U.S. President Barack Obama admitted in an interview last week that upon expiration of the deal with Tehran, Iran’s breakout time to a nuclear weapon would be “almost down to zero.” The presumed guarantee that this breakout time is not reached earlier, or possibly much earlier, is the verification mechanism called for in the deal.
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But who trusts the Iranians? They are serial prevaricators who continue to claim that their vast nuclear project envisions only peaceful uses of nuclear energy, and that nuclear weapons are the furthest things from their minds. Obama has been so eager to close this deal that ballistic missiles the Iranians developed to deliver nuclear bombs have been left off the agenda of the negotiations.
Nor for that matter, were the Iranians asked to document their nuclear activities to date so they could serve as a baseline for verification of their future activities. Iran’s record of support for terrorism, from Buenos Aires to Iraq and Yemen, and its arming of Hezbollah and Hamas were ignored. The use of the money that will flow to Iran if the sanctions are lifted can easily be surmised.
When Israel suggested that Iranian recognition of Israel be made part of the agreement, Obama called it a “misjudgment.” Nothing should be allowed to ruffle the Iranians’ feathers. This deal, even if it is a very bad deal, must be signed. The alternative according to Obama is war — not increasing the economic pressure on Iran to cease its efforts to obtain nuclear weapons, the kind of pressure that brought them to the negotiating table in the first place, but war. Obama wants to sign this deal no matter what.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will go down in history as the man who sounded the wake-up call for the entire world about the danger of the Iranian project to attain a nuclear weapons capability. He will be remembered as the man responsible for the sanctions that got Iran to agree to enter negotiations. For a while he was a lone voice in the wilderness before his message began to be heeded by many.
In Israel there was much skepticism. Some said they were tired of hearing him talking about the danger of Iran instead of the cost of living and the price of housing. And during the election campaign no blows against Netanyahu were spared. He was accused of endangering Israel by ruining the relationship with Israel’s ally the United States.
Self-appointed experts on America claimed he was rupturing the bipartisan support that Israel had traditionally enjoyed in Congress — that Israel would suffer immeasurable damage during the rest of Obama’s term. And to top it off we were told that since he had set the goal of keeping Iran from attaining nuclear weapons and did not attain that goal, he was a failure.
It took the support for his position in the United States to still these voices. The support came not only from Republicans but also from Democrats — Americans who understood that the proposed deal was not only a danger to Israel but also to the United States and the entire world.
Last week Henry Kissinger and George Shultz, two highly respected former secretaries of state, criticized the framework agreement with Iran in a joint op-ed in The Wall Street Journal. “Mixing shrewd diplomacy with open defiance of UN resolutions, Iran has gradually turned the negotiation on its head,” they wrote.
The time has come for all Israelis, both the winners and losers of last month’s election, to give unqualified support to Netanyahu’s leadership in trying to keep Iran from reaching the bomb. The danger is no fiction — it is real. Despite the framework agreement and Obama’s resolve to sign a final agreement, it may still be possible to stop the Iranian bomb. A great deal depends on Israel. Maybe it’s not too late.