Washington Watch: 22 questions about the Iran deal

By
July 22, 2015 22:49
Kerry and Zarif in Vienna

Secretary Kerry Poses for a Group Photo With Fellow EU, P5+1 Foreign Ministers and Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif After Reaching Iran Nuclear Deal. (photo credit: STATE DEPARTMENT PHOTO)

 
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Let’s start with the basic understanding that there are valid arguments for and against the Iran nuclear agreement and then take a look at the issues, players and options.

1. Is Secretary of State John Kerry really so naïve that he believes Iran won’t use some of its unfrozen assets to arm and assist its terrorist allies like Hezbollah and Hamas? He said, “They’re not allowed to that, even outside this agreement.

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There is a UN resolution that specifically applies to them not being allowed to transfer to Hezbollah.”

2. If Republicans applauded Ronald Reagan’s “trust but verify” as a standard for agreements with the much more powerful Soviet Union, why are they saying President Barack Obama’s tougher version, “Don’t trust, verify” is not good enough?

3. Why does Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu portray the deal as a dire threat to Israel’s survival when his defense establishment believes otherwise and tells journalists that his bitter attacks on the Obama administration “could threaten US-Israeli security relations?” Why are they telling reporters, according to Israeli analyst Ben Caspit in Al-Monitor, “The prevailing assessment in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and other security agencies in Israel is that the nuclear agreement in itself is not terrible and that it does, in fact, defer Iran’s nuclearization for 10 or 15 years, at least?” 

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4. How much of Netanyahu’s opposition to the Iran deal is an excuse to avoid making peace with the Palestinians? He has said repeatedly that a peace deal would have to wait until the Iranian nuclear threat is dealt with. Is Iran really his cover for opposing territorial compromise and Palestinian statehood?

5. AIPAC has devoted more than 20 years to demanding increasingly tough economic and diplomatic pressure on Iran to abandon its nuclear aims, as the issue has been a huge fundraiser and unifier for the pro-Israel lobby. Does anyone actually believe that the lobby group would do anything but oppose any deal with Iran by any American president, especially a Democrat?

6. Is the Netanyahu/Republican/AIPAC acrimonious multi-million-dollar campaign against Obama and the Iran deal driving Democrats away from Israel and further eroding the bipartisan support the Jewish state has long enjoyed on Capitol Hill?

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7. Are Republican predictions that opposition to the agreement will drive Jewish voters out of the Democratic Party into their fold realistic or fantasy? Are Jews really the single-issue voters Republicans hope they are?

8. Will the public understand that the purpose of the deal is to control – not eliminate – Iran’s nuclear program and never was intended as a vehicle to free Americans jailed in Iran, end Iranian support for terrorists, stop chants of “Death to America” and “Death to Israel” and end Holocaust denial? Will critics of the deal intentionally continue to conflate the two to justify their opposition?

9. Has anyone told Netanyahu that if you find yourself in a deep hole, stop digging and start looking for a way out? That means recognizing that he can’t stop the agreement but he can try to repair the damage his bitter and partisan campaign has done to relations with the country that gives him over $3 billion a year and is offering a generous increase.

10. Are Iranian leaders boasting about the this deal because a) they are trying to overcome the opposition from their hardliners, b) they know it irritates Netanyahu and opponents of the agreement, c) they still consider us their enemy, d) they’ve been bluffing all along?

11. Could Netanyahu have had greater influence on the negotiations by trying to work closely with the Obama administration and the European powers instead of mounting a rancorous public campaign, in alliance with Congressional Republicans, to discredit the president and the talks? Or, to put it in Middle East terms, was he wise to be the camel outside the tent pissing in?

12. How much of the solid GOP opposition to the deal is genuinely based on policy disagreement as opposed to reflexive hostility to anything Obama does, and to making this a wedge issue to draw off campaign dollars from wealthy pro-Likud Jewish contributors and please their evangelical base?

13. How viable is AIPAC’s call to dump this agreement and “work with our allies” to intensify the pressure on Iran to make a better deal? Can the group name a single ally that would go along? Does anyone in his right mind think Russian President Vladimir Putin would bow to AIPAC’s urging?

14. Why was it legitimate to make agreements limiting nuclear arms (ours and theirs) with the Soviet Union when it was threatening “we will bury you” and arming global terrorists and Israel’s enemies, but wrong to make similar deals (limiting only theirs) with a far less powerful Iran making less credible threats?

15. When Israel is virtually the only nation totally rejecting this deal, does it say that a) the rest of the world are anti-Semites and Israel haters, b) they just don’t give a damn because Israel is the only one threatened by Iran, or c) that the Israeli government might be wrong?

16. The US is reportedly offering Israel increased military assistance, technology and intelligence sharing in the wake of the Iran deal. Does this reflect a) a US admission that Israel was right in saying this is a flawed deal that threatens Israeli security, b) an effort by the Obama administration to repair relations, c) Obama’s effort to buy off Netanyahu’s opposition to the agreement, d) a face-saving opportunity for Netanyahu to say he has brought attention to the Iran threat and is working to offset it?

17. Will Republicans try to punish Obama for this foreign policy achievement by blocking Senate confirmation of his appointees, passing new sanctions legislation, inserting mischievous amendments in must-pass bills, threatening to shut down the government and passing indignant resolutions?

18. Will this campaign to block the Iran deal, win or lose, prove a fundraising boom for Jewish organizations, which are flooding the mails and phone lines with appeals? How will their supporters, from AIPAC on down, feel about spending so much on a fight that was lost at the outset?

19. Do all the opponents of the Iran deal understand that even if they win in Congress their action will have no bearing on any other country?

20. Did the anonymous White House aide who called Netanyahu a “chickensh*t” have him confused with another denizen of the barnyard, Chicken Little?

21. Has Netanyahu’s failed and alarmist campaign not only damaged US-Israel relations but also revealed Israel’s international isolation and lack of influence – and in fact compounded those problems?

22. Is anyone on any side of the issue capable of an honest and open debate?

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