end of my reading, I breathed somewhat easier. For I was not alone. There were others who agreed that overall and on balance the deal was a good one. Those commentators consisted of only about 20% of those I read, but on this issue I felt strengthened that I was not totally out of synch with what appeared to be a dominant note from the commentators.

Unlike the UNHRC evaluation, the Iran deal is not a retrospective analysis, but a performative one in its own right. The agreement changes the world in which we live and changes it significantly. So I am temporarily suspending my analysis of the UNHRC Report on the Gaza War – I will return to it – and will offer my analysis of the Iran deal. And I will do that in reverse order, focusing first on the commentators and only in the end provide my own detailed analysis of the agreement itself. In doing so, I will mainly deal with commentators who think the deal is a bad one and, most of my discussion will focus on the comments under four categories:

  1. Goals and significance of the deal;
  2. Intentions and motives (different than the goals);
  3. Consequences;
  4. Erroneous assumptions.

Thus, I will also be dealing with the commentators in reverse to a natural order that would begin with the deal itself and then deal with its misinterpretations and effects. In this backwards approach, let me first clarify why my initial approach relies on a cool, detached analytic tone rather than on a lamentation, aichah, the first word of Lamentations as Rabbi Splansky cited in her response to the Iran deal. My oldest son, Jeremy, is named after the prophet of peace, Jeremiah, who is credited with this lamentation and who warned of the immanent threats to Israel. It is what we will be reading on the forthcoming Tisha B’Av, an annual fast day in the Jewish religious calendar commemorating a number of disasters inflicted against the Jews over the course of history. As Rabbi Splansky wrote, the word aichah is not the response of an inquisitive mind, but of an aching soul. It arises from the deep well of our being, from a history of horrific experience. The lamentation does not invite discussion, but a communion of crying and screaming “Alas!” and “Woe are we!”

Rabbi Splansky asks us to understand the deal and view ourselves as Jews within the large arch of Jewish history. However, looking at the Iran deal from the perspective of the three weeks of mourning for the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem does not invite questioning, including the questioning of whether mourning is the appropriate response. It may help us understand the deep roots of that response and why the leaders of the opposition in Israel line up with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in deploring the deal, but restricting their criticism to how he allowed this to happen on his watch, as if the Prime Minister of a small country like Israel could manipulate and control the outcome, not just of American thinking and policy, but of all of the five powerful states who are the permanent members of the Security Council as well as Germany in whose name this deal has been made. To claim that Netanyahu was guilty of failing to stop the juggernaut of China, Russia, France, Britain as well as America, not to speak of Germany, is just chutzpah and partisan politics. It deserves to be largely ignored.

Unlike Rabbi Splansky who says that, “Everyone is watching, worrying, wondering, but God only knows,” I take the position that even God does not know. For God has always been very poor at prophecy dealing with the future and was often on the wrong side of history. Further, unlike the watchers and kvetchers and those stunned in awe, either in fear and bewilderment or in wondrous appreciation, I believe in the power of an inquisitive mind that can enlighten us on this deal, on its significance, on its intentions, on its possible and even likely consequences, and, most of all, on the actual contents of the deal instead of the projections onto that agreement sometimes, to be charitable, propelled more by fear and worry than by detached analysis.

Let me begin by putting my approach up front after my reading the commentators – well over one hundred – and my very initial reading of the deal. (I will return to that reading near the end of this series.) Not surprising, since I have written about this a number of times in the past, overall my reaction closely resembles that of President Obama who, in an interview with Tom Friedman of The New York Times, offered his own evaluation of the deal. I have arrived at similar, but not identical conclusions. They are as follows:

In contrast to the view that the deal should have eliminated Iran’s nuclear infrastructure altogether given the powerful effects of the sanctions and the enormous powers arrayed against Iran, and the evaluation that the leverage has been squandered, I hold that this was never the premise nor the intention of the negotiations, nor one that could have been achieved or needed to have been achieved. If in the late thirties, a deal depriving Hitler of any capacity to make nuclear arms with a full scale inspection regime (admittedly a far-fetched imaginative stretch), such a deal would have been preferable to a Nazi Germany that could arm itself with nuclear weapons within three months while doing nothing about Hitler’s anti-Semitic genocidal plans and his record of persecutions or his ambitions for hegemonic conquest of Europe. The issue is not about whether Iran is an evil regime or about depriving Iran of even an ability to enhance its peaceful development of nuclear energy, if only to save face. The deal is only about control of nuclear weapons over which there was a global consensus. There was no consensus about depriving Iran of its nuclear infrastructure, only of its capacity to make nuclear weapons against th terms of the International Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Second, such an agreement does not rely on trust. Given Iran’s horrific treatment of dissidents and minorities, particularly of Bahá’is, its hegemonic ambitions in the Middle East, its overt support of terrorists such as Hezbollah and Hamas, and its repeated pronouncements of an intention to wipe Israel from the face of the earth, let alone Iran’s past record of working on the development of a nuclear weapons capacity behind the backs of international inspectors, any agreement has to be based on a deep distrust of Iran and putting in place an unprecedented inspection regime that could come as close as possible to reducing any chance that Iran could deceive the international community and revert to advancing its nuclear weapons program.

What is required and is in question is whether a powerful, but not perfect – an impossible dream – verifiable regime to cut off Iran’s capacity to enrich uranium, remove the majority of its cascades, including all of those of the most advanced technology, remove almost all of its highly enriched uranium needed for nuclear bombs, initiate a very intrusive and extensive inspections regime (we will have to see whether it is as intrusive and extensive as Obama argues that it is), and shut down Iran’s capacity to produce plutonium, is sufficient. However, if inspectors have to give 24 days – not 24 hours – notice for inspections, as too many interpreters have insisted, then that would certainly raise questions about the adequacy of the inspections regime. But, to adumbrate and deviate from the order of my presentation that I announced, the agreement definitely does not say that 24 days notice must be given for an inspection.

For all the facilities on the list (known sites for nuclear work), the 150 inspectors stationed in Iran will have immediate access at any time of the day or night and with no notice. Further, the inspection of Iran’s nuclear regime has no termination date; it continues “forever”. Only the inspection of non-nuclear facilities terminates, and then only after 25 years. The 24 days notice applies to suspected, illicit or unreported sites. 24 days is a maximum not a requisite. The section on inspections provides for the following:

Inspectors must be allowed to enter any suspect facility in Iran within at most (my italics) 24 days. If they aren’t, this will be considered a violation that could lead to renewed sanctions.

The procedure for those 24 days is as follows: If IAEA inspectors suspect that illicit or undeclared nuclear activity is taking place at an unmonitored facility, like a military base, it must first request explanations from Iran. If the explanations don’t satisfy the inspectors, they can ask to visit the facility.

The Iranians can then suggest ways of resolving the issue that don’t involve a visit. But if the inspectors remain unsatisfied 14 days after first broaching their suspicions to Iran, the matter will be transferred to the eight-member committee overseeing the deal’s implementation.

The committee will have seven days to try to find a solution that satisfies everyone. But if no such solution is found, the committee will then vote on whether Iran must allow the visit.

That decision requires only a simple majority – five of the eight members. Since Iran enjoys reliable backing from only two other panel members, Russia and China, it will have trouble preventing a decision ordering it to allow the visit. If such a decision is made, Iran must permit the visit within three days, hence the 24 day maximum period.

Certainly, aside from the routine monitoring required under the agreement, if inspections cannot realistically be done to cover research and development and to cover possibly new secret facilities under development, then the agreement might be just a sham and a cover for further cheating. Thus, evaluating the quality of the inspection regime will be crucial.  However, when a commentator insists that 24 days notice must be given for any inspection, one immediately recognizes that the individual has not read the agreement and that the comments are worth far less than the value of the paper on which those comments have been printed or, if in electronic version, far less than even the infinitesimal cost of electronic publishing. Or else the author is an outright liar.

To revert to my initial main point, regime change, or even deprivation of Iran’s capacity to the peaceful use of nuclear energy, was never the goal of the negotiations. If those had been the ambitions, there never would have been any negotiations in the first place. So one has to ask whether we are better off with an Iran on the verge of developing a nuclear military capacity or an Iran prevented from so doing, but at a cost, the opening of the dams that had confined Iran’s earnings from its oil into reserves which Iran could not access, but now would be able to do so, thereby enabling Iran to expand its purchase of conventional weapons and expand its support of terrorism. This was the critical choice between the Scylla of an Iran on the verge of producing nuclear weapons or the Charybdis of an Iran with its treasury replenished and enabled to enhance its terrorist and hegemonic foreign policy. Over this choice, there can be reasonable differences and very varied conclusions. But criticizing the deal for its failure to produce deliverables which it never was intended to produce nor could produce is simply misplaced and disingenuous.

Would the deal, however, advance the process of regime change or even open the possibility of regime change? I think this is not a likely possibility. Others argue that it is. I find the latter to be wishful thinking and an unsound foundation for making a deal. Others who are equally pessimistic about this possibility think that should be a reason for not making a deal. I disagree with them as well. If the deal depended on its value only if it leads to or even makes more likely regime change, then that is absolutely no ground for supporting this deal, though I welcome the fact that this deal will increase the slim possibility of facilitating regime change for a number of reasons, including reinforcing the factions that are not identical with the genocidal extremists in the regime.

As will be seen when I turn my attention to the commentators, reading all those accounts reinforces my conviction that they have deliberately shifted the debate from preventing Iran from becoming a nuclear power to the criticism that the deal does nothing, or, perhaps, by the odd moderate critic, does very little to stop this evil regime and undermine its authoritarianism within and its destructive ambitions in its foreign policy. Those criticisms are by and large correct. But they are totally beside the point. And that is their point, to distract citizens of the world from the achievements of the deal and view the agreement from the perspective of what was not and could not be achieved.

The issue is whether a deal with a non-nuclear-armed Iran is better than no deal that allows Iran to bring its nuclear armaments program to fruition – ignoring Iranian claims that they never had a goal of developing nuclear weapons. This is the core question. Some might argue that an Iran that completes its nuclear program but remains under severe sanctions that cripple its economy is a better choice because it limits the non-nuclear trouble-making in which Iran is deeply involved in the regime. Better an economically crippled nuclear–armed Iranian regime than one which is infused with cash, and, though deprived of its nuclear capacity, can now extensively expand its programs and foreign policy of undermining Saudi Arabia, keeping its satraps in place in Syria, Yemen, Lebanon and Gaza, and, thereby, significantly enhance the threats to Israel. That is an argument worthy of engagement. But, as will be seen, this is not the approach of the vast majority of the critics of the accord.

On another point, the inspection regime does not end in ten years. The inspection regime continues. The fact that I have to state this baldly, and will subsequently support this extensively, is a testament to a great deal of the misreporting and misinterpretation of the deal. Similarly, the agreement does not remove all sanctions. It only removes those put in place to enforce the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty. Other sanctions exist. Those sanctions could themselves be expanded. A whole set of other tools could be activated to target the Iranian abuse of human rights and its support of terrorism. The deal allows the West (and East) to further such an agenda, even though it is highly unlikely that Russia or China would join in such an effort. This may make a strong argument for using the confinement of the nuclear development program as leverage to fight against Iran’s hegemonic interests and its abuse of the rights of its own citizens rather than a goal in its own right, but it is actually shocking how few of the critics, as shall be seen, are this honest and straightforward in their criticisms.

President Obama has made the very valid point that this agreement is totally one-sided. Iran gives up its capacity to make nuclear weapons. Iran gives up almost all of its enriched uranium. Does the agreement curtail the nuclear weapons programs of China, of Russia, of France, of the U.K. or of the United States? Not at all. Nor does it restrict any of the parties from using other diplomatic, legal, economic and moral tools at its disposal for confronting the regime in other areas. What is given up is holding hostage Iran’s treasure and wealth, money which does not belong to any party except Iran, in return for Iran backing away from its nuclear arms program. Further, it removes the pressures on China and Russia, both of which have grown antsy under the sanctions regime, particularly China which has been denied access to Iranian oil in exchange for its exports. The deal removes the possibility that the sanctions regime could collapse from within because of the tensions among and different interests of the members of the negotiating team dealing with Iran.

More specifically, the U.S. and Israel (as well as Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies) can cooperate much further in limiting Iran’s hegemonic goals. Congress is unlikely to be able to veto the deal. Then an enlarged program of dealing with Israel’s and Saudi’s enemies, specifically Iran, can be advanced. Further, if Iran does not live up to its commitments, the snap-back provision allows the sanctions to be re-imposed without a new vote in the Security Council. Now some may argue that this is correct in theory, but once Russia and Iran are offside on sanctions, they can remain offside by obfuscating and delaying any practical re-imposition of the sanctions regime. However, that is fully possible now. Further, the West has other means of leverage than diplomatic and moral suasion to keep China and Russia on side in addition to the interests of those two countries in preventing Iran from becoming a nuclear power. However, there is an even more serious problem about the snap-back provision. It would take place against a regime that had recovered its economic stability and wealth and would, consequently, make the snap-back provision much less effective, especially in the short run. Instead of starting from an advanced position with sanctions with Iran on its knees, the West would be back to a zero starting point. How does the Agreement handle such a foreseeable contingency?

So we have the following issues to sort out over the next series of blogs. To what degree can the inspections regime work? Is the inherent weaknesses of the snap-back provisions sufficient to offset the advantages Iran will have gained? Is the likelihood, not just risk, of Iran advancing its conventional arms program and its geo-political advances in the Middle East too much to pay for obtaining an Iran without nuclear weapons? Finally, since there are no deep signs of an ideological change within Iran and no signs at all of a regime change, with the momentum having been somewhat lifted with the easing of sanctions, was the gamble worth the cost? After all, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif may have concluded that the world has changed with the Vienna Agreement, but Iran’s view of Israel as an unrepentant enemy has not altered one iota. As he said in an interview with journalists after the conclusion of the agreement, while calling for his enemies in Sunni dominated states to reconcile with Iran, there was no such call to Israel. Israel, in his view, needs, “crisis and wars to continue to hide their aggressions and their inhumane policies against the people of Lebanon, Palestine and the people of the region, so peace is an existential threat to them.” [Translation: Iran will remain an existential threat to Israel.] Given Iran’s rejection of Israel as having a place in the Middle East, Iran will clearly be better off and richer and freer to advance its implacable opposition to Israel.

I began with the words of one rabbi. Let me end with the words of another. “I understand that not all experts believe that the deal to be struck in Vienna is bad for Israel. Perhaps they know things that aren’t obvious to the public, even to those of us who follow the criticism of the current government. To end on a positive note: let’s hope that the optimists will be proven right. The alternative is too grim to contemplate.” If “Alas!” and “Woe is Me!” are not to stand in the way of reasonable and detached analysis, the other alternative of relying on hope with no basis in reality is just as bad, especially when it presumes that supporters of the deal argue that it is not bad for Israel. I have not read one who makes such an argument. Instead, most supporters argue that the deal is bad for Israel in many ways, but the alternative of no deal is even worse. Whether that argument is valid is open to question. But let us not misrepresent supporters of the deal. More importantly, DO NOT support the deal if the foundation for that support is a misplaced optimism or “hope”.


The Threat of a Non-Military Nuclear Iran

The Threat of a Non-Military Nuclear Iran


Howard Adelman

In anticipation of and preparation for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech before the joint special session of Congress, I want to make it clear that, like Bibi, I also regard Iran after a deal is signed as more dangerous than before, but for radically different reasons than he does or, for that matter, than the opinions of two columnists, David Brooks of The New York Times or Caroline Glick of The Jerusalem Post, whose columns I have attached to this blog for comparison.

Iran without nuclear weapons may be far more dangerous than an Iran attempting to produce nuclear weapons. The following are the reasons:

  1. Enormous sums can be saved by Iran from what is ultimately a useless program with only symbolic value since nuclear arms are only useful if they are never used.
  2. Those sums saved can be used to invest even more funds in conventional arms.
  3. Iran already has a formidable navy currently on sea trials and showing the flag in Asia.
  4. Iran has a formidable missile arsenal and recently tested a new missile in a naval drill.
  5. To a considerable extent, Iran has become self-sufficient in its military needs, producing mortars, tanks, torpedoes, jet fighters and light submarines.
  6. In making a deal with the P5+1, Iran drove a huge wedge between Israel and the U.S.
  7. The extremists in Iran, who alienate so many countries from Iran, will have suffered an enormous strategic defeat which will in turn strengthen the current Iranian regime both domestically and internationally.
  8. In being allowed to keep one-third of its centrifuges and some of its uranium in a significantly reduced purity, Saudi Arabia has been moved to distrust its reliance upon America and to open up the possibility of a rapprochement with Iran.
  9. Benjamin Netanyahu’s strident opposition to the nuclear negotiations of the P5+1 has isolated Israel in a central plank of its foreign policy from it natural allies in an absolutely unprecedented way, not only from Europe but from the United States.
  10. The political elite in Israel is more divided than ever before on foreign policy, not simply between the left and the right, between Herzog/Livni versus the Likud and its partners, but between the intelligence services – Mossad, the military and Shin Bet – and the government also in an absolutely unprecedented situation.
  11. A former head of Israel’s foreign intelligence service, Mossad, Meir Dagan, who stepped down as chief even before the notorious Mossad October 2012 memo showing how the intelligence services did not believe that Iran was on the threshold of becoming a nuclear power, has been accusing the prime minister of endangering the country’s security with his stance on the Iranian nuclear programme.
  12. In the one area in which left and right are united, opposition to even a de-nuclearized Iran that has not been defanged from its support of terrorism and its rise as a regional power, Netanyahu’s main rival for the premiership has shot himself in the foot, for in supporting Netanyahu on this quest, though not Bibi’s appeal to a divided America and Netanyahu’s willingness to shimmy up to the Republicans, he is as divided from the Obama policy as Netanyahu has been, but then comes across as weak-kneed and hypocritical, unwilling to stand up for what he truly believes. (See Isaac Herzog’s recent Op-Ed in the New York Times, “Dividing the U.S. on Israel”.)
  13. Issac Herzog’s insistence on linking the ogre of a nuclear Iran with Iran as an existential threat to Israel, fails to recognize how a de-nuclearized Iran is an even greater threat to Israel in good part because of how both he and Netanyahu, in very different ways, have mishandled the issue; with the political leadership in Israel and the U.S. both divided, and only united in being misguided, Iran is enormously strengthened.
  14. Turkey is falling apart politically, Syria has deconstructed and Iraq may be recovering, but it has a very long and very difficult road ahead, so Iran is left without any formidable rivals.
  15. In the meanwhile, Israeli voters, in the lead up to the March election, are distracted from the core issues of the economy, social justice, the Palestinians and the real threat of a denuclearized but more powerful enemy, Iran, so that the alleged “mudslinging” has damaged the opposition even more than Netanyahu.

Let me clarify this argument by taking on two very respected columnists clearly opposed to my position though also critical of Netanyahu, but each of them for very different reasons. Let me take up the points made by David Brooks of The New York Times first.

    1. Iran has been driven by ideology, not pragmatism.
    2. I agree, but ideology and pragmatism need not be polar opposites; the current regime is driven by a more pragmatic ideology than the previous one.
    3. Current American foreign policy is governed by the principle that prudent statecraft can trump megalomania.
    4. Though also a gamble and a risk, I believe that current American foreign policy is based on the principle that prudent statecraft is a better option than either war or economic containment through sanctions, for however powerful the latter has been in bringing Iran to the negotiating table, those sanctions would not have prevented Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons; a de-nuclearized more pragmatic megalomaniacal-led enemy is much to be preferred to an imprudent  ideologically driven nuclear-armed megalomaniacal-led Iran.
    5. The Obama regime is betting that Iran can evolve into a fundamentally normal regime which prioritizes economics over ideology and religion.
    6. Some members of the Obama administration, though significant but still a minority, believe that this is a likely outcome; most members are more skeptical, but still believe a) the risk is worth taking, and b) the downside is better than any of the alternatives.
    7. The Iran nuclear negotiations are not just about centrifuges; they are about the future of the Middle East.
    8. The Iran nuclear negotiations are and have been since the Joint Plan of Action was signed in November 2013, just about centrifuges (and enriched uranium and the ability to produce plutonium) and are not about the future of the Middle East; this may be a mistake or clever diplomacy, but whichever, it is best not to mischaracterize the negotiations.
    9. Obama seeks to wean Iran away from the radicalism of the revolution and bind it into the international economic and diplomatic system.
    10. Correct.
    11. By reaching an agreement on nukes and lifting the sanctions, Iran would re-emerge as America’s natural partner in the region.
    12. By reaching an agreement on nukes and lifting the sanctions, Iran could re-emerge as one of America’s partners in the region. (There is no such entity as a “natural” partner, especially in the Middle East, and that includes Israel, a point which Israelis do well not to forget.)
    13. Once tamed, Iran would abandon its support for terrorists and terrorist regimes.
    14. A faint hope, but a possibility.
    15. Obama has made a series of stunning sacrifices in order to get a nuclear agreement with Iran.
    16. Obama has made a number of concessions (hardly accurately depicted as sacrifices), as promised in the JPA, in return for Iran giving up its nuclear weapons program.
    17. In 2012, the president vowed that he would not permit Iran to maintain a nuclear program.
    18. In his debate with Mitt Romney, Obama said that, “As long as I’m president of the United States, Iran will not get a nuclear weapon.” Not program, weapon. Obama has so often been misquoted on this promise that in a Google search, the misinterpretation and misquote pops up more frequently than the actual words, but noticeably without quotation marks.
    19. If reports of the proposed nuclear deal with Iran are correct, Obama has abandoned this non-nuclear Iran policy.
    20. Since it never was his policy to de-nuclearize Iran altogether, it is not one he could have abandoned. Further, the negotiations and the deal made did not constitute an abandoning of a denuclearized Iran, even if one makes the mistake of assuming there was one; for the JPA did that.
    21. The deal will not make any restrictions on Iran’s missile program.
    22. It was not intended to accomplish this – see the JPA. This is the real gamble in the JPA.
  1. Monitoring and enforcement will rely on an inspection regime that has been good, but leaky.
  2. The inspection regime was totally inadequate prior to the JPA. Since then, except for any inspection of Iran’s missile program at Parchin, it has been revolutionized and greatly improved, though not yet perfect.
  3. The United States has offended its erstwhile allies, like Israel, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
  4. True.
  5. Iran’s leaders really believe what they say, that they are as apocalyptically motivated, paranoid and dogmatically anti-American as their pronouncements suggest they are, and, hence, will be as destabilizing and hegemonically inclined as all its recent actions suggest.
  6. I would bet on it. That is precisely why a de-nuclearized weapons regime is preferable to one with nuclear weapons or the potential to produce nuclear weapons within months.
  7. Do we really want a nuclear-capable Iran in the midst of all that?
  8. Wrong question. Do we really want a nuclear-weapons capable Iran in the midst of all that?

In the case of Caroline Glick, rants are usually not worthy of comment, but since she makes David Brooks look like the epitome of accuracy and moderation, I will make only a few points.

  1. Glick portrays Netanyahu as having behaved like a pragmatist in many of his policies but she evaluates this as a betrayal of the principles of a vision of a Greater Israel, whereas I interpret his latest moves as intended to secure his right wing base in the face of rivals and as a reversion to his strong right wing propensities and evaluate the turn as a betrayal of his pragmatic side.
  2. Glick portrays Obama as having “delegitimized Israel’s very existence” whereas I view Obama as ardently opposed to a vision of a Greater Israel but very determined to protect and secure Israel’s actual existence and security.
  3. Glick accuses Obama of embracing the jihadist lie that Israel’s existence is the product of post-Holocaust European guilt, but, unfortunately, jihadists have no monopoly on this false portrayal. Rather it is the dominant, though incorrect view of mainstream historians and Israeli and Western education.
  4. The thesis is not false because Israel is a product of 4,000 years of Jewish history, a factor that played a part in the resurrection of modern Israel, but, as I have argued many times before, there is NO evidence that countries that supported the re-establishment of the Israeli state did so because of any guilt over the Holocaust, which was barely discussed in the immediate period after WWII in the context of Israel, but were in good part motivated by the need to resettle the 200,000 remnant of Jewish refugees that no country wanted.
  5. Senior Obama administration officials have never threatened that Israel will become illegitimate if it refuses to surrender to Palestinian demands, but have insisted that hostility to Israel, including the extreme form that seeks to delegitimize Israel, will increase unless Israel accommodates (not surrender s to) Palestinian legitimate claims. I am even more skeptical, because I think the hostile forces will persist and even grow even if Israel makes a deal based on a two-state solution with the Palestinians. Accommodation of the Palestinians should be supported because it is both just and prudent even if it does not ward off increasing hostility towards Israel.
  6.  Obama did not try to coerce Israel into making a ceasefire agreement with Hamas (see my series of blogs on the Gaza War), never demanded the free flow of goods into Gaza, and did not cut off traffic to Ben Gurion Airport “under specious and grossly prejudicial terms in an open act of economic warfare against Israel;” the misguided action was taken for only a few days independently by the Federal Aviation Board for security reasons.
  7. Obama did not launch an arms embargo against Israel during the Gaza War. Almost all the citations supporting such as thesis are Glick’s own previous columns. Obama did, at the end of the war, make clear to Israel that the U.S. could review its arms exports to Israel and that America’s support was not unconditional irrespective of how Israel behaved.
  8. Obama has not repeatedly tried to slash funding for Israel’s Iron Dome but on 4 August 2014 signed an emergency aid bill providing $225 million in emergency aid to Israel for its Iron Dome system.
  9. Glick celebrates a reborn Netanyahu with his obstinate, unbending, and unaccommodating stance against a nuclear deal with Iran while I deplore it.
  10. Netanyahu has never wavered from his position that he would never accept an Iran armed with nuclear weapons. But neither has Obama. To repeat, the issue is whether opposition to Iran’s nuclear weapons program should be linked with Iran’s missile program, its support for terrorism, its status as a rising regional power and its objective of exterminating Israel.

I think I have said enough. Since one cannot argue with pundits who pontificate but ignore any evidence that might falsify their assertions, and write in a mode that marries heroism with victimhood. I have had to close my eyes and ears to her repetitive columns. One reads Glick only to long for the erroneous but at least cool and rational Brooks.


  1. David Brooks of The New York Times

Converting the Ayatollahs

February 27, 2015

Over the past centuries, Western diplomats have continually projected pragmatism onto their ideological opponents. They have often assumed that our enemies are driven by the same sort of national interest calculations that motivate most regimes. They have assumed that economic interests would trump ideology and religion — that prudent calculation and statecraft would trump megalomania.

They assumed that the world leaders before 1914 would not be stupid enough to allow nationalist passion to plunge them into a World War; that Hitler would not be crazy enough to start a second one; that Islamic radicals could not really want to send their region back into the 12th century; that Sunnis and Shiites would never let their sectarian feud turn into a cataclysmic confrontation in places like Iraq.

The Obama administration is making a similar projection today. It is betting that Iran can turn into a fundamentally normal regime, which can be counted upon to put G.D.P. over ideology and religion and do the pragmatic thing.

The Iran nuclear negotiations are not just about centrifuges; they are about the future of the Middle East. Through a series of statements over the last few years, President Obama has made it reasonably clear how he envisions that future.

He seeks to wean Iran away from the radicalism of the revolution and bind it into the international economic and diplomatic system. By reaching an agreement on nukes and lifting the sanctions, Iran would re-emerge as America’s natural partner in the region. It has an educated middle class that is interested in prosperity and is not terribly anti-American. Global integration would strengthen Iranian moderates and reinforce democratic tendencies.

Once enmeshed in the global system, Iran would work to tame Hezbollah and Hamas and would cooperate to find solutions in Gaza, Iraq and Syria. There would be a more stable balance of power between the major powers. In exchange for good global citizenship, Iran would be richer and more influential.

To pursue this détente, Obama has to have a nuclear agreement. He has made a series of stunning sacrifices in order to get it. In 2012, the president vowed that he would not permit Iran to maintain a nuclear program. Six United Nations Security Council resolutions buttressed that principle. But, if reports of the proposed deal are correct, Obama has abandoned this policy.

Under the reported framework, Iran would have thousands of centrifuges. All restrictions on its nuclear program would be temporary and would be phased out over a decade or so. According to some reports, there will be no limits on Iran’s ballistic missiles, no resolution of Iran’s weaponizing activities. Monitoring and enforcement would rely on an inspection regime that has been good, but leaky.

Meanwhile, the United States has offended its erstwhile allies, like Israel, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, without being sure that Iran is really willing to supplement them. There is a chance that Iran’s regional rivals would feel the need to have their own nuclear programs and we would descend into a spiral of proliferation.

All of this might be defensible if Iran is really willing to switch teams, if religion and ideology played no role in the regime’s thinking. But it could be that Iran has been willing to be an international pariah for the past generation for a reason. It could be that Iran finances terrorist groups and destabilizes regimes like Yemen’s and Morocco’s for a reason. It could be that Iran’s leaders really believe what they say. It could be that Iranian leaders are as apocalyptically motivated, paranoid and dogmatically anti-American as their pronouncements suggest they are. It could be that Iran will be as destabilizing and hegemonically inclined as all its recent actions suggest. Iran may be especially radical if the whole region gets further inflamed by Sunni-Shia rivalry or descends into greater and greater Islamic State-style fanaticism.

Do we really want a nuclear-capable Iran in the midst of all that?

If the Iranian leaders believe what they say, then United States policy should be exactly the opposite of the one now being pursued. Instead of embracing and enriching Iran, sanctions should be toughened to further isolate and weaken it. Instead of accepting a nuclear capacity, eliminating that capacity should be restored as the centerpiece of American policy. Instead of a condominium with Iran that offends traditional allies like Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Israel, the U.S. should build a regional strategy around strengthening relations with those historic pillars.

It’s hard to know what’s going on in the souls of Iran’s leadership class, but a giant bet is being placed on one interpretation. March could be a ruinous month for the Middle East. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel could weaken U.S.-Israeli relations, especially on the Democratic left. The world might accept an Iranian nuclear capacity. Efforts designed to palliate a rogue regime may end up enriching and emboldening it.

  1. Caroline Glick of The Jerusalem Post

In Israel’s hour of need Friday, February 27, 2015 It is hard to get your arms around the stubborn determination of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu today. For most of the nine years he has served as Israel’s leader, first from 1996 to 1999 and now since 2009, Netanyahu shied away from confrontations or buckled under pressure. He signed deals with the Palestinians he knew the Palestinians would never uphold in the hopes of winning the support of hostile US administrations and a fair shake from the pathologically hateful Israeli media. In recent years he released terrorist murderers from prison. He abrogated Jewish property rights in Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria. He agreed to support the establishment of a Palestinian state west of the Jordan River. He agreed to keep giving the Palestinians of Gaza free electricity while they waged war against Israel. He did all of these things in a bid to accommodate US President Barack Obama and win over the media, while keeping the leftist parties in his coalitions happy. For his part, for the past six years Obama has undermined Israel’s national security. He has publicly humiliated Netanyahu repeatedly. He has delegitimized Israel’s very existence, embracing the jihadist lie that Israel’s existence is the product of post-Holocaust European guilt rather than 4,000 years of Jewish history. He and his representatives have given a backwind to the forces that seek to wage economic warfare against Israel, repeatedly indicating that the application of economic sanctions against Israel – illegal under the World Trade Organization treaties – are a natural response to Israel’s unwillingness to bow to every Palestinian demand. The same goes for the movement to deny the legitimacy of Israel’s very existence. Senior administration officials have threatened that Israel will become illegitimate if it refuses to surrender to Palestinian demands. Last summer, Obama openly colluded with Hamas’s terrorist war against Israel. He tried to coerce Israel into accepting ceasefire terms that would have amounted to an unconditional surrender to Hamas’s demands for open borders and the free flow of funds to the terrorist group. He enacted a partial arms embargo on Israel in the midst of war. He cut off air traffic to Ben-Gurion International Airport under specious and grossly prejudicial terms in an open act of economic warfare against Israel. And yet, despite Obama’s scandalous treatment of Israel, Netanyahu has continued to paper over differences in public and thank Obama for the little his has done on Israel’s behalf. He always makes a point of thanking Obama for agreeing to Congress’s demand to continue funding the Iron Dome missile defense system (although Obama has sought repeatedly to slash funding for the project). Obama’s policies that are hostile to Israel are not limited to his unconditional support for the Palestinians in their campaign against Israel. Obama shocked the entire Israeli defense community when he supported the overthrow of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, despite Mubarak’s dependability as a US ally in the war on Islamist terrorism, and as the guardian of both Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel and the safety and freedom of maritime traffic in the Suez Canal. Obama supported Mubarak’s overthrow despite the fact that the only political force in Egypt capable of replacing him was the Muslim Brotherhood, which seeks the destruction of Israel and is the ideological home and spawning ground of jihadist terrorist groups, including al-Qaida and Hamas. Obama then supported the Muslim Brotherhood’s regime even as then-president Mohamed Morsi took concrete steps to transform Egypt into an Islamist, jihadist state and end Egypt’s peace with Israel. Israelis were united in our opposition to Obama’s behavior. But Netanyahu said nothing publicly in criticism of Obama’s destructive, dangerous policy. He held his tongue in the hopes of winning Obama over through quiet diplomacy. He held his tongue, because he believed that the damage Obama was causing Israel was not irreversible in most cases. And it was better to maintain the guise of good relations, in the hopes of actually achieving them, than to expose the fractures in US-Israel ties caused by Obama’s enormous hostility toward Israel and by his strategic myopia that endangered both Israel and the US’s other regional allies. And yet, today Netanyahu, the serial accommodator, is putting everything on the line. He will not accommodate. He will not be bullied. He will not be threatened, even as all the powers that have grown used to bringing him to his knees – the Obama administration, the American Jewish Left, the Israeli media, and the Labor party grow ever more shrill and threatening in their attacks against him. As he has made clear in daily statements, Netanyahu is convinced that we have reached a juncture in our relations with the Obama administration where accommodation is no longer possible. Obama’s one policy that Netanyahu has never acquiesced to either publicly or privately is his policy of accommodating Iran. Since Obama’s earliest days in office, Netanyahu has warned openly and behind closed doors that Obama’s plan to forge a nuclear deal with Iran is dangerous. And as the years have passed, and the lengths Obama is willing to go to appease Iran’s nuclear ambitions have been left their marks on the region, Netanyahu’s warnings have grown stronger and more urgent. Netanyahu has been clear since his first tenure in office in the 1990s, that Iran’s nuclear program – as well as its ballistic missile program – constitutes a threat to Israel’s very existence. He has never wavered from his position that Israel cannot accept an Iran armed with nuclear weapons. Until Obama entered office, and to an ever escalating degree until his reelection in 2012, preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons has been such an obvious imperative among both Israelis and Americans that Netanyahu’s forthright rejection of any nuclear deal in which Iran would be permitted to maintain the components of its nuclear program was uncontroversial. In some Israeli circles, his trenchant opposition to Iran’s acquisition of nuclear capabilities was the object of derision, with critics insisting that he was standing strong on something uncontroversial while buckling on issues like negotiations with the Palestinians, where he should have stood strong. But now we are seeing that far from being an opportunist, Netanyahu is a leader of historical dimensions. For the past two years, in the interest of reaching a deal, Obama has enabled Iran to take over Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen. For the first time since 1974, due to Obama’s policies, the Golan Heights is an active front in the war against Israel, with Iranian military personnel commanding Syrian and Hezbollah forces along the border. Iran’s single-minded dedication to its goal of becoming a regional hegemon and its commitment to its ultimate goal of destroying the US is being enabled by Obama’s policies of accommodation. An Iran in possession of a nuclear arsenal is an Iran that can not only destroy Israel with just one or two warheads. It can make it impossible for Israel to respond to conventional aggression carried out by terrorist forces and others operating under an Iranian nuclear umbrella. Whereas Israel can survive Obama on the Palestinian front by stalling, waiting him out and placating him where possible, and can even survive his support for Hamas by making common cause with the Egyptian military and the government of President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi, the damage Obama’s intended deal with Iran will cause Israel will be irreversible. The moment that Obama grants Iran a path to a nuclear arsenal – and the terms of the agreement that Obama has offered Iran grant Iran an unimpeded path to nuclear power – a future US administration will be hard-pressed to put the genie back in the bottle. For his efforts to prevent irreparable harm to Israel Netanyahu is being subjected to the most brutal and vicious attacks any Israeli leader has ever been subjected to by an American administration and its political allies. They are being assisted in their efforts by a shameless Israeli opposition that is willing to endanger the future of the country in order to seize political power. Every day brings another serving of abuse. Wednesday National Security Adviser Susan Rice accused Netanyahu of destroying US relations with Israel. Secretary of State John Kerry effectively called him a serial alarmist, liar, and warmonger. For its part, the Congressional Black Caucus reportedly intends to sabotage Netanyahu’s address before the joint houses of Congress by walking out in the middle, thus symbolically accusing of racism the leader of the Middle East’s only liberal democracy, and the leader of the most persecuted people in human history. Radical leftist representatives who happen to be Jewish, like Jan Schakowsky of suburban Chicago and Steve Cohen of Memphis, are joining Netanyahu’s boycotters in order to give the patina of Jewish legitimacy to an administration whose central foreign policy threatens the viability of the Jewish state. As for Netanyahu’s domestic opponents, their behavior is simply inexcusable. In Israel’s hour of peril, just weeks before Obama intends to conclude his nuclear deal with the mullahs that will endanger Israel’s existence, Labor leader Yitzhak Herzog insists that his primary duty is to defeat Netanyahu. And as far as Iran is concerned, he acts as a free loader ad a spoiler. Either he believes that Netanyahu will succeed in his mission to derail the deal with or without his support, or he doesn’t care. But Herzog’s rejection of Netanyahu’s entreaties that he join him in Washington next week, and his persistent attacks on Netanyahu for refusing accommodate that which cannot be accommodated shows that he is both an opportunist and utterly unworthy of a leadership role in this country. Netanyahu is not coming to Washington next Tuesday to warn Congress against Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran, because he seeks a fight with Obama. Netanyahu has devoted the last six years to avoiding a fight with Obama, often at great cost to Israel’s national security and to his own political position. Netanyahu is coming to Washington next week because Obama has left him no choice. And all decent people of good will should support him, and those who do not, and those who are silent, should be called out for their treachery and cowardice.