By John Ubaldi
Contributor, In Homeland Security
In a controversial joint session of Congress, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vehemently argued against the pursuit of a nuclear deal with Iran. Netanyahu strongly laid out how this deal would be bad for the international community, as this agreement would give Iran the impetus to produce a nuclear weapon.
This speech before Congress has placed a wedge between the two long term allies, with The Washington Post reporting that Netanyahu’s speech before Congress frayed relations between the United States and Israel and laid bare fissures between leading Jewish American groups and Jewish Democrats by discussing a deal (that has not yet been reached), on how to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. Iran poses a “grave threat” to Israel and the world, stated Netanyahu. The prime minister is expressing his concerns in the speech about enriched uranium and Iranian nuclear research and development, as well as his worries about the approach taken to the international nuclear talks.
Throughout the address, Netanyahu methodically laid out a case before Congress and to the American public, why this deal with Iran is bad for the international community and bad for the security of the region.
Netanyahu pointed out why Iran cannot be trusted, but he gave examples how Tehran heavily supports terror organizations such as Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Gaza, and has its revolutionary guards on the Golan Heights.
Throughout the civil war in Syria, it has been the Iranian regime which Netanyahu mentioned has kept Assad in power, and has been complicit in the killing of Syrian civilians. Only last month, Houthis, backed by Iran seized control of Yemen, therefore threatening the vital strategic gate way into the Red Sea. Two of the three vital economic choke holds in the Middle East, in which the supply of oil flows, would give Iran the ability to disrupt the world’s oil supply.
In a powerful point of reference, Netanyahu took great pains to let Congress know of how recently Iran carried out a military exercise by blowing up a mock U.S. aircraft carrier, all the while negotiating a nuclear deal with the U.S.
Tehran has attacked the United States over the past 36 years, first, beginning with the Iranian hostage crisis in 1979, the killing of Marines in Lebanon, and finally the killing of thousands of U.S. personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Netanyahu mentioned in his address that in the Middle East, Iran now dominates four Arab capitals, Baghdad, Damascus, Beirut and Sanaa. If Iran’s aggression is left unchecked, more will surely follow.
During his address Netanyahu also stated that “The U.N.’s nuclear watchdog agency, the IAEA, said again yesterday that Iran still refuses to come clean about its military nuclear program. Iran was also caught — caught twice, not once, but twice that we know of — operating secret nuclear facilities in Natanz and Qom, facilities that inspectors didn’t even know existed.”
He continued, “Right now, Iran could be hiding nuclear facilities that we don’t know about (the U.S. and Israel). As the former head of inspections for the IAEA said in 2013, “If there’s no undeclared installation today in Iran, it will be the first time in 20 years that it doesn’t have one.” Iran has proven time and again that it cannot be trusted. And that’s why the first major concession is a source of great concern. It leaves Iran with a vast nuclear infrastructure and relies on inspectors to prevent a breakout. That concession creates a real danger that Iran could get to the bomb by violating the deal.”
As Netanyahu was addressing Congress, Secretary of State John F. Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif were in Geneva Tuesday working on the framework for the nuclear deal by the March 24 deadline.
One senior U.S. official commented on the negotiations for a deal, “What’s the better alternative? Simply demanding that Iran completely capitulate is not a plan” and would not garner international support.
With all the controversy of the Netanyahu address, Ray Takesy, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, writing in The Washington Post wrote that Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei wants an agreement.
In many ways a nuclear agreement is the answer to Khamenei’s multiplicity of dilemmas. A good agreement for the supreme leader, however, has to be technologically permissive and of a limited duration. Since the exposure of Iran’s illicit nuclear program in 2002, its disciplined diplomats have insisted that any accord must be predicated on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which, in their telling, grants Iran the right to construct a vast nuclear infrastructure. In exchange for such a “right,” they would be willing to concede to an inspection regime within the leaky confines of the NPT. And for much of that time, the great powers rebuffed such presumptions from a state that has been censured by numerous U.N. Security Council resolutions, and denies the International Atomic Energy Agency reliable access to its facilities and scientists.
The biggest prize for Khamenei would be to have succeeded in gathering an idea of a sunset clause, which upon expiration there would be no legal restraints on Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
The other important remark, which cannot be taken lightly, is when Netanyahu stated, “This is why — this is why, as a prime minister of Israel, I can promise you one more thing: Even if Israel has to stand alone, Israel will stand.”
The question is, what will Israel do if the agreement goes through, or what will the region do?
Right now the U.S. has a contentious and problematic relationship with our allies in the region, where nobody has confidence in the United States, and this will be even more difficult as the president tries to pursue his ISIS strategy.