It has been interesting to observe how many of the commentators on Netanyahu's speech spend time speculating about his motives while avoiding the substance of the speech they criticize.
As an Israeli I consider that PM Netanyahu erred in his choice of venue for delivering his message. I would have preferred him to have his say in a TV broadcast. However, as the speech has been delivered it is appropriate for pundits to express their opinions about the unfortunate brouhaha over the arrangements, but it would be more constructive if they also addressed the issues raised by the Israeli PM. Below are ten points which deserve consideration.
1. The attitude that we should wait until the deal has been completed before commenting on it is illogical. Surely the time to call for comments from parties who will be affected by any transaction under consideration is during the negotiating period. Once the agreement has been concluded it will be too late. The high handed attitude of demanding that details be left to the negotiators smacks of a condescending paternalism more suitable to a dictatorship than a democracy. The negotiators are fallible humans who need to be conscious of the law of unintended consequences.
The current case in which US Supreme Court justices are split in the matter of health care subsidies should serve as a warning of the need for extra input and care in drafting an important document before, rather than after, it is finalized. In that case, the issue is whether millions of Americans who receive tax subsidies to buy health insurance are doing so illegally. The challengers say a straightforward reading of the law means the credits are available only for those who buy insurance on exchanges “established by the State,” rather than on a federal marketplace.
Discouragement of comments from interested parties prior to finalizing the agreement with Iran significantly increases the likelihood of similar unintended consequences.
2. Some have said that if there's no deal there is nothing to stop Iran from using their centrifuges to build up a stockpile to make a nuclear bomb. This argument is fallacious. The deal as presently known actually legitimizes the retention of the centrifuges. Contrary to claims that details of the agreement are unknown, a Reuters report of February 19, 2015 confirms Netanyahu's concern that instead of demanding an end to uranium enrichment the P5+1 are asking only that some limits be imposed on Iran's uranium enrichment capacity. Unless the deal is amended it would leave Iran with a vast nuclear infrastructure and a short break-out time to the bomb. Not a single nuclear facility would be demolished. Thousands of centrifuges used to enrich uranium would be left spinning. Thousands more would be temporarily disconnected, but not destroyed.
3. As to the number of centrifuges, Al Arabia reported that the US may accept Iran having 2,000 to 4,000 but that supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's said on his website that Iran requires 190,000 nuclear centrifuges.
4. This deal is bad firstly because Iran's nuclear program would be left largely intact. Secondly the "sunset clause" which sets a date for the agreement to expire will ensure that Iran's break-out time would be very short and lifting the restrictions on that program in about a decade paves Iran's path to the bomb.
4. Netanyahu did not say that the only alternative to this deal in no deal. He said that the alternative to this bad deal is a much better deal.
6. Would any of the critics argue against Netanyahu's suggestion that we insist that restrictions on Iran's nuclear program not be lifted for as long as Iran continues its aggression in the region and in the world? Or his suggestion that before lifting those restrictions, the world should demand that Iran do three things; stop its aggression against its neighbors in the Middle East, stop supporting terrorism around the world and stop threatening to annihilate Israel?
7. He added that if the world powers are not prepared to insist that Iran change its behavior before a deal is signed, at the very least they should insist that Iran change its behavior before a deal expires.
Iran's nuclear program can be rolled back well-beyond the current proposal by insisting on a better deal and keeping up the pressure on a very vulnerable regime, especially given the recent collapse in the price of oil.
8. Contrary to the impression created by some politicians and journalists that Netanyahu is the sole pesky opponent of the pending deal with Iran, the Washington Post drew attention to Secretary Kerry’s one-day visit to Riyadh on March 5 , which "underscores that Israel is not the only country in the Middle East leery of how a deal with Iran may upend the balance of power".
In common with Israel, Arab countries fear that the proposed agreement will not protect them against Iranian aggression. A commentator on Al Arabiya TV, said that he could have written a large part of the speech.
Editor-in-Chief of Al Arabiya (English), Faisal J. Abbas, published an editorial under the headline: “President Obama, listen to Netanyahu on Iran.” He added that Netanyahu hit the nail right on the head when he said that Middle Eastern countries are collapsing and that “terror organizations, mostly backed by Iran, are filling in the vacuum, accurately summarizing a clear and present danger, not just to Israel but to other U.S. allies in the region.
In the Saudi Daily Al-Jazirah Dr. Ahmad Al-Faraj, supported Netanyahu’s decision to speak to congress. He said that since Obama is working to sign an agreement with Iran that will come at the expense of the US's longtime allies in the Gulf, he is very glad of Netanyahu's firm stance and his decision to speak against the nuclear agreement at the American Congress despite the Obama administration's anger and fury. (Translated by MEMRI).
9. Obviously trust is out of the question while, as confirmed by Reuters, Iran refuses to resolve all IAEA questions and has still not addressed specific issues, confirming Netanyahu's concern about the many instances of cheating. Inspectors have been fooled before and in any event they document violations; they don't stop them. Iran was caught twice operating secret nuclear facilities in Natanz and Qom that inspectors didn't even know existed. As the former head of inspections for the IAEA said in 2013, "If there's no undeclared installation today in Iran, it will be the first time in 20 years that it doesn't have one."
10. To its peril the Western world ignores Ayatollah Khomeini exhorting his followers to export the revolution throughout the world and his cries, as loudly as ever, "Death to America the Great Satan". It has succumbed to what the NY Times described as President Hassan Rouhani's charm offensive.
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