Will Iran be able to build nuclear weapons? Your voice matters!

by | Jun 23, 2015 | Featured

The answer could be determined by the June 30 deadline for a final agreement between Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany (known as the P5+1 which includes the U.S., UK, China, Russia, France and Germany). The outcome has profound consequences for America and the Middle East. An interim agreement between Iran and the P5+1 was signed in November 2013, but didn’t seem to produce any real results until the announcement of the latest parameters, which emerged in April of this year, after an intense eight-day period of negotiations in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Since 1979, the Iranian regime, most recently under President Rouhani’s leadership, has demonstrated increasingly threatening behavior and rhetoric toward the U.S. and the West. Iran continues to defy the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the United Nations in their attempts to monitor its nuclear activities. A number of Arab states have warned that Iran’s development of nuclear weapons poses a threat to Middle East stability and could provoke a regional nuclear arms race.

The IAEA traces Iran’s nuclear arms ambitions as far back as 1984, when supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Hosseini Khamenei was president and Iran was in the middle of the war with Iraq. Fearing that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein might be developing a nuclear weapon, Iran felt the need to have its own bomb to deter its enemies and endorsed a nuclear weapons program.

During the past few years of negotiations and generous offers by the P5+1, Iran has not demonstrated a willingness to give up the capability to develop nuclear weapons, nor have their leaders given global leaders any reason to believe that they are honest brokers with which one can have a successful negotiation. Through its proxy armies of Hezbollah in southern Lebanon and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, and its Quds Force which is heavily involved in bolstering Assad’s forces in Syria, the Iranian regime is supporting terrorists that have carried out attacks on innocent civilians across the Middle East, as well as on American troops and Israeli citizens.

In recent months, the commander of the Basij militia of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards has called for Israel’s annihilation stating that, “erasing Israel off the map” is “nonnegotiable.” The world watched video of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard troops attack a full size replica of the U.S. aircraft carrier, the Nimitz (Nimitz-class carriers are the centerpiece of U.S. naval forces, and the largest warships in the world) during a military drill in the Strait of Hormuz in February, and in late April, just days before the framework was announced, news spread of Iranian forces boarding a Marshall Islandsflagged cargo ship in the Persian Gulf after patrol boats fired warning shots across its bow and ordered it deeper into Iranian waters as it was traveling through the Strait of Hormuz. With these actions offering just a few highlights from Iranian leadership in the past few months, Speaker of the House John Boehner’s tweeted his thoughts and those of other global leaders on April 3: “Iran can’t be trusted to comply with honest transparency & accountability measures.”

Following are some key points as to why a nuclear armed Iran is such a threat:

A nuclear-armed Iran would embolden Iran’s aggressive foreign policy, resulting in greater confrontations with the international community. Iran already has a conventional weapons capability to hit U.S. and allied troops stationed in the Middle East and parts of Europe. If Tehran were allowed to develop nuclear weapons, this threat would increase dramatically.

Iran is one of the world’s leading state sponsors of terrorism through its financial and operational support for groups such as Hezbollah, Hamas and others. Iran could potentially share its nuclear technology and know-how with extremist groups hostile to the United States and the West.

While Iranian missiles can’t yet reach America, Iran having a nuclear weapons capability can potentially directly threaten the United States and its inhabitants. The U.S. Department of Defense reported in April 2012: “With sufficient foreign assistance, Iran may be technically capable of flight-testing an intercontinental ballistic missile by 2015.” Many analysts are also concerned about the possibility of a nuclear weapon arriving in a cargo container at a major U.S. port. Furthermore, a federally mandated commission to study electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attacks noted the vast damage that could be wrought by a single missile with a nuclear warhead, launched from a ship off the U.S. coast, and detonated a couple of hundred miles in the air, high above America.

A nuclear-armed Iran poses a threat to America’s closest allies in the Middle East. Israel is most at risk. America’s moderate Arab allies, such as Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain and others are alarmed at Iran’s aggressive regional policy and feel increasingly threatened by a nuclear-armed Iran. A nuclear-armed Iran would likely spark a nuclear arms race in the Middle East that would further destabilize this volatile and vital region.

The framework currently being reviewed outlines measures that the Iranians and the international community will take regarding Iran’s nuclear program in the event of a final agreement. While the steps laid out within the framework have been presented as the key elements of any such agreement, the specifics are still subject to negotiation. It’s important to note that both the U.S. and Iran published fact sheets outlining the framework deal, and there are discrepancies between the two.

Over the past several years, strong majorities in the Senate and House of Representatives have carefully enunciated the basic American requirements for a final agreement on Iran’s nuclear program. Congress has made clear that a good deal must eliminate every Iranian pathway to a nuclear weapon.

The Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015, passed overwhelmingly in the House (400-25) and Senate (98-1) in May, establishes a procedure for congressional review of any nuclear agreement with Iran to ensure it meets U.S. objectives. Under its provisions, Congress could pass a joint resolution objecting to an agreement and barring any statutory sanctions relief.

With the deadline quickly approaching to reach a nuclear agreement between Iran and the P5+1, Congress must continue to insist on a good deal that eliminates every Iranian pathway to a nuclear weapon. When reviewing the deal, Congress must ensure that each of the following five minimum criteria is met:

1. Inspections and verification
Inspectors must be permitted unimpeded access to suspect sites.

A good deal must support “anytime, anywhere” inspections—including all military facilities—to verify Iranian compliance. Iran’s decades-long history of cheating on international obligations suggests it will secretly attempt to continue its nuclear weapons program. Iran cannot be permitted any safe havens where it could pursue this ambition.

2. Possible military dimensions
Iran must fully explain its prior weaponization efforts.

A good deal must require Iran to come clean on all of its prior nuclear work, such as developing triggers for a nuclear weapon, as required by six United Nations Security Council resolutions. The entire scope of Iran’s nuclear activities must be known to establish a baseline against which to measure future actions. Iran must also be made to comply with prior commitments; allowing Iran to shirk them will only tempt it to defy commitments made under a new deal.

3. Sanctions
Sanctions relief must commence only after Iran complies with its commitments.

A good deal must lift sanctions gradually as Iran meets its obligations under the agreement. Further, any deal should specify clear and immediate consequences for Iranian violations. The international community must retain significant leverage while Iran demonstrates compliance; it must not provide immediate sanctions relief or unfreeze a significant portion of Tehran’s assets so Iran can “take the money and run.”

4. Duration
Iran’s nuclear weapons quest must be blocked for decades.

A good deal must prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear threshold state. The announced framework would lift nuclear restrictions in 10 to 15 years and grant Iran virtually instant breakout time after 12 or 13 years. A deal must restrict Iran’s nuclear capabilities to include research and development until it demonstrates conclusively, over time, that it no longer seeks a nuclear weapons capability.

5. Dismantlement
Iran must dismantle its nuclear infrastructure so it has no path to a nuclear weapon.

A good deal must require Iran to dismantle its nuclear infrastructure and relinquish its uranium stockpile such that it has neither a uranium nor plutonium pathway to nuclear weapons.

In his 2015 State of the Union Address, President Barack Obama reiterated, “There are no guarantees that negotiations will succeed, and I keep all options on the table to prevent a nuclear Iran.” There is much talk about another extension, as Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has said, “no deal is better than a bad deal.”

We urge you to take a moment and contact your Senators and Congressman, letting them know how you feel, that a nuclear Iran is not in America’s best interest, or that of our allies. Use the talking points we provide, or share your personal concerns. Either way, your voice matters.

To contact your Representatives in Washington visit www.JewishVa.org/CRCIran and click through the CRC’s automated “Your Voice Matters, Contact Your Legislators” or call them at the numbers listed in the box below.

—Robin Mancoll is director of United Jewish Federation of Tidewater’s Community Relations Council.

by Robin Mancoll