NEW YORK – US Treasury Secretary Jack Lew faced a crowd vocal in its opposition to the policies of President Barack Obama at The Jerusalem Post Conference in New York on Sunday.
Facing sporadic jeers, the cabinet member laid out a broad defense of the Obama administration’s negotiations with Iran from a financial perspective, offering new details of its expectations of a final agreement. And he defended the president’s record on recommitting US support to Israel, speaking over repeated catcalls.
A full text of his remarks is available here.
“I would only ask that you listen to me as we listen to you,” Lew told the crowd, after the Post’s
editor-in-chief, Steve Linde, chastised the hecklers.
Lew’s message on a budding nuclear deal with Iran was especially detailed, tailored for a crowd particularly concerned with its consequences.Sanctions will be reimposed automatically if Iran cheats, he asserted, despite acknowledging that the precise measure for snapping back sanctions has not yet been settled.
“We are still developing the exact mechanisms by which sanctions stemming from UN Security Council resolutions would be reimposed,” Lew said.“But we will not allow such a snapback to be subject to a veto by an individual P5 member, including China or Russia.”
And pushing back against Iran’s condition ruling out international inspections at its military sites, Lew said that an agreement must include “robust monitoring and inspection anywhere and everywhere the IAEA has reason to go.”
He said sanctions have cost Tehran $160 billion in oil revenues since 2012 – “revenues Iran can never recoup.”
“Even if Iran were able to quickly double its current oil exports – a big ‘if’ given how low oil prices are today and how much investment Iran’s infrastructure needs to produce at this level – it would take more than three years for Iran to earn that much money,” Lew said, noting that Iran’s GDP is 15 to 20 percent smaller than it would be without the sanctions regime.
Addressing the Islamic Republic’s backing of terrorism, Lew continued, “The unfortunate truth remains that the cost of this support is sufficiently small, that we will need to remain vigilant with or without a nuclear deal to use our other tools to deter the funding of terror and regional destabilization.”
But claims that the Iranian economy will immediately bounce back after a deal are a “myth,” he said. After Tehran takes specific, concrete steps to roll back its program in the initial stage of the final agreement, it is expected to receive roughly $100b. in sanctions relief.
And Lew rejected a recent report in The New York Times
that claimed Iran’s fluctuating uranium stockpile, while the interim Joint Plan of Action has been in place, has violated that short-term deal and has complicated talks toward a final one.
“The IAEA did not reach that conclusion,” he contended. “Quite to the contrary.”
But it was Lew’s restatement of Obama’s commitment to the State of Israel and its long-term security that prompted particularly harsh reactions from the crowd. Lew responded by asserting that no one can question the president’s commitment to the Jewish state.
“Whether it was Nelson Mandela emerging from prison after 27 years to negotiate the peaceful end to apartheid, Ronald Reagan sitting at a table with a nation he called the ‘evil empire’ to negotiate the end to the Cold War, or Menachem Begin meeting at Camp David to negotiate a peace accord with Egypt, Israel’s sworn enemy,” Lew concluded, “diplomacy is not conducted with our friends, but with our adversaries.”
Lew’s address was followed by remarks from several current and former Israeli officials, including National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Minister Yuval Steinitz and Ron Prosor, the ambassador to the United Nations.
Prosor focused his remarks on the difficulty of his work at the UN, but took the opportunity to praise the Obama administration, and its fervent defense of Israel on a consistent basis in international fora.
“The United States of America is standing with Israel every single day in this organization,” Prosor said, “and there is nothing that can substitute that.
“Without the United States of America, we would be in real, real trouble,” he added, praising his American colleague, Ambassador Samantha Power.
Veteran Congresswoman Nita Lowey (D-New York) also addressed the conference, and also faced an emotional crowd.
She reminded them of the power of the US-Israel relationship, which she credited to its bipartisan foundations and to a basis of mutual respect.
“Tone down the overheated rhetoric,” she suggested to all sides of the debate.
Find Secretary Lew’s full remarks to the conference at JPost.com.