Summer is over, and with it ends the 60 days Congress gave itself to review President Barack Obama’s nuclear agreement with Iran. Lawmakers set a Sept. 17 deadline to vote either to approve or disapprove a deal many believe will increase the likelihood of a nuclear breakout.
For the past two months, the Obama administration has gathered endorsements for the plan to end Iranian sanctions. Twenty-nine leading scientists, 340 Jewish rabbis, 75 former lawmakers (just four Republicans among them), and 36 retired military generals and admirals have signed letters of support for the deal.
But skepticism might run deeper than optimism in some quarters: An online petition from rabbis opposing the deal drew over 1,000 signatures. And a letter from retired military officers opposing the deal had drawn more than 233 signatures by Sept. 1.
“Removing sanctions on Iran and releasing billions of dollars to its regime over the next 10 years is inimical to the security of Israel and the Middle East,” wrote the former military leaders in an Aug. 25 letter to congressional leaders, urging them to vote against the nuclear agreement.
“It’s not a good deal for America, and it’s not a good deal for our allies,” said Leon “Bud” Edney, a retired Navy admiral who helped draft the letter. “It will enable [Iran] to get nuclear weapons, either in … 15 years, or by cheating.”
In the debate over how to prevent the Islamic Republic of Iran from acquiring a nuclear bomb, the voices of military leaders who’ve spent their lives protecting America are important and powerful. The question is whether those voices can persuade Senate Democrats to go against the president.
As written, the agreement will require Iran to reduce its stockpile of low-grade uranium by 98 percent and refrain from enriching uranium beyond about 4 percent, the potency needed to fuel nuclear power. (A nuclear bomb requires uranium enriched above 90 percent.)
Iran would also have to submit some nuclear sites to inspections by teams from the UN International Atomic Energy Agency.
In exchange, beginning early next year, Iran would get relief from international sanctions that have cost the Middle Eastern nation $160 billion in oil revenue since 2012.
But the agreement will only last 15 years, and after just 10 years Iran would be allowed to start building up its nuclear program again. Critics say once the deal expires, it will leave an economically strengthened Iran positioned to pursue a bomb at full speed.
“We think it’s a pathway to an Iranian nuclear weapon,” said Lt. Gen. William “Jerry” Boykin, a retired Army officer who signed the opposition letter. Boykin, who once commanded Delta Force and the Green Berets, is now executive vice president of Family Research Council.
Boykin said Iran hasn’t been held accountable for supplying to militant groups weapons and roadside bombs used to kill hundreds of American soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq. Furthermore, Iran is estimated to be spending perhaps $6 billion annually to prop up the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, along with tens of millions of dollars funneled to terrorist organizations such as Hezbollah and Hamas.
“This deal is tantamount to an economic stimulus for the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism,” said Ilan Berman, vice president of the American Foreign Policy Council in Washington. Under the terms of the agreement, Iran next year will get an injection of perhaps $100 billion or more—Iranian oil money currently locked in escrow accounts around the world. Even if Iran makes needed investments in infrastructure, it would still have money left over to fund terror, Berman said.
The disclosure of sideline negotiations between UN nuclear inspectors and Iranian officials has heightened worries that accountability will be lax. On Aug. 19 the Associated Press reported on a confidential document revealing that Iranian technicians would be allowed to collect nuclear test samples and submit videos and photographs from Parchin, a sensitive military site, rather than be required to allow international inspectors to check for nuclear activities. In essence, Iran would be reporting on itself. (The UN inspection agency insists the Parchin arrangement is technically sound.)
Skepticism of the deal’s terms has already prompted key senior Democrats, Sens. Chuck Schumer of New York and Bob Menendez of New Jersey, to drop their support. Republicans seem united against the deal, but in the Senate they’ll need the support of nearly a dozen more Democrats in order to derail the plan.
— by Daniel James Devine | WNS