Getty Images / Lior Zaltzman
The case Netanyahu laid out against an Iran deal in his address to Congress revolves around 11 core arguments. Think they sound convincing? Look at those arguments one by one, and you’ll see why each of them is bogus.
Argument #1. More pressure can secure a better deal with Iran than current negotiations. If Iran walks away from talks now, this pressure will eventually bring it back to the table, ready to make more compromises.
Pressure in the form of sanctions — especially multilateral, international sanctions — helped convince Iran to come to the negotiating table. But Iran’s red lines in negotiations, including retaining some level of enrichment, are clear. Additional U.S. pressure now, aimed at forcing the Iranian regime “to its knees,” is far more likely to scuttle talks than to force greater Iranian flexibility, and the failure of diplomacy would be blamed on the U.S., not Iran. One result: no deal to curtail Iran’s nuclear program. Another result: strengthening those in Iran who support weaponization of the nuclear program as a deterrent against attack. And a third result: the almost certain collapse of the international sanctions regime, which has been critical to restraining Iran’s nuclear program so far.
Argument #2. The only good deal with Iran is one that completely or nearly completely dismantles Iran’s nuclear infrastructure, preventing Iran from enriching or limiting Iran to close to zero enrichment.
Zero enrichment or complete dismantlement of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure is both unachievable and unnecessary. It’s unachievable because just as U.S. negotiators must get a deal they can “sell” to their constituencies, Iranian negotiators must be able to sell a deal to their own constituencies as meeting their own red lines. And it’s unnecessary because assuming “zero enrichment” and “complete dismantlement” are genuinely shorthand for “the best possible guarantee that Iran’s nuclear program will remain peaceful,” this goal can be achieved through a nuclear agreement that includes strict limits on Iran’s enrichment capacity and stringent safeguards and transparency with respect to Iran’s nuclear facilities and materials. Insisting on “zero enrichment” or “total dismantlement” guarantees no deal — which means it guarantees that such limits and safeguards are absent.
If you weren’t on Facebook this weekend, then you probably missed a huge love fest going on between Israelis and Iranians. As would be expected, the governments of the two countries were not proclaiming their undying devotion to one another. Rather, it was ordinary Israeli and Iranian citizens who were expressing mutual admiration and a hope that war between their two nations can be avoided.
It’s amazing how quickly good will and gestures of solidarity can spread in the Internet age, even between peoples who generally have nothing to do with one another. On Saturday night, two graphic designers, Israeli couple Ronny Edry and Michal Tamir uploaded photos of themselves superimposed with a logo saying, “Iranians, we will never bomb your country. We ♥ You” to the Facebook page of Pushpin Mehina, a small preparatory school for graphic design students. In no time, others were copying the meme and the Facebook page garnered a thousand “likes.”
No sooner had the Israelis started posting their own versions on the Facebook and the “Israel Loves Iran” blog, than the Iranians came up with their response. By Sunday, they were uploading photos with the logo, “ We ♥ You, Israeli People. The Iranian People do not like any war with any country.” While some posted personal photographs, others utilized historical examples of benevolence by Persians and Iranian toward Jews. One was of a photo of the Mausoleum of Esther and Mordecai in Hamadan, Iran. Another was of Abdol-Hossein Sardari, the “Iranian Schindler” who helped 2,000 Iranian Jews flee France during the Holocaust. Yet another had the seal of Cyrus the Great, the ruler of the Persian Empire from 600-530 BCE, with the tolerant proclamation: “I announce that everyone is free to choose a religion. People are free to live in all regions and take up a job provided that they never violate others’ rights.”
President Barack Obama was more than half way through his address Sunday before the American Israel Public Affairs Committee before he mentioned the issue of the hour: Iran. That may well be because public officials tend to leave the thorniest subjects to later in their speeches. But it struck me as an apt metaphor for American Jewish reaction to the president in this white-hot election year.
Here’s why. Obama devoted the first and largest portion of his Aipac speech to a robust defense of his administration’s policies toward Israel, essentially repeating the phrase he mastered in an interview with Atlantic magazine a few days earlier – that is, he’s got Israel’s back. Anyone who believes this argument will very likely believe the subsequent pledges he made about Iran, because they are logical, systematic, and hold up to the facts as presented.
And those American Jews (and their evangelical Christian counterparts) who don’t believe that this administration has been as staunch an ally of Israel and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu as it should be will simply not believe Obama on Iran, either.
In the end, it’s a matter of trust. And politics.