Shai Franklin
Partner with Gotham Government Relations

Iran deal, behind the myths

“A lie will go round the world while truth is pulling its boots on.” 

For there to be any rational discussion of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with Iran, as accepted by the United Nations Security Council, we first need to dispense with the slogans, hype, and outright falsehoods.

This is no ordinary fight. Ordinary, would be Netanyahu and his allies doubling down on Chamberlain-Holocaust references and questioning the pro-Israel bona fides of anyone who supports the JCPOA, which they are. Extraordinary, is flipping the image to blame Obama for personalizing the fight and demonizing the opponents of the deal.

  1. “Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Congressional speech was necessary.” Not only unnecessary, but detrimental to his stated purpose of stopping the deal. Until House Speaker John Boehner announced Israel’s Prime Minister would be responding to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union on Boehner’s behalf, AIPAC and key Senate allies were lining up the votes for severe restrictions on U.S. participation in the “P5+1” Iran talks. The partisan audacity of the speech alienated enough Democrats, that AIPAC was forced to settle for the weaker compromise legislation now being invoked.
  2. “A ‘better deal’ was possible, and it still is.” Absent a complete battlefield victory and military occupation, there’s simply no way to eliminate Iran’s entire nuclear research and enrichment capacity. The eleventh-hour demand, that Iran recognize Israel as part of a better deal, is beyond ridiculous. Even a perfect deal would still have freed up billions in frozen assets and reopened trade and investment, which Iran could use to continue funding Hezbollah and Hamas terror. Stopping the nukes is about stopping the nukes, not about discredited “regime change” fantasies (see under: Iraq).
  3. “This deal makes it easier for Iran to ‘get the bomb’.” Since Netanyahu first made this compelling and illogical claim in his Capitol Hill speech, I have yet to see a coherent explanation of how. The very assertion makes George W. Bush’s 2003 claim of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction seem reasonable by comparison.
  4. “Supporters of the deal are naïve to trust Iran.” In the past two years, has anyone supported a deal on the premise that we can “trust” Iran? Despite rumors of Iran self-inspecting its own sites, it’s all about verification. Of course it can be better, but no one has credibly refuted Obama’s words, that “this is the strongest non-proliferation agreement ever negotiated.”
  5. “Members of Congress who oppose the deal are being ‘courageous and principled’.” Outpacing any retaliation by liberal donors, Democrats opposing the deal will reap unlimited AIPAC-inspired campaign cash. Even Members opposing the deal on principle, face few risks… beyond the unaccountable risk of making the world less stable and secure. Any “courage” is limited to those politicians supporting the President, despite the explicit threats to their re-election hopes. In American politics today, it requires little courage to side with Israel’s Prime Minister, a shine that may fade after this year’s pitched battles.
  1. “Obama was tapping into anti-Semitic stereotypes when he accused ‘billionaires’ of ‘lobbying’ against the deal.” A former chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations has publicly and categorically rejected complaints that Obama’s words were unfair, let alone Jew-baiting. The fact is, the Government of Israel and American Jewish benefactors and community leaders are proudly heading up the opposition, in the name of the Jewish people.
  1. “Obama has no right to denounce critics as ‘war-mongers’, or to claim Netanyahu’s level of interference in U.S. policy is ‘unprecedented’.” The good news is, Obama has never said such a thing. What he has done, is paint a choice between peaceful outcomes from a position of strength, and the eventuality of “some form of war”.

All Obama did was answer Fareed Zakaria’s question, whether any foreign leader has ever gone so far, with an “I don’t recall a similar example.” Whining about words the President never used creates a caricature; after the spectacle of Netanyahu’s speech, can we afford for this debate to descend further into farce? And of course, plenty of the most vocal opponents today were rallying for an invasion of Iraq a dozen years ago.

There’s no shortage of myths, but these seemed the easiest to dispel, since most of them have little to do with the substance of the JCPOA or its genuine shortcomings. The verification remains subject to all sorts of rumors and ‘revelations’, most of which are un-sourced or unsigned, or both.

The truth will be known when it’s known. Until then, the story-tellers will have free rein. And in all likelihood, Congress won’t manage to stop the United States from complying with — and enforcing — the deal.

About the Author
Shai Franklin, a consultant and lobbyist with U.S. and overseas clients, has served as an executive with American and international Jewish organizations and is a Senior Fellow with The Dietrich Bonhoeffer Foundation.
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