PART II : THE YEAR 2015: A LOOK BACKWARD FOR GLOBAL SECURITY AND PEACE

PART II : THE YEAR 2015: A LOOK BACKWARD FOR GLOBAL SECURITY AND PEACE

By

Harry C. Blaney III

Beyond the specifics of our fractured and conflict ridden world covered in Part I of this two part series, are questions about the contributions or the follies of our national and global leaders and of our institutions and in the end concerned and impacted citizens.

We want to add some thoughts about the import of events in 2015 that are in some ways emblematic of the global landscape we live in and provided either new difficult challenges or show hopeful paths for America and the international community.

THE ISSUE OF GLOBAL LEADERS AND OUR SECURITY: FINDING COOPERATION

2015 was a year where there also was a real effort of some global leaders to find areas of agreement, of conciliation, of paths to peace and reduction of nuclear weapons and dealing with terrorism in intelligent ways. The first part of this series saw some very dark events and some acts by leaders that contributed to hatred, conflict, inequality, and bigotry. While others tried to mitigate these catastrophes. The results were indeed mixed.

This balance between peacemakers and authoritarian and malevolent “disrupters” and war-makers has been through all of human history and 2015 was not exception. Examples are below of this on going struggle.

DISINTEGRATION VERSES INTEGRATION, THE MIGRATION AND IMMIGRATION CRISIS, TERRORISM, AND GLOBAL WARMING

THE EUROPEAN CHALLENGE

The key challenges for Europe are immigration, keeping Britain in the EU fold, getting rid of austerity and getting the economy on a growth pattern. It also was addressing terrorism within and abroad, facing inequality which threatens stability, and the growth of fascists and racist and extreme right-wing governments and parties. And also defining the relationship with America, an aggressive Russia and rising China in a constructive way.

Angela Merkel, who I have criticized for her economic austerity policies towards Greece and other weak EU states, came through initially in 2015 as a moral leader in support of refugees feeling death and conflict which seems to have cost her support at home. Her fate in 2016 will hinge not only on gaining some consensus within Germany for helping and accepting the refugees but for leading the EU towards a broader and more effective set of policies and actions which will make for a peaceful settlement and fair sharing of the burden. Immigration in 2015 was truly a challenge almost un-precedented and was largely an event that divided Europe and its reactions engendered more disunity and irresponsible acts and policies.

2015 was a year Britain went down the dangerous path towards possible separation of Scotland which thankfully failed – not thanks to Prime Minister Cameron. Cameron made the decision to hold a referendum to leave the EU and a vote is set for 2016. Merkel will also be key in helping keep the UK in the EU when the forces in Britain of the small minded Tory Euro-skeptics and the British equivalent of our Republican Tea Party bigots want to separate from the EU. Further there was and continues a dangerous move and sentiment within Europe against not only immigration but also the EU and the “FORE Project” which is the keystone for peace and stability and yes democracy in the region. The leaders of Europe did not in 2015 face fully up to these challenges.

FRANCE TO THE FORE?

What was seen as a weak French socialist president Hollande, turned out to be seen by many as strong in dealing with terrorism in Africa, and recently in his stance during the Paris attacks in November and the lead host of the Paris Climate change meeting. France in some ways has come to replace the British as a more reliable partner on a number of key issues. Their decision to contribute planes and resources to the allied bombing efforts in Syria and Iraq was an unexpected act. They were more involved in dealing with Russia on Ukraine, in the Iran nuclear deal, and took on anti-terrorism responsibilities in Africa.

THE BRITISH RETREAT?

Prime Minister David Cameron, on the other hand, did a lot of talking and little real action. While supporting UK continued membership in the EU he mismanaged in 2014 and 2015 the process of the vote on EU membership that is planned to take place in 2016. Should UK leave the EU the consensus of experts is it would be a disaster for Britain (and for Europe also).

He has failed to quiet the separatist tides in Scotland after the vote to stay united by a totally irresponsible handling of promises that were made for increased Scottish home rule. Not least he has move toward anti-immigration moves to mitigate the influence of such parties as the UK Independent Party with its racist, anti-EU, and isolationist tendencies. Wining the election in 2015 with a clear majority in Parliament but not in the nation was a plus for him, but it led to a doubling down on arch-conservative programs to punish the poor and to enhance the very rich. In the end this can’t but reap harm to Britain in the world.

DEPLORING WORLD’S WOES!

Economic growth overall in the developing nations was disappointing and the growth of conflict in places like Africa and Middle East hurt as did growing debts and political disarray. Leadership in the developing world was in too many cases a disaster for these countries with a few making efforts against an overwhelming tide of despair, corruption, and disparity of wealth and power. On a upward note, Castro in Cuba decided to respond to Obama’s outreach, China’s leaders helped at last on climate change/ environment, and India also finally went along when it was a spoiling nation with the Paris accords. Key in 2015 and will be in 2016, is efforts to start a rapprochement between the near warring nuclear weaponed India and Pakistan. A number of countries had mostly democratic elections including Burma, Nigeria, Sri Lanka, Burma. And there were game changing elections in Argentina, Venezuela, and the Central African Republic,

AMERICA’S ROLE IN CRISIS MANAGEMENT AND RECONCILIATION

Notable above all, has been President Obama and his Secretary of State John Kerry who carried often much of the globe on their shoulders. They got India and China to finally do something constructive on climate change, more than anyone Obama and Kerry got the Iran agreement through in negotiations and in the Congress. Establishing diplomatic relations with Cuba was a major breakthrough for both sides. Obama proposed both the Atlantic and Pacific trade packs which still remain controversial, but envisions a more united world economically and has strategic significance. 2016 will see how these two initiatives progress.

A key wise outcome was the administration kepting its promise not to do “stupid things” and kept their caution and steely focus on what could be done effectively and at least cost. It has shown some results. They saw their judgement and policies make some progress in 2015 and into 2016 with notable victories, with little American blood lost, in Iraq with the retaking of Ramadi and other towns. They revised our strategy in Syria with progress by American supported Kurd forces taking key points and pushing the Islamic State back from important towns and sites but some mixed results. But with a little advancement by the Syrian opposition forces. The Syrian quagmire became even more difficult after Putin’s 2015 intervention and Russian bombing of opposition forces.

But the simply fact is that U.S. and allied precise bombing and intelligence has been critical for success, despite being downplayed by the neo-cons and their hawkish Republican followers, who seem blindly want more vulnerable troops on the ground as proof of their on-the-cheep “toughness.” In fact we saw that added allied bombing was taking place.

The key still remains our diplomatic efforts. The UN Security Council with American and allied nations, and even Russia agreement, voted on a path towards possible peace and a new Syrian governance structure. This effort is filled with uncertainties, but promises more hope than would getting mass American combat troops sent to be killed by the Islamic State terrorist on their home turf. I see this as a use of “smart power” while the GOP still seems, as they did in Iraq under Bush II earlier, decide to use “stupid power” and play the terrorist’s game.

AMERICAN PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS AND THE GLOBAL ORDER

The debates in 2015, especially those of the Republican candidates revealed how dangerous our atrocious politics have become for the security if the rest of the world. 2015 showed how unbalanced our nation could become and how one major party has so gone off the deep end that even the fair right creator of this condition in Republican politics, Charles Koch in a Financial Times interview said that he was “disappointed” by the current crop of Republican presidential candidates and resigned to having to support one with whom he agrees on only some issues. He thinks his issues are not being addressed. He is unhappy with the positions of Trump and Cruz on dealing with Muslims! And perhaps more? There is more irony in this as he has probably been more responsible for the GOP crazies we have today than any other person on this earth! Yet he would support any crazy according to his statement rather than any Democrat.

The other trend in our nation in 2015 and before has been the universal effort by the Republican candidates to beat up on Obama and especially to call him “weak” mostly focusing on his caution about using massive ground forces in Syria and Iraq. Trump started this idea of “No energy” not only against Obama and also his GOP opponents, but it has become a chorus by all the rest of what can be fairly described as the worst group of would-be presidents in American history. Each has done all they could either in their official capacity or on the campaign trail to undermined American power and interests around the world by their irresponsible statements, policies, or votes. They have been indifferent on how they are viewed by other nations. Just their presence in 2015 and the possibility that any one of them might be president sends shudders down most allied leaders and many of their educated citizens.

This is a world of interdependence, globalized as some would have it, and this is the high level information world where people everywhere hear what is said by global leaders and would be leaders via TV and the internet.

So goodby 2015, and we will look at the prospects for 2016 soon.

We welcome you comments!

PART I: THE YEAR 2015 A LOOK BACKWARD FOR GLOBAL SECURITY AND PEACE

By
Harry C. Blaney III

 
As New Year starts it is worthwhile to look back since the past is prologue for what is to come. It is an annual exercise that many columnists, pundits, strategists, and yes bloggers do as it sets a framework for what is to come and to look back at the whole of a year and wonder what it all means for the security and peace of our clearly very fractured and conflict ridden globe. I promise a look forward at our strategic landscape which will include some policy ideas, in time, follow after the second part of this topic is posted..

First, a global view and then a look at some of the specific component elements that are each critical for the international system to gain some semblance of sanity.

 

INEQUALITY AND GLOBAL SECURITY

 

The fundamental factors that a the driving forces on a global scale include the growing gap in resources between the very very rich and the rest of humanity most of which is just hanging on or worse. This divide is a key reason that we see so much conflict, instability, terrorism. and democracy being threaten around the world.

We see some progress as in some countries people rose above the poverty line but in others the divide just got worse. Here the failure was both due to indifferent nation’s governments and the still lingering consequences of the ubiquitous “austerity” polices of too many rich and poor governments. Add the lack of political will, due to growth of right-wing and authoritarian governments and in 2015 nations becoming more that are the decision making power in these countries. Then add to the mix international organizations with members both developed and developing too weak to face the major challenges of our age and providing inadequate, even very poor, resources to the key international institutions that were designed to deal with global economic, security, social, and health major crises and catastrophes.

 
ENVIRONMENTAL INSECURITY AND GLOBAL DISASTER

 

Another global challenge is that of climate change. Every country and region in the world is threaten by this human created environmental phenomena and it has already shown its destructive power and the loss of many hundreds of thousands of lives across the globe. No single event can be ascribed directly to this cause, but taken together there is little doubt of the reality of the impact of rising global temperatures.

Again, up to now we have not done enough to effectively put this existential danger to our entire ecosystem on a sustainable path. The best event, as we have noted here, is the outcome of the 2015 Paris climate change conference. That conference at least shows us a path forward and specified the necessary action that states and all of us need to take to make real progress. But many scientists think we need to do more and they may be quite right. We have now a process and promises and an official “score card” for keeping tract of progress or lack thereof. That was a positive note for 2015.

 
REAL COMBUSTIBLES: NUCLEAR WEAPONS, SECTARIAN/RELIGIOUS CONFLICTS, AND JUST PLAIN AGGRESSION AND NEEDLESS WARS, AND NOT LEAST HATREDS AND STUPIDITIES OF POWERFUL LEADERS AND COMPLIANT AND BLINDLY ANGRY CITIZENS.

 

That about sums it up as to why we are in such a tragic mess we seem to have and why the global trajectory seems so dark. But there are some rays of light………hate to end a year and start a new one with just gloom and doom.

On nuclear weapons and their spread, the really good news was the 2015 agreement with Iran by the key global powers that limits their capacity of producing nuclear weapons. As of this date Iran seems to be carrying out its obligations under the agreement with especially the shipment of almost all of its enrich uranium some 25,000 pounds, to Russia (which is a major milestone that leaves the Islamic Republic without enough low-enriched uranium to manufacture a nuke). There is the ongoing dismantling of its research reactor and most of its centrifuges. If the terms of the agreement are kept the world can be a bit safer since the alternative was the capacity to build a bomb in months not a year, and the agreement going for 10 years plus for key elements with the safeguard/inspections of the IAEA unlimited.

The other great danger that existed before 2015 and is still with us are the nuclear weapons in the hands of India and Pakistan, the nuclear weapons of North Korea and not least the nuclear weapons in the hands of a type like Putin who seems to think they are his leverage and plaything for enhancing his ego.

The India/Pakistan threat has two dimensions, one is the on going conflict between the two countries over Kashmir. Recently there was a meeting between the two national leaders and perhaps some moves towards sanity.

But Pakistan is itself a problem due to the government’s instability, the danger of internal terrorists, and an army that seems at times to not be capable and responsible. North Korea remains a conundrum with few good solutions with clearly erratic leadership that seems to not be seriously seeking a mutually agreeable long-term solution but likes to rattle the world with nuclear activities. A possible consequence is that South Korea or Japan might one day see it necessary to obtain their own weapons.

The other component of the dangers to the security of our world’s population in 2015 and beyond is growing sectarian conflicts, growing efforts to divide societies, and malevolent leaders and groups that see aggression and violence as a favored means to gain power and destroy what they see as their “enemies.” This is not the place now to get into the many causes and antecedents of these dangerous forces, but to simply say that peace in our world will not be obtained until these dark forces are tamed, reformed, and or defeated. This is undoubtedly a long term effort. But better and more responsible national leaders and a more engaged and informed and less bigoted, fearful, and empowered citizenry is the best antidote for societal disintegration and conflict.

A LOOK AT SOME SPECIFIC ELEMENTS OF 2015 OUTCOMES AND TRENDS

 
THE SECTARIAN DIVIDE ABROAD AND NATIONALLY AND AT OUR OWN HOME

The good news is that some progress was made in recognizing this reality. This is clearly the case in 2015 with President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry who have been working hard to get both the Shia and Sunni groups and nations to see a common interest against ISIS, with some but still fragile, success. Prejudices of centuries are hard to mend. The key test points are in Iraq and Syria, both of which are case studies in sectarian hate, past distrust, outside partisan powers, and levels of murky loyalties and unknowns to make even the wisest expert shudder.

The challenges in the Middle East are almost impossible. If you add the animosities and stupidities of national leaders comforting each other in the Israeli and Palestinian arena one may wonder if there will ever be a solution. But there is an equitable solution facing each leader, all know what it is, which is the best outcome possible and one which will at last bring both parties to some real accommodation and security. Frankly, the behavior in 2015 of Prime Minister Netanyahu this last year and beyond has deliberately poisoned relations not only with the Palestinians but with large segments of Europe and the United States. If 2016 could turn this nasty tide I say try, but one man seems to want to make Israel even more at existential national risk long-term and is churning up hate rather than tolerance and compromise.

In our own American backyard in 2015 American politics turned even more divisive and partisan, in my view, which some will disagree with. But the partisan battles have greatly weakened America abroad and the blame rest squarely on the conservative Republicans and their reckless statements and actions. On most foreign policy and national security issues, let alone the many national issues, we see the damage caused by the far right crazies to American democracy, economic and technological progress, and to gaining needed security and peace. Their threatening the closing of government, their efforts to make America default on its debt, their denial of climate change, their efforts to stop the Iran deal that prevents Iran from building early nuclear weapons, their inability to look at reality rather than ideology, and not least seeking narrow political gain rather than the national interest. These have made our allies abroad question our leadership in the future after Obama’s administration, and help our adversaries like Russia and China who seek to exploit our weakness and lack of unity.

Part II of this 2015 look shortly follows.

We welcome your comments!

THE UNTOLD STORY OF YEMEN

By Harron Young 

Yemen
Phot0: al jazeera

Civil war, hundreds of airstrikes a day, multiple players, and religious divide, yes this is Syria, but it is also Yemen, a country where the outcomes are just as devastating. With much of the world’s attention on Syria and Iraq, the lack of media attention to one of the most unfortunate civil wars, or more so proxy war, has failed to bring the news of Yemen to our TV screens and newspapers.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) estimates that 80% of the population requires some form of humanitarian protection or assistance, 48% of the humanitarian response is unmet, and 95% of the civilians, noncombatants, were killed from explosive weapons. Looking at the most basic issue in Yemen, we have a civil war with the North controlled by the Shi’a Houthi rebels, versus the Sunni majority in the South aligned with the internationally recognized government. Characterizing this as simply a Shi’a versus Sunni issue, or North versus South, barely scratches the surface in Yemen; within those sects of Islam, there is a deeper conflict including the Zaydis, a school of thought within Shi’a Islam, and Islah Islam, an opposition party that falls within Sunni Islam, this along with southern separatists, other militants, and religious extremist all involved in this conflict.

Backing these divided religious groups are Middle Eastern powerhouses such as Iran supporting the Houthis in the North, and a Saudi led coalition of Gulf Cooperation Council States (excluding Oman), further backed by the United States, in the South. As the Houthi rebel group represents a strong population of Shi’as in the North, they support the idea of a two-region state where they would dominate the North, and by January 2015, the Houthis demanded 50% of key ministerial position in the Yemeni government.

  Further conflict ensued when Saudi Arabia saw these demands, and Yemeni President Hadi forced from his palace in Sana’a by Houthi rebels, as Iranian interference in the region. In March of 2015, Saudi Foreign Minister declared that Saudi Arabia would protect the region from aggression, with the only solution being reinstating the internationally recognized government, and eliminating all Houthi rebels from any government institution they occupy. Almost ten months later, and Yemen has turned into a miserable war zone in which the death toll, amount of displaced people, and those facing food and water insecurity has escalated at a much faster rate than the chaos witnessed in Syria.

Although the Houthis have loosely been supported by Iran, they are not operating under its control and have been an independent political group before the outbreak of this civil war. Iran’s intervention in Yemen has only been an attempt to seize more influence in the region. Since Yemen is close to impenetrable, it is difficult to quantify what role Iran is playing in Yemen, with its only support being a supply of weapons to the Houthis; this comes as no surprise as Iran has a history of helping Shi’a minorities in the region.

The GCC countries, specifically Saudi Arabia, have stated their reasoning for intervening in Yemen while also carrying out a hidden agenda. This coalition claims their actions are answering the official request of the legitimate government of Yemen, protecting the Yemeni people, and fighting al-Qaeda and Daesh in the region. The events of the past ten months disprove these claims; so far, the Saudi led coalition has done nothing to stop al-Qaeda in Yemen.  The coalition has only hurt the civilian population in both the North and South from multiple airstrikes a day, and by establishing a blockade on the major ports in Yemen; this blockade has stopped the flow of food and resources in and out of the country. Although this blockade was done to protect the legitimate government from outside militias, this military tactic only cut off the civilian population from the rest of the world and vital resources needed for survival. Such ports are necessary as this country depends on imports for 70% of its fuel, 90% of its food, and 100% of its medicine, all now extremely limited in Yemen.

The number of casualties and injuries caused by explosive weapons in Yemen is the world’s highest, in which the all parties involved in this civil war are responsible for the unprecedented count of civilian suffering. In a September report done by the United Nations OCHA, when explosives are used, 86% of people killed are civilians and this number goes up to 95% in highly populated areas. Airstrikes were the single biggest danger to civilians in Yemen in the first seven months of 2015. Explosive weapons in Yemen have killed or injured more civilians this year than any other country in the world, including Syria. This is a blatant violation of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) by all parties involved in the conflict; through the principles of proportionality, distinction, and precaution, all parties to the conflict are obligated to limit the loss of civilian life.

With the lack of coverage on Yemen, first hand depiction of this state is provided by aid organizations on the ground, all of which have been struggling to provide civilians with the most basic level of support. Reports from Oxfam International, a major organization coordinating relief effort in Yemen, have announced shockingly high numbers; close to 20 million people have no food or water security, about 1.5 million people from Yemen are displaced with about 100,000 refugees in Somaliland or Djibouti, making Yemen one of the worst crisis in the world. Such destruction to the infrastructure and civilian population as a whole may be attributed to ground fighting and airstrikes. Indiscriminate bombings by both opposing parties have targeted all governorates in Yemen and have been happening 100 to 150 times a day for the past nine months. In total, this conflict has killed around 5,800 people since March, including 830 women and children, according to the UN. Not only is Yemen completely underfunded in terms of aid organizations being able to provide support to civilians, but the lack of media coverage on this war has failed to put a face to those suffering in this conflict.

The many states actively playing a role in this civil war have only perpetuated the situation, leaving unprotected civilians at the forefront of the destruction. If human rights violations and war crimes are not enough to bring this situation to the attention of the global community, then U.S. involvement in this war should also be noted. Although the United States does not have ground troops in Yemen, they have provided the Saudi led coalition with funding, weapons, and intelligence. A report done by the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy reported that the U.S. has $49 billion worth of new agreements of arms sales with Saudi Arabia, this along with $60 billion in weapons and intelligence last year. Second to Saudi Arabia in amount of weapons received by the U.S, is the United Arab Emirates, which received 1,600 guided bomb units that were explicitly used in Yemen. Although the National Security Council has called for the defense of the Saudi Arabian border and the Department of State has shared concern of aggressive actions by the Houthis, the helicopters, combat aircrafts, and missiles supplied by the U.S. to the Saudi led coalition have greatly contributed to the humanitarian catastrophe occurring in Yemen. In response to this, the National Security Council stated that, “the United States has no role in targeting decisions made by the coalition in Yemen.” Such actions have been addressed by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, who accused all parties involved in Yemen, including the U.S, as responsible for the harm civilians in Yemen are facing.

The Obama administration has received backlash from such actions as 13 members of Congress (led by Reps. Dingell, Ellison, and Lieu) sent a letter to President Obama calling on the administration to urge Saudi Arabia to better protect innocent lives. This letter appropriately stated that “when U.S. weapons and intelligence are utilized, the decision to conduct an airstrike should correspond to the standards that would apply to any U.S. military operation.” Regardless, the United States continues to support the actions of the Saudi led coalition in Yemen, when instead the U.S. should be pushing their allies towards peace talks and humanitarian relief efforts. The United States must also be concerned with extremists, such as al-Qaeda, that has already captured much of the southeast province Hadramawt, and now a have a strong hold in Yemen due to the instability in the state and lack of military focus on eliminating the terrorist group by the Saudi led coalition.

This conflict in Yemen has only been getting worse, and looking forward will drive Yemen further into state failure if a ceasefire and resolution are not met. Currently, Yemen is attempting a second round of peace talks taking place in Switzerland, as their first national dialogue failed in 2014. Such peace talks only consist of Yemeni nationals, the Hadi government, the Houthi rebels, and the general People’s Congress, with no foreign states involved. This is a major step in the right direction as a political solution that addresses reunifying the country and preventing further casualties is the only way to end the crisis. For the success of the peace talks, and ultimately relief to the Yemeni people, a ceasefire must be initiated and followed by the Saudi led coalition, something the U.S. should push their allies to do. If and when a political solution happens, what is equally if not more important is a plan for the day after. A “day after” plan must ensure the agreements of such peace talks are met and humanitarian and infrastructure assistance is provided. This plan must build up the civil society, as a stronger and unified Yemeni military and local police force is necessary to eliminate extremist in the region. As the country becomes safer from lack of constant airstrikes, aid organizations and the Yemeni government will have to work endlessly to rebuild demolished infrastructure such as homes, schools, and water and sanitation systems. A political solution and the plans following will not be easy, much closer to impossible if anything, but the well being and safety of the Yemeni people, along with global security, desperately depend on a ceasefire and unified government in Yemen.

KEY U.S. LEADERS SET STAGE FOR FINAL VOTES ON IRAN NUCLEAR DEAL

Image: Times
Image: Times

by Harry C. Blaney III

As we move into the final days of consideration by Congress of the Iran Nuclear Deal, there is growing acknowledgment by the GOP Hill leaders that they will not prevail via the measures of the disapproval bill to stop the Iran deal from going ahead. Such measures will be met with either getting the last 7 Democrats in the Senate to sign on to the vote to consider the legislation by using their filibuster option on  this disapproval motion, or if that does not work, to affirm the President’s veto.

Yet, sadly, the effort to scuttle the deal may not end, as there are press reports that the GOP leaders and tea party extremists will insist on adding provisions to on-going and most passed legislation in efforts to indirectly destroy the deal.  As they have tried to kill Obamacare by many dozens of votes, part of a larger strategy of denying President Obama any victories, they are completely disregarding America’s true interests and security. In response, American citizens will need to be alert to this strategy. Already Democratic Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland  who is the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has deserted his President on the Iran nuclear agreement to prevent Iran getting nuclear weapons and followed the dictates of the right wing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who seems, via dogged confrontations including into U.S. politics and his turning away from peace negotiations and building settlements outside of Israel’s borders on  Palistiinian land, in this writer’s view, endangering long-term Israel’s security not protecting it.

See below the citation to the new key argument that Secretary Kerry and Vice president Biden have just recently made in major talks on this issue. Worth a read!

The most important element at the end of the day, however, is that the restrains on Iran’s nuclear weapons program, detailed in the deal, will go forward and be enforced with the conditions the President and Secretary along with the P5 plus one and the EU have put into place to block any likely pathway to nuclear weapons for Iran.

The next stage is to develop policies and approaches to bring a better measure of security and peace in the region.

To this end on Friday September 3rd President Obama met with Saudi Arabia King Salman and other Saudi leaders to address Iran issues and discuss Middle East security and ways forward on how to send the many conflicts in the region. But there are many questions and complex and difficulty issues to address and much hard negotiations as we now rightly look beyond Iran alone and look at the larger Middle East landscape.

 https://cipnationalsecurity.wordpress.com/kerrys-speech-in-philadelphia-and-bidens-speech-in-florida-on-iran-nuclear-deal/

We welcome your comments.

Nominations for the Most Outrageous and Wrongheaded Quotes by Presidential Candidates on the Iran Nuclear Deal

Image: Politico

By: Harry C. Blaney III

To prove that this summer has become the “silly season” we have selected a few of the most wrongheaded and crazy quotes by the presidential hopefuls. This is not just for summer fun and amusement but also for reflection on the quality of the debate regarding the agreement that can prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon all together, rather than in just three months without a deal as most experts predict.

We have for the more attentive, world-weary reader, and super curious a full set of  pro and con quotes on an earlier blog here.

We welcome from our readers their own nominations for this proud honor!

HERE ARE THE INITIAL WRONGHEADED OR OUTRAGEOUS QUOTES:

Sen. Ted Cruz

“If this deal goes through, the Obama administration, President Obama, Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, will become the leading global financiers of radical Islamic terrorism.”

“You know one entity, one person with whom there is no ambiguity in terms of whether Iran wants a nuclear weapon is the Ayatollah Khamenei. Is President Rouhani. Both of whom explicitly said they are developing nuclear weapons. There is no doubt about it.”  (Comment: not true.)

“The Iranian nuclear deal is catastrophic — the single greatest national security threat facing America. To allow a country led by a theocratic zealot ….. to have a weapon that could in the flash of an eye murder millions of Americans. We have to stop this deal.” (Comment: read assessment of our Ambassadors, national security advisors, scientists in the context of this quote…all say the deal prevents just what Cruz says will happen.)

 

Jeb Bush

“The Obama Administration’s negotiating strategy with Iran is called appeasement. We should walk away.” “The nuclear agreement announced by the Obama Administration today is a dangerous, deeply flawed, and short sighted deal. The people of Iran, the region, Israel, America, and the world deserve better than a deal that consolidates the grip on power of the violent revolutionary clerics who rule Tehran with an iron fist.”

“The Obama-Clinton-Kerry Iran policy has failed not only because its weak negotiating strategy will not stop Iran from developing a nuclear weapons capability.”

(Comment: “appeasement” when supported and signed off by our Generals, former Ambassadors, expert scientists, the EU, Russia, China, NATO, and most real nuclear experts, etc? This one is a special prize!]

 

Sen. Bob Corker

“It’s very easy to cover up nuclear weapons. I believe you have crossed a new threshold in U.S. foreign policy where it is now our policy to enable a sponsor of terror to gain a sophisticated nuclear program.”

“And then, after 10 years, there’s something called the Iranian nuclear development program…. I actually think the deadline was working in Iran’s favor.  Iran will cheat by inches.” 

“I want to read the agreement in detail ….  but I begin from a place of deep skepticism that the deal actually meets the goal of preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.”

“It’s very easy to cover up nuclear weapons. I believe you have crossed a new threshold in U.S. foreign policy where it is now our policy to enable a sponsor of terror to gain a sophisticated nuclear program.”

“Throughout the negotiations, the Administration routinely asserted that ‘no deal is better than a bad deal’ and threatened to walk away if necessary, so clearly there was always another option for the White House — and it wasn’t war.”

 

Sen. Lindsey Graham

“This is the most dangerous, irresponsible step I have ever seen in the history of watching the Mideast. Barack Obama, John Kerry, have been dangerously naive.”

“This is North Korea in the making.”

“My initial impression is that this deal is far worse than I ever dreamed it could be.”

“You have created a possible death sentence for Israel.”

“This is a virtual declaration of war against Sunni Arabs.” (FYI Saudi Arabia support the deal)

“I don’t believe it’s a deal that until I get to look at it, so that’s the problem here. I betch a dollar if you looked at it, it would be a joke.”

“It’s incredibly dangerous for our national security, and it’s akin to declaring war on Sunni Arabs and Israel by the P5+1 because it ensures their primary antagonist Iran will become a nuclear power and allows them to rearm conventionally.”

“This is a bad deal, the worst possible outcome. You’ve created a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. You put Israel at risk and you put us at risk” 

“I would keep the interim deal in place. The interim deal has worked better than I thought it would, so hats off to John Kerry.” 

“This interim deal gives the Iranians $7 billion in cash and leaves in place one of the most sophisticated enrichment programs around.” (Comment: Not true.)

 

Sen. Marco Rubio

“We already know that this deal is not in the interests of the United States. It will not keep Americans safer. It will only embolden the world’s foremost sponsor of terrorism as it expands its influence and sows instability across the Middle East.”

“If he [Obama] instead chooses to conclude a deal that ensures that Iran will be a nuclear threshold state, I am confident that a majority of both houses of Congress will join me in opposing it, which will lay the foundation for our next President to undo this disaster.”

(Comment: How does a nation that could build the bomb without this agreement and now won’t be able to under the agreement be more of a threat to the region or us?)

Mike Huckabee

“This president’s foreign policy is the most feckless in American history. It is so naive that he would trust the Iranians. By doing so, he will take the Israelis and march them to the door of the oven.”

“You don’t negotiate with people, especially a pyromaniac who’s standing there with a can of gasoline and a book of matches in his hand, and expect him not to start a fire.”

“This president thinks he was anointed king. I don’t know where his crown is, but this is frustrating”

 

Donald Trump

“I think it’s an outrage, I think it’s done by people of gross incompetence, I think it’s a tremendous win for Iran and many of our enemies and I think it’s something that shouldn’t be allowed.”

“Iran is taking over Iraq 100%, just like I predicted years ago. I say this, I didn’t want to go there in the first place. Now we take the oil.”

“We should have kept the oil. Now we go in, we knock the hell out of them, take the oil, we thereby take their wealth. They have so much money.”

“They have better internet connections than we do in the United States. They’re training our kids through the internet. We have to knock out their wealth.”

(Comment: ”incompetence” by the man who said Obama was not born in the United States? Take the oil how?)

Scientists’ Letter to Obama on Iran Nuclear Deal

Dear Mr. President,

As scientists and engineers with understanding of the physics and technology of nuclear power and of nuclear weapons, we congratulate you and your team on the successful completion of the negotiations in Vienna. We consider that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) the United States and its partners negotiated with Iran will advance the cause of peace and security in the Middle East and can serve as a guidepost for future non-­‐proliferation agreements.

This is an innovative agreement, with much more stringent constraints than any previously negotiated non-­‐proliferation framework. It limits the level of enrichment of the uranium that Iran can produce, the amount of enriched uranium it can stockpile, and the number and kinds of centrifuges it can develop and operate. The agreement bans reconversion and reprocessing of reactor fuel, it requires Iran to redesign its Arak research reactor to produce far less plutonium than the original design, and specifies that spent fuel must be shipped out of the country without the plutonium being separated and before any significant quantity can be accumulated.

A key result of these restrictions is that it would take Iran many months to enrich uranium for a weapon. We contrast this with the situation before the interim agreement was negotiated in Lausanne: at that time Iran had accumulated enough 20 percent enriched uranium that the required additional enrichment time for weapons use was only a few weeks.

The JCPOA also provides for innovative approaches to verification, including monitoring of uranium mining, milling, and conversion to hexafluoride. Centrifuge manufacturing and R&D will be monitored as well. For 15 years the Natanz facility will be the only location where uranium enrichment is allowed to take place and it will be outfitted with real-­‐time monitoring to assure rapid notice of any violation. The authority is provided for real-­‐time monitoring of spent fuel as well.

Concerns about clandestine activities in Iran are greatly mitigated by the dispute resolution mechanism built into the agreement. The 24-­‐day cap on any delay to access is unprecedented, and will allow effective challenge inspection for the suspected activities of greatest concern: clandestine enrichment, construction of reprocessing or reconversion facilities, and implosion tests using uranium. The approach to resolving “Possible Military Dimensions” is innovative as well: the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) must be satisfied that it is fully informed about any previous activities, in order to guide its future verification plans, but Iran need not be publicly shamed. This agreement, also for the first time, explicitly bans nuclear weapons R&D, rather than only their manufacture as specified in the text of the Non-­‐Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

Some have expressed concern that the deal will free Iran to develop nuclear weapons without constraint after ten years. In contrast we find that the deal includes important long-­‐term verification procedures that last until 2040, and others that last indefinitely under the NPT and its Additional Protocol. On the other hand, we do believe that it would be valuable to strengthen these durable international institutions. We recommend that your team work with the IAEA to gain agreement to implement some of the key innovations included in the JCPOA into existing safeguards agreements. This will reduce the proliferation risks associated with national fuel cycle facilities worldwide. Thus in the future, when Iran is treated the same as all non-­‐nuclear weapons states with nuclear energy programs, all such programs will be more stringently constrained and verified.

As you have stated, this deal does not take any options off the table for you or any future president. Indeed it will make it much easier for you or a future president to know if and when Iran heads for a bomb, and the detection of a significant violation of this agreement will provide strong, internationally supported justification for intervention.

In conclusion, we congratulate you and your team on negotiating a technically sound, stringent and innovative deal that will provide the necessary assurance in the coming decade and more that Iran is not developing nuclear weapons, and provides a basis for further initiatives to raise the barriers to nuclear proliferation in the Middle East and around the globe.

Sincerely,

Richard L. Garwin, IBM Fellow Emeritus

Robert J. Goldston, Princeton University

Scott Kemp, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Rush Holt, American Association for the Advancement of Science

Frank von Hippel, Princeton University

Also signed by:

John F. Ahearne

Director, Ethics Program at Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society

Philip W. Anderson

Professor Emeritus, Princeton University

Christopher Chyba

Princeton University

Leon N. Cooper

Brown University

Pierce S. Corden

Former Director, Office of International Security Negotiations, Bureau of Arms Control: Department of State

John M. Cornwall

Professor of Physics and Astronomy, UCLA

Sidney D. Drell Stanford University

Freeman Dyson

Professor Emeritus, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton University

Harold A. Feiveson

Princeton University

Michael E. Fisher

Professor Emeritus, Cornell University and University of Maryland

Howard Georgi

Harvard University

Sheldon L. Glashow

Boston University

Lisbeth Gronlund

Union of Concerned Scientists

David Gross

Professor of Theoretical Physics, Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics, UCSB

Sigfried S. Hecker

Center for International Security and Cooperation, Stanford University

Martin E. Hellman

Professor Emeritus of Electrical Engineering, Stanford University

Ernest Henley

University of Washington

Gregory Loew

Emeritus Deputy Director and Professor, SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

Kumar N. Patel

Professor Emeritus of Experimental Condensed Matter, UCLA

Burton Richter

Stanford University

Myriam Sarachik

City College of New York, CUNY

Roy F. Schwitters

The University of Texas at Austin

Frank Wilczek

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

David Wright

Union of Concerned Scientists

Remarks by the President on the Iran Nuclear Deal

American University
Washington, D.C.

It is a great honor to be back at American University, which has prepared generations of young people for service in public life.  I want to thank President Kerwin and the American University family for hosting us here today.

Fifty-two years ago, President Kennedy, at the height of the Cold War, addressed this same university on the subject of peace.  The Berlin Wall had just been built.  The Soviet Union had tested the most powerful weapons ever developed.  China was on the verge of acquiring a nuclear bomb.  Less than 20 years after the end of World War II, the prospect of nuclear war was all too real.  With all of the threats that we face today, it’s hard to appreciate how much more dangerous the world was at that time.

In light of these mounting threats, a number of strategists here in the United States argued that we had to take military action against the Soviets, to hasten what they saw as inevitable confrontation.  But the young President offered a different vision.  Strength, in his view, included powerful armed forces and a willingness to stand up for our values around the world.  But he rejected the prevailing attitude among some foreign policy circles that equated security with a perpetual war footing.  Instead, he promised strong, principled American leadership on behalf of what he called a “practical” and “attainable peace” — a peace “based not on a sudden revolution in human nature but on a gradual evolution in human institutions — on a series of concrete actions and effective agreements.”

Such wisdom would help guide our ship of state through some of the most perilous moments in human history.  With Kennedy at the helm, the Cuban Missile Crisis was resolved peacefully.  Under Democratic and Republican Presidents, new agreements were forged — a Non-Proliferation Treaty that prohibited nations from acquiring nuclear weapons, while allowing them to access peaceful nuclear energy; the SALT and START Treaties which bound the United States and Soviet Union to cooperation on arms control.  Not every conflict was averted, but the world avoided nuclear catastrophe, and we created the time and the space to win the Cold War without firing a shot at the Soviets.

The agreement now reached between the international community and the Islamic Republic of Iran builds on this tradition of strong, principled diplomacy.  After two years of negotiations, we have achieved a detailed arrangement that permanently prohibits Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.  It cuts off all of Iran’s pathways to a bomb.  It contains the most comprehensive inspection and verification regime ever negotiated to monitor a nuclear program.  As was true in previous treaties, it does not resolve all problems; it certainly doesn’t resolve all our problems with Iran.  It does not ensure a warming between our two countries.  But it achieves one of our most critical security objectives.  As such, it is a very good deal.

Today, I want to speak to you about this deal, and the most consequential foreign policy debate that our country has had since the invasion of Iraq, as Congress decides whether to support this historic diplomatic breakthrough, or instead blocks it over the objection of the vast majority of the world.  Between now and the congressional vote in September, you’re going to hear a lot of arguments against this deal, backed by tens of millions of dollars in advertising.  And if the rhetoric in these ads, and the accompanying commentary, sounds familiar, it should — for many of the same people who argued for the war in Iraq are now making the case against the Iran nuclear deal.

Now, when I ran for President eight years ago as a candidate who had opposed the decision to go to war in Iraq, I said that America didn’t just have to end that war — we had to end the mindset that got us there in the first place.  It was a mindset characterized by a preference for military action over diplomacy; a mindset that put a premium on unilateral U.S. action over the painstaking work of building international consensus; a mindset that exaggerated threats beyond what the intelligence supported.  Leaders did not level with the American people about the costs of war, insisting that we could easily impose our will on a part of the world with a profoundly different culture and history.  And, of course, those calling for war labeled themselves strong and decisive, while dismissing those who disagreed as weak — even appeasers of a malevolent adversary.

More than a decade later, we still live with the consequences of the decision to invade Iraq.  Our troops achieved every mission they were given.  But thousands of lives were lost, tens of thousands wounded.  That doesn’t count the lives lost among Iraqis.  Nearly a trillion dollars was spent. Today, Iraq remains gripped by sectarian conflict, and the emergence of al Qaeda in Iraq has now evolved into ISIL.  And ironically, the single greatest beneficiary in the region of that war was the Islamic Republic of Iran, which saw its strategic position strengthened by the removal of its long-standing enemy, Saddam Hussein.

I raise this recent history because now more than ever we need clear thinking in our foreign policy.  And I raise this history because it bears directly on how we respond to the Iranian nuclear program.

That program has been around for decades, dating back to the Shah’s efforts — with U.S. support — in the 1960s and ‘70s to develop nuclear power.  The theocracy that overthrew the Shah accelerated the program after the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s, a war in which Saddam Hussein used chemical weapons to brutal effect, and Iran’s nuclear program advanced steadily through the 1990s, despite unilateral U.S. sanctions.  When the Bush administration took office, Iran had no centrifuges — the machines necessary to produce material for a bomb — that were spinning to enrich uranium.  But despite repeated warnings from the United States government, by the time I took office, Iran had installed several thousand centrifuges, and showed no inclination to slow — much less halt — its program.

Among U.S. policymakers, there’s never been disagreement on the danger posed by an Iranian nuclear bomb.  Democrats and Republicans alike have recognized that it would spark an arms race in the world’s most unstable region, and turn every crisis into a potential nuclear showdown.  It would embolden terrorist groups, like Hezbollah, and pose an unacceptable risk to Israel, which Iranian leaders have repeatedly threatened to destroy.  More broadly, it could unravel the global commitment to non-proliferation that the world has done so much to defend.

The question, then, is not whether to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, but how.  Even before taking office, I made clear that Iran would not be allowed to acquire a nuclear weapon on my watch, and it’s been my policy throughout my presidency to keep all options — including possible military options — on the table to achieve that objective.  But I have also made clear my preference for a peaceful, diplomatic resolution of the issue — not just because of the costs of war, but also because a negotiated agreement offered a more effective, verifiable and durable resolution.

And so, in 2009, we let the Iranians know that a diplomatic path was available.  Iran failed to take that path, and our intelligence community exposed the existence of a covert nuclear facility at Fordow.

Now, some have argued that Iran’s intransigence showed the futility of negotiations.  In fact, it was our very willingness to negotiate that helped America rally the world to our cause, and secured international participation in an unprecedented framework of commercial and financial sanctions.  Keep in mind unilateral U.S. sanctions against Iran had been in place for decades, but had failed to pressure Iran to the negotiating table.  What made our new approach more effective was our ability to draw upon new U.N. Security Council resolutions, combining strong enforcement with voluntary agreements from nations like China and India, Japan and South Korea to reduce their purchases of Iranian oil, as well as the imposition by our European allies of a total oil embargo.

Winning this global buy-in was not easy — I know.  I was there.  In some cases, our partners lost billions of dollars in trade because of their decision to cooperate.  But we were able to convince them that absent a diplomatic resolution, the result could be war, with major disruptions to the global economy, and even greater instability in the Middle East.  In other words, it was diplomacy — hard, painstaking diplomacy — not saber-rattling, not tough talk that ratcheted up the pressure on Iran.

With the world now unified beside us, Iran’s economy contracted severely, and remains about 20 percent smaller today than it would have otherwise been.  No doubt this hardship played a role in Iran’s 2013 elections, when the Iranian people elected a new government that promised to improve the economy through engagement with the world.  A window had cracked open.  Iran came back to the nuclear talks.  And after a series of negotiations, Iran agreed with the international community to an interim deal — a deal that rolled back Iran’s stockpile of near 20 percent enriched uranium, and froze the progress of its program so that the P5+1 — the United States, China, Russia, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, and the European Union — could negotiate a comprehensive deal without the fear that Iran might be stalling for time.

Now, let me pause here just to remind everybody that when the interim deal was announced, critics — the same critics we’re hearing from now — called it “a historic mistake.”  They insisted Iran would ignore its obligations.  They warned that sanctions would unravel.  They warned that Iran would receive a windfall to support terrorism.

The critics were wrong.  The progress of Iran’s nuclear program was halted for the first time in a decade.  Its stockpile of dangerous materials was reduced.  The deployment of its advanced centrifuges was stopped.  Inspections did increase. There was no flood of money into Iran, and the architecture of the international sanctions remained in place.  In fact, the interim deal worked so well that the same people who criticized it so fiercely now cite it as an excuse not to support the broader accord.  Think about that.  What was once proclaimed as a historic mistake is now held up as a success and a reason to not sign the comprehensive deal.  So keep that in mind when you assess the credibility of the arguments being made against diplomacy today.

Despite the criticism, we moved ahead to negotiate a more lasting, comprehensive deal.  Our diplomats, led by Secretary of State John Kerry, kept our coalition united.  Our nuclear experts — including one of the best in the world, Secretary of Energy Ernie Moniz — worked tirelessly on the technical details.  In July, we reached a comprehensive plan of action that meets our objectives.  Under its terms, Iran is never allowed to build a nuclear weapon.  And while Iran, like any party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, is allowed to access peaceful nuclear energy, the agreement strictly defines the manner in which its nuclear program can proceed, ensuring that all pathways to a bomb are cut off.

Here’s how.  Under this deal, Iran cannot acquire the plutonium needed for a bomb.  The core of its heavy-water reactor at Arak will be pulled out, filled with concrete, and replaced with one that will not produce plutonium for a weapon.  The spent fuel from that reactor will be shipped out of the country, and Iran will not build any new heavy-water reactors for at least 15 years.

Iran will also not be able to acquire the enriched uranium that could be used for a bomb.  As soon as this deal is implemented, Iran will remove two-thirds of its centrifuges.  For the next decade, Iran will not enrich uranium with its more advanced centrifuges.  Iran will not enrich uranium at the previously undisclosed Fordow facility, which is buried deep underground, for at least 15 years.  Iran will get rid of 98 percent of its stockpile of enriched uranium, which is currently enough for up to 10 nuclear bombs, for the next 15 years.  Even after those 15 years have passed, Iran will never have the right to use a peaceful program as cover to pursue a weapon.

And, in fact, this deal shuts off the type of covert path Iran pursued in the past.  There will be 24/7 monitoring of Iran’s key nuclear facilities.  For decades, inspectors will have access to Iran’s entire nuclear supply chain — from the uranium mines and mills where they get raw materials, to the centrifuge production facilities where they make machines to enrich it.  And understand why this is so important:  For Iran to cheat, it has to build a lot more than just one building or a covert facility like Fordow.  It would need a secret source for every single aspect of its program.  No nation in history has been able to pull off such subterfuge when subjected to such rigorous inspections.  And under the terms of the deal, inspectors will have the permanent ability to inspect any suspicious sites in Iran.

And finally, Iran has powerful incentives to keep its commitments.  Before getting sanctions relief, Iran has to take significant, concrete steps like removing centrifuges and getting rid of its stockpile.  If Iran violates the agreement over the next decade, all of the sanctions can snap back into place.  We won’t need the support of other members of the U.N. Security Council; America can trigger snapback on our own.  On the other hand, if Iran abides by the deal and its economy begins to reintegrate with the world, the incentive to avoid snapback will only grow.

So this deal is not just the best choice among alternatives -– this is the strongest non-proliferation agreement ever negotiated.  And because this is such a strong deal, every nation in the world that has commented publicly, with the exception of the Israeli government, has expressed support.  The United Nations Security Council has unanimously supported it.  The majority of arms control and non-proliferation experts support it.  Over 100 former ambassadors — who served under Republican and Democratic Presidents — support it.  I’ve had to make a lot of tough calls as President, but whether or not this deal is good for American security is not one of those calls.  It’s not even close.

Unfortunately, we’re living through a time in American politics where every foreign policy decision is viewed through a partisan prism, evaluated by headline-grabbing sound bites. And so before the ink was even dry on this deal — before Congress even read it — a majority of Republicans declared their virulent opposition.  Lobbyists and pundits were suddenly transformed into arm-chair nuclear scientists, disputing the assessments of experts like Secretary Moniz, challenging his findings, offering multiple — and sometimes contradictory — arguments about why Congress should reject this deal.  But if you repeat these arguments long enough, they can get some traction.  So let me address just a few of the arguments that have been made so far in opposition to this deal.

First, there are those who say the inspections are not strong enough because inspectors can’t go anywhere in Iran at any time with no notice.

Well, here’s the truth:  Inspectors will be allowed daily access to Iran’s key nuclear sites.  If there is a reason for inspecting a suspicious, undeclared site anywhere in Iran, inspectors will get that access, even if Iran objects.  This access can be with as little as 24 hours’ notice.  And while the process for resolving a dispute about access can take up to 24 days, once we’ve identified a site that raises suspicion, we will be watching it continuously until inspectors get in.  And by the way, nuclear material isn’t something you hide in the closet.  It can leave a trace for years.  The bottom line is, if Iran cheats, we can catch them — and we will.

Second, there are those who argue that the deal isn’t strong enough because some of the limitations on Iran’s civilian nuclear program expire in 15 years.  Let me repeat:  The prohibition on Iran having a nuclear weapon is permanent.  The ban on weapons-related research is permanent.  Inspections are permanent.  It is true that some of the limitations regarding Iran’s peaceful program last only 15 years.  But that’s how arms control agreements work.  The first SALT Treaty with the Soviet Union lasted five years.  The first START Treaty lasted 15 years.  And in our current situation, if 15 or 20 years from now, Iran tries to build a bomb, this deal ensures that the United States will have better tools to detect it, a stronger basis under international law to respond, and the same options available to stop a weapons program as we have today, including — if necessary — military options.

On the other hand, without this deal, the scenarios that critics warn about happening in 15 years could happen six months from now.  By killing this deal, Congress would not merely pave Iran’s pathway to a bomb, it would accelerate it.

Third, a number of critics say the deal isn’t worth it because Iran will get billions of dollars in sanctions relief.  Now, let’s be clear:  The international sanctions were put in place precisely to get Iran to agree to constraints on its program.  That’s the point of sanctions.  Any negotiated agreement with Iran would involve sanctions relief.  So an argument against sanctions relief is effectively an argument against any diplomatic resolution of this issue.

It is true that if Iran lives up to its commitments, it will gain access to roughly $56 billion of its own money — revenue frozen overseas by other countries.  But the notion that this will be a game-changer, with all this money funneled into Iran’s pernicious activities, misses the reality of Iran’s current situation.  Partly because of our sanctions, the Iranian government has over half a trillion dollars in urgent requirements — from funding pensions and salaries, to paying for crumbling infrastructure.  Iran’s leaders have raised the expectations of their people that sanctions relief will improve their lives.  Even a repressive regime like Iran’s cannot completely ignore those expectations.  And that’s why our best analysts expect the bulk of this revenue to go into spending that improves the economy and benefits the lives of the Iranian people.

Now, this is not to say that sanctions relief will provide no benefit to Iran’s military.  Let’s stipulate that some of that money will flow to activities that we object to.  We have no illusions about the Iranian government, or the significance of the Revolutionary Guard and the Quds Force.  Iran supports terrorist organizations like Hezbollah.  It supports proxy groups that threaten our interests and the interests of our allies — including proxy groups who killed our troops in Iraq.  They try to destabilize our Gulf partners.  But Iran has been engaged in these activities for decades.  They engaged in them before sanctions and while sanctions were in place.  In fact, Iran even engaged in these activities in the middle of the Iran-Iraq War — a war that cost them nearly a million lives and hundreds of billions of dollars.

The truth is that Iran has always found a way to fund these efforts, and whatever benefit Iran may claim from sanctions relief pales in comparison to the danger it could pose with a nuclear weapon.

Moreover, there’s no scenario where sanctions relief turns Iran into the region’s dominant power.  Iran’s defense budget is eight times smaller than the combined budget of our Gulf allies. Their conventional capabilities will never compare with Israel’s, and our commitment to Israel’s qualitative military edge helps guarantee that.  Over the last several years, Iran has had to spend billions of dollars to support its only ally in the Arab World — Bashar al-Assad — even as he’s lost control of huge chunks of his country.  And Hezbollah has suffered significant blows on the same battlefield.  And Iran, like the rest of the region, is being forced to respond to the threat of ISIL in Iraq.

So contrary to the alarmists who claim that Iran is on the brink of taking over the Middle East, or even the world, Iran will remain a regional power with its own set of challenges.  The ruling regime is dangerous and it is repressive.  We will continue to have sanctions in place on Iran’s support for terrorism and violation of human rights.  We will continue to insist upon the release of Americans detained unjustly.  We will have a lot of differences with the Iranian regime.

But if we’re serious about confronting Iran’s destabilizing activities, it is hard to imagine a worse approach than blocking this deal.  Instead, we need to check the behavior that we’re concerned about directly:  By helping our allies in the region strengthen their own capabilities to counter a cyber-attack or a ballistic missile; by improving the interdiction of weapons shipments that go to groups like Hezbollah; by training our allies’ special forces so that they can more effectively respond to situations like Yemen.  All these capabilities will make a difference.  We will be in a stronger position to implement them with this deal.  And, by the way, such a strategy also helps us effectively confront the immediate and lethal threat posed by ISIL.

Now, the final criticism — this sort of a catch-all that you may hear — is the notion that there’s a better deal to be had.  “We should get a better deal” — that’s repeated over and over again.  “It’s a bad deal, need a better deal” — (laughter) — one that relies on vague promises of toughness, and, more recently, the argument that we can apply a broader and indefinite set of sanctions to squeeze the Iranian regime harder.

Those making this argument are either ignorant of Iranian society, or they’re just not being straight with the American people.  Sanctions alone are not going to force Iran to completely dismantle all vestiges of its nuclear infrastructure — even those aspects that are consistent with peaceful programs.  That oftentimes is what the critics are calling “a better deal.”  Neither the Iranian government, or the Iranian opposition, or the Iranian people would agree to what they would view as a total surrender of their sovereignty.

Moreover, our closest allies in Europe, or in Asia — much less China or Russia — certainly are not going to agree to enforce existing sanctions for another 5, 10, 15 years according to the dictates of the U.S. Congress.  Because their willingness to support sanctions in the first place was based on Iran ending its pursuit of nuclear weapons.  It was not based on the belief that Iran cannot have peaceful nuclear power.  And it certainly wasn’t based on a desire for regime change in Iran.

As a result, those who say we can just walk away from this deal and maintain sanctions are selling a fantasy.  Instead of strengthening our position as some have suggested, Congress’s rejection would almost certainly result in multilateral sanctions unraveling.  If, as has also been suggested, we tried to maintain unilateral sanctions, beefen them up, we would be standing alone.  We cannot dictate the foreign, economic and energy policies of every major power in the world.

In order to even try to do that, we would have to sanction, for example, some of the world’s largest banks.  We’d have to cut off countries like China from the American financial system.  And since they happen to be major purchasers of or our debt, such actions could trigger severe disruptions in our own economy and, by the way, raise questions internationally about the dollar’s role as the world’s reserve currency.

That’s part of the reason why many of the previous unilateral sanctions were waived.  What’s more likely to happen, should Congress reject this deal, is that Iran would end up with some form of sanctions relief without having to accept any of the constraints or inspections required by this deal.  So in that sense, the critics are right:  Walk away from this agreement and you will get a better deal — for Iran.  (Applause.)

Now, because more sanctions won’t produce the results that the critics want, we have to be honest.  Congressional rejection of this deal leaves any U.S. administration that is absolutely committed to preventing Iran from getting a nuclear weapon with one option — another war in the Middle East.

I say this not to be provocative.  I am stating a fact. Without this deal, Iran will be in a position — however tough our rhetoric may be –- to steadily advance its capabilities.  Its breakout time, which is already fairly small, could shrink to near zero.  Does anyone really doubt that the same voices now raised against this deal will be demanding that whoever is President bomb those nuclear facilities?

And as someone who does firmly believes that Iran must not get a nuclear weapon, and who has wrestled with this issue since the beginning of my presidency, I can tell you that alternatives to military action will have been exhausted once we reject a hard-won diplomatic solution that the world almost unanimously supports.

So let’s not mince words.  The choice we face is ultimately between diplomacy or some form of war — maybe not tomorrow, maybe not three months from now, but soon.  And here’s the irony.  As I said before, military action would be far less effective than this deal in preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.  That’s not just my supposition.  Every estimate, including those from Israeli analysts, suggest military action would only set back Iran’s program by a few years at best, which is a fraction of the limitations imposed by this deal.  It would likely guarantee that inspectors are kicked out of Iran.  It is probable that it would drive Iran’s program deeper underground.  It would certainly destroy the international unity that we’ve spent so many years building.

Now, there are some opponents — I have to give them credit; there are opponents of this deal who accept the choice of war.  In fact, they argue that surgical strikes against Iran’s facilities will be quick and painless.  But if we’ve learned anything from the last decade, it’s that wars in general and wars in the Middle East in particular are anything but simple.  (Applause.)  The only certainty in war is human suffering, uncertain costs, unintended consequences.  We can also be sure that the Americans who bear the heaviest burden are the less than 1 percent of us, the outstanding men and women who serve in uniform, and not those of us who send them to war.

As Commander-in-Chief, I have not shied from using force when necessary.  I have ordered tens of thousands of young Americans into combat.  I have sat by their bedside sometimes when they come home.  I’ve ordered military action in seven countries.  There are times when force is necessary, and if Iran does not abide by this deal, it’s possible that we don’t have an alternative.

But how can we in good conscience justify war before we’ve tested a diplomatic agreement that achieves our objectives; that has been agreed to by Iran; that is supported by the rest of the world; and that preserves our options if the deal falls short? How could we justify that to our troops?  How could we justify that to the world or to future generations?

In the end, that should be a lesson that we’ve learned from over a decade of war.  On the front end, ask tough questions.  Subject our own assumptions to evidence and analysis.  Resist the conventional wisdom and the drumbeat of war.  Worry less about being labeled weak; worry more about getting it right.

I recognize that resorting to force may be tempting in the face of the rhetoric and behavior that emanates from parts of Iran.  It is offensive.  It is incendiary.  We do take it seriously.  But superpowers should not act impulsively in response to taunts, or even provocations that can be addressed short of war.  Just because Iranian hardliners chant “Death to America” does not mean that that’s what all Iranians believe.  (Applause.)

In fact, it’s those hardliners who are most comfortable with the status quo.  It’s those hardliners chanting “Death to America” who have been most opposed to the deal.  They’re making common cause with the Republican caucus.  (Laughter and applause.)

The majority of the Iranian people have powerful incentives to urge their government to move in a different, less provocative direction — incentives that are strengthened by this deal.  We should offer them that chance.  We should give them that opportunity.  It’s not guaranteed to succeed.  But if they take it, that would be good for Iran, it would be good for the United States.  It would be good for a region that has known too much conflict.  It would be good for the world.

And if Iran does not move in that direction, if Iran violates this deal, we will have ample ability to respond.  The agreements pursued by Kennedy and Reagan with the Soviet Union, those agreements, those treaties involved America accepting significant constraints on our arsenal.  As such, they were riskier.  This agreement involves no such constraints.  The defense budget of the United States is more than $600 billion.  To repeat, Iran’s is about $15 billion.  Our military remains the ultimate backstop to any security agreement that we make.  I have stated that Iran will never be allowed to obtain a nuclear weapon.  I have done what is necessary to make sure our military options are real.  And I have no doubt that any President who follows me will take the same position.

So let me sum up here.  When we carefully examine the arguments against this deal, none of them stand up to scrutiny.  That may be why the rhetoric on the other side is so strident.  I suppose some of it can be ascribed to knee-jerk partisanship that has become all too familiar; rhetoric that renders every decision that’s made a disaster, a surrender — “you’re aiding terrorists; you’re endangering freedom.”

On the other hand, I do think it’s important to acknowledge another, more understandable motivation behind the opposition to this deal, or at least skepticism to this deal, and that is a sincere affinity for our friend and ally, Israel — an affinity that, as someone who has been a stalwart friend to Israel throughout my career, I deeply share.

When the Israeli government is opposed to something, people in the United States take notice.  And they should.  No one can blame Israelis for having a deep skepticism about any dealings with a government like Iran’s — which includes leaders who have denied the Holocaust, embrace an ideology of anti-Semitism, facilitate the flow of rockets that are arrayed on Israel’s borders, are pointed at Tel Aviv.  In such a dangerous neighborhood, Israel has to be vigilant, and it rightly insists that it cannot depend on any other country — even its great friend the United States — for its own security.  So we have to take seriously concerns in Israel.

But the fact is, partly due to American military and intelligence assistance, which my administration has provided at unprecedented levels, Israel can defend itself against any conventional danger — whether from Iran directly or from its proxies.  On the other hand, a nuclear-armed Iran changes that equation.

And that’s why this deal ultimately must be judged by what it achieves on the central goal of preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.  This deal does exactly that.  I say this as someone who has done more than any other President to strengthen Israel’s security.  And I have made clear to the Israeli government that we are prepared to discuss how we can deepen that cooperation even further.  Already we’ve held talks with Israel on concluding another 10-year plan for U.S. security assistance to Israel.  We can enhance support for areas like missile defense, information sharing, interdiction — all to help meet Israel’s pressing security needs, and to provide a hedge against any additional activities that Iran may engage in as a consequence of sanctions relief.

But I have also listened to the Israeli security establishment, which warned of the danger posed by a nuclear-armed Iran for decades.  In fact, they helped develop many of the ideas that ultimately led to this deal.

So to friends of Israel, and to the Israeli people, I say this:  A nuclear-armed Iran is far more dangerous to Israel, to America, and to the world than an Iran that benefits from sanctions relief.

I recognize that Prime Minister Netanyahu disagrees — disagrees strongly.  I do not doubt his sincerity.  But I believe he is wrong.  I believe the facts support this deal.  I believe they are in America’s interest and Israel’s interest.  And as President of the United States, it would be an abrogation of my constitutional duty to act against my best judgment simply because it causes temporary friction with a dear friend and ally.  I do not believe that would be the right thing to do for the United States.  I do not believe it would be the right thing to do for Israel.  (Applause.)

Over the last couple weeks, I have repeatedly challenged anyone opposed to this deal to put forward a better, plausible alternative.  I have yet to hear one.  What I’ve heard instead are the same types of arguments that we heard in the run-up to the Iraq War:  Iran cannot be dealt with diplomatically; we can take military strikes without significant consequences; we shouldn’t worry about what the rest of the world thinks, because once we act, everyone will fall in line; tougher talk, more military threats will force Iran into submission; we can get a better deal.

I know it’s easy to play on people’s fears, to magnify threats, to compare any attempt at diplomacy to Munich.  But none of these arguments hold up.  They didn’t back in 2002 and 2003; they shouldn’t now.  (Applause.)  The same mindset, in many cases offered by the same people who seem to have no compunction with being repeatedly wrong, led to a war that did more to strengthen Iran, more to isolate the United States than anything we have done in the decades before or since.  It’s a mindset out of step with the traditions of American foreign policy, where we exhaust diplomacy before war, and debate matters of war and peace in the cold light of truth.

“Peace is not the absence of conflict,” President Reagan once said.  It is “the ability to cope with conflict by peaceful means.”  President Kennedy warned Americans, “not to see conflict as inevitable, accommodation as impossible, and communication as nothing more than the exchange of threats.”  It is time to apply such wisdom.  The deal before us doesn’t bet on Iran changing, it doesn’t require trust; it verifies and requires Iran to forsake a nuclear weapon, just as we struck agreements with the Soviet Union at a time when they were threatening our allies, arming proxies against us, proclaiming their commitment to destroy our way of life, and had nuclear weapons pointed at all of our major cities — a genuine existential threat.

We live in a complicated world — a world in which the forces unleashed by human innovation are creating opportunities for our children that were unimaginable for most of human history.  It is also a world of persistent threats, a world in which mass violence and cruelty is all too common, and human innovation risks the destruction of all that we hold dear.  In this world, the United States of America remains the most powerful nation on Earth, and I believe that we will remain such for decades to come.  But we are one nation among many.

And what separates us from the empires of old, what has made us exceptional, is not the mere fact of our military might.  Since World War II, the deadliest war in human history, we have used our power to try to bind nations together in a system of international law.  We have led an evolution of those human institutions President Kennedy spoke about — to prevent the spread of deadly weapons, to uphold peace and security, and promote human progress.

We now have the opportunity to build on that progress.  We built a coalition and held it together through sanctions and negotiations, and now we have before us a solution that prevents Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, without resorting to war.  As Americans, we should be proud of this achievement.  And as members of Congress reflect on their pending decision, I urge them to set aside political concerns, shut out the noise, consider the stakes involved with the vote that you will cast.

If Congress kills this deal, we will lose more than just constraints on Iran’s nuclear program, or the sanctions we have painstakingly built.  We will have lost something more precious: America’s credibility as a leader of diplomacy; America’s credibility as the anchor of the international system.

John F. Kennedy cautioned here, more than 50 years ago, at this university, that “the pursuit of peace is not as dramatic as the pursuit of war.”  But it’s so very important.  It is surely the pursuit of peace that is most needed in this world so full of strife.

My fellow Americans, contact your representatives in Congress.  Remind them of who we are.  Remind them of what is best in us and what we stand for, so that we can leave behind a world that is more secure and more peaceful for our children.