Thursday, February 27, 2020

U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew recently took the podium at a Jerusalem Post conference in New York to defend President Obama’s plans for a nuclear agreement with Iran. He told the crowd that President Obama would reinstate sanctions on Iran if the regime failed to live up to its commitments under the agreement currently being negotiated. Then, in a room full of people who care passionately about the safety and security of the United States and our closest ally in the Middle East, Israel, the highest-ranking Jewish official in the history of the U.S. was booed loudly.

Lew’s treatment at that conference was unfortunate, no doubt, but the reaction of those in the room speaks volumes about the gravity of the threats posed by the Islamic Republic of Iran to the U.S. And it speaks volumes about how frightening it would be if the President were to agree upon a deal that fails to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. As in Israel, much of the American public is on edge waiting for the actual text of the deal to emerge.

Time and time again, President Obama and his administration officials have made scripted promises asserting that they are not interested in agreeing to a “bad deal” with Iran’s ayatollahs.  However, these hollow vows seem to ignore Iran’s clandestine nuclear activities and turn a blind eye to its hegemonic regional power-grabs and radical, expansionist ideology bent on using terror to support its aims.

The Iranian terrorist network spans the globe, and is fundamentally rooted in anti-Western, anti-American and anti-Israel values. If the White House signs a deal that does not completely dismantle Iran’s nuclear capacity—then America, Israel and their western allies will be placed in harm’s way.

It is precisely this serious concern that drove conference participants to heckle Treasury Secretary Lew last week.  When Lew made claims that the Obama Administration is committed to protecting Israel, his statements seemed to lack credibility.  The only way for President Obama to regain trust from many pro-Israel supporters is to sign America’s name onto a “good deal.”

The benchmarks for reaching a good deal would not only require the complete dismantlement of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure, but would also mandate transparent inspections of Iranian nuclear sites anytime and anywhere; provide full exposure of Iran’s past military nuclear work; directly link the incremental lifting of sanctions to Iran’s compliance with the agreement and completely eradicate Iran’s ability to develop a nuclear weapons capability, without an expiration date.

The passage of the Iran Nuclear Review Act means Congress has 30 days to review the details of whatever deal emerges from the ongoing negotiations in Switzerland. Congress will then have the opportunity to vote to block the agreement. If President Obama agrees to a deal that does not meet the criteria laid out above, then it will be incumbent upon Congress to reject it. Such an agreement would provide Iran’s leaders with a host of benefits, but it would do nothing to enhance the safety of the U.S. or any of our allies, including Israel.

Here in New York, Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY) have expressed support for an agreement that actually prevents Iran’s terrorist regime from acquiring the most deadly weapons known to mankind. I fully expect that they would vote to block any deal that falls short of that aim, and I encourage the pro-Israel community to contact their local representatives to urge them to use their vote wisely to safeguard our security and block any proposed shortcomings.

When President Obama began his first term in office, he announced that his administration would pursue direct engagement with Iran. His foreign policy strategy, it seems, was based upon the premise that Iranian behavior could be moderated through a sequence of measures, once considered immune to compromise.  Since then, despite no evidence that this strategy is working, the White House has continued to pursue a deal with the mullahs in Tehran.

Over the course of Obama’s presidential tenure, Iran has not improved its behavior.  Tehran’s sponsorship of terrorism has grown, its human rights violations have reached previously unseen heights of abhorrence and its destabilizing regional impact has worsened—all while Iran’s diplomats employ a strategy of charming intransigence at the negotiating table.

So last week when Treasury Secretary Lew told supporters of Israel at The Jerusalem Post conference that President Obama would preserve his authority to re-impose economic sanctions, despite opposition from countries such as Russia and China, the response was disbelief.

Based upon Iran’s track record of deceit and its unwavering commitment to obtain nuclear capacity, no one can expect the extremist regime to fulfill its end of the bargain.  And the White House has still not revealed sufficient details about how it proposes to verify Iranian violations under an agreement, let alone how it would seek to re-impose a broken sanctions regime.

Lew assured conference attendees, “Make no mistake—we are not operating under an assumption that Iran will act in good faith.” If the Obama Administration openly admits that Iran cannot be trusted, then any deal reached that fails to meet serious conditions concerning dismantlement, verification and inspections cannot be trusted either.

Scott M. Feltman is the executive vice president of One Israel Fund, a four-star rated charity by Charity Navigator and the premier agency dedicated to supporting the security, welfare, development and economic growth of the Jewish people living in Judea, Samaria, the Jordan Valley and the re-emerging communities of Gush Katif evacuees.

By Scott M. Feltman

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