What is the real deal about the Iran deal?

There is so much misinformation circulating about the Iran nuclear deal. Millions of dollars are being spent to convince the public and Congress that this deal should be rejected. The deal is in fact quite complicated and has been but together by nuclear scientists, energy experts, and diplomats over a two year period. Yet it is being dismissed by too many with pithy slogans and the repetitive cry that Iran can’t be trusted.

Sharon Squassoni, director of the Proliferation Prevention Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) makes several points. The deal is enforceable, and will set back Iran’s nuclear program. It will be much harder for Iran to develop a nuclear weapon.  

Squassoni notes that critics want to dismantle the entire Iranian nuclear program, but this was never a realistic option. She finds that the inspection process favors the west, not Iran, Russia, and China. Large scale cheating will be detected. Iran compromised in allowing inspections of military sites. She believes that the “snap back” provision on sanctions in the agreement can work.

Finally Squassoni makes clear that this is a nuclear weapons deal, and is not meant to solve every problem with Iran. She states, “In a perfect world we’d like to stop Iran’s support of terrorism, but that wasn’t possible in this deal.”

Avishay Ben Sasson-Gordis, a policy analyst at Molad: The Center for the Renewal of Israeli Democracy, points to the fact that the Israeli defense establishment says the deal would reduce the threat from Iran and make it possible to deal with other threats. Ben Sasson-Gordis adds that Netanyahu says the deal will enable Iran to have a bomb in 10 years, but without the deal Iran would be close to having a bomb right now. He also notes that by rejecting the deal outright Netanyahu has removed himself as a player in the process, and can therefore not influence the implementation of the deal in a direction he may prefer.   

The bottom line for Ben Sasson-Gordis is there is no better option. Israeli bombing of Iran poses serious difficulties, as does strikes from Washington. Re-imposing sanctions is a non-starter. The rejection of this deal will in fact immediately produce a much less safe world and a much less safe Israel.

It is also important to acknowledge that the opinions of Jewish Americans about this deal are far from uniform. While many Jewish leaders oppose the deal, it appears that the majority of American Jews favor it. In fact 63% of Jewish Americans who said they knew enough about the deal to comment, favor the deal. Only 54% of all Americans support the deal. In short American Jews are more supportive of this deal than are Americans in general.

Why is the powerful Jewish lobby, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) so unrepresentative of American Jewish opinion on this issue? According to Todd Gitlin and Stephen Cohen, AIPAC represents an older and more conservative population. It also represents the minority of Jews who fall into the wealthy category. Most importantly, surveys often do not include Americans who identify as Jewish, but do not see themselves as religious.

One question that should be asked is, who is in favor of this deal? Many politicians oppose the deal but serious minds and qualified experts are united behind the deal. Both military and scientific groups are lining up behind this deal.

I would strongly encourage readers who are conflicted about this issue to read some of the links included in this blog post, or other related articles that represent a more analytical exploration of the terms of this deal. It is so easy to drown out reasoned arguments with an appeal to simplistic and partisan rhetoric.

I believe it would be a travesty if the Republican Congress were to vote against this deal en masse. It would suggest that no one on that side of the political aisle bothered to seriously consider all of the factors involved in making this deal possible. They would be responding to an ideological framework rather than actually exploring the deal to determine whether it might be beneficial to the United States, Israel, and the world. Reasonable people can legitimately differ over the merits of this deal, but no bloc of politicians or interest groups should be able to summarily dismiss this deal because of a partisan political perspective.  

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