congress » ADL Blogs
Posts Tagged ‘congress’
August 13, 2015 2

Where We Stand on the Iran Deal

By Jonathan Green­blatt
National Direc­tor of the Anti-Defamation League

This arti­cle orig­i­nally appeared on The Huff­in­g­ton Post Blog

The debate about the Iran nuclear deal has com­pelled us to con­sult with mem­bers of Con­gress and Admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials as well as to engage numer­ous experts to elicit a deeper under­stand­ing of the Joint Com­pre­hen­sive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and its impli­ca­tions for the United States.

From the begin­ning, we raised a series of ques­tions to Con­gress. Based on what we know now, our deep reser­va­tions expressed on July 24 remain. Indeed, because our pro­found con­cerns with the agree­ment have not yet been sat­is­fac­to­rily addressed, ADL believes that Con­gress should vote no.

Nev­er­the­less and regard­less of the out­come of a vote in Con­gress, we see an oppor­tu­nity for all sides to find new ground based on bipar­ti­san col­lab­o­ra­tion to con­sider a new way to approach the Islamic Repub­lic. This is cru­cial because, despite the nuclear accord that has been struck, Iran clearly con­tin­ues its nefar­i­ous behav­ior in the region. It must be addressed head on.

Yes, the deal offers sig­nif­i­cant bar­ri­ers in Iran’s nuclear path, for at least a decade that will keep Iran from acquir­ing a nuclear weapon, con­straints not cur­rently avail­able through any other means. But, as noted by many experts, these lim­i­ta­tions come to an end within 15 years in the best case. The poten­tial loop­holes in these con­straints con­tribute to our unease. We admired the clar­ity of the rea­son­ing offered by one of the Senate’s most respected, long-standing mem­bers, Sen. Chuck Schumer which crys­tal­ized those concerns.

To be clear, we respect and appre­ci­ate the com­mit­ment of the Admin­is­tra­tion and Mem­bers of Con­gress who have engaged in a seri­ous and sus­tained effort over many years to neu­tral­ize the Iran­ian nuclear threat. We do not pur­port to pos­sess expert knowl­edge of the com­plex­i­ties of nuclear physics or sanc­tions. How­ever, ADL has had pol­icy on this issue for over a decade because of our mis­sion: to fight the defama­tion of the Jew­ish peo­ple and to secure jus­tice and fair treat­ment for all. And, for decades, Iran repeat­edly has pro­moted anti-Semitism and anti-Americanism; killed Amer­i­can civil­ians; threat­ened to oblit­er­ate the Jew­ish State; and insti­tu­tion­al­ized illib­er­al­ism. So we are con­cerned not only that the agree­ment appears to offer Iran a legal and legit­i­mate path­way to become a nuclear thresh­old state in just over a decade, but more imme­di­ately, stand­ing as a nor­mal­ized mem­ber of the inter­na­tional community.

In exchange for paus­ing rather than per­ma­nently ter­mi­nat­ing its nuclear pro­gram, Iran will receive bil­lions of dol­lars that, con­trary to the argu­ments offered by admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials, will almost cer­tainly allow it to advance its agenda of big­otry, expan­sion­ism and sup­port for ter­ror­ism. Indeed in recent days, we have seen com­mer­cial del­e­ga­tions flood into Tehran even as its lead­ers flout inter­na­tional sanc­tions by vis­it­ing for­eign cap­i­tals; its judi­ciary represses reli­gious minori­ties at home; and its incite­ful rhetoric becomes even more sophis­ti­cated and stri­dent. These are omi­nous signs.

We want diplo­macy to work, and we fully accept there are times when our lead­ers must forge agree­ments with coun­tries whose ambi­tions we oppose. We are aware, how­ever, that this deal walks past many of the red lines orig­i­nally drawn by the United States and embold­ens the Iran­ian regime even as it con­tin­u­ally threat­ens the U.S. and our allies. That is why the United States must work to ensure that the ulti­mate red line, as stated by suc­ces­sive U.S. Pres­i­dents, that Iran will never acquire a nuclear weapon, is made crys­tal clear not only in words, but through con­crete steps taken both uni­lat­er­ally and in con­cert with our allies.

Indeed, there are poli­cies and actions relat­ing to Iran’s aggres­sion that Repub­li­cans, Democ­rats and the White House might actu­ally agree upon. As such, we urge all sides to move beyond a sim­ple “yes” or “no” vote to affirm our shared val­ues as the basis for new efforts to cur­tail the threat­en­ing activ­i­ties of the Islamic Republic.

As Dr. Robert Sat­loff, Direc­tor of the Wash­ing­ton Insti­tute for Near East Pol­icy, noted in an online essay in The Atlantic, a vote to dis­ap­prove the deal can actu­ally open up space for the Admin­is­tra­tion and Con­gress to address many, if not all, the seri­ous con­cerns expressed about the short­com­ings of the JCPOA and the chal­lenges Iran­ian behav­ior pose to the region and the world. In Dr. Satloff’s words, “‘No’ doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily mean ‘no, never.’ It also can also mean ‘not now, not this way.’”

This is impor­tant because Amer­i­cans of all polit­i­cal per­sua­sions agree on the intrin­sic dig­nity of all peo­ple. As such, the United States should ratchet up the costs to Iran for its oppres­sive poli­cies and regional med­dling even as we offer an out­stretched hand when it finally ceases such activ­i­ties. There is a clear oppor­tu­nity for a non-ideological con­sen­sus around three related points that can take us forward.

We believe a con­sen­sus can be cre­ated to address Iran’s bru­tal human rights record. No one in any polit­i­cal camp here in the U.S. would excuse the insti­tu­tion­al­ized dis­crim­i­na­tion fac­ing eth­nic and reli­gious minori­ties in Iran, includ­ing Baha’is, Chris­tians, Jews, and Sunni Arabs. Their treat­ment ranges from quiet intim­i­da­tion to sys­tem­atic impris­on­ment. LGBT cit­i­zens fare far worse. The U.S. should be vig­i­lant in using exist­ing sanc­tions tar­get­ing these prac­tices and explore new tools that might be needed. Seri­ous con­sid­er­a­tion also should be given to tak­ing action against Iran in inter­na­tional fora, for its repres­sive poli­cies toward its own peo­ple sim­ply because of what they believe or who they love.

Another impor­tant point of con­sen­sus is the broad under­stand­ing that Israel has a lot to worry about con­cern­ing Iran. Sup­port for ever-deepening mil­i­tary and strate­gic coop­er­a­tion between the U.S. and Israel is broad, con­sis­tent, and bipar­ti­san. We pro­pose that the U.S. deepen its intel­li­gence coop­er­a­tion with Israel and work with the Jew­ish state to ensure it has suf­fi­cient defense arrange­ments, such that the President’s oft-stated recog­ni­tion that “Israel has the right to defend itself by itself” can match Israeli capa­bil­i­ties. Some have sug­gested that the deliv­ery to Israel of the Mas­sive Ordi­nance Pen­e­tra­tor (M.O.P.), and the means to deploy it would demon­strate this regard­ing the Iran­ian nuclear infra­struc­ture; how­ever, this prin­ci­ple should be acted upon with regard to all aspects of the Iran­ian threat. And it would be con­struc­tive for the Israeli gov­ern­ment to begin to engage with the Admin­is­tra­tion on these issues as soon as possible.

As a third con­sen­sus point, all par­ties know that Iran con­tin­ues to desta­bi­lize the region and expand its sphere of influ­ence using mili­tias and ter­ror­ist prox­ies. Time and again, the words and actions of the Islamic Repub­lic have reflected a ten­dency toward war­mon­ger­ing and worse. We would like to see the Admin­is­tra­tion and Con­gress artic­u­late a regional strat­egy to counter desta­bi­liz­ing Iran­ian activ­i­ties across the Mid­dle East, includ­ing work­ing with regional allies. This could involve inter­dict­ing the flow of Iran­ian weapons as well as engag­ing the Gulf Coor­di­nat­ing Coun­cil (GCC) directly in dis­cus­sions around neu­tral­iz­ing the Assad regime in Syria and coun­ter­ing Iran­ian inter­ven­tion in Yemen. It could encom­pass a new mul­ti­lat­eral arrange­ment to address Iran’s increas­ing use of cyber-terrorism to threaten its neigh­bors and attack our own institutions.

Finally, we implore all sides to tone down the heated rhetoric. The debate about the JCPOA and addi­tional dis­cus­sions should be con­ducted by all par­ties in a civil man­ner. No one needs to resort to innu­endo or coarse attacks.

We stress that ADL can­not sup­port the JCPOA in its cur­rent form. With­out offer­ing a robust set of mea­sures to account for its vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties, the JCPOA presents too great a risk to the U.S. and for our crit­i­cal allies like Israel. Until the admin­is­tra­tion acts to address these con­cerns, and whether or not it is approved by Con­gress, we urge a new path for­ward that con­vinces Iran to eschew its agenda of big­otry and vio­lence. We should come together around smart pol­icy approaches to enable this out­come and rebuild the con­fi­dence of our allies and those around the world who rightly feel uneasy about liv­ing in a Mid­dle East in which an embold­ened Iran has new resources and new stand­ing to empower it.

Tags: , , , , , ,

April 14, 2015 0

How to Deal With Iranian Expansionism

By Abra­ham H. Fox­man
National Direc­tor of the Anti-Defamation League

This arti­cle orig­i­nally appeared on The Huff­in­g­ton Post Blog

At the very moment that a nuclear deal with Iran is look­ing closer to real­ity, Iran is expand­ing its influ­ence through­out the Mid­dle East. To the Saudis, the Emi­rates and Israel — all of whom see Iran as the great­est threat in the region — this is a dis­turb­ing phenomenon.

Israel has reacted by call­ing on the United States to link the nuclear nego­ti­a­tions to Iran’s broader behav­ior in the region.  In his address before a joint ses­sion of Con­gress, Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Netanyahu said the U.S. should not sign a deal until Iran halts its ter­ror­ist activ­ity and ceases its sup­port of extrem­ist groups. More recently, the prime min­is­ter has called for no agree­ment until Iran accepts Israel’s     legitimacy.

Not sur­pris­ingly, the U.S. rejected those pro­pos­als as unachiev­able and saw them as an effort to block any nuclear deal.

The Saudis, in their usual way, took a more restrained approach, say­ing nice things about the frame­work agree­ment while decry­ing Iran’s activ­i­ties on many fronts in the region. Clearly, at this moment when the U.S. is pro­vid­ing essen­tial sup­port for the Saudi-led mil­i­tary coali­tion against the Iranian-backed Houthis in Yemen, they are not look­ing for a full-blown con­fronta­tion with their main ally and sup­porter, the United States.

On the other hand, the Saudis con­tinue to express in many ways their frus­tra­tion with what they per­ceive to be weak Amer­i­can lead­er­ship in the region. While not will­ing to link their cri­tique to the nuclear issue, they have found other ways to get their point across.

Their most extreme reac­tion took place in the fall of 2013 when in an unprece­dented fash­ion they turned down a seat at the United Nations Secu­rity Coun­cil. While they never stated a rea­son it was widely under­stood to be a protest over Amer­i­can pol­icy toward Syria and Iran.

Since then, Saudi con­cerns have only grown as they watch a con­tin­ued Iran­ian role in Syria and Iraq, U.S. coop­er­a­tion with Iran against ISIS and — more recently — the poten­tial for new sig­nif­i­cant Iran­ian influ­ence in Yemen through the Houthis.

Both the Israelis and the Saudis fear that lift­ing the deep­est sanc­tions against Iran through the nuclear deal will fur­ther embolden Iran­ian expansionism.

More­over, what­ever their views on the nuclear deal, they fear that the basic under­ly­ing theme, despite U.S. protests to the con­trary, is that Iran under Pres­i­dent Has­san Rouhani is an evolv­ing nation that can be moved toward a state of nor­malcy both at home and in its inter­na­tional rela­tions. So they worry that after the nuclear deal is signed, sealed and deliv­ered, the U.S. will be even more reluc­tant to iden­tify Iran for what is and to take action against it.

What is it that the U.S. admin­is­tra­tion can do to reas­sure its allies?

First, its rhetoric about Iran­ian behav­ior must be ele­vated by many deci­bels. The notion that such a change would jeop­ar­dize the nuclear talks does not ring true. The Ira­ni­ans have a huge inter­est in the removal of sanc­tions while also being able to main­tain its nuclear infra­struc­ture. They are not very likely to walk away because of a more hon­est and focused U.S. approach to Iran­ian behavior.

It was encour­ag­ing in that respect that Sec­re­tary of State John Kerry on April 8 on PBS New­sHour crit­i­cized Iran for sup­ply­ing the Houthis in Yemen and added that the U.S. “could do two things at once” – the nuclear deal and con­tain­ment of Iran’s desta­bi­liz­ing activ­i­ties in the region.

Still, a more sus­tained U.S. approach is needed, one which rec­og­nizes that Iran remains unre­pen­tant and extreme — includ­ing recent state­ments by its lead­ers call­ing for Israel’s destruc­tion — and is the great­est threat in the region.

Call­ing atten­tion to the huge arse­nal of mis­siles amassed by Iran­ian sur­ro­gate, Hezbol­lah, is a good place to start.

Using Holo­caust Remem­brance Day on April 15 to denounce Iran’s open call for Israel’s destruc­tion, most recently by the head of the Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Guard, would add to the chorus.

And finally, the president’s remarks about hav­ing Israel’s back in the face of any Iran­ian threat should be reflected in clear agree­ments. What exactly does it mean for the U.S. to be there for Israel and Saudi Arabia?

This becomes more sig­nif­i­cant than ever because of the per­cep­tion that the eager­ness for the nuclear deal was partly moti­vated by a U.S. desire to pull back from the region. And, it is sig­nif­i­cant because Saudi con­cerns about a poten­tially expand­ing nuclear Iran could lead them to seek their own nuclear weapons.  The con­se­quences for the region and the world of such nuclear pro­lif­er­a­tion would be disastrous.

Even before the nuclear frame­work agree­ment, the U.S. had a lot of work to do to reas­sure its allies in the Mid­dle East.

The need for such reas­sur­ance takes on a greater urgency as the real­ity of the nuclear agree­ment and the prospect of an embold­ened Iran loom larger.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

February 9, 2015 0

Time to Stop the Circus and Focus on Iran

By Abra­ham H. Fox­man
National Direc­tor of the Anti-Defamation League

This arti­cle orig­i­nally appeared on The Huff­in­g­ton Post Blog

I have recently writ­ten about the enor­mously high stakes involved in get­ting the Iran nuclear issue right. There is a broad con­sen­sus on this and on the dan­gers of a nuclear armed Iran. Yet, as the clock winds down on nego­ti­a­tions between Iran and the P-5+1, impor­tant dif­fer­ences in just how to effec­tively accom­plish the goal have emerged.

These dif­fer­ences are not about whether diplo­macy is the best way to resolve the issue — all agree it is.

It is not sur­pris­ing that Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Netanyahu assesses the risks to Israel, the region and, ulti­mately, the world through a dif­fer­ent lens than Pres­i­dent Obama and some other world leaders.

Israel is directly in the cross-hairs of Iran­ian ambi­tions for regional dom­i­na­tion, as are the Gulf states, Egypt, Jor­dan and oth­ers. Pres­i­dent Obama and many among the Amer­i­can peo­ple are rightly wary of entan­gling the U.S. in yet another Mid­dle East war and Euro­pean lead­ers are focused on their fal­ter­ing economies, which would ben­e­fit from the reopen­ing of full trade with Iran.

This is pre­cisely the moment when there should frank, direct and open dis­cus­sion of the dif­fer­ent perspectives.

Now is exactly the time when Israel’s leader should be hav­ing those dis­cus­sions with all who have a say in shap­ing pol­icy out­comes on this issue, includ­ing the U.S. Con­gress. And the views of America’s clos­est ally in the Mid­dle East should be heard, so pol­i­cy­mak­ers and the Amer­i­can peo­ple will have the ben­e­fit of hear­ing directly from Netanyahu how he sees what is at stake and what he believes is the best way to reach an agree­ment with Iran that will ensure the long term safety of Israel, the region and the world.

Yet, this point has been nearly oblit­er­ated by the waves of con­tro­versy sur­round­ing the invi­ta­tion to the prime min­is­ter to address Con­gress. I have called it a tragedy of unin­tended con­se­quences — and it is.

Instead of stay­ing laser-focused on the very real, very com­plex and very dan­ger­ous con­se­quences of the out­come of the nego­ti­a­tions with Iran, the pub­lic dis­course is now being hijacked by pol­i­tics.

It is being dom­i­nated by mock­ing come­di­ans, moan­ing pun­dits and manip­u­lat­ing politi­cians all talk­ing about who is insult­ing whom, who will and who won’t be in the cham­ber for the speech, who may or may not be pun­ished for not show­ing up, who will get an elec­toral advan­tage from the appear­ance, and who won’t.

These are absolutely the wrong ques­tions, and this is absolutely the wrong time to be rais­ing them.

As time grows shorter, there needs to be a pause in the uproar to enable every­one involved to find the way to get back to talk­ing about what really counts — Is Iran ready to give up its nuclear plans or must the West revisit its whole approach?

The venue for the dis­cus­sions on this weighty ques­tion mat­ters much less than actu­ally hav­ing the con­ver­sa­tion — and hav­ing it sooner rather than later. Now is a time to recal­i­brate, restart and find a new plat­form and new tim­ing to take away the distractions.

Tags: , , , ,