Joe Cirincione — Huffington Post March 17, 2016
The agreement that rolled back Iran’s nuclear program has been praised by America’s leading policy experts, nuclear scientists, editorial boards, and our key allies. But not by Donald Trump. It is “disastrous… horrible,” he thunders. “I’ve never seen something so incompetently negotiated.”
Really? Before he repeats his claims at the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference next week, maybe he should talk to some people who know a good security deal when they see one: Israel’s military and intelligence leaders.
There is a strong consensus among those charged with defending Israel that the Iran agreement improves Israel’s security.
The Israel Atomic Energy Commission, for example, advises the government on nuclear policy. They strongly endorse the deal. A panel of experts from the commission concluded that the agreement would halt Iran’s technical ability to build a bomb and that inspectors would be able to effectively enforce all the limits on Iran’s program imposed by the accord.
For those interested in fact-checking Mr. Trump, here is a summary of what Israel’s top current and former military and intelligence officials say about the Iran deal.
- Let’s start at the top. Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Gadi Eisenkot criticized the Prime Minister’s office for only citing the risks and not seeing the opportunity from this “major strategic shift.” Israel’s top general said, “At the end of 2005 the main threat was Iran. The agreement is a significant change of course for Iran. There are many risks but also opportunities… I would estimate that over the next five years Iran will make considerable efforts to fulfill its part and get the benefits from that.”
- Benny Gantz, who was chief of staff before Eisenkot, also praises the deal. “I see the achievement of keeping away the Iranians for ten, fifteen years into the future,” he said, “and postponing their capabilities of having a nuclear capability—and with the right price.”
- Efraim Halevy, former director of Mossad (Israel’s national intelligence agency) and former head of the National Security Council, said, “The United States scored a great success in creating this international coalition to face down the nuclear threat which threatens the world at large.”
- Ami Ayalon, former head of Shin Bet (Israel’s internal security service), said the deal is “the best possible alternative from Israel’s point of view, given the other available alternatives…I don’t believe that 10 or 15 years from now the world will stand by and watch Iran acquire nuclear weapons.”
- Amram Mitzna, a former Major General and former head of Army planning, was equally forceful in his support. “I must state loud and clear,” he wrote, “This agreement is better than no agreement and must not be rejected.”
- Shlomo Ben-Ami, former minister of foreign affairs and internal security, has argued that deal “creates a solid framework to prevent Iran from producing nuclear weapons for the next 10-15 years — and that is a very positive development.”
- Uzi Eilam, former director general of the Israeli Atomic Energy Commission told CNN, “Personally, I am in favor of the deal and I think that there is more promise in it than anything else and it was even much better than I thought.”
- Chuck Freilich, former deputy national security advisor, wrote, “For at least the next decade, Israel will not have to live under the threat of a nuclear Iran and will not face the danger of annihilation. For Israel, that is a major achievement.”
- Yitzhak Ben-Israel, chairman of the Israel Space Agency and chairman of the National Council for Research and Development in the Ministry of Science, Technology and Space, wrote, “In terms of the narrow nuclear issue, it removes the danger for a long time, and prevents a nuclear bomb for the next fifteen years. And it’s not bad at all.”
This is by no means an exhaustive list. Last August, 67 former generals and defense experts petitioned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, urging him to accept the agreement as “an accomplished fact,” and asking the Israeli government to focus on implementation of the agreement and to look toward future cooperation with the United States.
Unlike Trump’s hyperbole, Israel’s military takes a more sober view. The agreement “has many risks, but also presents many opportunities,” says General Eisenkot, “Our role is to look at the risk prism and the capability prism and to judge from that—not to assume that the worst-case scenario will take place, because that is as dangerous as the best-case scenario. Therefore, we are now revisiting our strategy.”
What worries Eisenkot? Not Iran’s nuclear program. The IDF’s new strategy that he crafted doesn’t even list Iran as one of Israel’s top threats. Their 2015 threat assessments focus on the conflict with the Palestinians, threats from Islamist militias on Israel’s northern and southern borders, and cyber attacks.
So the next time Trump – or anyone else – slanders the agreement, don’t fall for the con. Get the facts. This is a very good deal. America is safer for it.
And so is Israel.