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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.

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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.

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August 9, 2013 1

An Apology For Discrimination – And A Lesson For The Future

August 10 marks the 25th anniver­sary of the enact­ment of the Civil Lib­er­ties Act, which pro­vided a for­mal apol­ogy for grave mis­treat­ment of Japanese-Americans dur­ing World War II. civil-liberties-act-manzanar-relocation-center

The sur­prise attack on Pearl Har­bor in Decem­ber 1941 incited wide­spread fear and inse­cu­rity across the coun­try.   In response to the par­tic­u­lar fear that Amer­i­cans of Japan­ese ances­try might pose a threat to the U.S., Pres­i­dent Franklin Roo­sevelt signed Exec­u­tive Order 9066 on Feb­ru­ary 19, 1942, the first step in the forced relo­ca­tion and incar­cer­a­tion of 120,000 Japanese-Americans.

Japanese-Americans who were incar­cer­ated in the camps through­out the west­ern United States were forcibly uprooted from their com­mu­ni­ties, sep­a­rated from their fam­i­lies and their homes and lost their per­sonal lib­er­ties and free­doms until the end of the war – with­out any con­crete evi­dence of their alleged dis­loy­alty to America.

Unfor­tu­nately, a bad sit­u­a­tion was made worse when Con­gress enacted a law in March 1942, autho­riz­ing a civil prison term and fine for a civil­ian con­victed of vio­lat­ing a mil­i­tary order.  The con­sti­tu­tion­al­ity of these acts was chal­lenged in two cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, Hirabayashi v. U.S. and Kore­matsu v. U.S.   But the wartime Supreme Court upheld the con­vic­tions, writ­ing that forced dis­place­ment and incar­cer­a­tion of Japanese-Americans were within the war pow­ers of Con­gress and jus­ti­fied by the need to pro­tect America’s national security.

In 1981, the Com­mis­sion on Wartime Relo­ca­tion and Intern­ment of Civil­ians held hear­ings to inves­ti­gate the treat­ment of Japanese-Americans, and it pub­lished its report, Per­sonal Jus­tice Denied, in 1983.  At that time, Kore­matsu, Hirabayashi and a third Japanese-American cit­i­zen, William Hohri, peti­tioned for for­mal review of their con­vic­tions.  ADL filed an ami­cus brief in Hohri v. United States, urg­ing the Court to reverse these con­vic­tions so as to pre­vent future civil lib­er­ties vio­la­tions by the government.

The Civil Lib­er­ties Act of 1988 for­mally rec­og­nized and apol­o­gized for these ter­ri­ble wartime injus­tices, and paid repa­ra­tions to an esti­mated 60,000 sur­viv­ing Japanese-Americans who were affected. ADL tes­ti­fied in sup­port of the leg­is­la­tion. The Act set an impor­tant stan­dard for account­abil­ity and for tak­ing national respon­si­bil­ity for past injustices.

Now, 25 years after the pas­sage of the Civil Lib­er­ties Act, the League has updated a com­pre­hen­sive class­room cur­ricu­lum on the wartime treat­ment of Japanese-Americans, includ­ing video his­to­ries of Japanese-American internees, and back­ground resources on Exec­u­tive Order 9066 and the Civil Lib­er­ties Act.  

The anniver­sary pro­vides a teach­able moment to reflect on how our nation can address past injus­tices – and an oppor­tu­nity to reded­i­cate our­selves to the ongo­ing work to con­front the dan­gers of stereo­typ­ing, dis­crim­i­na­tion, prej­u­dice, hate vio­lence, and racial pro­fil­ing.  Espe­cially as we con­front these and other daunt­ing chal­lenges today, it is clear that all Amer­i­cans have a stake in remem­ber­ing – and learn­ing lessons – from the past.

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