(photo credit: REUTERS)
As you or some of your colleagues have pointed out, due to its assumptions, loopholes, dispute resolution mechanisms, restriction sunsets and other problems the accord with Iran now under congressional review – the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action – may, by lifting sanctions and keeping much of Iran’s nuclear program intact, make it more likely that Iran will be able to create a nuclear weapon in the not-so-distant future.
I am a native New Yorker, but today I live in Jerusalem (the capital of Israel, by the way – please send the president another memo).
Of course, if I still lived in New York a nuclear Iran would scare me. New York City is still the international and financial capital of the world, a great city of the “great Satan,” with its towers of Babel and diverse population living in relative harmony under a liberal framework. In other words, New York City is a place the mullahs of Iran would be very satisfied to see destroyed.
But due to Israel’s geographic proximity to Iran and its being surrounded by Iranian proxies (Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and the PLO, too, are reportedly reaching out to Iran), the accord makes me fear even more for what my life will be like five, 10 or 15 years from now and what my children’s lives will be like further down the line. Will they live under the shadow of Iran’s nuclear umbrella, fearful of an attack with weapons of mass destruction, and likely under constant attack by terrorist guerrillas and missiles that Israel cannot properly defend itself against for fear of igniting nuclear war? Worse still, that prospective nuclear war might not involve only Israel and Iran, but a number of other states in the region who may be spurred to join the nuclear arms race.
I am relatively young. Young parents should not have to seriously worry about how safe their children will be as adults from nuclear devastation. An accord with Iran that gives it access to the fruits of the modern world it seeks to subvert should allay those concerns. The JCPOA does not. At best it passes the problem on. At worst, it provides Iran with the means to replenish its strength without giving up its nuclear program, which despite denials or wording in the agreement includes a drive for nuclear weapons.
In 10 or 15 years when many of the accord’s restrictions are to expire, the world will be a different place. I hope that at that time, the US will be even stronger than it is today (it can be, though a nuclear Iran allied with an aggressive Russia would be another challenge weighing it down). But we cannot be sure what the international stage will look like and what influence the US will be able to exert at that time.
Today, however, the United States is still by far the strongest world power. It carries significant influence with its allies and wields leverage over its adversaries, even great powers. Today the world is focused on this issue, when it is not yet too late. Now is the time to use the sanctions to their full effect, instead of giving Iran a breather for a number of years before triggering so-called “snap back” sanctions. These sanctions will not prevent Iran from achieving nuclear weapons capability. They would only “snap” into place after a likely 65-day or even longer dispute resolution period, in addition to the 24-day period Iran has to block inspectors, and whatever time it takes the US to build its case before filing a complaint. Then there is the time it will take for sanctions to bite despite their loopholes. It is easy to see how even that one-year break-out time the accord supposedly ensures could be cut considerably.
Now is the time to tighten the sanctions, to threaten to send Iran to an “economic stone age” and if necessary to strike it – to convince it that its drive to nuclear power is futile. Make them suspend all enrichment. Remove all centrifuges.
Put the nuclear scientists in retirement.
Demolish Fordow and all the other sites. Meet “sanction-lifting” milestones and good-behavior milestones. Allow inspectors anywhere, anytime. No 24-day or 65-day delay periods for inspections or sanctions. No lifting of conventional weapons sales restrictions or ballistic missile restrictions. No lifting of any nuclear development restrictions – on uranium enrichment levels numbers of centrifuges, etc., not in 10, 15 or even 25 years – not ever.
Nuclear power is not a right. It is a privilege as well as a danger to humanity that must be strictly controlled. We don’t have to expect the Iranian regime to change. But we can determine that calling for the destruction of the United States and Israel, sponsoring terrorists and attacks on US soldiers, seeking to create a new world order and oppressing your citizens makes the regime unfit for such a privilege.
And even if it were allowed this privilege, given its nature and history, the onus should be on the evil regime to prove its compliance, not on the US to build a case and gather a coalition, or to use its veto in a legally dubious manner to impose sanctions the world will not want and may reject.
US President Barack Obama may be embarrassed by a congressional rejection. So was Ronald Regan when Congress overrode his veto with the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act of 1986. But better the president be embarrassed and the sanctions remain until the regime gives up its program or is too weak to both invest in it and defend itself. As for the sanctions coalition, let the president, whether this one or his successor, go back to the negotiating table and use more carrots and sticks to keep Russia on board.
Of course, it is unlikely that Congress will disapprove of the accord by the necessary majority and this deal appears to be a fait accompli. Certainly the president, in his frustration over any opposition to it, believes that to be the case. But no one can be certain as to the future. Let us do our duty as best we understand it and have faith that right makes might. If you do your duty, both by voting and advocating against the accord, perhaps your colleagues will do theirs.
The above is based on a thank-you letter sent to US Senator Charles Schumer for his statement of opposition to the accord, sent as part of the ZOA Israel’s “Chuck the Deal” campaign.
The writer hails from Brooklyn and Staten Island and is licensed to practice law in New York and Israel.