Vote Yes, then strengthen the Iran deal

Former ADL national chairman expresses support for international agreement.

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 Iran nuclear agreement is a complicated matter and has generated a wide spectrum of opinion and, most unfortunately, many vituperative comments on all sides. As a past national chairman of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), I regret taking a public position that differs at least in part from ADL’s on the agreement, but in this instance I feel it is necessary.
I believe this accord is the best path forward.
Five nations – China, Germany, France, Russia and the United Kingdom – joined the United States in reaching this deal. The European Union also has expressed its support.
At this point, there is no turning back. The United States’ international partners will not go back to the negotiating table. A congressional vote of disapproval would put Iran closer not further away from building nuclear weapons.
The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) is far from ideal, but if fully implemented and adhered to will halt Iran’s march toward nuclear weapons for at least 15 years and will ensure that sanctions are not lifted unless Iran adheres to the many requirements set out in the accord. Numerous Israeli and US military officials have endorsed the deal – which provides International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors full access and continuous surveillance of all Iran’s nuclear facilities including underground sites.
Congressional disapproval would have negative consequences and the US would lose the trust and respect of its negotiating partners. Without this deal, Iran would be just three months away from a nuclear bomb, no doubt ensuring a nuclear arms race in the region. Iran no longer would be diplomatically isolated. Instead, it would be the US that would be isolated on the world stage, and Israel even more so.
There are steps, however, that Congress can take to strengthen the agreement without requiring a renegotiation.
And on this I agree with ADL. Neither “yes” nor “no” is the end of the conversation.
We need a bipartisan effort to take actions to strengthen the position of the US and our allies, measures that can work in concert with the JCPOA.
In a letter to Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-New York) seeking his support for a deal, President Barack Obama noted his commitment to ensuring that Israel maintains its qualitative military edge in the Middle East. The president said that he had recently authorized a $1.88 billion multi-year munitions resupply package for Israel. Beyond that, Israel needs its own military option to deter Iran from violating the agreement. Congress must ensure that Israel indeed not only has access to all the munitions that the president promised, but that the US also transfer to Israel the Massive Ordinance Penetrator (MOP). By providing this bunker-busting bomb and the means to carry it, the United States would empower Israel to make its own decision regarding Iran’s underground nuclear facilities instead of relying on the United States for military force.
US officials have stated that the military option remains on the table if Iran fails to live up to the accord. That is too general an option. The US can, and should, bolster the threat by making the military option a formal policy.
Congress should boost deterrence by authorizing President Obama and future presidents to take any and all necessary actions – economic, diplomatic and military – if Iran significantly violates the agreement.
Congress should appoint an expert in nuclear weapons to be a liaison with the IAEA, someone who can meet with IAEA officials, and report back to Congress on a regular basis, including on any side deals that Iran made or may try to make with the IAEA.
Among the legitimate fears of those who oppose the agreement is that as sanctions are lifted and Iran’s bank funds are released, Iran will increase its support for terrorist groups like Hamas and Hezbollah. The US should work with European partners, as well as other Middle East nations, to reach a separate agreement to put in place new sanctions should Iran provide further support for terrorist groups.
Opposing the deal in the hopes of renegotiating a better, stronger deal is not a credible option. The parties to it will not go back to the table.
What we do, and what we should do, is approve the deal on the table and strengthen it in other ways.
The above are merely a few of the steps that can be taken to strengthen the JCPOA – a deal that Israeli scientists have said is “technically sound, stringent and innovative” and would “provide the necessary assurance in the coming decade and more that Iran is not developing nuclear weapons.”
The author is a former national chairman of the Anti-Defamation League.