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Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Dear Congress, Israel Implores You to Say No to Iran

I sent the following op-ed to The Washington Post earlier today. Michael Larabee, their op-ed editor, kindly read my submission and just informed me that they're going to pass on the piece. Humor me and take a gander . . .

President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu have less than a sanguine relationship. Obama’s disdain for Netanyahu is best exemplified by a 2011 open microphone faux pas in which America’s president told French President Sarkozy, "You are fed up with him, but I have to deal with him even more often than you." Examination, however, of the nuclear deal signed by the P5+1 with Iran in Vienna should transcend the enmity between Obama and Netanyahu. Israeli’s from Left to Right are frightened by this agreement with the mullahs.

As recently reported by The Jerusalem Post, 78 percent of Israelis believe the nuclear deal will "endanger Israel;" 71 percent think the deal will "bring Iran closer to a military nuclear capability;" and 47 percent "support an Israeli military strike on Iran if it would be necessary to prevent the Islamic state from getting nuclear weapons." Moreover, Israelis, most of whom have come under rocket and missile fire over the course of their lifetimes, generally have a good idea of what's good or bad for them, particularly when it involves existential concerns.

Why are Israelis more concerned by Iranian chants of marg bar Esra’il (“Death to Israel!”) than Americans are worried by chants of marg bar omrika (“Death to America!”) coming even after the Vienna agreement? Obviously, Israel is closer to Iran, and Israel is already in range of Iranian missiles, but the answer is more complex. Ze’ev Maghen, a professor of Persian Language and Islamic History at Shalem College and former chairman of the Department of Middle East Studies at Bar-Ilan University, noted in a 2009 Commentary article entitled “Eradicating the 'Little Satan'”:

“[T]here is no rational reason for any eruption of hostilities between Iran and Israel. The two countries do not even share a common border, and their national and economic interests are not in conflict. To the contrary, both have traditionally conceived their ‘frontline’ adversaries to be Arab states, and history has time and again thrown them into each other's arms, both before and even after the Islamic revolution of 1979.”

However, Prof. Maghen went on to observe in his article:

“The analysts and pundits are thus indeed correct in asserting that the Iranians do not really ‘mean it’ [i.e., Death to Israel!]. They fail to realize, however, that this is the very reason why they may well ‘do it.’ By casting an entire people as a parasitic infestation, by demonizing, delegitimizing, and dehumanizing them at home, in school, in the mosque and in the media, the quarter-century-old routine of Israel-hatred, added to 1,400 years of traditional Islamic anti-Semitism, has prepared in the minds of Iranians and their neighboring coreligionists the moral ground for the eradication of the state of Israel.”

Is Iran’s theocratic leadership “rational,” and would “mutually assured destruction” dissuade Iran from attacking Israel? Iran hangs gay men, stones to death women accused of adultery, savagely persecutes Baha'is, Christians, Kurds and Sunnis, jails and brutalizes journalists and political opponents, backs Shiite militias in Iraq that are engaged in ethnic cleansing, bombed a Jewish community center in distant Argentina, and executed a poet for "waging war on God." Is this rational? Moreover, as stated by former Iranian president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, “Israel is much smaller than Iran in landmass and therefore far more vulnerable to nuclear attack.”

Is the Obama administration aware of the dangers posed to Israel by the agreement that it struck with Iran, granting the mullahs unobstructed access to a nuclear arsenal after 10-15 years – less if they cheat? Absolutely. Otherwise there would have been no reason for Susan Rice’s call on Saturday to former Israeli president Shimon Peres, offering an unprecedented military compensation package.

But beyond Iranian theocratic radicalism, Israelis do not trust John Kerry, who once called Bashar al-Assad “my dear friend.” On Sunday on “Face the Nation,” Kerry claimed with respect to “anytime, anywhere” inspections of Iranian nuclear facilities:

“This is a term that, honestly, I never heard in the four years that we were negotiating. It was not on the table. There's no such thing in arms control as anytime, anywhere.”

Kerry, however, must certainly have been aware of Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes’ interview with Jake Tapper in April  2015, during which Rhodes unequivocally stated, "under this deal, you will have anywhere, anytime 24/7 access as it relates to the nuclear facilities that Iran has." Even Secretary of Energy Ernest Muniz, who actively participated in the negotiations with Iran, acknowledged his use of the term on “Face the Nation,” shortly after Kerry’s denial.

Meanwhile, making a mockery of even “managed access,” Iran’s defense minister, Brigadier General Hossein Dehghan, declared on Monday that international inspectors will not be allowed on Iran’s military sites.

Adding to Israelis' distrust of America's secretary of state, there was Kerry’s answer to Judy Woodruff’s question on “PBS Newshour” whether Iran might transfer funds unfrozen by the deal to Hezbollah:

“Well, we’re going to clamp down. They’re not allowed to do that.”

Kerry’s response, however, flew in the face of the answer given by Susan Rice to CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, “Well, they may be able to send money, yes.”
Who is right, Kerry or Rice? In fact, they’re both wrong. Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif has now gone on record as saying the agreement with the P5+1 does not prevent Iran from sending arms to Assad and Hezbollah. Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi also stated on Tuesday, "We have told them [the P5+1 world powers] in the negotiations that we will supply arms to anyone and anywhere necessary and will import weapons from anywhere we want and we have clarified this during the negotiations."
Quite apart from the nuclear threat that Israelis expect to be facing from Iran, there is also the “conventional” arms threat of some 130,000 rockets and missiles already supplied by Iran to Hezbollah for use against Israel. When sanctions against Iran are removed, and Iran is again able to accelerate the flow of advanced weaponry to its proxy in Lebanon, another war Israel and Hezbollah is a near certainty. The size of New Jersey, Israel will not be able to wait out a missile onslaught of this dimension, and Israeli ground forces will be forced to enter Lebanon to quell the barrage.
Although the Obama administration appears at a loss to explain the terms of the P5+1’s agreement with Iran, we can be certain that the deal will kindle a Middle East nuclear arms race, make another round of war between Israel and Hezbollah a near certainty, and enhance Iran’s ability to make good on its threats to wipe Israel off the face of the map. Dear Congress, Israel implores you to say no to this so-called agreement, whose terms remain a mystery and source of contention.

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