The American Jewish Committee today became the first major Jewish organization to announce its opposition to the Iran nuclear agreement, saying it only delays Iran becoming a nuclear threshold state.
“Given the nature of the Iranian regime and its defining ideology, AJC cannot accept this prospect,” it said in a statement. “It is too ominous, too precedent-setting, and too likely to trigger a response from Iran’s understandably anxious neighbors who may seek nuclear-weapons capacity themselves ….”
The AJC added that “ending the ban on arms flow to Iran within five years and on missile technology, which would help its ICBM program, within eight years, will benefit the regime enormously — and without a demand that Iran change its destabilizing and dangerous behavior. This includes its frequent calls for ‘Death to America and Israel,’ and its hegemonic ambitions in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Bahrain, and Yemen.”
The statement rejected President Barack Obama’s claim that the only alternative to the agreement is war, and concluded with the hope that “Iran would find it in its own best interests to return to the negotiating table sooner or later.”
The AJC’s opposition to the agreement comes as a growing number of Democratic members of Congress announced their plans to vote against the deal next month. But whether they will have enough votes to override a promised presidential veto remains to be seen.
Among the local Democrats announcing their opposition to the agreement is Rep. Steve Israel, Nita Lowey, Grace Meng and Kathleen Rice. House Republican leaders have said they have sufficient votes to reject the nuclear deal, which was announced July 14. Long Islands’ two Republican congressmen, Lee Zeldin and Peter King, both oppose the agreement. In fact, Zeldin released a statement Monday praising Rice and Meng for their decisions — Israel announced his opposition on Tuesday.
“It is not easy for members of Congress to oppose a top legacy priority of the president of the United States when the president is of the same political party,” he wrote. “I admire that with their opposition, Congresswomen Meng and Rice are putting the interest of our nation’s security ahead of party loyalty. … Over the coming weeks, I encourage all members of the New York delegation, regardless of their party affiliation, to stand together against a deeply flawed deal with Iran.
“The president stated that the only alternative to whatever deal he entered into is war. I reject that. We should all reject that. This deal is flawed for so many reasons. The president says that with the agreement, there will be 24/7 where necessary, when necessary inspections. This is simply untrue. Americans are not permitted to be on the inspection teams and we do not even know the details of the secret side deals between Iran and the IAEA. …
“The leverage that brought the Iranians to the table was the sanctions relief. Now we just negotiated away that leverage without any discussion and resolution on Iran’s continued efforts to overthrow foreign governments, sponsor terror, develop ICBMs, blow up mock U.S. warships, pledge to wipe Israel off the map, and chant Death to America in their streets while unjustly imprisoning American citizens, including a Marine, a pastor and a reporter. The irony of this deal is that the president is actually paving the path to worsening instability in the Middle East and a nuclear arms race in the region.”
In announcing her decision to oppose the deal, Meng, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and its Subcommittee on the Middle East, said in a statement that she favored a “better deal”because this one is “simply too dangerous for the American people.”
“I believe the inspections procedures set forth are flawed,” she said. “Leading nuclear experts assert that, pursuant to these procedures, inspectors would not necessarily know whether Iran is manufacturing uranium components for a nuclear weapon. This is unacceptable. Furthermore, I am deeply concerned that almost all of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure would remain intact; this leads me to believe Iran would simply resume its pursuit of a nuclear weapon at the conclusion of the deal in a decade’s time. Finally, the immediate sanctions relief provided Iran in the deal would incentivize the funding of terrorism and lessen Iran’s interest in restraining its nuclear ambitions over the long term.”
In an op-ed announcing her decision, Rice wrote: “This deal represents a pause, not an end, to Iran’s quest for a nuclear weapon. While no deal or action — whether economic, diplomatic, or military — can ensure a disarmed Iran in perpetuity, this deal’s search for peace seems too willing to gamble on social progress in Iran, especially when Iranian leaders show little interest in helping to foster it — and even less in becoming anything near a responsible ally in the region. Here, the president is displaying an admirable political vision and optimism, but I just don’t trust the progress of that social experiment enough to pay the cost of this gamble’s security risk. …
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“One of the biggest questions throughout this process has been whether outside inspectors will have the ability to tell if Iran is abiding by this deal. I’m skeptical that they will. The fact that Iran would not agree to ‘anywhere, anytime access is troubling — and an apparent continuation of Iran’s history of deception. … Iran wants international legitimacy. I’m bothered that we seem poised to grant such legitimacy without requiring Iranian concessions on its sponsorship of terror.”
Rep. Israel, the highest ranking Jewish Democrat to oppose the deal, said in a statement that he decided to oppose it because he is concerned that "Iran is highly likely to exploit ambiguities" in the agreement, because lifting of the arms embargo to Iran "creates pathways for Iran to further enrich the weapons stockpiles of Hamas and Hezbollah," and it provides the "technical capability and international legitimacy for Iran to become a nuclear threshold state in 15 years."
“Since the U.S. and Iran severed relations in 1980, the Iranian regime has become increasingly aggressive, openly anti-America and anti-Israel, extremely anti-Semitic, and the largest sponsor of terrorism in the world,” she added.
The Zionist Organization of America issued a statement Wednesday thanking the House Democrats who have announced their opposition to the agreement. Among the others cited were Reps. Ted Deutsch (D-Fla.), Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) and Albio Sires (D-N.J.).
A larger number of Democrats have already come out in favor of the deal, including several Jews. Among them are Reps. Jan Schakowsky of Illinois and Sander Levin of Michigan. California’s two Jewish senators, Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, have also announced their support.