Last Sunday, approximately 100 people gathered at Congregation Bnai Yeshurun in Teaneck to hear the president of the Zionist Organization of America, Morton A. Klein, share his views on the existential threat Iran’s approaching ability to produce nuclear weapons presents to the United States and Israel.
Specifically, Mr. Klein said that an interim deal struck by the P5+1 fails to prevent Iran’s rise as an imminent nuclear power. (The P5+1 is made up by the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany.)
The talk, organized by Laura Fein, the ZOA’s executive director for the New Jersey region, was the second Teaneck event in the ZOA’s ambitious schedule since the opening of its new Bergen County office. Bnai Yeshurun’s rabbi, Steven Pruzansky, launched the evening with a warm welcome, and Ms. Fein introduced Mr. Klein.
|Zionist Organization of America’s President Morton A. Klein doesn’t like the interim nuclear agreement with Iran.|
According to Mr. Klein, the deal, which was put into effect on January 20, is just the most recent manifestation of President Obama’s willingness to accept a short-term diplomatic win even as it advances Iran down the path toward nuclear weaponry.
The deal requires Iran only to stop enriching uranium to 20 percent – that is to weapons grade – and to oxidize some of their current stores, but it allows Iran to continue research on other necessary elements of nuclear weapons, such as the bomb-trigger mechanism. Mr. Klein said that now that Iran is free to pursue such auxiliary elements without threat of repercussions, it likely will be better able to produce a weapon after the six-month period of sanctions relief than it would have been otherwise. That is because it already has the technology it needs for uranium enrichment, and can quickly revert the 5 percent oxidized stores back to 20 percent later.
And, he added, the reduction of sanctions, coupled with the Obama administration’s repeated claim that military action will be avoided only as a last resort, has clearly weakened America’s influence in the Middle East, especially among its allies.
In Mr. Klein’s assessment, if there are to be no sanctions, and there is the promise of no military intervention, Iranian behavior essentially is repercussion-free. He asks, “If we couldn’t get Iran to stop progress toward nuclear weapons with crippling sanctions, how do we plan to get them to stop [progress] now that we’ve retracted them?”
Mr. Klein also touched on the threats that come from such Iranian leaders as Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. He described the crowds that gathered with Khamenei in the streets of Tehran, chanting “Death to America,” even during negotiations, and he criticized Secretary of State John Kerry for not responding either to these threats and or to Khamenei’s describing Israel as a “rabid dog.” Mr. Klein contrasted that to the State Department’s insistence to Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon that he apologize and retract offhand, private remarks about the pressure placed on Israel by Kerry to make concessions to the Palestinian Authority. “This is how they act today. Imagine how they will act tomorrow, with nukes,” Mr. Klein said.
Mr. Klein also discussed the pending Menendez-Kirk bill, which would create additional sanctions if Iran does not comply with the interim agreement or continue to negotiate toward a permanent agreement. Mr. Klein questioned why the Obama administration strongly opposes this bill, which, he said, in fact strengthens the administration’s negotiating position by creating a consequence for noncompliance. Mr. Klein questioned how the bill could be found objectionable, since it takes effect only if the current agreement is violated. “There isn’t even anything for Iran to break!” he said “They didn’t have to make any concessions!”
Finally, Mr. Klein discussed Israel’s possible need to take military action if, as he predicts, the negotiations fail to yield a deal that prevents Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. He expressed optimism about Israel’s military strength and its potential to destroy or significantly delay Iran’s program without sustaining unacceptable damage in retribution. Regarding the possibility of U.S. military support for such intervention, Klein cited a 2013 Pew Research Center Poll that indicated that 64 percent of Americans support military action if necessary to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.
Finally, Mr. Klein said that the ZOA “urges every media outlet, every church, every synagogue, every mosque, indeed, every Jewish and non-Jewish organization that cares about peace, every columnist, every journalist and every blogger … to insist Iran close its Fordow nuclear plant and its Arak heavy water plutonium-producing reactor, stop all enrichment and agree to remove all its existing enriched uranium. [They] urge everyone to support military action if Iran fails to comply.” He cited ZOA support from across the political spectrum, from Democrats, such as Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, who represents a district in Queens and Brooklyn, to former Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas, a Republican. “Truth is not a political position,” Mr. Klein said.
Mr. Klein’s fear is that failed diplomacy leads only to war. Moreover, he said, the deal does not call for Iran to denounce terrorist groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah, and it doesn’t even ask Iran to retract repeated death threats against both Israel and America. “It is a crucial time for Israel. It is a crucial time for America,” Mr. Klein said.
Mr. Klein ended by quoting from one of Winston Churchill’s novels, “The Gathering Storm”: “We shall see how the counsels of prudence and restraint may become the prime agents of mortal danger; how the middle course adopted from desires for safety and a quiet life may be found to lead direct to the bull’s-eye of disaster.”
The fact that the Arab nations sandwiched between Iran and Israel, including Saudi Arabia, have expressed grave concerns over the most recent agreement is telling, Mr. Klein said. They understand that the agreement has tipped the balance of power strongly toward Iran and increased the likelihood that some day Israel may have to act alone against Iran.