Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The Speech, The Reaction

Headlines from around the Middle East:

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Tuesday in a landmark address to the joint houses of Congress that a nuclear deal taking shape between Iran and Western powers “paves the path for Iran” to a nuclear arsenal, rather than blocking it, and urged American leaders to walk away from what he called “a very bad deal.”

The emerging agreement, he told the assembled congresspeople and senators, would leave Tehran with “a vast nuclear infrastructure” that placed it dangerously close to the ability to break out to a nuclear bomb. It “will not prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. It will all but guarantee that Iran will get nuclear weapons and a lot of them."

“Iran has proven time and again that it cannot be trusted,” no matter what it says about permitting verification of the terms of any accord designed to prevent it from getting such weapons, he said. “This is a bad deal, it’s a very bad deal. We’re better off without it.”

But Netanyahu said that while the emerging agreement did place certain limitations on Iran’s nuclear program, they would not be enough to prevent a nuclear breakout within “about a year by US assessment, a bit shorter by Israel’s.”

He further criticized the reported clause that would see many of the limitations placed on Iran lifted after a period of 10 years. A decade, he said, was “a blink of an eye” for a nation.

Netanyahu also dismissed the effectiveness of United Nations inspections on Iran’s nuclear sites, saying, “Inspectors document violations, they don’t stop them. Inspectors knew when North Korea broke out to the bomb but that didn’t stop (the North Koreans).”

“The greatest danger facing our world is the marriage of militant Islam with nuclear weapons,” he said. He predicted that the agreement, as it stands, would change the region for the worse, create a nuclear arms race and turn the Middle East into a “nuclear tinderbox.”

In the two years since the P5+1 nations began their negotiations with Tehran, Netanyahu claimed, Tehran had not moderated but had in fact been emboldened and radicalized.
He said that with the concessions the United States was prepared to make, Iran would not only gain nuclear weapons, but also eventually become free of international economic sanctions. As a result, he said, it would be emboldened to finance even more terrorism around the Middle East and the world.
The result for Iran, he said, would be “aggression abroad and prosperity at home.”
The world should insist “Iran change its behavior,” Netanyahu pleaded. “If Iran wants to be treated like a normal country, let it act like a normal country.”
“History has placed us at a fateful crossroads,” Netanyahu said. The world, he asserted, must choose between a path that will lead to “a nuclear-armed Iran whose unbridled aggression will inevitably lead to war” and a more difficult path that will, in the long run, prevent Tehran from becoming a regional aggressor.
He stressed that the alternative to a bad deal was not war: “It’s a much better deal.”
Instead, he called for a deal that would keep restrictions in place “until Iran’s aggression ends,” that wouldn’t “give Iran an easy path to the bomb.” He called for a deal that Israel may not love, “but with which we can live — literally.”
Before lifting sanctions, he said, the world should demand Iran cease its attacks against other countries in the region, stop supporting terrorism around the world, and “stop threatening to annihilate my country, Israel, the one and only Jewish state.”

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) warmly welcomed Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's Congress address on Tuesday, calling it a forceful appeal for the "strongest possible deal to remove the Iranian nuclearthreat."

In a joint statement by ADL National Chair Barry Curtiss-Lusher and ADL National Director Abraham H. Foxman, the two praised the speech.

"Prime Minister Netanyahu’s passionate and determined address made clear to Members of Congress, the American people, and the international community that an agreement that leaves intact a path for Iran to achieve its ambitions for nuclear weapons is not sufficient," they said.

The ADL leaders argued that the greatest impact of the speech "was the message sent to Iran, both by Prime Minister Netanyahu and by the support he received from Members of Congress, that there are serious and legitimate concerns about the direction of the negotiations and that the Iranian regime should not assume it will get its way."

In his speech, Netanyahu called for America to continue imposing sanctions on Iran while demanding the Islamic regime agree to three key conditions, namely that it stop its regional aggression, its support of terrorism worldwide, and its threats to annihilate Israel.

Responding to this call, ADL said "it was important to emphasize that the alternative to a bad deal is not necessarily war, but rather resolve to push for a better deal and to make suggestions of how to strengthen the negotiating posture. For example, an Iranian government seeking concessions and sanctions relief while it publicly calls for Israel’s destruction is unacceptable."

Despite Netanyahu's outline of a plan of action, US President Barack Obama responded to the speech by maligning it as "theater," and claiming Netanyahu hadn't presented an alternative to the Iran nuclear deal being formed.

It was widely suggested, ahead of Benjamin Netanyahu’s spectacularly controversial address to Congress on Tuesday, that the prime minister would have to deliver the speech of his life in order to justify the damage he would inevitably be causing to relations between his government and the Obama Administration. In the event, Netanyahu did deliver the speech of his life… and caused devastating, presumably irrevocable damage to his relationship with President Barack Obama.

On CNN, former administration official Martin Indyk called ties between the two leaders “toxic.” And that was moments before Netanyahu began his address. It’s hard to imagine the adjective that would best describe feelings in the Oval Office once the prime minister was done.

The next meeting between the two men will be fascinating to contemplate. And while Obama will hope even more fervently now that there will be no next meeting — that Netanyahu will fail to win reelection — the prime minister will not have done his electoral prospects any harm at all with this address. Many undecided Israelis will be asking themselves whether, in a moment of crisis, they can envisage Isaac Herzog holding the American parliament similarly mesmerized in support of a cause of passionate concern for Israel, and the answer will be no.

Although diplomatic in tone — and complete with deliberate Churchillian flourishes — “some change, some moderation,” he intoned of Iran under Hassan Rouhani — Netanyahu’s speech was in essence a devastating assault on Obama.

...he continued, for the vast majority of his address, to explain the profound misjudgment of Iran — its ideology, its goals, and the immense danger it constitutes to Israel, the region, the United States, and the world — that lies at the heart of the “very bad deal” emerging from the US-led P5+1 negotiations. And thus, by extension, he was explaining the profound misjudgment of Iran at the core of Obama’s worldview and policies.

But Netanyahu’s address had a clear practical goal as well. He was lobbying Congress, and lobbying the American public watching at home to pressure Congress, to assert its maximal capacity to thwart the progress of the deal that Obama has cooked up. While 50 or 60 legislators elected to absent themselves, the vast majority of Republicans and Democrats were there to nod sagely at Netanyahu’s elaboration of Iran’s rapacious, religiously driven ideology and territorial ambitions, to applaud, to jump to their feet, to be won over.
For all the cynicism and the political filtering over Netanyahu’s motivations, furthermore, the prime minister is convinced, in his heart of hearts, that Iran is determined to advance its benighted ideology across the region and beyond. The prime minister is convinced, in his heart of hearts, that the deal taking shape will immunize the ayatollahs from any prospect of revolution from within or effective challenge from without. The deal “doesn’t block Iran’s path to the bomb,” he warned. “It paves Iran’s path to the bomb.”

And the cardinal fact is that the prime minister is convinced, in his heart of hearts, that the Islamist regime in Tehran is bent on the destruction of Israel. Ayatollah Khamenei “tweets that Israel must be annihilated,” Netanyahu wailed, repeating: “He tweets! You know, in Iran, there isn’t exactly free Internet. But he tweets in English that Israel must be destroyed.”

When “my long-time friend, John Kerry,” had confirmed to Netanyahu that “Iran could legitimately possess” 190,000 centrifuges enriching uranium when the deal expires; when the terms taking shape would leave Iran a year or less from a break out to the bomb; when Iran could be relied upon to play “hide and cheat” with the inspectors; when Iran would be free under the deal to continue development of the missiles with which it could deliver nuclear weapons — when these and other dangers were being built into an Obama-pushed agreement, then, yes, the price of alienating the current US administration is quite clearly one that Netanyahu is willing to pay.

Of course it is. For Obama will be gone in two years. But the way Netanyahu sees it, the way Netanyahu spelled it out with such compelling detail and passion on Tuesday, if this kind of deal is finalized with Iran, the ayatollahs will be threatening us all, and will be capable of doing far more than just threaten, for the foreseeable future.

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Gary said...

Just imagine a United States with Prime Minister Netanyahu as president. It would be a country we would be proud of.

Scott said...