Dual loyalty and the Iran deal

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)
Secretary Kerry Poses for a Group Photo With Fellow EU, P5+1 Foreign Ministers and Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif After Reaching Iran Nuclear Deal
The JCPOA “places significant limits on Iran’s nuclear program for a decade or longer.
At the same time, the accord allows Iran access to resources that will enhance its ability to carry out a worrisome agenda... the agreement in no way resolves the problems posed by Iran’s nuclear program” –
Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations
Why are Jewish Americans, who believe the current Iran deal not to be in America’s best interest, questioned about their loyalty to their country? An answer may be found in the dismissive attitude of the deal’s supporters, for instance the editorialists of The New York Times, who said the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) is “an agreement unquestionably in America’s interest.” From that perspective, the only conclusion a reader can draw is that Americans opposed to the current deal must be foolish or worse, disingenuous, deliberately advocating something that runs against their own country’s interests. Other like-minded supporters of the deal go even further, like the Daily Kos and Move On.
They have attacked Democratic Jewish members of Congress who oppose the deal, disparaging critics as Jewish warmongers or traitors. These ugly ad-hominem dual loyalty charges coincided with a Times front-page article, “Debate on Iran Fiercely Splits American Jews,” which conveniently forgot to mention that the majority of non-Jewish Americans are also against this deal, do not trust Iran not to cheat, and do not want billions of dollars released to the anti-American mullahs who chant “Death to America” and hope to wipe Israel off the map.
Americans, Jewish and non-Jewish, prefer a diplomatic solution to war – just not one that they believe weakens our security interests, and leaves Israel in a mortal predicament.
As Obama supporter William Galston wrote in The Wall Street Journal, “President [Barack] Obama is winning the battle for support of enough Democrats to sustain his veto... but he is losing the war for public support of the deal.” There is a reason for that.
According to the The Hill, a non-partisan political newspaper, “a vast majority (82%) of the public would oppose the White House moving forward with the nuclear deal with Iran without the support of Congress (Secure America Now survey August 2015).” Democratic pollster Patrick Caddell who helped conduct the survey said, “It’s not easy to find voters who are comfortable with the secret side deals allowing Iran to self-inspect their own nuclear activities.”
The White House in its desire to fast-track this deceived Congress. The Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act that the president signed clearly stated that the agreement, “entered into or made between Iran and any other parties, would be accessible to Congress for review.” There are at least two side agreements, which the administration can’t get its story straight about – even whether they have read them or not.
Mind-boggling! But what is clear is that the deal completely outsourced compliance verification to an international agency not under our control.
The list of reasons Americans of all stripes are troubled by this deal is significant and compelling. But before discussing some of the litany of problems with the agreement one must ask a simple question: if a Republican president had negotiated this agreement, would the Times editorial board be so supportive of it? Would they even support it at all? Passage of this deal has more to do with political allegiance, winning and legacy than with American security interests.
Supporters of the agreement often tout the idea the Iranian people are inherently pro-American, and argue that the transformative nature of this deal will empower the liberals of Iranian society. Yet they seem blind to the much more likely possibility that the deal strengthens hardliners, further suppressing liberalization. Billions of dollars in sanctions relief, while simultaneously legitimating the current government with the blessings of the international community is not a way to strengthen the mullah’s opponents in Iran. The belief that an Islamist regime will evolve and become moderate with financial empowerment and legitimization has no historical precedent.
Supporters of the deal point to Iranian apologists like Seyed Hossein Mousavian of Princeton University, a former spokesman for Iran’s nuclear negotiators. He claims that if Congress overrides the deal it will “surely lead to radicalism... at the expense of pragmatism in Iran.” If the definition of “Iranian pragmatism” is no moderation in incendiary rhetoric against America, and no letup in support of terrorist proxies like Bashar Assad and Hezbollah, then he is correct.
While the Times does acknowledge that Iran’s exported terrorism threatens our regional allies, it unfortunately glosses over the Iranian domestic human rights transgressions, misogyny, violent intolerance of criticism and criminalization of homosexuality.
How can a progressive paper or anyone who champions human rights make common cause with one of the most illiberal regimes on earth, a threat to its own people, based on the hope that the next generation of Iranians will be able to overthrow their totalitarian overlords? What about today’s Iranians who languish in jails for speaking out for their beliefs, while the supreme leader is the one who chooses who can run for the presidency of the Islamic Republic? Remember over 600 Iranians wanted to run for the presidency in the previous election, but only six Islamists were hand-picked by the ayatollah to run.
As for American national security interests, the message of this agreement to our allies in the region is that we will be there for them in words, but in action we may abandon them. Why? They all listened and read the voluminous statements from the president and Secretary of State John Kerry over the past two years, as to what they promised would be part of the deal, and they see what was eventually conceded.
American allies in the region and throughout the world now question American security promises, when they see many of the previous red lines on inspections, centrifuges and nuclear facilities crossed.
Israel is and will remain for the foreseeable future a strategic American security asset. Why is Israeli security indispensable to our American national security interests? We need stable allies in the region to advance our interests. We did try to find other reliable allies in the region but have failed to find even one. The Turkish government under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has moved into the Islamist camp, while killing our Kurdish allies. Egypt is held together with an iron hand, and just a few years ago in a fair election overwhelmingly voted for Islamist parties. Jordan is overwhelmed with refugees, and Hamas or Islamic State sympathizers could easily overwhelm its majority Palestinian population.
Saudi Arabia is a repressive Wahhabi regime whose policies fly in the face of American values. In the future their vast supply of American arms and missiles, and nuclear potential, could easily fall into the hands of radical Sunni Islamists.
Israel is also the only secure naval port in the eastern Mediterranean for American ships, a secure storage base for America’s forward placement of arms, an indispensable intelligence resource for American security, and an incubator for military advancements saving American lives.
Weakening it by strengthening an enemy that wants to “annihilate” it is not in American security interests.
This agreement as it currently stands weakens both American and Israeli security interests, which are intertwined for the benefit of both nations. Americans who are Jewish or non-Jewish, Democratic or Republican, who see fault with this deal are not the enemy of American interests as the Times characterizes them. They have compelling evidence that this deal makes America weaker, and they represent the best of American democracy, the ability to freely challenge presidential decisions and opinions that they disagree with.
The author is the director of MEPIN™ (Middle East Political and Information Network™), and a regular contributor to The Jerusalem Post.
MEPIN™ is a Middle East research analysis read by members of Congress, their foreign policy advisers, members of the Knesset, journalists and organizational leaders. He regularly briefs members of Congress on issues related to the Middle East.