Op-Ed: ZOA: Obama's Record Indicates He Won't Stop Iran
Morton A. Klein, ZOA PresidentMorton A. Klein is the National President of the Zionist Organization of America.
There have been important indications that, contrary to his verbal assurances, President Obama is willing to accept a nuclear Iran.
President Barack Obama has repeatedly stated for more than five years –– since before he was elected President –– that he will “never, never” allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons.
He has also repeatedly stated that, “If you like your healthcare plan, you can keep your healthcare plan. Period.”
The ZOA is deeply concerned that his Iranian pledge is as untrue as his healthcare pledge.
To stop Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons is not only a vital Israeli interest, but a vital American interest.
If Iran is allowed to become a nuclear power, nuclear proliferation across the Middle East will ensue. Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf Sunni Arab states will seek their own nuclear deterrent against Iran and Egypt and Turkey are also likely to join the race for a nuclear weapons capability.
Once Iran goes nuclear, one can expect Iraq and Azerbaijan, the latter currently an Israeli ally, from moving into the Iranian camp for want of any alternative or foreign protector.
A nuclear Iran will drastically affect the global economy and global oil supplies, including significant increases in the price of oil, as it will be able to control or even shut down the free flow of oil through the Persian Gulf, through which more than half the world’s oil passes, without fear of serious retaliation. America, and indeed the world can thereby be subject to nuclear blackmail.
If Iran gets the bomb, after successive U.S. presidents have said that it will not be allowed to do so, American credibility, influence and power will have been dealt a devastating blow.
The Iranian regime, including several former presidents, have repeatedly threatened the nuclear destruction of the Jewish state of Israel. Jewish history has taught us that horrific, genocidal threats cannot be ignored, but must be taken with utmost seriousness. In addition to an Iranian nuclear power being a monumental threat to America, Europe and the Middle East, the threat to Israel, a small country that can be utterly devastated by just a few nuclear bombs, only magnifies the urgency of stopping Iran obtaining nuclear weapons.
It is appreciated that a nuclear-armed Iranian regime poses an existential threat to Israel, but few discuss the huge risk for the United States if Iran becomes a nuclear weapons power.
Whatever the political, economic and security risks for the U.S. that might be entailed by a last-resort military strike upon Iranian nuclear facilities, they will be as nothing against the shadow of nuclear blackmail security threat under which America will be obliged to live once Iran gets such weapons.
Once Iran gets the bomb, our freedom and security of may well compromised beyond anything we imagined.
Obama willing to accept nuclear Iran?
In July 2009, President Obama’s then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that the U.S. would extend a “missile shield” over the Middle East, implying acceptance of a nuclear Iran. Would Secretary Clinton had said this without approval from her boss, President Obama?
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel argued for years before his confirmation in 2013 that the U.S. should reject all measures, not only military but economic as well, to prevent Iran becoming a nuclear power.
During his confirmation hearings earlier this year, Hagel may have inadvertently exposed Obama’s behind-the-scenes policy when he shockingly said that he supported the Obama Administration’s Iran policy on “containent” - before an aide rushed up to whisper to him that the position of the Obama Administration was to oppose containment and not accept a nuclear Iran.
Both Clinton and Hagel reversed their positions when they attracted controversy, but doubts remain. After all, why more than imply containment, why appoint as Defense Secretary one who supported containment, if that is not the actual, intended, behind-the-scenes policy in the White House? It is also reasonable to conclude, on the basis of their past statements, that both have had discussions with President Obama that tended in the direction of a policy of containment.
Second, while President Obama has affirmed on various occasions that Israel will legitimately decide how defend its security, his officials, advisers and actions over five years tell a different story:
In April 2009, President Obama’s Vice-President Joseph Biden publicly warned Israel of the Administration’s opposition to any Israeli military action against Iran.
The same month, then-Secretary Clinton declared that American support in countering the Iranian nuclear threat was conditional on Israel making concessions to the Palestinians.
In September 2009, Obama adviser and supporter and former National Security Adviser under President Jimmy Carter, Zbigniew Brzezinski (whom Obama has praised publicly), said that were Israel to launch a military strike at Iran, the U.S. should confront the Israeli planes and shoot them down.
In February 2012, the Chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, also explicitly opposed an Israeli strike.
According to reports, President Obama last year privately warned Israel, which has fewer military capabilities and thus less time to wait, not to strike Iran and warned of penalties for striking Iran if he were to win re-election in November 2012.
In all these cases, there was nothing about Israel’s ‘sovereign right to make it own decisions.’
Third, President Obama has a frightening and disturbing record on sanctions against Iran:
For over a year after entering office, President Obama would not allow a Congressional vote on new U.S. sanctions on Iran, despite having overwhelming, veto-proof majorities in both Houses of Congress.
The 2010 UN Security Council sanctions President Obama supported did not cover Iran’s vital oil, financial and insurance sectors. Also, the sanctions included exemptions for numerous countries that are heavily invested in Iran, like China, which has huge contracts in Iran’s energy sector developing oil refineries, and Russia, which supplies S-300 surface-to-air missiles to Iran. (Japan and several European countries also enjoy exemptions from the application of these sanctions. These Obama exemptions weakened the impact of the sanctions).
In additional sanctions bills, the Obama Administration sought to torpedo or weaken new and stronger Congressional sanctions on Iran, even after these had been softened and waivers providing greater presidential discretion had been incorporated at the Administration’s request, leading Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, to publicly and angrily criticize the Administration.
In his 2012 AIPAC speech, President Obama took credit for imposing sanctions on Iran’s Central Bank. Yet, not only had he not implemented these sanctions at the time, but he tried to slow their passage and dilute their strength.
Now, when Iran has made no concessions at all but agreed to further talks, President Obama, instead of maintaining what pressure he has exerted through existing sanctions, has urged Congress not to impose new sanctions on Iran’s mining and construction sectors, even though sanctions are the only form of pressure than can be exercised to bring about Iranian concessions.
New reports indicate that President Obama is not only opposed to imposing further sanctions on Iran, but that he is prepared to weaken them and unfreeze some Iranian assets if Iran merely takes some steps to curb –– not terminate –– its nuclear program.
In a meeting with a group of American Jewish leaders last month, President Obama urged American Jewish leaders to desist from urging Congress for additional sanctions on Iran.
Fourth, President Obama has not laid down any red lines beyond which the U.S. will not permit Iran to advance in its quest for nuclear weapons. This open-ended policy suggests that there is in fact no point at which President Obama would act militarily to stop Iran developing a weapon. Such suspicions can only be compounded by President Obama’s recent failure to act militarily on a red line that he actually did lay down, that is, the use of chemical or biological weapons by Syria against its own people.
Obama leaks secret info. harming Israel on Iran
Fifth, the Obama Administration has damagingly publicized Israeli military and intelligence information, including regarding Israeli preparations to deal with Iran militarily should the need arise. This has included leaking news of Iraeli military preparations, such as revelations in March 2013 about Israeli use of Azerbaijan airfields with regard to a possible operation against Iran. Also, in May 2013 the Administration revealed details of an American-Israeli top-secret a U.S.-funded installation at an undisclosed location between Jerusalem and Ashdod for Israel's Arrow 3 ballistic missile defense system.
Obama shows no urgency about Iran’s nukes
Obama wants new sanctions delays & makes no demands on Iran
This is not unlike President Obama’s refusal to pressure Iran when he had a golden opportunity to do so in June 2009, when the Iranian regime brutally suppressed demonstrations produced by the rigged presidential elections that confirmed Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in power. President Obama said nothing for days, only tepidly criticized the Iranian regime and said, while he had ‘deep concerns … it’s not productive, given the history of U.S.-Iranian relations, to be seen as meddling – the U.S. President meddling in Iranian elections.’ (This is in stark contrast to events in Egypt in 2011, when after demonstrators erupted onto Cairo streets in late January against U.S. ally President Hosni Mubarak, President Obama said, that while ‘it is not the role of any other country to determine Egypt’s leaders,’ he nonetheless declared that it ‘is my belief that an orderly transition must be meaningful. It must be peaceful, and it must begin now’).
Eighth, President Obama has not only done little to stop Iran developing a nuclear weapon, but he has ignored all other dangerous aspects of Iranian policy –– its role in international terrorism, of which it is the leading state sponsor, funding and arming Hamas, Hezbollah, Syria and others.
Iran has been behind the murder of scores of Jews in terrorist attacks in Argentina and the assassination of numerous Iranian dissidents and human rights campaigners abroad. Iranian operatives even tried to murder the Saudi ambassador to Washington D.C.
Equally worrying is President Obama’s ignoring Iran’s drive to develop bigger and better ICBMs which can carry nuclear weapons. At present, Iran already has missiles which can strike Israel and targets in Europe and will have the capacity to hit America in few years.
Ninth, why has President Obama not demanded as a condition of further negotiations with Iran that Tehran immediately stop its centrifuges and its ICBM programs for the duration of talks?
Why has President Obama not demanded that Iran’s enriched uranium be removed and its nuclear facility at Fordow and heavy water, plutonium-producing facility at Arak be closed? He should be demanding all these things.
At present, Iran continues unchecked in its drive for a nuclear weapons capability and the negotiations in Geneva merely smooth the path it is taking. That’s why Israel’s Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz has said that ‘We’re worried Geneva 2013 will end up like Munich 1938.’ The Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif has just reiterated that Iran has the ‘right’ to continue enriching uranium –– yet the Obama Administration speaks as though the current talks are a great success, claiming that ‘The Iranian proposal was a new proposal with a level of seriousness and substance that we had not seen before.’
But the proposal, which involves suspending its 20% uranium enrichment activities and sufficing with enriching uranium to 3.5% will not stop Iran going nuclear, because the vast expansion in the number of Iranian centrifuges, including new centrifuges at Natanz allow Iran to transform 3.5% enriched uranium to bomb-grade material (enriched to 90%) as quickly as its old centrifuges were capable of transforming 20% enriched uranium to weapons-grade levels. As Gary Samore, President Obama’s former White House Coordinator for Arms Control and Weapons of Mass Destruction, put it, ‘Ending production of 20% enriched uranium is not sufficient to prevent breakout, because Iran can produce nuclear weapons using low-enriched uranium and a large number of centrifuge machines.’
Michael Rubin, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, a former Pentagon official, and author of the new book, "Dancing with the Devil: The Peril of Engaging Rogue Regimes", said, ‘The chances that Iran will come in from the cold are between zero and nil ... Kayhan, an Iranian newspaper whose editor Khamenei appoints and which speaks on the Supreme Leader’s behalf, has made it clear that confidence-building and compromise are tantamount to treason.’
The record of President Obama’s actions and policies on Iran for the past five years is deeply disturbing, one that cannot inspire any confidence that President Obama means what he says when it comes to stopping Iran.
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 speak out on this before it is too late.
They should all 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.
We urge everyone to support military action if Iran fails to comply.