A ‘not terrible’ deal and its discontents

A ‘not terrible’ deal and its discontents

Let’s start with the basic understanding that there are valid arguments for and against the Iran nuclear agreement and then take a look at the issues, players, and options.

1. Is John Kerry really so naive he believes Iran won’t use some of its unfrozen assets to arm and assist its terrorist allies like Hizbullah or Hamas? He said, “They’re not allowed to do that, even outside this agreement. There is a UN resolution that specifically applies to them not being allowed to transfer to Hizbullah.”

2. If Republicans applauded Ronald Reagan’s “trust but verify” as a standard for agreements with the much more powerful Soviet Union, why are they saying Barack Obama’s tougher version, “Don’t trust, verify,” is not good enough? 

3. Why does Bibi Netanyahu portray the deal as a dire threat to Israel’s survival when the “prevailing assessment in the Israel Defense Forces and other security agencies in Israel is that the nuclear agreement in itself is not terrible and that it does, in fact, defer Iran’s nuclearization for 10 or 15 years, at least” (Ben Caspit in Al-Monitor)

4. How much of Netanyahu’s opposition to the Iran deal is an excuse to avoid making peace with the Palestinians? He has said repeatedly that a peace deal would have to wait until the Iranian nuclear threat is dealt with. 

5. Is the Netanyahu/Republican/AIPAC acrimonious multi-million-dollar campaign against Obama and the Iran deal driving Democrats away from Israel and further eroding the bipartisan support the Jewish state has long enjoyed on Capitol Hill? 

6. Are Republican predictions that opposition to the agreement will drive Jewish voters out of the Democratic Party into their fold realistic or fantasy? Are Jews really the single-issue voters Republicans hope they are?

7. Will the public understand that the purpose of the deal is to control — not eliminate — Iran’s nuclear program and that it never was intended as a vehicle to free Americans jailed in Iran, end Iranian support for terrorists, stop chanting “Death to America” and “Death to Israel,” and end Holocaust denial? Will critics of the deal intentionally continue to conflate the two to justify their opposition?

8. Has anyone told Bibi that if you find yourself in a deep hole, stop digging and start looking for a way out? That means recognizing that he can’t stop the agreement but he can try to repair the damage his bitter and partisan campaign has done to relations with the country that gives him $3 billion-plus a year and is offering a generous increase.

9. Are Iranian leaders boasting about this deal because a) they are trying to overcome the opposition from their hardliners, b) they know it irritates Netanyahu and opponents of the agreement, c) they still consider us their enemy, or d) they’ve been bluffing all along?

10. Could Bibi have had greater influence on the negotiations by trying to work closely with the Obama administration and the European powers instead of mounting a rancorous public opposition campaign, in alliance with Republicans? Or, to put it in Middle East terms, was he wise to be the camel outside the tent peeing in?

11. How much of the GOP opposition to the deal is genuinely based on policy disagreement as opposed to reflexive hostility to anything Obama does, and on making this a wedge issue to draw off campaign dollars from wealthy pro-Likud Jewish contributors and please their evangelical base?

12. How viable is AIPAC’s call to dump this agreement and “work with our allies” to intensify the pressure on Iran to make a better deal? Can the group name a single ally that would go along? 

13. Why was it legitimate to make agreements limiting nuclear arms (ours and theirs) with the Soviet Union when it was threatening “we will bury you” and arming global terrorists and Israel’s enemies, but it’s wrong to make similar deals (limiting only theirs) with a far-less-powerful Iran making less-credible threats? 

14. The United States is reportedly offering Israel increased military assistance, technology, and intelligence sharing in the wake of the Iran deal. Does this reflect a) a U.S. admission that Israel was right in saying this is a flawed deal that threatens Israeli security, b) an effort by the Obama administration to repair relations, c) Obama’s effort to buy off Bibi’s opposition to the agreement, or d) a face-saving opportunity for Bibi to say he has brought attention to the Iran threat and is working to offset it?

15. Will this campaign to block the Iran deal — win or lose — prove a fund-raising boom for Jewish organizations, which are flooding the mails and phone lines with appeals? How will their supporters, from AIPAC on down, feel about spending so much on a fight that was lost at the outset?

16. Has Bibi’s failed and alarmist campaign not only damaged U.S.-Israel relations but also revealed Israel’s international isolation and lack of influence, and in fact compounded those problems?

17. Is anyone on any side of the issue capable of an honest and open debate?

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