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Iran Ascending: A Time to Shudder

For those who have been confused by the incredible amount of verbiage that has surfaced on the Iran nuclear agreement since it was signed, the best analysis I have read appeared in this morning’s Ha’aretz written by Ari Shavit, titled “The Iran deal: From Thriller to Horror Story.” 

While I often disagree with Shavit’s politics, his analysis, which is totally bereft of political commentary but is based on his detailed reading of the entire 159-page document, is worthy of perusal and a short précis follows:

The good news: The Iranians agreed not to develop or acquire nuclear weapons and to suspend the existing nuclear development programs at Arak, Natanz and Fordow. They will also reduce the number of existing centrifuges and the amount of enriched uranium in their possession.

The worrisome aspects: The sanctions mechanism which was so effective in bringing them to the table has been totally dismantled. In addition, there will be no supervision of secret, unknown nuclear sites which lets them basically do anything they want to outside of the three locations listed above. The odds of their getting caught are minimal and the chance of reactivating sanctions is close to nil.

The darkest aspects: The P5+1 recognize Iran’s right to develop advanced centrifuges as Iran is only giving up the right to use their older ones. The capacity of the new units could be 5-10 times bigger than what they have at present and there are no controls on such a decision by the Iranians.

As Shavit concludes: “This means that the international community is not only enabling, but actually ensuring the establishment of a new Iranian nuclear program, which will be immeasurably more powerful and dangerous than its predecessor. In fact, the Iranians are giving up an outdated, anachronistic deployment in order to build an innovative legitimate one, with the world’s permission and authority. The (current agreement) will lead to Iran becoming in 2025 a muscular nuclear tiger ready to spring forward, with an ability to produce dozens of nuclear bombs.”

So there you have it. What was agreed in Vienna pretty much ensures the development of a new nuclear program by Iran, significantly more powerful than what they are “giving up” and they will do so with the imprimatur of the P5+1 and, given the unanimous approval by the UN Security Council, by the entire world. No question it is a time for all of us to “shudder.”

So what should we all be doing? I believe that the U.S. Congress should be pushed by the electorate there (i.e. by the Americans and not by us) to fight the approval of this agreement by the president and his secretary of state. On the assumption that the Congress blocks this and then has enough votes to override the president’s promised veto, the fallout will be chaos in international diplomacy, the status of the U.S. as a world leader will drop even lower than it is today and the U.S. may very well find itself isolated in diplomatic circles. And, of course, it is also probable that Iran will go on its merry way and continue to be the bane of peace-loving people worldwide. But, that may be better than giving the Iranians carte blanche to move full steam ahead and become a super-nuclear power in 10 years.

As far as our activities here are concerned, I still believe that the U.S. as well as the rest of the world is well aware of our position on this issue and that there is no added value at this point to continue to beat people over the head in the U.S. in order to get the point across. Bibi has spoken in the Congress on the issue, he has been interviewed almost daily by U.S.-based television networks, and never misses an opportunity to state our position to every visiting foreign delegation. He is right when he stated that if the deal is such a good one and makes the world safer, as the U.S. claims, why do they need to offer us additional weaponry? That is a logical question but, from a practical standpoint, we should take the offer and do whatever we can to retain our QME (qualified military edge). We must remember that whether or not the deal goes through there will still be a country in whose missile range we sit and who continues to vow to destroy us. We dare not let our pride get in the way of our defensive needs.

It is now abundantly clear that the world is certainly not a safer place today than it was before the agreement was signed. What has happened is that the P5+1 has granted diplomatic legitimacy to a rogue state that makes no bones about disparaging the key partner to the agreement, a partner without whose steadfastness and commitment that agreement would never have been signed. 

What the U.S. should have gained from this experience is a better understanding of what it means to bargain in the Middle East souk. The sad part is that America did not internalize that lesson and it mistakenly believes that the agreement creates a safer world. Sadly, it does just the opposite, initially for those of us living in this region but, ultimately, for America as well.

We need to remember Winston Churchill’s comment after Chamberlain’s 1938 speech claiming the achievement of “Peace in Our Time” when Churchill said about Chamberlain: “You were given the choice between war and dishonor. You chose dishonor and you will have war.”

This is not 1938, Iran is not Nazi Germany and Obama is not Chamberlain. But principles remain principles, truisms remain truisms and errors of judgment remain errors of judgment, regardless of the circumstances. It is indeed, a time to shudder.

Sherwin Pomerantz has been a resident of Jerusalem for 31 years, is a former National President of the Association of Americans & Canadians in Israel and President of Atid EDI Ltd., a Jerusalem-based international business development consulting firm.


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