The Speech on Iran That Obama Should Give

 

 

 

 

Introduction

It is indeed a privilege to be able to address the people of the Great Islamic Republic of Iran tonight. I want to start by commending Ayatollah Khamenei for saying that you "are not seeking nuclear weapons because the Islamic Republic of Iran considers possession of nuclear weapons a sin." Your Supreme Leader went on to say that he "believes that holding such weapons is useless, harmful and dangerous." We appreciate these sentiments but we in America do not believe they go far enough. It is not enough for Iran to avoid developing nuclear weapons. Iran must also avoid the appearance of developing nuclear weapons for the region to be safe. Tonight I want to explain why it is important for Iran to fully cooperate with the United Nation's International Atomic Energy Agency in order to avoid suspicion that it is trying to build nuclear weapons. You have heard us time and time again explain why we fear the consequences of your developing nuclear weapons. You know that we fear that Iranian aggression and terrorism will increase if you get nuclear weapons. You know that some of us fear that you want to usher in the Mahdi by wiping Israel over the face of the Earth. You may dismiss our fears as unfounded and overblown, and that's ok. Tonight I don't want to concentrate on why we fear Iran building nuclear weapons. Instead, I want to explain why you should fear even having the appearance of building nuclear weapons. I want to explain why appearing to build nuclear weapons demonstrates a trust in Israel that may not be warranted. Yes, you heard me. I said that if you appear to be building nuclear weapons then you may be too naive in your trust of Israel.

I will also explain why we have instituted crippling sanctions to encourage you to cooperate fully and why we will take military actions against you if necessary to prevent you from obtaining nuclear weapons. Lastly, will invite you to join us in a program whose ultimate goal is to help the Palestinian people while achieving a nuclear-weapons free Middle East.

 

Why Iran Must Avoid the APPEARANCE
of Developing Nuclear Weapons

 

I can't explain why Iran must avoid even the appearance of developing nuclear weapons without talking about Israel. The Jews have suffered a long history of persecution in many forms over the last 2000 years. They were persecuted in 70 AD when the Romans destroyed their temple and scattered them to the wind. In the late 1400s the Spanish forced Jews to convert to Christianity. Torquemada led an inquisition that tortured and killed thousands of Jews and ultimately led to the expulsion of 200,000 Jews from Spain. Thousands of Jews were massacred in hundreds of cities and towns during the Russian pograms of 1903 - 1905 and their religion was suppressed in the Soviet Union. And of course, millions of Jews were murdered during the Holocaust in an attempt to systematically wipe them all off the face of the earth. There are some who question whether the Holocaust happened or who accuse the Jews of exaggerating their persecution. Others claim that there is nothing special about Jewish persecution and that others have suffered persecution as well. And those who are the most vile maliciously suggest that somehow the Jews brought the persecution on themselves.

 

 

I don't want to spend a lot of time debating these issues. Suffice it to say, I agree with Fidel Castro who says, and I'm quoting, ""The Jews have lived an existence that is much harder than ours. There is nothing that compares to the Holocaust."

I am mentioning these objections that the opponents of Israel raise for one reason, and one reason only--to state that they miss the point. The essential point--the only point that is relevant here--is why Iran must not even appear to be building nuclear weapons. The important point to keep in mind is this--Even if you believe the Holocaust didn't happen or that the Jews have exaggerated its scope-- even if you maliciously believe that the Jews somehow deserved what they got throughout history--your beliefs are irrelevant. It doesn't matter what you believe. Your beliefs are unimportant in understanding the dangers that will arise if you appear to be getting nuclear weapons. What IS important is what the Israelis believe and how their beliefs will shape their actions during a time of crisis. And whether you like it or not--the Israelis believe deep in their guts that they have been persecuted through thousands of years and their experience with the Holocaust has made them hypersensitive to any threat to their existence. Israel has at times responded disproportionately to attacks against them and they may have at times reacted overaggressively against the threat they perceive from the Palestinians. I am not going to justify everything that Israel has done, but their actions become more understandable when you consider their history. A soldier who has seen too much violence in war may develop post traumatic stress syndrome. This may cause him to overreact in a stressful situation. He may act violently when violence is not called for or he may use excessive violence when minimal force would suffice. Too much stress may cause him to react inappropriately and become more dangerous than someone who has not been through his traumatic experiences.

You must consider this background in conjunction with statements by your leaders in determining how Israel is likely to act in a nuclear crisis. In 2005, President Ahmadinejad stated that Israel should be "wiped from the map." Ayatollah Khamenei recently said that "The Zionist regime is a real cancerous tumor that should be cut and will be cut, God Willing," Now, some say that we have misunderstood President Ahmadinejad. They claim that he was not calling for a military attack against Israel, but merely expressing his desire to see an oppressive occupying government disappear--perhaps peacefully under its own weight--over time. That is certainly an optimistic take on what Ahmadinejad said. But it does not matter whether we in the United States choose to interpret these remarks as threatening or whether we choose to paint them with a happy face-- What matters is how the Israelis, in light of their long history of persecution, will interpret these remarks. Had Iran not backed Hamas and Hezbollah--organizations that have repeatedly launched attacks against Israel, then perhaps the Israelis might give Iran the benefit of the doubt. But given the historic background of the Jewish people and given the fact that you back Hezbollah and Hamas which have launched rocket attacks against Israel, it is easy to see why Israel would be very nervous about Iran getting nuclear weapons.

And this brings us to the most important point of all. Why, Ayatollah Khamenei, are you so trusting of Israel? Yes, you heard me right--I accused you of being too trusting of the Israelis. If you do not do everything in your power to avoid even the appearance that you are acquiring nuclear weapons then you are in effect declaring that you trust the Israelis will not be the first to launch a nuclear attack in a time of crisis. This, I believe, is naive. Let me quote from a column by Jeffrey Goldberg that illustrates why the situation would be so dangerous for you.

 

The experts who study this depressing issue seem to agree that a Middle East in which Iran has four or five nuclear weapons would be dangerously unstable and prone to warp-speed escalation.

Here's one possible scenario for the not-so-distant future: Hezbollah, Iran's Lebanese proxy, launches a cross-border attack into Israel, or kills a sizable number of Israeli civilians with conventional rockets. Israel responds by invading southern Lebanon, and promises, as it has in the past, to destroy Hezbollah. Iran, coming to the defense of its proxy, warns Israel to cease hostilities, and leaves open the question of what it will do if Israel refuses to heed its demand.

Dennis Ross, who until recently served as President Barack Obama's Iran point man on the National Security Council, notes Hezbollah's political importance to Tehran. "The only place to which the Iranian government successfully exported the revolution is to Hezbollah in Lebanon," Ross told me. "If it looks as if the Israelis are going to destroy Hezbollah, you can see Iran threatening Israel, and they begin to change the readiness of their forces. This could set in motion a chain of events that would be like 'Guns of August' on steroids."


Imagine that Israel detects a mobilization of Iran's rocket force or the sudden movement of mobile missile launchers. Does Israel assume the Iranians are bluffing, or that they are not? And would Israel have time to figure this out? Or imagine the opposite: Might Iran, which will have no second-strike capability for many years -- that is, no reserve of nuclear weapons to respond with in an exchange -- feel compelled to attack Israel first, knowing that it has no second chance?

Now do you see why it would be naive of you to trust the Israelis? Now do you understand why it is important to not just avoid getting nuclear weapons--you must also avoid appearing like you have nuclear weapons. Well, if that isn't enough to convince you, let me give you something else to think about. During our cold war with the Soviet Union, we received several false alarms that we were being attacked by the Soviets. We had two things working in our favor that prevented nuclear war. First, it would take over a half hour for missiles launched from the Soviet Union to reach American soil. We had time to think before we reacted. And second, we had an emergency hotline that we could use to call the Soviets to help us clarify what was happening. You and Israel have neither a hotline nor a long flight time between you. So if Israel thinks that an Iranian attack is imminent then you will have less opportunity to avoid false alarms than we had.

I must also point out that the Israelis aren't the only ones you should be concerned about. The Times of London reported that an unidentified senior Saudi source said in no uncertain terms that if Iran developed a nuclear weapon then Saudi Arabia would buy nuclear warheads. The Times also cited an anonymous Western official who said he believed that the Saudis had a deal to buy nuclear weapons from Pakistan should Iran develop nuclear warheads. And the Pakistani Ambassador in Saudi Arabia hinted that there was indeed close cooperation between Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. Ambassador Mohammed Naeem Khan said, "each Pakistani considers (the) security of Saudi Arabia as his personal matter."

 

The Importance of Transparency

 

 

Perhaps you already understand the importance of avoiding the appearance of developing nuclear weapons. I must note with approval Mohammad Larijani's suggestion that Iran would offer "full transparency" in return for a grand bargain recognizing Iran's right to a peaceful nuclear program. Assuming that he has the backing of Ayatollah Khamenei, his offer to allow "permanent human monitoring" of Iran's nuclear program is a welcome development and a good starting point for negotiations. It is a welcome departure from your recent behavior when you were uncooperative and prevented the IAEA from visiting the Parchin military facility which we believe may have been used as a containment vessel for testing a neutron initiator that could be used to trigger a nuclear weapon. Satellite images have recently shown earth moving trucks near this facility. and International Atomic Energy Agency experts believe this may, and I stress the word "may", be evidence that you are trying to cover up radioactive traces left by an initiator. You may think we are being paranoid about your programs, but you have a long history of concealing your nuclear activities. It is obvious that we don't trust you, just as you don't trust us. I wish we and the Israelis could trust you, but trusting under these circumstances is very hard to do.

This lack of trust does not mean we are condemned to war. It does not mean we cannot make progress towards peace. During the Cold War my predecessor, Ronald Reagan, borrowed a Russian phrase as his keynote theme. "Dover, no proveryai...Trust but verify." We did not have much trust in the Soviet Union in the 1980s, but this attitude helped make progress towards peace possible. It can do so again today and it must be a key pillar in any deal we make. Today I propose a deal--not just a deal but a Grand Deal that could form the foundation for peace and justice in the region.

 

The Grand Deal

First, we recognize that you have a right to develop a peaceful nuclear program. We recognize you have the right to enrich Uranium up to 5%, but the product of your enrichment must be subject to extensive international surveillance to ensure that it is not diverted to military purposes.

Second, we recognize that you have the right to enrich Uranium to 20% for medical purposes, but you should recognize why doing so both jeopardizes our security and your security. It jeopardizes our security because having a stockpile of 20% uranium will make it easy for you to break out and quickly develop the highly enriched uranium needed for a nuclear weapon. And it jeopardizes YOUR security because building stockpiles of 20% enriched uranium makes it appear like you are developing nuclear weapons, and as I've just mentioned, even appearing like you have nuclear weapons will be destabilizing. Therefore, as part of the grand deal you must give up your stockpile of 20% enriched uranium. In return, the international community will supply you with sufficient 20% enriched Uranium fuel rods for you to run your Tehran Research Reactor. You will be supplied enough fuel rods to meet your needs for developing medical isotopes.

Third, your offer of permanent human monitoring of nuclear facilities is a good start, but it is not enough. If IAEA inspectors believe that you are developing or storing components of a nuclear weapons program at undeclared facilities then you must give them swift and unfettered access to the facilities in question. Delaying tactics like those that occurred at the Parchin nuclear facility will not be allowed under this deal.

Fourth, it is America's goal to see a nuclear free Middle East. This goal cannot be reached so long as Israel possesses her alleged weapons. And Israel cannot be expected to give up her nuclear weapons so long as her very existence is threatened. But, Israel can and should take steps short of complete nuclear disarmament to prove to the world that she is willing to give up her stockpile once a secure and just peace is negotiated with the Palestinians. Israel should declare how many nuclear weapons are in her stockpile and allow IAEA inspectors in to ensure that she does not build any more. The IAEA inspectors should be given full range of Israeli facilities, just as they are given full range of Iranian facilities.

Fifth, Israel should make a token gesture toward nuclear disarmament by dismantling five percent of her nuclear arsenal. The rest of the world, led by the United States and Iran, should reward Israel for this token gesture by establishing an escrow account for building the funds necessary to justly compensate the Palestinians for giving up their Right of Return. Here is how the account would work. Keep in mind that the numbers I use here are for illustrative purposes only and are subject to negotiation.

Estimates of the size of Israel's nuclear arsenal vary, but many believe they have about 200 warheads. I have no idea if this estimate is accurate, but let's suppose for the sake of argument that it is. That means that Israel will have to dismantle 10 warheads as part of a grand deal. I propose that Iran deposit $1 billion in a Palestinian compensation pool for every warhead that Israel dismantles. The United States will match the Iranian contribution, thus bringing the amount raised for each warhead that is dismantled to $2 billion. We would encourage other nations to chip into this pool as they are able to. Now, you may object that you can't possibly afford to contribute $10 billion even if you wanted to, especially since you've been subjected to punishing sanctions. I urge you not to focus too much on the specifics since the amounts and the timing of the payments can be negotiated. If you accept a bargain to limit your nuclear program in a way that we can verify that it is for peaceful use only, then we will do nothing to stop you from having a thriving economy. The important point here is not the specifics. The important point is to create a large pool that will be used mainly to compensate the Palestinians for giving up their Right of Return, but also for providing aid to ease their current misery.

We recognize that the Palestinians have suffered greatly since the founding of Israel. Some may argue that the Palestinians brought this on themselves by refusing to go along with the UN declaration that established the state of Israel. Others argue that the declaration itself was unjust by giving land to the Israelis at the expense of the Palestinians. I believe that such arguments are not productive. There were mistakes made on both sides and we can look back and argue forever about who was most responsible for the unfortunate situation that we find ourselves in today. Or we can look forwards and try to come up with imaginative solutions to try and reach as just a peace as possible. That is why I call for the establishment of a fund with the goal of amassing hundreds of billions of dollars to compensate the Palestinians and to help them develop a thriving country once they agree to recognize Israel and live in peace with them.

This pool will help the Israelis by giving the Palestinians an incentive to be more flexible in their approach. And ultimately it will be a big help to the Palestinians. But the Palestinian situation is so dire that we should be willing to spend a tiny percent now for humanitarian reasons. There is, for example, a crucial water shortage throughout the West Bank and Gaza. This water shortage is one of the sources of contention between the Palestinians and Israelis. Shaddad Attili, head of the Palestinian Water Authority goes so far as to accuse the Israelis of artificially manufacturing this shortage in order to dominate the Palestinians. The Israelis claim that they are fulfilling their water obligation towards the Palestinians. The Israelis and the Palestinians could point fingers at each other forever, but that isn't going to help a Palestinian child get one more drop of water. Instead, I propose that a small portion of this fund be used to help solve the water shortage. We could use these funds, provided by the United States and Iran and any other country wanting to chip in to build desalination plants. Or there might be an even better solution. Dean Kamen has invented a small machine called the Slingshot and this could be a game-changer.

 


 

Kamen claims that his machine can take anything wet--even sewage-- and distill it into pure drinkable water. His Slingshots are about the size of refrigerator and each one can produce 1000 liters of clean water a day. They are supposed to be simple to operate and need very little maintenance. If he can meet his anticipated production cost and sell his Slingshots for $2000 a piece, then they will produce water for as little as .002 cents per liter. This is cheaper than the cost of water produced at most desalination plants. Kamen and Coca Cola are currently field testing his machine for deployment around the world. If they are successful, then think of what a $100 million investment would mean. $100 million could buy 50,000 machines, each producing 1000 liters of water. This could supply 500,000 Palestinians with 100 liters of water per day. Buying lots of slingshots would have an additional advantage over investing in a large desalination plant. Slingshots are small, transportable, numerous, and cheap. That would make them relatively resistant to disaster--whether from natural causes such as earthquakes or from attack by hostile forces. It is easy to destroy a well or a desalination plant. It will be difficult to destroy a large number of Slingshots. Access to clean water is a basic human right, and I hope the Iranian government will join us in helping the Palestinians enjoy that right.

As I mentioned before, the bulk of the pool will not be spent until the Palestinians are willing to recognize Israel's right to exist in peace. This could happen soon, or it could happen in the distant future, the choice will be largely up to the Palestinians. Once they recognize Israel, the Palestinians should receive the money gradually over a thirty year period. The Palestinians will undoubtedly want the money released all at once, but a gradual withdrawal has three advantages. First, under the current world economic situation it will be difficult to raise hundreds of billions of dollars immediately. It will be much easier to get nations to pledge smaller fixed annual contributions over a thirty year period than for them to come up with the money all at once. Second, releasing the money in stages creates a safeguard against a possible corrupt or incompetent Palestinian government. There is a chance, however small, that the government the Palestinian people elect could be corrupt. If we give the entire pool to the Palestinians then one corrupt government could squander the money away before the corrupt officials are replaced. Apportioning the payments over time will allow the Palestinians an opportunity to replace a corrupt government before too much damage is done. And finally, distributing the money over a period of thirty years will help reassure the Israelis that the Palestinians will keep their end of the peace deal. Should the Palestinians militarize and attack Israel, or should they allow their territory to be used by independent militias within their country to attack Israel, then distributions from the pool can be suspended until they demonstrate that they take their obligations towards peaceful coexistence seriously.

My sixth point involves Israel's right to exist. Israel can not reach full security until Iran recognizes Israel's right to exist as a state with a special emphasis on Jewish security. Notice that I am not calling for Iran to recognize Israel as a Jewish state--there is a subtle but important difference between the two. The Jews have long ties to Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza, as do the Palestinians. The Jews have a right to a safe and secure homeland in a portion of this region. Within their homeland they should have an absolute right to allow unlimited immigration of Jews from around the world. Within this homeland they should have the absolute right to practice and celebrate their religion and culture in peace. And just as they have the right to celebrate their religion and culture, they should respect the rights of the Arabs within Israel to celebrate their religion and culture in peace and equality. Israel must remain true to the principles enunciated in its Declaration of Establishment. Israel's founders declared that Israel will be

for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture.

This does not necessarily mean that Israel must forever maintain a Jewish majority. The population of Palestinians within Israel might someday exceed the population of Jews through natural population growth. But Israel can not maintain population limits on its Arab population and remain a democracy.

It will be much easier for Israel to live up to its founding principles if it isn't threatened by outside forces. This will require Israel to enter a just and respectful peace leading to the establishment of a Palestinian State. And it will require its neighbors, and most importantly Iran, to recognize its right to exist. It is unrealistic to expect Iran to recognize Israel's right to exist before the Palestinians do, so I do not demand that Iran extend that recognition now. All I ask is for Iran to declare in principle that they will not be an obstacle to a peace deal between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Iran should declare that the Palestinians have an absolute right to make peace with Israel and they have an absolute right to recognize Israel's right to exist. Iran should declare that they will recognize Israel's right to exist just as soon as the Palestinians do. President Ahmadinejad is on record stating that the Palestinians should have the right to recognize Israel's existence. We want Ayatollah Khamenei to confirm this unequivocally. The great Persian King Cyrus is considered by many to be the world's first Zionist. He freed the Jews from their captivity in Babylon and helped them rebuild their temple. It would only be fitting for the descendants of Cyrus to help set the stage for peace in the Middle East.

Finally, I call on our Israeli friends to immediately halt construction in the West Bank, or as Peter Beinart aptly refers to it, nondemocratic Israel. The West Bank may taste sweet, but it is really a poison apple for you. Sooner or later, if there is ever to be a two-state solution where the Palestinians recognize Israel's right to exist, you will have to give up most of the West Bank. The more you build now, the harder it will be for you to surrender territory when it comes time for a deal. The more you build now, the more limited will be your options for ceding territory back to the Palestinians. The occupation is already so extensive that it threatens the ability of the Palestinians to have a viable contiguous state. If you continue to build you will make a two-state solution impossible. Then you will have to face a choice. You can continue your occupation indefinitely, but you can only maintain your occupation against a seething population through the brute force of an apartheid regime. Or if the inevitable rebellions against you becomes too much of a headache, you can withdraw from the West Bank without a peace deal, leaving an angered population that hates Israel to its own devices.

We can not force you to stop building, but let me warn you-- if you decide to rule the West Bank with an iron fist indefinitely then you should not count on receiving help from the United States forever. Let me remind you that we currently give you $3 billion a year in military aid. We were also the only nation to veto a UN resolution condemning construction in the West Bank last year. We value our relationship with you and we have been willing to pay the price to support you. But do not take that support for granted. There may well come a day that the brutality necessary to maintain the occupation becomes so great that we can no longer stand by you. There may come a day when we are no longer willing to isolate ourselves from the rest of the world in order for you to continue this folly. Americans don't like it when the Syrian government brutalizes its people. We did not like it when the Iranian government brutalized its people in the aftermath of the controversial 2009 elections. But we are not responsible for propping up these regimes. There may come a day when Americans become so fed up with Israeli brutality that we refuse to pay the price of propping you up. And remember, you will not be able to keep your brutality hidden forever in the age of Youtube.

In summary, we have instituted crippling sanctions to convince the government of Iran to limit its nuclear programs. We believe that a nuclear war in the Middle East is very likely if Iran even appears to develop a nuclear weapon. That is why we will not take the option of a pre-emptive war off the table. It is in Iran's interest to curb its nuclear program and allow unfettered inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency. If Iran agrees to limiting its program and allowing IAEA inspectors unlimited access then we will lift the sanctions and provide Iran enough 20% enriched fuel rods to run its Tehran reactor.

We also want to see a nuclear-weapons free Middle East. We can not expect Iran to allow unlimited access to IAEA inspectors without also requiring the same access from Israel. We want Israel to take a token step towards disarmament to be followed by complete disarmament once the Palestinians, the Iranians, and all other countries recognize her right to exist. We want to set up an international fund to entice the Palestinian people to give up their Right of Return and to assist them in building their nation. And we call on Israel to cease construction in the West Bank immediately. I call on all the Iranians, the Israelis, and the Palestinians to act wisely in setting the stage for peace in the Middle East.

 

 

An Analysis of the Speech: Winners and Losers

There is something for everyone to hate in this speech. There is something for everyone to love.

Israel

Israelis will hate even the mention of the Palestinian Right of Return and they might resent the United States formally implying that we recognize this right. On the other hand they might be pleased if we can build a large international fund to entice the Palestinians to give up their right of return. Israelis may be outraged by our formal "outing" of her not-so-secret nuclear program and our pressure to subject it to IAEA inspections. They might be willing to tolerate this if it will entice Iran to place its program under unending inspection and induce Iran to publicly state that they could conceivably recognize Israel's right to exist. Even if Israel doesn't object publicly to U.S. pressure to limit and eventually eliminate her nuclear weapons program, President Obama is likely to come under attack by AIPAC and his Republican opponents for undermining our best ally.

Those who have seizures at the thought of our challenging our ally must be reminded that nations have interests and not friends. American and Israeli interests are frequently aligned. Certainly, we have an interest in Israel's survival and we share Israel's interests in ensuring that Iran does not obtain nuclear weapons. We share the same goals but our strategies may differ.

We agree that Iran must not get nuclear weapons, but the Netanyahu regime seems willing to drag us into a war as soon as possible against Iran. This war is not inevitable. There is a chance we might be able to avoid war if we give sanctions and creative diplomacy a bit more time to work. Though we do not have a right to take actions that would unnecessarily jeopardize Israel's existence, we do have a right to put American interests first. It is uncertain whether leaning on Israel to disclose its nuclear arsenal and decommission a minimal number of bombs would jeopardize Israel's security or would enhance it by providing Iran the incentive to limit its nuclear enrichment program. But we support Israel with $3 billion a year in military aid AND Israel is sure to ask us to help save its ass if it finds itself in a regional war. American lives and treasure will be at stake in a war that may be triggered, in part, by Israeli policy. This gives us the right to balance the possible increased risk to Israel resulting from Israeli nuclear disclosure against American interests in avoiding an unnecessary war, and it gives us the right to act accordingly.

Israel will also be angered by our request that it halt its construction on the West Bank. But we would be doing Israel a favor--call it tough love-- by warning her that this policy could eventually cost it America's support. It is far better for this possibility to be spelled out in advance so that Israel can take it into consideration when determining its policies than for Israel to be surprised in the future should this scenario eventually come to pass. Anyone who doubts that the West Bank is poisonous for Israel should read "Israel's Bunker Mentality" by Ronald Krebs or The Crisis of Zionism by Peter Beinart.

 

Iran

Iran will hate our crippling sanctions backed by the threat of war. The British imposed sanctions against Iran in 1951 in response to their decision to nationalize the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company. This was but the first in a series of steps that led to the overthrow of their democratically-elected government in 1953. Iranian leaders are likely to view tough sanctions through this lens and conclude that our main goal is regime change, despite American denials to the contrary. Experts on Iran such as Trita Parsi and Hooman Majd point out that sanctions and threats are likely to be counterproductive and may increase the probability of war. Vali Nasr, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institute notes that "The more sanctions threaten Iran’s internal stability, the more likely the ruling regime will be to pursue nuclear deterrence and to confront the West. . . "

I think we should ease at least some sanctions as a gesture of goodwill, but that position is politically DOA during this election season. My plan will increase the probability that sanctions will work by putting the spotlight on the Israeli nuclear program. It also puts Iran in a delicate situation vis-a-vis the Palestinians. Cracks have already developed in their relationship with Hamas as a result of Syria's suppression of its people. Iran is unhappy with Hamas because Hamas has condemned the massacres by the Syrian government. Hamas has also stated that it will not come to Iran's aid should war break out between Iran and Israel. My plan could drive the rift between Iran and Hamas even wider. It challenges Iran to declare that it will not stand in the way if the Palestinians recognize Israel. Iran must either recognize in principle that under the right conditions Israel should be allowed to exist in peace, or it must state that the Palestinian people do not have the right to determine their fate by recognizing Israel. If they state that they will refuse to recognize Israel under any circumstances--even if their refusal blocks a peace accord desired by the Palestinians, then Hamas will be placed in a bind. Barring a major change in ideology, Hamas will never recognize Israel. But in order for Hamas to maintain credibility with the Palestinian people, it needs to insist that the right to decide whether or not Israel has the right to exist should rest with the Palestinian people and not the Iranians. Failure to stand up to Iran would translate into failure to support the Palestinian national interest and this could jeopardize Hamas's ability to win future elections.

 

The Palestinians

Many Palestinians will be suspicious of our motives. The U.S. has long discounted their suffering and disregarded their plight in order to support their enemy Israel. "Why", they may ask themselves, "have the Americans suddenly taken an interest in our well being? Surely they aren't going to change their stance and pressure Israel on our behalf. They are just using our desperate situation as a tool in their fight with Iran." The Palestinians might not like being used as tools, but if they are going to be used then this is not a bad way of being used. It is hard to imagine them objecting strenuously to the prospect of getting new sources of water.

The Israelis are never going to let the Palestinians return en masse. If there is ever to be peace in the Middle East then the Palestinians need to be generously compensated for their loss. There are roughly ten million Palestinians, so a ten billion dollar pool represents $1000 per Palestinian. This ten billion dollars should be viewed as seed money for a proper compensation pool. It is just a drop in the bucket. But it is a start. Building a large compensation pool will not in itself be enough to remove all obstacles to a peace deal. But it can create an environment that will make reaching a deal more likely.

 

The American Taxpayer

Republicans are likely to criticize Obama for helping the Palestinians at the expense of the American taxpayer. But spending $10 billion in order to avoid a war that would cost thousands of American lives and hundreds of billions of dollars will be the one of the best investment we could make. Contributing to a pool to entice the Palestinians to give up their Right of Return will be expensive, but it will be far less expensive than being dragged into a war to save Israel from its settlement folly.


 

Some Further Reflections On My Grand Bargain For A Deal With Iran

  1. I am certainly not the first to suggest bringing the Israeli nuclear force into a grand bargain with Iran. Prince Turki of Saudi Arabia suggested something similar in January 2012.

If Iran unambiguously accepts my grand bargain and if Israel refuses to cooperate--either by continuing to build new settlements in the West Bank, or more importantly, by continuing to threaten an attack against Iran, then President Obama should resort to some arm twisting behind close doors. A January 13, 2012 article by Mark Perry in Foreign Policy claimed that Israel conducted a false flag operation that endangered American lives and jeopardized our foreign policy. Perry claims that in 2007 and 2008 Israeli Mossad agents disguised themselves as CIA officers in order to recruit operatives from the Pakistani-based terrorist group Jundallah. Jundallah operatives subsequently assassinated Iranian government officials and killed Iranian women and children. In 2008 Jundallah captured and murdered 16 Iranian boarder guards. A Jundallah operative blew up a mosque in May 2009 killing 25. They struck again in July 2010, blowing up a bomb outside a mosque killing dozens of people. The U.S. does not support or approve of these actions. These actions are against our policy. But if Perry is correct then Israel's false flag operation recklessly jeopardized U.S. interests by making it appear as though Jundallah was being sponsored by the CIA.

Update: Sept. 5, 2012:  A small number of senior Israeli security officials now are arguing that they should link Israeli efforts to counter Iran's nuclear threat to the revival of the Palestinian peace process.  J.J. Goldberg writes that "it's worth noting that some who advocate a possible Israeli military strike, like former deputy defense minister Ephraim Sneh, share the view that reviving talks with the Palestinians is an urgent first step before such an attack."