If he wins the Senate race in Pennsylvania this coming November, Mehmet Oz, famous throughout the world as Dr. Oz, will become the first Muslim ever to hold a United States Senate seat.
Mehmet and I have been friends ever since we worked for Oprah Winfrey together on the Oprah and Friends Radio Network in 2008. I took Mehmet and his family to Israel in 2013, where he met with prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders and was warmly welcomed by the Israeli public.
With reports that the Biden administration may announce a new deal with Iran as early as this week, I quickly reached out to Mehmet to get his public take, for the first time, on the type of Islam represented by the mullahs of Tehran and Iran deal 2.0.
Now that the Iran deal was coming back, what would Dr. Oz say? The following is an almost verbatim transcript of a call we had Sunday, the day after my organization, the World Values Network, took out a full-page ad in The New York Times condemning the lifting of sanctions against Iran while Vladimir Putin, the face of evil in the modern world, was reeling under sanctions imposed for his war crimes against Ukraine.
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach: The media are rife with stories that seem highly accurate, that the Biden administration – along with Russia, bizarrely enough – is about to announce a new nuclear deal with Iran. What we seem to know is that it’s going to involve $100b. in unfrozen assets being returned to Iran. There may be, as Iran is demanding, a declassification of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps – responsible for the murder of hundreds of American servicemen – as a terrorist organization. And, of course, the legitimization of the Iranian nuclear program, with Iran’s continued vows that it will annihilate Israel, amid its protestations that its nuclear program is only for peaceful purposes. This is a watershed moment. Mehmet, how do you feel about this deal?
Dr. Oz: It is a horrible deal for America, for Israel, and for the entire world. We’re transferring an effort to negotiate with one totalitarian autocrat with another, and don’t understand, frankly, looking at this, in any objective fashion, how this would work out well for our planet. And it just emboldens individuals who have taken extremist positions, and allows them to continue to look good in the eyes of the people they’re ruling. We’ve been fooled how many times now? And it continues to repeat itself. People trusted Putin; they didn’t handle his messages as aggressively as we should have. For whatever reason, he began to feel that this was too good to be true. And he decided on that desire to move forward. We’re going to do the exact same thing with Iran, which does not deserve us giving them additional efforts to act on their threats to destroy the State of Israel.
RSB: Well, Mehmet, you’ve taken a very strong and very moral position on Ukraine. You called Putin a thug. You described him generally as an international menace. Now, you’re rightly pointing out, the United States is demonstrating the effectiveness of sanctions on Putin. Why would they lift sanctions against Iran? What can we do to stop this kind of appeasement of evil, of a terror-funding regime that is the foremost sponsor of terrorism in the world?
Dr. Oz: Well, first of all, I don’t think the gamble that’s being taken is a wise one. You’d have to ask [US President Joe] Biden and his administration [who hope] that they will achieve some stabilization of oil prices by allowing Iranian oil onto the market. There are rumors about how much Iranian oil is out there, but I do believe that much of it is not high quality. So it will not actually address some of the shortages that are created by, for example, an embargo on Russian oil. Which, if it would ever to be done, the first step we should be taking – which again I was stunned that it was not discussed at the State of the Union address or subsequently – is that America should allow our natural resources to be harvested. Natural gas itself is a very clean source of energy, and would make us, from a national security perspective, safer. We’d also put a big dent in energy prices, because we’d produce our own and be self-sufficient again like we were under the Trump administration. But mostly, we wouldn’t be making deals with the Iranians, who have not acted in good faith on prior discussions and have made threats that I don’t think should be sustained.
RSB: I’ve always been very proud – as the world’s most famous physician – of your affirmation of your Islamic faith. I have a lot of belief in people who have a strong identity. And not only did you never deny your Islamic identity, you affirmed it.
We visited Israel together. You, to me, are a model of the moderate, passionate, faithful Islam that created the world’s first universities, a world faith that flourished with the Jewish community in the Iberian Peninsula, what we call the golden age of Spanish Jewry.
I was just in Dubai in the UAE, where I witnessed the miraculous Abraham Accords. It’s a very Islamic country, and yet it’s the most prosperous economically. It’s a technological superpower. They welcome me with my yarmulke, my tzitzit, with such incredible respect. I was there with the president of the State of Israel, Isaac Herzog, who was there on a state visit.
Talk to me for a moment about how you see Iran and the extremist Islamism, which is being exported, propagated by its government, with its constant threats of annihilation against the Jewish people and “Death to America.” What kind of Islam is being promoted by the government of Iran?
Dr. Oz: Well, Shmuley, Muslims hate terrorists, extremist Muslims, more than any other group – because they killed more Muslims than any other group. And they live side by side with these folks, and they understand exactly how damaged they are. And these terrorists have placed tremendous pressure on democracy in the Middle East. They have hated Israel, in part to distract from their own failings. And I believe that Muslims who are passionate about individuals and communities thriving, which is the very core of Islam, which is the community doing well. Which is why there’s so much desire to live in communities with each other peacefully. That was the whole purpose, the whole thrust of Muhammad’s teachings. And yet, it gets hijacked.
And Iran is a good example of this. They’re not a good player in the region. They’re disliked by most of the neighboring countries. You were just talking about energy. If Iran really just wanted energy, and with a nuclear source – they don’t have to have nuclear weapons. It’s surprising that the United States would not be acting more forcefully in this regard. And it’s going to be a pattern of weakness.
RSB: So you would see any potential deal with Iran as an act of appeasement on the part of the United States with an extremist, violent terror-sponsoring government?
Dr. Oz: I think I certainly would. And I suspect most Americans, at some point, will appreciate that’s exactly what we’ve done. And remember, once they get going, it’s harder to pull them back. It’s harder to put them back in the bottle.
And it’s been a challenge to witness what’s happening with our measures in Ukraine, but this will be the single biggest error, I believe. Because you’re aiding and abetting an enemy. At least many of the other errors which were harmful and unfortunate, at least weren’t giving a free rein to individuals who do not have the best interest of the Western world – and big important allies like Israel.
RSB: President Biden has been very forceful in his language against Putin. And he’s to be commended. But people are asking whether he’s doing enough. Americans don’t want troops on the ground in Ukraine. But there’s questions of a no-fly zone, there’s questions of an oil and gas embargo against Russia, as these resources are funding the war. Is there anything more that you think we should be doing to aid the Ukrainians?
Dr. Oz: Well, I think we have to embargo oil. There’s just no way around that. I can’t imagine us not taking that step. It’s the majority of their exports. It will bring them to their knees economically at some point. Now, I don’t know if it’s going to make a difference for the poor folks who are fighting valiantly in Ukraine, because Putin seems unhinged. But, nevertheless, we’re going to have to start taking bold steps somewhere. And this is a much more important step than seizing the yachts of oligarchs.
I think our major challenge right now is not to make additional unforced errors like this Iranian deal. When you have a bad case, an outcome that’s not desirable, you don’t make the next patient pay the price.
RSB: Iran has called Israel a cancer and a scab that has to be removed. This began with Ayatollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic, and now continues with his successor, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, with the same kind of genocidal rhetoric, which is, of course, a violation of the 1948 Genocide Convention at the UN, which expressly forbids any kind of genocidal threats by one UN member state against another. So, Israel is being threatened.Now, you traveled to Israel with me in 2013. As a senator, what kind of policies are you going to pursue to ensure that America’s foremost ally in the Middle East is always protected, given these genocidal threats, especially which can result from the Iran nuclear agreement?
Dr. Oz: Well, I want to emphasize that we should do this, both because Israel has been a loyal ally, and it’s a thriving democracy; but as Americans, we also want exactly those things, right? We want people who’ve been able to make fruit grow in the desert; innovation that can serve as a role model for surrounding countries and, in fact, those around the world. So I will commit to ensuring that the security of Israel is protected and reinforced, giving them access to tools to make sure they’re kept free of some of the harm that could be foisted on them by surrounding neighbors.
I’m also very confident that as we move forward in decades to come, there’ll be many more opportunities for us to interface with Israel and continue to highlight the wonderful solutions they’ve been able to bring to that region of the world. It’s not just the Middle East. If you want to find a way of allowing people to live fruitfully in whatever environment they’re in, you want to reinforce what Israel has been able to accomplish.
RSB: As a United States senator, will you strongly oppose any kind of agreement with Iran and try to overturn it, to make sure they don’t get sanctions relief until they stop genocidal threats, and that there’s no legitimization of their nuclear program?
Dr. Oz: So, Shmuley, I will, as a senator, want to reverse what might get signed. I’m monitoring this situation very closely. I know you appreciate that I jumped on as fast as I could to this interview with you. I will continue to push hard for the for justice and democracy, to prosper the Middle East; and giving Iran access to nuclear weapons does not address those. God bless you, my friend.
RSB: God bless you, too.
The writer, whom Newsweek and The Washington Post call “the most famous rabbi in America,” recently published Kosher Hate: How to Fight Jew-Hatred, Racism, and Bigotry about the necessity of resisting evil. Follow him on Instagram and Twitter @RabbiShmuley