More than 600 people jammed the big sanctuary at Temple Emanu-El of Closter on Wednesday night to listen to Bradley Gordon talk about why the proposed deal with Iran is a bad idea, and what to do about it.
The size of the room limited the size of the audience; many others listened as Mr. Gordon’s talk was live-streamed into an overflow room. Others had been turned away by the Closter police when the shul’s parking lots were too packed to allow any more cars. Some parked in the residential area, taking the opportunity for a long stroll in the gloriously clear night, with its striking half moon.
Inside the shul, Mr. Gordon, AIPAC’s director of policy of government affairs, also was strikingly clear.
Mr. Gordon – who earned the right to the title “ambassador” when he represented the United States during the 1990 non-proliferation review process — lived in Israel as a student, and later worked for CIA, where he was on the agency’s Iran desk. After that, he was an assistant director of the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency. As an expert on Iran and on arms control, and as a proud Jew with deep ties to Israel, he was a logical choice as speaker, at a meeting that was at once a briefing and a call to action.
The deal that the United States, along with the five other nations on its side in the negotiations, struck with Iran is so bad that having it in place would be worse than having no deal at all, Mr. Gordon said.
The goal of the deal’s opponents was to have sanctions relieved only after Iran complies with its commitments. But if the deal is implemented, the sanctions now crippling Iran’s economy – the very sanctions that drove it to the negotiating table – would disappear, and at least some of the billions of dollars that would flow like an undammed river into Iran would go toward supporting terrorist regimes and would destabilize the Middle East even more.
It is very hard to snap back sanctions, Mr. Gordon said, and it is important to note that the agreement specified that no such snapback would happen unless the violations were “significant.” Even in that case, the 24 days that legally may elapse until a requested inspection is allowed. That is enough time for a great deal of clean-up.
And in order to get even that weakened form of inspection, it would be necessary to produce a reason — and that likely would compromise the sources would whose tips led to the request for the inspection in the first place.
Many of the people who agree that the proposed deal is a bad one still think that even a bad deal is better than no deal at all, Mr. Gordon said; in fact, he added, many of those people are members of Congress, whose opinions on the deal matter a great deal.
It is important to keep in mind that “this is a policy disagreement,” he said. It is not personal, or even political.”
“Some say that the only alternative to this deal is warm,” he added. “That is not true. I submit to you that war is the least likely alternative.” That’s because it’s not in Iran’s interests, he said. The government has invest 30 years and billions of dollars in building its nuclear capabilities. War would destroy it in two to three months. “They will not risk that program,” he said. On the other hand, if Iran’s funds are freed and it is allowed to develop its nuclear reactors, “That will cause the Saudi Arabians to step up their activities going forward.”
What if the United States rejects the deal but the other five allied countries sign it? Because the world’s economy is global, and its linchpin is the United States, the sanctions will remain in place. Sanctions were an extremely potent weapon – the Iranian economy is so weakened that popular discontent is making political and religious leaders worry about their own positions.
What if the Congress rejects it but the president still signs it? “The president can waive or suspend executive branch sanctions, but he can’t waive or suspend statutory sanctions,” Mr. Gordon said. “Those include sanctions on oil.”
And then there is Israel.
“I am sure that everyone in this room knows that when someone says that I will destroy you, the Jewish people have to take it seriously. Putting a nuclear weapon in the hands of country that says ‘We will destroy you’ has to be taken seriously.
“We as a community must rise up with one voice and say that the deal is not good enough.
“No deal is better than a bad deal. No deal would be better than this deal, which will lead to a nuclear-armed Iran and a nuclear-armed Middle East.
“This is the most important challenge confronting the American people, the Jewish people, and Israel.”
What to do?
“We must act, and we must act now.
“Call your senators. Call your congressional representatives. Say ‘I oppose this deal, and I hope you do to.
“It will be an uphill fight. But we’ve done it before, and we can do again.
“It is possible.”