APN's Lara Friedman in The Hill - Schumer, Engel, et al: Change your position on the Iran deal

Last week, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) – prominent Jewish members of Congress – announced they will oppose the deal negotiated between Iran and the P5+1 (China, France, Germany Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States) to curb Iran’s nuclear program.  Earlier in the week, two other leading Jewish members of Congress, Reps. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) and Ted Deutch (D-Fla.), did likewise. All of these members of Congress should reconsider this misguided, flawed position.

Following years of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, Americans have had enough of war. They have sacrificed dearly in wars that have only fed greater conflict and instability – wars that might well have been avoided if U.S. leaders and lawmakers had demonstrated greater courage and responsibility with respect to the use of U.S. military power. The Iran deal does not guarantee that military action against Iran will not be necessary in the future, nor does it take such action off the table.  It does, however, offer a unique opportunity to peacefully curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions – for the benefit of the U.S., Israel, and the entire world – and to prevent another dangerous, costly, and avoidable war. America’s interests, as well as the genuine interests of Israel, are undeniably best served by the approval and implementation of this hard-won agreement. Should this deal fall apart due to the actions of Congress, the negative consequences for both the U.S. and Israel will be far-reaching. For all of these reasons, every responsible member of Congress has a duty to support the deal.  

It’s not too late for Schumer and these other Jewish members of Congress to reconsider their positions. In doing so, they should set aside the views of politically and ideologically motivated lobbyists and pundits and give serious consideration to the views of apolitical U.S. nonproliferation and national security experts, who almost universally support the deal. They should heed the letter signed by 60 U.S. national security leaders who described the deal as “unprecedented in its importance for preventing the acquisition of nuclear weapons by Iran.” They should study the statement signed by more than 100 former U.S. ambassadors who called the deal “a landmark agreement in deterring the proliferation of nuclear weapons.” They should consider the letter from five former U.S. ambassadors to Israel, who served both Republican and Democratic presidents, urging Congress to support the deal. 

Schumer, Engel, Lowey, and Deutch are all no doubt sincere in their concerns about the impacts of the Iran deal on Israel – concerns many of us share.  However, rather than being swayed by the catastrophic rhetoric of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and the fierce lobbying in support of Netanyahu’s position by various U.S. groups, they should listen to the dozens of apolitical Israeli national security leaders and experts who support the agreement. Like former Mossad head Efraim Halevy, who wrote that Iran was “forced to agree to an invasive and unique monitoring regime, which is unparalleled around the world...” And former Shin Bet chief Ami Ayalon, who said: “when it comes to Iran's nuclear capability, this [deal] is the best option..." And former head of IDF Intelligence Amos Yadlin, who wrote that if the agreement is blocked, “Iran will remain closer to a nuclear bomb in the coming years.” And Maj. Gen. (Res) Israel Ziv, former head of IDF’s Operations, who wrote: “…this agreement is the best among all other alternatives.” And Israeli physicist and former Dimona scientist Uzi Even, who wrote that the deal “blocks every path I know to the bomb.”   

They should listen, too, to America’s close allies who were directly involved in negotiating this historic agreement. It has been reported that Schumer, for one, did not attend a recent meeting with representatives of the P5+1 to discuss the agreement – a meeting that, according to other senators, was tremendously valuable. Schumer and fellow Jewish members of Congress would do well to meet with these representatives and listen closely to what they have to say. 

Finally, Schumer, Engel, Lowey, and Deutch should pay attention to the growing number of their House and Senate colleagues who have declared their own support for the Iran nuclear deal, articulated in highly substantive, thoughtful statements. These senators and representatives are an example of responsible leadership and courage on a national security question of the highest order. Schumer, Engel, Lowey, and Deutch should learn from their example. It’s not too late for them and other members of Congress to do the right thing and support the deal.

This article first appeared August 10, 2015 in The Hill.