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Netanyahu's Speech Wins over Many Critics, Raises the Bar for an Iran Nuclear Agreement
Dear Friend of FLAME:
At the AIPAC Policy Conference I was worried that many of the 16,000 Israel supporters in attendance would have their enthusiasm dampened anticipating Benjamin Netanyahu's controversial speech before Congress just 72 hours ahead.
Not to worry: The faithful were revved up and gave "Bibi" a boisterous, stand-up welcome for his brief AIPAC speech, and we were surely heartened by his superbly crafted presentation before Congress the next day.
We weren't alone. Many commentators who had warned against the Prime Minister's much-criticized congressional appearance were won over. Dozens of op-eds appeared in prominent newspapers over the subsequent few days, acknowledging that Netanyahu raised the bar for both President Obama and the U.S. Congress.
Most pointedly, how will a 10-year phase out of sanctions---leaving Iran with only a (hoped-for) one-year break-out period to a nuclear bomb---protect Israel and the rest of the world? (Answer: It won't.)
For its part, Congress should stick to its guns and insist a) that stiffer sanctions be threatened now to keep the pressure on Iran to agree to a good deal and b) that Congress have final approval over any deal that Obama and the P5+1 nations negotiate with the Islamic Republic.
This week's FLAME Hotline featured article---by former Iran and Middle East negotiator for three U.S. presidents Dennis Ross---is just one of many op-eds that hooked into Mr. Netanyahu's themes. Ross is currently counselor at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. His short piece summarizes shocking gaps in the deal Mr. Obama is presently negotiating with Iran.
I think you'll find the facts Ross assembles here to be useful when you discuss the Iran sanctions, congressional approval and the bad deal that Obama and the P5+1 seem to have on the table today.
It's critical that supporters of U.S. and Israeli security redouble our efforts to fight a deal that actually paves the road to a nuclear-weapon-armed Iran. Please pass this FLAME Hotline issue along to your contacts today.
Thanks for your support of FLAME and of Israel!
Obama needs to answer Netanyahu
By Dennis Ross, USA Today, March 4, 2015
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a strong case to the Congress about why he thinks the potential agreement with Iran on its nuclear program is a "very bad deal."
Leaving aside his fears that lifting sanctions will provide Iran more resources to pursue trouble-making in the Middle East, the prime minister worries that a deal that permits Iran to be a threshold nuclear state will not prevent it from acquiring nuclear weapons but actually pave the way for it to do so.
Netanyahu believes the break-out time for producing weapons-grade uranium will inevitably be too short—indeed, less than the year President Obama speaks about —and that inspections of the Iranian program will necessarily be too limited and, in any case, promise no action in the face of violations.
Worse, Iran will be treated similar to Japan or the Netherlands after the agreement expires in 10 years to 15 years , permitting Iran to build tens of thousands of centrifuges and enabling it to produce a weapon at a time of its choosing.
Accepting the mantra that "no deal is better than a bad deal," Netanyahu offers the alternative of insisting on better terms and increasing the pressure on the Iranians until a more credible agreement is reached. He does not fear the Iranians walking away from the negotiating table because, in his words , they need the deal more than the U.S. and its partners.
While the Obama administration is unlikely to accept his argument that it should simply negotiate better and harder, it should not dismiss the concerns Netanyahu raises about the emerging deal. Indeed, the administration's argument that there is no better alternative than the deal it is negotiating begs the question of whether the prospective agreement is acceptable.
And, here, the administration needs to explain why the deal it is trying to conclude actually will prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons for the lifetime of the agreement and afterwards. It needs to explain why the combination of the number and quality of centrifuges, their output, and the ship-out from Iran of enriched uranium will, in fact, ensure that the break-out time for the Iranians will not be less than one year. Either this combination adds up or it does not, but there should be an explicit answer to Netanyahu's charge that Iran will be able to break out much more quickly.
Similarly, there should be an answer on how the verification regime is going to work to ensure that we can detect, even in a larger nuclear program, any Iranian violation of the agreement. The issue of verification is critical not just because Iran's past clandestine nuclear efforts prove it cannot be trusted , but also because the administration has made a one-year break-out time the key measure of success of the agreement. But we can be certain that Iran will be one year away from being able to produce a bomb's supply of weapons-grade uranium only if we can detect what they are doing when they do it.
Obviously, detection is only part of the equation. We cannot wait to determine what we will do about violations when they happen. Iran must know in advance what the consequences are for violations, particularly if we want to deter them in the first place. This clearly goes to the heart of Netanyahu's concerns: If he had high confidence that we would impose harsh consequences in response to Iranian violations, including the use of force if we caught Iran dashing toward a weapon, he would be less fearful of the agreement he believes is going to emerge.
But he does not see that, and he fears that, as with past arms control agreements, we will seek to discuss violations and not respond to them until it is too late. The administration should address this fear and prove it means what it says by spelling out different categories of violations and the consequences for each - and then seek congressional authorization to empower this president and his successors to act on these consequences.
If applied also to Iranian moves toward a nuclear weapon after the expiration of the deal, the administration would truly be answering the most significant of the concerns that Netanyahu raised. Maybe then, this episode of U.S.-Israeli tension would be overcome.
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