Rabbi Joel R. Schwartzman
Rabbi Joel R. Schwartzman

Dancing with Iran

It is the very fact that no one has been able to capture exactly where Iran is in its drive to acquire nuclear weapons that has made the whole issue somewhat farcical.  This is not to say that Iran’s having nukes is any kind of a joke. But these questions about the status of Iran’s nuclear program and its ambitions have thrown pundits and states-persons into a malaise of unsubstantiated, seemingly unsubstantiate-able arguments all of which miss the point.

If Iran is far enough down the road to achieving a nuclear weapons goals, there is little point to thinking that it has played according to any “deal” that was struck in 2015. And if that is the case, there is even less of a point in pursuing any kind of a renewal of the JCPOA because the Islamic Republic of Iran would treat it like it has the past deal.

If, on the other hand, one believes that Iran abided by the former JCPOA, then the question is why is it playing so hard-to-get in renewing and, perhaps, strengthening the deal? Why is it that Iran seems so resistant to what would seem to be in its best interests?

A report recently came to light this week about Iran’s shopping throughout Europe for elements that it needed to make nukes. If, as it has claimed all along, its nuclear program was for peaceful purposes only, then why have inspections ever been a problem? Why did Iran retain its library of plans for the development of nuclear weapons? Why has Iran retained a heavy water facility when heavy water only pertains to producing fuel for the Bomb?

It seems that the United States and most of the other nation-signatories of the 2015 JCPOA have played a game of self-delusion and wishful thinking all according to the thinly veiled explanations that Iran has been offering all along. There can be little doubt going forward as to what Iran is aspiring, regardless of what they did or didn’t do in the past. It is a dangerous dance in which everyone is involved and its choreography goes way beyond the economic benefits of being able to trade with Iran.

In any case, the Chinese recently made an end run around the current JCPOA talks by signing a multi-billion deal with Iran for Iranian oil at a discounted price and the Chinese ability to extend its New Silk Road through Iranian territory. By doing so, the Chinese have given Iran an infusion of capital that seems to mitigate the need the Iranians might have had to emerge from under the U.S.’s heavy sanctions, thus weakening whatever leverage U.S. negotiators have in the current indirect talks.

Make no mistake. Whether Iran abided by the former JCPOA or not, and there is some evidence that they did not with regard to elements of their program that did not involve the enrichment of nuclear material, the regime’s goal is the acquisition of nuclear weapons. This goal ought to have become clear some time ago. The question is whether anything Iran might agree to now can be trusted or has this regime gotten to a point where they can simply play for time and achieve a nuclear breakout while the world stands by watching?

About the Author
After twenty-three years of military service, Rabbi Schwartzman retired at the rank of Colonel in September 1998. From July 1999 to July 2000, Rabbi Schwartzman was Associate Rabbi of Temple Sinai in Denver, Colorado. For a decade thereafter he served as the Rabbi of both Congregation B’nai Chaim in Morrison, Colorado, and the Synagogue of the Summit in Summit County, Colorado.
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