One way or another, this coming Sunday will be historic.
On that day, President Donald Trump will decide whether or not to re-certify a waiver on sanctions against the Iranian regime, a legal measure that represents the American commitment to President Barack Obama’s Iran deal. If the president opts not to re-certify it, Congress has the power to re-enact crippling economic sanctions against both Iran and its international business partners, reapplying the type of pressure that might actually stop Iran from going nuclear — the pivotal end-goal the current deal fails to provide.
If, however, Trump blesses the deal, Iran will march ever closer toward the soon-to-be inevitable prospect of nuclear power.
This day will be as critical to the safety of the Jewish people and Israel as the day Barack Obama signed the original catastrophic agreement.
Not that you’d know it.
In the Jewish community, especially, barely a word has been uttered by leaders and activists alike. Even those who worked tirelessly to stop the deal back in 2015 have gone suddenly mum.
To give an important example, back then, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) heroically spent tens of millions of dollars and organized massive fly-ins of supporters to stampede the halls of Congress — all in an effort to stop President Obama from agreeing the deal. Though they now have the administration on their side, AIPAC announced just days ago that it would not advise the President to decertify the deal.
That’s quite a change.
Perhaps they, like so many others, have been seduced by the chorus of media commentators begging Trump not to scrap the deal — one that has been as loud as it has been constant.
The arguments offered by these advocates generally boil down to the same two points. Firstly, if we abandon the deal, they say, our international reputation will suffer as we show we can’t be trusted. Second, even if we do opt out, our allies may not follow. In other words, we’ve lost our leverage.
Fortunately for us, these arguments aren’t worth the web-space they’re beamed on.
Let’s start with the primary point raised by deal’s supporters. If America pulls out of a deal it signed onto, our international standing will take a debilitating hit. After all, who will ever want to sign an agreement with a partner that has a history of pulling out?
Usually, such an argument would hold. Here, it doesn’t.
Firstly, the dangers of a nuclear Iran more than justify the deal’s revocation by a new administration. That is especially true considering the fact that, as a democracy, administration and policy changes are to be expected from the United States. It might not be something a dictatorship like Iran can understand, but something that we as Americans certainly should.
It was Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) who famously wrote to Ayatollah Khamenei to warn that given that President Obama chose not to ratify the deal through Congress, it could be revoked by a different President with the stroke of a pen.
Much more critical is the fact that Iran isn’t keeping the deal. In September, Israeli intelligence learned that international IAEA inspectors were denied entry into a critical Iranian military installation at Parchin. Last week, the Institute for Science and International Security, a conglomerate of leading scientists, released a report demanding that the IAEA gain access to Parchin, an area it said was marked by “plenty of evidence of past Iranian nuclear weapons activity,” and which most likely houses high-explosive storage bunkers and shock-physics laboratories.
Though the deal stipulates that Iran must allow inspectors access to all sites of suspected nuclear development, an official from Iran’s nuclear implementation committee announced quite bluntly last week that “Americans will not be allowed to inspect the military bases.”
So much for Iran’s cooperation.
Moreover, those heralding the reputation risks ignore the far-more delegitimizing effects that would accompany a continued American commitment to the deal. After all, in signing the Iran agreement, America endangered some of its most important regional allies, such as Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain, and most importantly the State of Israel, all of whom legitimately fear Iranian hegemony in the Middle East.
In fact, we are already feeling the effects of the plummeting value of our friendships. Just last week, King Salman of Saudi Arabia made the first ever royal visit to America’s foremost international competitor, Russia’s Vladimir Putin. According to The Guardian’s diplomatic editor Patrick Wintour, the message was clear. “The kingdom [is] looking to diversify into wider set of alliances,” due no doubt in part to their “fears about US reliability.”
America must stop Iran and restore the faith of our most dependable allies. To continue to prioritize a horrible agreement with a sworn and swindling enemy over decades-old alliances with vital and moral friends like Israel amounts to pure stupidity.
Which brings us to another commonly used argument, which is that America can’t retreat from the Iran deal becaue Europe and Asia are making too much money to renege. After all, the other signatories of the Iran agreement have vowed to stand by the deal even if we don’t. So long as they refuse to sanction Iran, the rogue regime will maintain the economic capability to produce a nuclear weapon.
To this, I respond simply: Russia, China, and Europe will abide by any move we make.
The United States, the world’s largest economy, boasts a financial system worth a whopping $19 trillion. No major economy will risk losing access to that. Certainly not in exchange for access to Iran’s $400 billion economy.
Sure, Russia, China, and Europe will threaten non-compliance. But in the end, they’ll comply. In fact — as explained by Richard Goldberg, one of the leading architects of congressional sanctions against Iran — that’s exactly the pattern. When Senators Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Bob Menendez (D-NJ) put together a bill imposing crippling sanctions on the National Bank of Iran, a “livid” Obama administration begged them to withdraw. European allies, they warned, had sworn not to comply.
In the end, they did.
The same occurred months later when Europeans refused to cut Iran out of the global SWIFT financial network. Legislation was drafted to cut SWIFT out of U.S. markets, and the Europeans gave in. Precisely the same story played out through the passage of the Iran Threat Reduction Act and the Iran Freedom and Counter-Proliferation Act.
The lesson, as Goldberg wrote in Foreign Policy last week: “Cry as they might along the way, no European or Asian corporation is going to choose a terrorist regime over access to the U.S. dollar.”
In short, we as a nation already have the power to stop Iran. Or, to speak President Trump’s language, in this instance, America is Already Great Enough.
Shmuley Boteach, “America’s Rabbi,” whom the Washington Post calls “the most famous Rabbi in America,” is founder of The World Values Network and is the international best-selling author of 31 books, including Judaism for Everyone. Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.