Iranian Deal & the Sunset of American Resolve
Rabbi Perry Raphael Rank
It is not possible for people of faith to remain silent politically, and yet remain religious, spiritual or godly. The kind of religiosity that builds a concrete wall between church and state, or synagogue and state as the case may be, is the kind of religiosity that is blind to injustice and divorced from ethics. That’s not religiosity as any of us would define it. And so there comes a time when we must comment on a political development because to not do so would be an act of spiritual and moral negligence. And it is in that spirit that I share a few of my own thoughts on the “Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action,” more commonly known as the proposed P5+1 deal with the Islamic Republic of Iran, or just the Iran Deal, that has largely been brokered by the United States.
We can all appreciated the advent of diplomacy over war. It is better to talk than destroy. And in this case, talking or diplomacy has achieved some advantages for the Mideast. It has succeeded in moving the leading State Sponsor of Terrorism, Iran, to commit to a reduction of its uranium supply to no more than half of what it would take to make a bomb; to dismantle 2/3 of its 2,700 uranium-enriching centrifuges from Fordow and to stop refining there; and to agree to permanent, international monitoring of its atomic energy industry by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). In exchange, the economic sanctions that have been imposed upon Iran would be lifted as soon as 2016, as well as certain military sanctions that would follow later. That’s the deal. In spite of its advantages, I don’t like it. Let me tell you why.
I don’t want to give any nation that is a non-nuclear power and views America as the enemy, permission to go nuclear even under a controlled environment. When the mullahs of Iran refer to America as the Great Satan, I get the sense that they are not using the term metaphorically. The cultural system that we promote, that has evolved in a milieu of civil liberties and freedom, is one that espouses equality for women, legitimates homosexual unions, separates religion from political rule, and embraces ethnic and religious diversity as an enriching phenomenon in life. These are cultural norms that even some Americans have difficulty with, let alone the fundamentalist and medieval clerics of Iran’s religious and political leadership. It is not difficult to understand why they think of us as satanic. The former American embassy in Tehran, the place where American diplomats and employees were held hostage for 444 days, is now known as the Museum of Spies. Its walls are plastered with graffiti and a depiction of Lady Liberty shows her to be a skeleton, Death personified, her torch a machine gun. We are Satan, and we are not little. We are the Great Satan. So, no, that’s the kind of country whose nuclear program I would not want to contain; I would rather terminate it, for good.
Had the P5 + 1 agree to lift sanctions in exchange for a non-nuclear Iran, then even with Iran’s bad boy behavior in the neighborhood, the deal would be justified. But the deal does not address Iran’s appetite for supporting terrorism—Hamas in Gaza, Hizballah in Lebanon, the insurgency in Yemen, or Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian regime, a regime that has now retained power at the expense of 220,000 dead by United Nations estimates. Rather than punishing Iran for bankrolling terrorism, the Iran deal rewards an insidious power that is looking for greater power, not less.
The reward itself would come in the form of dollars. Once sanctions are lifted, Iran could have access to $100 billion dollars. In truth, I have read or heard this estimated figure to be as high as $150 billion, and as low as $50 billion dollars. Let’s go with the low estimate. $50 billion is greater than the state budget of Virginia. Why would anyone want a terrorist state to receive that kind of money? Why would we open access to that magnitude of revenue when even under our “tough” sanctions, Iran still had money to spare for supporting their nefarious deeds throughout the Mideast? It makes no sense. This is a time to choke their revenue pipeline, not open it.
Of course, the counter argument is that the world cannot impose sanctions on Iran forever. India and China have much of Iran’s money in frozen bank accounts and will not hold it indefinitely. And that is a sad fact. Sadder still is the idea that American interests have fallen victim to a global community that no longer sees us as Leaders of the Free World, but just another nation that can’t act decisively unless there is a committee of nations in agreement. Who actually is the leader of the Free World? Does that leader exist? The principal broker of this deal, the United States, has negotiated from a position of weakness, and Iran knows it.
What has become of this great nation? Where is the conviction of our principles? The deal includes provisions for the United State cooperating with Iran on projects of common economic and technological interests. This is not the vision of America we were raised on. America does not cooperate with the enemy, especially when allies like Israel or Saudi Arabia openly question the wisdom of the deal. People who don’t know their enemies are in trouble; but the people who don’t know their friends are in deeper trouble. And the same is true of nations.
The Congress must approve this deal, we are told, because without the deal, Iran will be in the fast lane to securing a bomb. CNN on July 24, 2015, quotes the Secretary of State, John Kerry, as follows: “This is not a question of what happens in 15 years or 20 years… This is a question of what happens now, tomorrow, if we don't accept this deal. Because Iran will go right back to its enrichment." Mr, Kerry’s summation reads like an international extortion scheme. We must approve a deal that leaves Iran with limited nuclear capabilities and billions of dollars in revenue or else it will build a bomb. That’s an extortion scheme—and one, oddly enough, initiated by the victim, the western world.
When has satisfying the demands of a thug ever ended well?
It seems to me that threats of an existential nature—we will build a bomb or else!—should not be honored. The deal positions Iran to capitalize off its extortion ploy. Please don’t feed the beasts—it makes them grow stronger.
Iran’s history of consistently violating United Nations resolutions is well-documented. There is every reason to believe that this deal will be violated as well. In fact, commentators do not speak of “if” Iran will violate the agreement but “when” Iran will violate the agreement. Perhaps these violations will be only minor, and only here and there, but here and there over ten or fifteen years evolves into “all over the place,” and the deal does not specify any consequences for multiple, minor infractions. That’s not a minor, but a major omission in a deal of this nature.
But there is no other alternative, Mr. Kerry claims. Actually there is. It’s just not a very popular one. It’s called bombing Iran conventionally before a conflict escalates into—God forbid!—a nuclear clash. It is clear that Iran has used its anti-American and anti-Israel rhetoric to galvanize the Islamic masses within its own nation and beyond, positioning itself to achieve regional hegemony. And sad to say—their hateful rhetoric works. So if the rhetoric works, chances are the regime will not abandon the tactic. It therefore makes no sense to let them build their nuclear capabilities under some sort of supervision while they continue to nurture their hatred of all things western (read: Israel and the United States).
In response to the bombing option, Mr. Kerry says that you cannot bomb away the knowledge of how to build the bomb, and Iran already has that knowledge. True, but the argument is spurious. Obviously, you cannot bomb away knowledge, but bombs are meant to destroy the infrastructure that goes into making weaponry. That’s what you destroy. It’s an inelegant message, but it’s a very powerful message—we won’t stand for state-sponsored terrorism, for international thuggery. If we truly believe in ourselves, in our principles, in what we stand for, then we shouldn’t stand for a country that represents the very opposite of those ideals, particularly one that repeatedly threatens war.
This is a watershed moment in the history of American diplomacy and one in which we dare not remain silent or complacent. This deal changes a dynamic between a 21st century world and another still mired in the medieval period. Time may be universal but humanity does not evolve uniformly, not when one world is applauding homosexuality and the other stoning women to death for infidelity.
What a shame it is for a little country like Israel to have to chastise a great country like America for its myopia and recklessness. America should be older and wiser. We should be more confident and stronger. Instead, we’ve come up with a deal that is a testimony to America’s weakness, lack of resolve, and waning influence within the international community. Shame on us. Congress should vote this deal down.
And don’t worry about there being no other option. Diplomats need to stay in business. They will find a way.
A booklet describing why this is a bad deal
Leon Wieseltier on why this deal is a bad deal
It’s so easy to write our representatives in congress about this deal. Here’s how to do it—