Opinion

The Results of the Iran Nuclear Deal

The dangers to Israel implied by the agreement were simply ignored by Obama and the other signatories, and now Israel is left to its own devices

Iranian President Hassan Rohani leaves a press conference in Tehran, Iran, January 17, 2017.
Vahid Salemi/AP

A little more than two years after the signature of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action between Iran and the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany. It is time to take stock of what the results are so far.

Iran is not a nuclear power at the moment but has the capability to become one on relatively short notice. It has continued to develop its ballistic missile arsenal, whose primary objective is to launch nuclear warheads against those Iran considers its enemy. And Iran, relieved of the economic sanctions that had forced it into the negotiations, has used resources that have become available to project its power in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen. It keeps threatening Israel.

It is arguable just how quickly Iran could go nuclear if it so decides. Iranian President Hassan Rohani recently declared to the Iranian parliament that “Iran could return to conditions more advanced than before the negotiations within hours.” Even discounting some of this as bluster aimed at his enemies at home and abroad, the time required for Iran to go nuclear would be at most a few months.

The nuclear deal neglected to address Iran’s ballistic missiles, and ignored Iran’s well-known ambitions to become the dominant power in the Middle East. Barack Obama, the architect of the agreement with Tehran, then stood by while the slaughter in Syria continued, and Iran and Russia moved in to take over. Now the Iranians and their proxy, Hezbollah, are approaching Israel’s borders.

As Benjamin Netanyahu said at the time, it was a bad deal. Bad for Israel and bad for the world. The prime minister did his level best to prevent the confirmation of the agreement by the Congress of the United States.

There was general agreement in Israel that it was a bad deal, but Netanyahu’s appearance before both houses of Congress came in for criticism from the opposition. He is going to ruin Israel’s relations with the United States, Israel’s only friend and ally, it was claimed. This will be the end of bipartisan support for Israel in the Congress, it was argued.

PM Netanyahu addressing Congress, March 3, 2015.

Actually, he did what was incumbent upon an Israeli prime minister to do: make his best efforts to try and stop a deal that would cause damage to Israel’s interests. The U.S.-Israeli relationship has not only survived his appearance before the U.S. Congress, but it is better today than it has been in a long time. And support for Israel in the Congress continues to be, as it has been for many years, bipartisan – Democratic and Republican. There are some lessons to be learned from this short-sighted view of the Israeli-U.S. relationship that was adopted by so many at the time. It is true that the task of the opposition is to oppose, but not at the cost of losing sight of Israel’s most vital interests.

Now Israel is stuck with contending with growing Iranian influence approaching its borders. To the threat of over 100,000 Hezbollah rockets and missiles in Lebanon has been added the danger of Hezbollah and Iranian militias attempting to approach the Golan Heights. If not the direct result of the nuclear deal with Iran, it has certainly been compounded by that agreement. The dangers to Israel implied by it were simply ignored by Obama and the other signatories, and now Israel, although dealing with a much more friendly administration in Washington, is left to its own devices.

Everyone has to be put on notice that Israel is fully aware of the approaching danger and will not hesitate to deal with it before it is too late. Netanyahu’s visit to Sochi was intended to let President Vladimir Putin know in no uncertain terms that Israel will not stand by impassively as the dangers accrue. This time the opposition seems to agree.