Back in 2011, Donald J. Trump predicted that President Barack Obama would go to war with Iran as a means of retaining his presidency. It turns out Obama did not take that action; it turns out in 2020, Trump did.
However, be assured that the assassination of Iran’s military leader, Qasem Soleimani, by a U.S. drone at Baghdad Internatoinal Airport was not the single action that has brought the United States to the brink of war with Iran. No, the action that started the movement towards war was Trump’s ignoring of the strong advice of our allies and decided to walk away from the Comprehensive Plan of Action, known as the Iran nuclear deal in May 2018. That action set the wheels in motion for what is about to happen now.
Abandoning an agreement that was designed to bring Iran into the economic community without any replacement plan whatsoever and abandoning it almost solely because it was an Obama initiative may have been the most irresponsible and, potentially, deadly act as any of the myriads of ill-advised actions taken by the Trump administration. Maybe walking away from the Paris Climate Accord for, basically, the same reason, may rival the stupidly and irresponsibility.
Although admittedly, the Iran nuclear deal was a quite controversial agreement, the value of it was captured in my column from Aug. 27, 2015, entitled “The Art of the Deal,” and which preceded the Trump presidency.
I am sharing it here once again in light of the current tensions between the United States and Iran, tensions that could have been avoided if, instead of walking away from the agreement, the Trump administration attempted to build on it and expand it. Here it is:
The Art of the Deal
Examining the Iran deal and evaluating it for its worth
Although not what one would consider a very religious individual, I am a Jew. I was born a Jew. I was raised as a Jew. I will die a Jew.
Being a Jew is how society looks upon me, and, quite frankly, I am somewhat proud to be part of a group of people that comprises only about 1% of the world’s population yet has contributed so greatly to society whether medicine (thank you Dr. Salk), music, business, entertainment, or even sports (thank you, Sandy Koufax).
As a Jew, I also recognize the importance of a secure Israel. What I am not is a Jew who allows himself to be influenced by the illogical rhetoric regarding opposition to the Iran nuclear deal.
I fully understand why Republicans in Congress are against the Iran deal. They made that clear well before the completion of the negotiations.
They made it clear prior to President Obama’s inauguration back in 2009. They made it clear when they rolled out their strategy for dealing with this president, which was simple enough: anything he is for, they are against, and anything he is against, they are for; Simple enough. Placing party before country for purely political reasons is nothing new, and applying it to dealing with Iran, though regrettable, is not surprising.
But what about the Democrats, like New York Senator Chuck Schumer, who have come out against the deal or who are sitting on the fence still to take a stand, like Maryland Senator Ben Cardin? The one thing all of these Democrats seem to have in common is a large Jewish constituency, a constituency, I might add, that does vote.
A constituency, I might also add, that is vocal and strongly against the deal because of its concern for the safety and security of Israel. It looks to me as though these Democratic members of Congress may be making their decision, not on the advantages of this deal, but, rather, on the possible alienation of a large voting bloc.
This deal should be approved because it is in the best interest of the United States, the best interest of Israel despite the protestations of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and in the best interest of the Middle East, period. As I see it, there is no logical basis for the rejection of the agreement.
First of all, the Iran nuclear deal is not about trust. If Iran could be trusted, there likely would be no need for an agreement in the first place. Clearly, Iran cannot be trusted, and no one who supports this deal is saying that it can. That is precisely why we need this deal.
Rather than trust, the deal is about gaining access to inspections of sites.
The first question, then, is whether there will be more access for inspections of Iran’s nuclear sites with the deal or without the deal? I say, quite obviously, with the deal, since it calls for the constant and technologically advanced monitoring by the International Atomic Energy Agency. According to the agreement, these inspectors will have access to suspicious sites “where necessary, when necessary.”
What, you may ask? If they are found to violate the agreement? To begin with, that is the purpose of the inspections to detect nuclear development.
Without inspectors, this type of activity will certainly be more challenging to detect. If indeed, Iran does violate the agreement, then the same sanctions that brought Iran to the negotiating table in the first place can be reinstituted or, if necessary, military action can be taken at that time.
There really are only two alternatives to this plan that I have heard offered. One is to go immediately to war. We should have learned from all of the harm, both human and financial, heaped upon our country with the Iraq war when we failed to allow the U.N. inspectors to complete their inspections for weapons of mass destruction that war should always be the very last resort.
The other argument, given by opponents in Congress, is that we should have negotiated a better deal. This I find particularly amusing coming from a Congress that has demonstrated time and time again,the complete and total inability to apply the concept of compromise to get any bipartisan legislation passed. A better deal? Really? Could there really be anyone who truly believes that there was a better-negotiated deal to be had but that the U.S. contingent settled for a lesser deal because…I have no answer for this one.
There is some legitimate concern that freeing up the money withheld through the sanctions will enable Iran to engage in other terrorist activities more efficiently.
Such activity certainly must be monitored and responded to as needed. However, it must also be remembered that the sanctions that were in place were so effective and so crippled Iran’s economy that the more moderate leadership of that country would not likely want to risk having those sanctions or any other sanctions re-imposed anytime soon. Moreover, it must be remembered that to be effective, the other negotiating partners, namely Russia, China, France, Germany, European Union and United Kingdom, would also have to re-impose the sanctions. If the United States goes it alone, the re-imposition of sanctions will simply not be as effective.
If, as hoped, Iran does adhere to the agreement, in return for the phased lifting of international economic sanctions, Iran will reduce by 98% its stockpile of low enriched uranium, which is the uranium that can be further processed into bomb-grade fuel. The agreement also calls for reducing the number of operating centrifuges that use that fuel by two-thirds to 5,060. By the way, during the Bush-Cheney years, when “shunning” rather than dialog was the preferred method of diplomacy, the number of centrifuges in Iran skyrocketed in number from hundreds to tens of thousands. This agreement is a major step in reversing the damage caused by the Bush-Cheney mismanaged foreign policy.
This brings us back to Israel and the question of whether Israel and the rest of the world will be safer from a nuclear threat from Iran with this deal or without this deal.
If the deal is adhered to, definitely safer. If the agreement is not adhered to, then appropriate action would have to be taken at that time as part of either a coordinated international response or, if necessary, a unilateral response.
Another question that also needs to be asked is whether Israel could have served itself better if it contributed to the solution rather than trying to undermine it from the very beginning? It seems to me that Israel, with all of its expertise in security, could have served its interests better if it contributed to the development of effective inspection and verification systems rather than opposing them. It seems to me that it is always more productive to contribute to the solution than being part of the problem.