What does the recently released nuclear agreement with Iran (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) bode for Israel, America and the American Jewish community?
Some 100 delegates of JUF's Jewish Community Relations Council and other community members gathered at JUF on July 20 to hear three different perspectives. Speakers included Ambassador Dennis Ross, fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and former special assistant to President Obama; Jon Wolfsthal, senior director for Nonproliferation for the National Security Council; and Roey Gilad, Consul General of Israel to the Midwest.
Wolfsthal, who joined the meeting via video from the White House, presented the Obama administration's stance. Calling the agreement "extremely good," he claimed the United States accomplished its primary goal of preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.
Wolfsthal also responded to criticism that several of the provisions expire after 15 years. He clarified that many of the provisions never expire and therefore hold Iran accountable indefinitely. Wolfsthal reaffirmed that if Iran violates the terms of the agreement, President Obama has the authority to reinstate American sanctions immediately without a vote from the United Nations.
Ross analyzed positive aspects of the deal while also underscoring critical flaws. He said that one of the most unsettling aspects of the deal is that it leaves in place much of Iran's enrichment infrastructure. Combine that with allowances for continued R&D on advanced centrifuges, and Iran could become a nuclear threshold state in 10-15 years, he warned. Ross also cautioned that Iran might use a portion of its $150 billion in soon-to-be-unfrozen assets to support Hezbollah and Hamas.
Ross emphasized that the United States must respond firmly to any infraction of the agreement by Iran, and must never allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon. "We should use all deterrent measures if Iran does not abide by the agreement," he said.
Gilad closed the meeting by expressing the Israeli government's core concerns about the nuclear agreement.
"There are some good parts of the agreement, but it cannot and should not be depicted as an 'extremely good deal,'" Gilad said. He focused on two main "strategic loopholes" that illustrate flaws in the agreement, including lack of oversight for undeclared sites and the ineffectiveness of snapback sanctions.
Gilad expressed understanding for the dilemma facing the American Jewish community in deciding what position to take on the nuclear agreement; however, he urged the community to consider the threat that the deal poses to the Jewish State and to act accordingly.
JCRC will gather again in the coming weeks to deliberate and vote on a resolution reflecting the consensus view of Chicago's Jewish community of the nuclear agreement with Iran.
Ceren Maeir is a 2015 Lewis Summer Intern.
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