Next year in Tehran

by | Aug 18, 2015 | Other News

Looking for a locale for your next vacation? How about Iran? Seriously, a quick Google search will lead you to discover that Iran is and has been listed in the top 20 tourist destinations for the past two years. No longer difficult to obtain a visa or direct flights from major American cities to Tehran, you can explore the grandeur of the Persian Empire in the ruins of gorgeous Shiraz. At the Friday Bazaar, a pop-up marketplace that features hundreds of vendors in a four-story concrete parking lot, you can shop the most traditional faction of merchants selling antique wares ranging from tarnished silverware and chipped porcelain to Curtis Mayfield LPs, or, just alongside their stalls, you can check out the young and progressive artists, who display their brightly colored handcrafts. You can go skiing in the Tochal ski resort, which features one of the world’s highest and longest tele-cabin lifts, traversing four miles, and reaching its 13,000-foot summit. You can visit the Caspian Sea in the North, where it is cool and temperate, or go South to the Strait of Hormuz, where the weather is tropical.

Indeed, as the news of the completed deal with Iran over its nuclear program has been announced, I have heard people who I love and respect look forward to normalized relations with Iran, to the possibilities of increased tourism and commerce, to the good will an affirmative vote from Congress would generate with the Iranian people. Comparing our relationship with Iran to that of our association with Cuba, they say that Congress’ rejection of the deal would be disastrous to our relationship with Iran and they predict that only good can come from entering into this agreement. “Iran would never actually use a nuclear weapon,” they say, “it’s just for political posturing. Besides, Iran is tired of being a pariah and wants to be in favor with the world. And, finally, Iran is the best-positioned country in the region to take on ISIS and defeat it. They could be our allies in this critical endeavor.”

You know I am an idealist, that rabbi-types like me, live in the world of the ideal and share with you a vision of life as it should and could be, rather than as it is. So I wish, from the bottom of my heart, that I could believe as they do, that this deal will herald a new world—almost the fulfillment of the messianic vision of the lion lying down with the lamb. But I cannot. I just don’t have that much faith. I’m too pragmatic; I’m too afraid. After all, Castro does not chant threats of “death to the United States” and “death to Israel.” And not only does the Iranian government threaten death to us and our greatest ally in the Middle East, but also it continues to be the number one exporter of terrorism in the world, funding every rogue terror group from Hamas and Hezbollah (whose missile arsenal is entirely supplied by Iran); to Assad in Syria; to the Houthis in Yemen; to its proxies in South America, just to name a few.

Like all rational human beings, diplomacy is the preferred course of action in deterring Iran’s nuclear ambitions. No one wants to go to war with Iran for myriad reasons, not the least of which is that they have an endless supply of young men whom they would be willing to sacrifice (as they did in their decade long war with Iraq). But the reality is that we have been trying diplomacy with Iran for more than 20 years and the only thing that succeeded in getting them to the negotiating table were severe economic sanctions, all of which would be lifted by December 2015, just five months away. What we are talking about in dollars and cents is an influx of $150 billion dollars that could be used to fund whatever the current regime chooses, and, if their past spending habits are any indication, they wouldn’t be using it to build roads, schools, and hospitals.

That is only one of the reasons that the deal on the table is such a bad deal—that it would allow Iran to fund terrorism on a much grander scale than anything we’ve seen to date. By the way, Hezbollah is estimated to have 60–100,000 missiles in its weapons cache, many of them much better able to reach specific targets in Israel, and all of them supplied by Iran.

Here are the other reasons this deal is such a bad deal for America, for Israel, for our traditional Sunni allies in the Middle East, like Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Egypt and for the entire Western world and the Jewish and Christian civilization we cherish:

For one, rather than diminish the likelihood of war, it would increase it. There is no way that a nuclear-armed Iran would not precipitate an arms race. Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Turkey have already said, “If Iran has a nuclear weapon, we want one.” And even if the big countries do not use these weapons as anything more than a deterrent, the rogue elements within these countries will have the technology from their parent-state, Iran, further destabilizing an already religiously torn, violent, and volatile region of the world. People are already killing each other with conventional weapons in the name of God; can you imagine what would happen if they could kill each other, in God’s name, in the shadow of nuclear annihilation!?!

Secondly, while the deal asks Iran to put its uranium and plutonium enrichment on hold and to use only one of its centrifuges for energy production, the International Atomic Energy Agency cannot do spot check, anytime, anywhere inspections. Instead, they are required to give twenty four day notice, giving Iran plenty of time to remove any evidence of violations. Having broken so many agreements in the past, Iran will be free to operate as it pleases with no oversight.

Thirdly, the deal allows for most of Iran’s extensive nuclear infrastructure to remain intact. No centrifuges or nuclear facilities need be dismantled. According to this deal:

1. In five years, the UN Arms Embargo against Iran will be lifted and Iran will be able to obtain any conventional weapons it desires.
2. In eight years, Iran will be able to obtain any rocket technology that exists in the world.
3. And in fifteen years, Iran is free to pursue its nuclear program without any restrictions.

According to the current terms, all Iran needs to do is wait out the world. The deal is not subject to compliance, but rather upon reaching milestones on the calendar. Since economic sanctions would be lifted immediately, what incentive is there for Iran to comply anyway?

The fate of the world is now in the hands of the United States Congress. As our country did in the past, now is the time to again be world leaders. We have two months to prevail upon our elected officials to demand a good deal for us, for Israel and for the world. I urge you to call your congressmen and senators and let them know that you want a deal with Iran, but you want it to be a good deal, a deal which requires five things:

1. Inspections and verification, by the International Atomic Energy Agency, anytime, anywhere.
2. A full explanation from Iran of it weaponization efforts to date, so we know how close they really are to obtaining a nuclear weapon.
3. Gradual, rather than immediate sanctions relief, so that Iran earns its economic freedoms through compliance.
4. The blocking of its conventional and nuclear weapons programs for decades not five, eight or fifteen years.
5. And finally, the dismantlement of its nuclear infrastructure so that it has no path to a nuclear weapon.

I know this sounds like Netanyahu’s party line, but lest you think that it is only Bibi and the Conservatives in Israel who think this is a bad deal, 78% of Israelis believe this deal endangers their country.

Israeli Opposition Leader, Isaac “Bougie” Herzog said: “I think it is bad for Israel. [Netanyahu and myself] will certainly cooperate when it comes to the security of Israel. As an Israeli patriot, this deal is dangerous.…[Lifting sanctions will] immediately give Iran a lot of money and resources, which will reach our enemies at our borders. Now Iran is out of the cage and will become a regional tiger.”

Yesh Atid’s Leader and Opposition Member, the liberal Yair Lapid, said, “I will continue fighting to the last minute so that the whole world and the U.S. Congress understand that lifting sanctions without changing the issue of inspections would be wrong.”

And finally, Former Prime Minister and Labor Party member Ehud Barak said, “This agreement gives Iran the legitimacy to become a threshold state, it gives her the option to choose when to start producing a nuclear weapon, not without risks, it enables Iran to evade the financial stranglehold and to subsidize or support terror. In this aspect, this is a bad agreement.… Iran, which is following the footsteps of North Korea and Pakistan, will become in the coming decade a nuclear superpower.”

AIPAC’s national director of Synagogue Initiative, Mark Waldman, wrote the following D’var Torah: “In this week’s double Torah portion, Matot-Masei, as the Nation of Israel stood at the entrance to the Promised Land, the tribes of Gad and Reuben approached Moses with an offer: ‘If we have found favor in your eyes, let this land be given to your servants for a possession; bring us not over the Jordan.’ Rather than enter and fight for the Holy Land, they wished to remain on the east bank of the Jordan River and inhabit the fertile lands that the nation had already conquered.

“Moses responds forcefully, asking the historic question: ‘Shall your brethren go to the war, while you sit here?’ Their offer was not only unreasonable and unfair, but dangerous, as Moses innately recognized that their refusal to join in the fight to conquer the Promised Land would weaken the resolve of the other tribes, and in time, endanger the entire nation.

“For this reason, Moses responds clearly and firmly: As long as their proposition posed a danger to the nation, he could not accede to their request. As much as he might have wanted to respond positively, conditions demanded that he respond with a firm ‘no.’

“After Moses refuses to accept their request, the tribes return with a better offer; “We will build sheepfolds here for our cattle, and cities for our little ones; but we ourselves will be armed and ready to go before the children of Israel, until we have brought them to their place…We will not return unto our houses, until the children of Israel have inherited every man his inheritance.” After alleviating Moses’ concerns and ensuring that their actions would not endanger the nation, Moses accepted their offer.

“Sometimes, as much as we can try to see the positive points of an argument and as much as we may want to say “yes,” “no” is the right way to go. Moses could not in good conscience accept their proposal, as long as saying “yes” to the tribes’ offer posed a danger to the rest of the nation. Moreover, Moses’ “no,” rather than causing a rift among the people, served instead as sufficient incentive for the tribes to make a better offer. Moses demonstrated that in certain circumstances, “no” really is the best answer to a bad offer.”

“Like Moses, we must evaluate any proposal against the outcome it is designed to protect against. As the United States entered into negotiations with Iran, it was clear that any agreement must address five key issues outlined by Congress to block any path to an Iranian nuclear weapons capability: inspections and verifications, past possible military dimensions, sanctions, duration, and dismantlement.

“Saying “no” is not about scuttling a deal—far from it! As when Moses said no to the tribes’ first request, it is about setting the stage for a better deal. It is about a deal that truly dismantles Iran’s nuclear program. It is about a deal with “anytime, anywhere” inspections. It is about a deal that only grants sanctions relief as Iran proves, over time, that its nuclear ambitions are only peaceful in nature.

“Sadly, this deal will do none of those things. Rather, it will embolden Iran, enhance its ability to sponsor global terror and threaten Israel and our allies in the region.

“It is now our turn to fight for America and Israel’s security. We must reach out to our members of Congress to ask that they oppose this deal and that they, like Moses, demand a deal that accomplishes the objective, in this case, a nuclear weapons free Iran.”

Then might we be able to say, not only, “Next year in Jerusalem,” but also, “Next year in Tehran.”

by Rabbi Rosalin Mandelberg