Mel Levine
Mel Levine
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On Iran, a regrettable rush to judgment

The agreement is a good one, and all-out opposition to it threatens critical bipartisan US support for Israel

My entire adult life has been driven by my deep concern and commitment to Israel’s security and survival. As soon as I was elected to Congress, I sought and obtained a seat on the Middle East subcommittee. I quickly became one of Israel’s strongest supporters and was a central participant in most of the most important pro-Israel legislation during my time in Congress.

After I left Congress, I joined the board of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. One article of faith, which in my view remains of enormous importance to Israel, is the necessity of maintaining bipartisan support in the United States.

My analysis of the Iran deal is predicated on what I strongly believe is best for both the United States and Israel, and the overwhelming weight of credible expert opinion concludes that it would be a terrible mistake for both of our countries for Congress to reject this deal. The suggested alternatives seriously increase grave risks to America and to Israel.

Unfortunately today, I believe my friends in AIPAC and some of my friends in Israel have made a regrettable rush to judgment in immediately opposing the Iran agreement and doing so in ways likely to cause long-term harm to Israel, especially in terms of Israel’s vital need for bipartisan support in the United States. And despite the loud and heavily funded campaign being waged against the deal, respected Israeli national security and intelligence experts are increasingly supporting the deal.

Among the more prominent of these Israeli is Ami Ayalon, a former navy commander and former director of the Shin Bet, who said, “When it comes to Iran’s nuclear capability, this [deal] is the best option…when negotiations began, Iran was two months away from acquiring enough material for a [nuclear] bomb. Now it will be 12 months.”

Israelis, he said, “are failing to distinguish between reducing Iran’s nuclear capability and Iran being the biggest devil in the Middle East.”

Another expert, Uzi Even, physics professor at Tel Aviv University and a scientist at the Dimona facility, said, “The deal was written by nuclear experts and blocks every path I know to the bomb. The Iranians may be celebrating, but they have swallowed a very bitter pill, more so than they would like to let on.”

Under this agreement, Iran has to drastically reduce its stockpiles of uranium; is cut off from plutonium by disabling its Arak facility; its underground Fordow facility is converted into an international research center; and unprecedented intrusive inspections have been imposed. Additionally, a highly creative snapback mechanism will snap sanctions back if the Iranians cheat — put into place because of fears that getting the U.N. Security Council to reinstate sanctions would easily be blocked by any permanent member, likely Russia and/or China. Under the provision, sanctions automatically would go back into effect unless the Security Council votes to override it — which the U.S. can veto.

With this deal, we gain unprecedented, around-the-clock monitoring of Iran’s key nuclear facilities and the most comprehensive and intrusive inspection and verification regime ever negotiated. Without a deal, those inspections will not exist and we will lose the ability to closely monitor Iran’s program and detect covert nuclear weapons development.

With this deal, Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium will be reduced by 98 percent and capped at that level for 15 years. Iran will also be required to get rid of its 20 percent enriched uranium, which is most of the way to bomb material. Without this deal, Iran could expand its existing stockpile of enriched uranium.

With this deal, Iran will not produce any weapons grade plutonium. Without this deal, Iran could produce enough weapons-grade plutonium each year for one or two nuclear weapons.

The accord is the one path that provides a peaceful means of resolving the major threat of Iran’s achieving a nuclear weapon and will enhance the security of Israel and the world. Without this deal, the risk of war in the Middle East dramatically increases as well as the real risk of nuclear proliferation.

Plus as nuclear expert Jim Walsh, who directs the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s security studies program, stated, “Some of the provisions extend 25 years, some for 15, and some are obligations Iran will have forever, for perpetuity.” Iran cannot be allowed to cheat and all options continue to be on the table to ensure that Iran does not acquire nuclear weapons. We retain a wide range of military and economic options to deal with bad Iranian behavior as well as the closest of security and intelligence cooperation with Israel and our other friends in the region.

The accord blocks all potential paths to an Iranian bomb, with unprecedented intrusive inspections, which the most eminent nuclear physicists, scientists and policy experts say provides the means of verifying compliance, with a real snap back provision. Killing the deal would isolate the United States and Israel from our own friends and allies, providing the world with the perception that it is the U.S., as a result largely of Israel’s lobbying, that has rejected diplomacy, leaving Iran without the pressure of meaningful sanctions and without any constraints on its nuclear program.

A vastly safer, more secure, route for Israel and for America is the approval of this agreement.

About the Author
Mel Levine is a former senior Democratic congressman of the Middle East subcommittee of the House of Representatives from California. He served from 1983-1993.
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