Iran nuke deal: Good for Israel
This post was originally printed in the Jerusalem Post and was penned by Peace Action’s political director Paul Kawika Martin who is based in the national office in Washington D.C. Note that the Jerusalem Post is considered to have a center-right readership in Israel and the United States. This piece is written with that audience in mind.
The historic framework to control Iran’s nuclear program reached by the United States, Russia, China, United Kingdom and France, plus Germany (P5+1), when finalized, will make Israel and the world more secure by thwarting all of Iran’s pathways to make a nuclear weapon and using unprecedented inspections and monitoring to ensure compliance. Without an agreement, by contrast, Iran could produce enough fissile material to make one crude nuclear weapon in a matter of weeks, should it choose to do so, and the threat of war would increase dramatically.
To be sure, there are legitimate concerns for Israel. After sanctions relief, an economically stronger Iran could potentially increase support for organizations like Hezbollah.
It is important to note however, that only sanctions aimed at Iran’s nuclear program will be lifted. Those involving human rights and other issues will remain and can be strengthened if needed.
Both sides of the political spectrum and the vast majority of nonproliferation and nuclear weapon experts and organizations think this framework, once completed and signed, will make the world safer. Similarly, diverse Israelis such as former Israeli chief of military intelligence Amos Yadlin, former director of the Mossad Efraim Halevy, some Israeli media and some American Jewish groups praise the Iran framework and ongoing negotiations.
The finalized agreement will block all four paths by which Iran could produce a simple nuclear bomb. It would decrease by 95 percent the stockpile of material that could possibly be made into fissile material for 15 years. It would limit the quantity (by 2/3) and quality of centrifuges that could make highly enriched uranium needed for a nuclear weapon for 10 years. It would permanently reconfigure the Arak nuclear reactor (and secure its spent fuel) so it cannot produce any weapons-grade plutonium.
And most critically, the accord will block any covert nuclear activities by implementing exhaustive inspections and comprehensive monitoring for 20 years or more.
No agreement is perfect, but under the conditions outlined above, if Iran decided it wanted to build a nuclear weapon, it would take at least a year to make the fissile material required for even a single crude bomb. This does not include the time it would take to figure out the technology to miniaturize a bomb to fit on its existing missiles, build a missile capable of a larger payload or test any resulting system.
These technical hurdles could add years to the time it would take Iran to have an effective nuclear warhead and delivery system.
In short, the agreement that has been negotiated sharply limits any progress Iran might make, rolls back their prior program, establishes a strict verification regime and provides Israel and the international community with more than enough time to act in the event that the pact is broken.
It is critical as well to underscore that the agreement with Iran on its nuclear program is better than any imaginable alternative.
Military strategists, such as retired US Air Force colonel Sam Gardiner, have said repeatedly that a military intervention with Iran would at best slightly delay any nuclear program and at worst start another Middle East war and force Iran to build a nuclear weapon even if it had no such program.
Additionally, support from the international community on the sanctions regime is starting to falter. A failed agreement that is seen to be the fault of the US may cause some sanctions to collapse without getting any benefit in return. While some argue that we should abandon the agreement in favor of even tighter sanctions on Iran, even if more sanctions could be mustered, they would likely only embolden Iranian hardliners and strengthen their argument that negotiating with the international community is fruitless.
Thinking about Iran’s internal politics, former US chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, says supporting the agreement buttresses reformists in the country. Another potential benefit to Israel is that a finalized agreement with Iran on its nuclear program may pave the way for more talks on issues like human rights and regional security that will further reduce Middle East tensions. Remember the naysayers about peace with Egypt? That agreement, started with small steps, has lasted over 25 years and brought major undoubted security benefits to Israel.
President Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry and their security team have met with US Jewish leaders and organizations assuring them that a final accord will be in Israel’s best interest. Still, supporters of Israel should continue to pressure the White House and the US Congress for the best outcome possible. But that pressure should not kill the deal by pushing Congress to pass bad legislation or voting to disapprove the accord.
At the very least, those skeptical that a deal with Iran on its nuclear program is in the best security interest of Israel should withhold final judgement until the June 30 deadline to see what is in the final accord and allow time to see how Iran complies with the agreement.
Once finalized, it will be extremely clear that no other good options exist and the steps Iran takes on its nuclear program – verified by the International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA) – will keep it from building a nuclear bomb or let the international community know immediately if it deviates from the agreement.
The author, the political and policy director of Peace Action (the largest peace group in the US and founded on abolishing nuclear weapons), has been working on the Iran issue for over eight years and has spent time in Iran and Israel. He can be reached on Twitter @PaulKawika