An Open Letter to Senator Schumer

I am quite alarmed by your support for the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015, (S.615) otherwise known as the Corker-Menendez Bill at this time.  Let's be realistic. Many, if not most, of the Senators who want to pass Corker-Menendez don't just want to have Congressional oversight of a nuclear agreement with Iran--they want to kill it and drive a stake through its heart. And many are probably doing this not because they think this is best for U.S. national security, but because they see this as an opportunity to stick a knife in President Obama's back. This was demonstrated by the 47 GOP Senators who, before even knowing what the Framework Agreement would look like, tried to sabotage negotiations by sending Iran's leaders a message that they could not trust America.


This is unacceptable. We need to let our negotiators have a chance to finalize an agreement before passing a bill like Corker-Menendez. This is too important to let Congress screw up. If Corker-Menendez is passed it will put the negotiations in jeopardy and greatly increase our risk of war.  

Let's look at some of the people who want the talks to go on undisturbed by a meddling Congress.


1) Fifty-four bipartisan nuclear security experts from former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to General Anthony Zinni signed the Iran Project's statement of support for the Framework Agreement..  


Amongst those experts is Gary Samore who notes that there are some very important details to be worked out.  But he concludes his observation by  asking Congress to give the negotiators time to work these details out.


None of these remaining issues are insurmountable. Given the progress to date and the interest of all sides in reaching a final agreement, it seems likely that a comprehensive agreement can be achieved. However, hard bargaining is ahead. To get the best deal, the U.S. negotiators should not be driven by the June 30 deadline to complete an agreement. The status quo under the interim agreement—which has frozen or capped most of Iran’s nuclear program while retaining most of the sanctions—gives the United States a strong bargaining position. Tehran needs a deal more than the Washington does. If a further extension of a few months beyond June 30 is necessary to get the details right and resolve the remaining issues to U.S. satisfaction, the American negotiators should be allowed more time.  Accordingly, Congress would be wise to stop threatening precipitous sanctions legislation if an agreement is not reached by June 30. Perversely, such threats strengthen Iran’s hand by putting pressure on the U.S. negotiators to make concessions to avoid congressional action that would blow up the talks. Iran is counting on divisions between the administration and Congress (and between the United States and Israel) to get a better deal. Instead, the United States should present a common front and let time work on its side.

Samore's statement is particularly noteworthy because he is the president of United Against Nuclear Iran, an organization that has taken a hard line against Iran and its nuclear program and has strongly opposed  lifting sanctions prematurely.

2) Thirty leading non-proliferation specialists signed the Arms Control Association's petition supporting the Framework agreement. Seven of those experts had also signed the Iran Project's statement of support. More than 75 national security experts signed on to either the ACA's or the Iran Project's statement of support.

3) Former Mossad leader Efraim Halevy wrote a column titled "Obama was right, Iran capitulated". In it, he lists 7 important accomplishments of the agreement and  then said:


And thus President Obama could say there is a historical dimension to the agreement that was reached. Anyone who has followed events in Iran in recent decades or has studied the matter has to admit truthfully that he never believed Iran would ever agree to discuss these issues, let alone agree to each of the clauses I have mentioned.
 

4) Former Israeli military intelligence leader Amos Yadlin does not think the deal is a bad one. He writes


" Let’s not forget that Israel dubbed the interim deal reached in Geneva a “tragic agreement,” and eventually it turned out to be a good interim deal. When there was talk of its abrogation, Israel was opposed. And another thing must be said: Contrary to Israeli assessments, the Iranians have adhered to all the conditions of the interim agreement, in letter and spirit, down to the last detail. That’s something one should also keep in mind. If they implement the principles of the agreement presented yesterday in the same way, then for the next 15 years they will be frozen at a point of being one year away from a nuclear bomb, and I think this is not a negligible achievement."

5) Hillary Clinton supports the Framework Agreement. She writes:
 

The understanding that the major world powers have reached with Iran is an important step toward a comprehensive agreement that would prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon and strengthen the security of the United States, Israel, and the region," she said in the statement. "Getting the rest of the way to a final deal by June won't be easy, but it is absolutely crucial. I know well that the devil is always in the details in this kind of negotiation.


6) In Israel, the only major newspaper to come out against the deal was Sheldon Adelson's paper, Israel Hayom. Adelson, as you may recall, said the President should start nuclear negotiations with Iran by dropping a nuke in an Iranian desert. If Iran did not immediately give in to all our demands, he wanted us to follow it up with a nuke on Tehran.

7) Even the Saudis approve of the emerging deal.

8) CIA head John Brennan called the deal "as solid as your going to get" and said

The individuals who say that this deal provides a pathway for Iran to a bomb are being wholly disingenuous, in my view, if they know the facts and understand what is required for a program," Brennan said at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government. "I certainly am pleasantly surprised that the Iranians have agreed to so much here.

 

As you see, I am in good company when I urge you to support the Framework Agreement. An international sanctions regime was instituted to get Iran to the bargaining table. The Corker-Menendez bill will be seen as the first step towards trashing negotiations. If the United States is seen as responsible for the collapse of negotiations then the sanctions regime will collapse. Before passing Corker-Menendez, I want you to ask yourself several questions--How will the Chinese react? Will they (and the Iranians) still think we are serious negotiating partners? If not, then won't they take this opportunity to say, "screw the negotiations--let's buy some Iranian oil"? IF YOU REALLY BELIEVE THE CHINESE WILL CONTINUE TO HONOR THE SANCTIONS REGIME, THEN YOU NEED TO EXPLAIN TO US NEW YORKERS EXACTLY WHY YOU ARE SO TRUSTING OF THE CHINESE.  And what makes you believe the other P5 + 1 countries will continue their sanctions if they see that the Chinese are cheating? If the sanctions regime collapses then we face an alternative--Iran will get nukes (if they actually want them), or we have to go to war to prevent them from getting them. 

That doesn't seem to bother Tom Cotton, a Senator who demonstrated his deep knowledge of Iran when he expressed dismay over Iran's control of Tehran during his March 15 appearance on Face The Nation. Senator Cotton now claims that launching a military attack to knock out Iran's nuclear capabilities miliarily would not be a big deal. He claims that it will be all over after we bomb Iran's nuclear facilities for several days.   

Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates disagrees. In 2012 he said that "such an attack would make a nuclear-armed Iran inevitable. They would just bury the program deeper and make it more covert."... "The results of an American or Israeli military strike on Iran could, in my view, prove catastrophic, haunting us for generations in that part of the world."

Gates had good reason to worry. How can we guarantee the situation won't spill out of control? What if Iran responds by closing the Strait of Hormuz or launching a wave of terror attacks around the world? Iran's nuclear program will be set back by several years, but our bombing will make Iran more determined than ever to get a nuclear weapon. Some may claim that today's IAEA inspection regime is not good enough to catch all Iranian cheating. But there will be no inspection regime at all in the aftermath of an airstrike. How will we be able to monitor Iran's activities without the IAEA? Sure, satellite data will give us some indication of what is going on, but if we really want to know what is happening we will have to put boots on the ground and occupy Iran indefinitely. And this occupation will be much harder than our occupation of Iraq. And sooner or later, we will get tired of having our soldiers used as target practice in Iran and end our occupation. And then it's full steam ahead for the Iranian nuclear weapons program.  

The Corker-Menendez Bill will likely lead to the worst of all outcomes. It will probably lead to the loss of thousands of American soldiers during the occupation of Iran. It will cost the U.S. trillions of Dollars. And it will eventually lead to nuclear weapons being developed by a VERY angry Iran.

And regrettably, there is one more result that will come out of the Schumer war. The American people will believe that this war was an avoidable one that was fought at the behest of Israel and its rich supporters like Sheldon Adelson. Nothing will cause anti-Semitism to spike in the U.S. like the sight of American soldiers coming back in body bags from such a war. I'm not saying anti-Semitsim should increase because of the war. I'm not saying Jews in general should be blamed for it. Most American Jews in fact do not want such a war. But life isn't fair and unfortunately some will not make a distinction between what a small number of rich, powerful Jewish warmongers like Sheldon Adelson want and what the vast majority of Jews desire. And anti-Semitism will rise. And you, Senator Schumer, will have played an important though unwitting part in the rise of anti-Semitism.

I therefore hope you will reverse course and withdraw your support for the Corker-Menendez Bill.