Iran’s charm campaign appears to have worked. Pictures of Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif smiling broadly at reporters while playfully holding his ears in an attempt to better hear their questions have disarmed the Western world and paved the way for an agreement that is being blasted in Israel and in some quarters in the United States as irresponsible and dangerous.
That smiling man joking with the reporters represents the most evil regime on earth, one which has not given up its nuclear aspirations and which will use the hundreds of billions of dollars that will flow into its economy upon the lifting of sanctions to increase its sponsorship of terrorism worldwide.
It’s a regime that can’t be trusted to keep its word. As former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton said this week, whatever it agreed to in terms of containing its nuclear program is easily reversible. Moreover, it relates to its signed commitments as merely the starting point for the next round of negotiations.
Though all the details of the deal haven’t been disclosed, it is already clear that the most important element of the agreement, unrestricted supervision, has been whittled down to something called “managed access.” In simple terms that means that before inspectors will be allowed to enter a nuclear facility they will have to give the Iranians two weeks’ notice — enough time to get rid of the incriminating evidence.
But it’s worse than that. According to Infrastructures Minister Yuval Steinitz, who was previously the strategic affairs minister with responsibility for coordinating Israeli policy on Iran, the agreement has even more limitations when it comes to “military sites,” which in Iran means half the country. In the case of these sites a committee — including Iranian representatives — will have to determine whether access should be granted inspectors, and their deliberations could take months.
For Israel, as well as for moderate Arab nations in the region like Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan, the agreement is disastrous. It allows Iran to remain a nuclear threshold state, with breakout ability of between a few months and a year, and, as noted, wholly ineffective supervision mechanisms in place.
It rescues Iran from economic despair and diplomatic isolation, putting it in a better position to increase its support for Hizbullah, Hamas and others. Thanks to this deal, state-of-the-art missiles and weapons systems will be flowing into Lebanon and Gaza, posing a serious and immediate threat to the Jews of Israel.
True, the United States is trying to mitigate that threat by offering Israel weapons, but there is no question that the influx of so much weaponry into the region is destabilizing. (And we haven’t even mentioned the flow of weapons from other sources. France, for example, has signed arms sale deals totaling $12 billion.)
Finally, the agreement, in the best of circumstances, leaves Iran in 10 years’ time within touching distance of having the bomb.
Assuming Iran finally signs the deal, the spotlight turns from Vienna to Washington, where Congress will have 60 days to study the agreement, debate its pluses and minuses and cast its vote. Congress can reject the deal, but the president has veto power which can only be overridden with a two-thirds majority. At this stage, it’s considered doubtful that opponents of the deal will be able to persuade enough Democrats to switch sides, especially when the president’s international standing is at stake.
Israel must proceed with caution. On the one hand it faces an existential threat and has a right, constitutionally and morally, to try and sway Congress in advance of the vote. On the other, it must treat the administration with respect, even as it points to the dangers of what it regards as a fatally flawed agreement.
As usual, some in Israel are playing politics. There is across-the-board condemnation of the agreement, but also attempts to blame Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu for not preventing it, for not being invited to participate in the Vienna talks. That’s unfair. Israel would never have been allowed to participate in the talks, no matter how friendly the prime minister was to the current administration, because the Iranians wouldn’t have allowed it. And the prime minister has succeeded in putting the nuclear threat on the agenda, even if the outcome of the talks, at this point, have not been as hoped for.
Finally, never have we been more aware that our fate as Jews, in Israel and around the world, is not dependent on countries or agreements. If we are being confronted by the terrible prospects of a nuclear Iran, it is in order to get us to turn to Avinu ShebaShamayim with intense tefillos, motivated by genuine concern for our fellow Jews and a desire to draw closer to our Creator as we enter the month of Menachem Av.