After months of antagonizing rhetoric and mud-slinging, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu finds himself backed into a corner. His usual bravado and fire and brimstone warnings, complete with the ever-present ticking bomb sketch, have fallen flat on the ears of the international community. Standing alone and becoming more desperate as each day brings forth renewed support for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Netanyahu’s usual bullying pack mentality is at a loss for words.
In a gesture that was a whopping “F you” to Israel and staunch pro-Israeli supporters in Congress, the United Nations Security Council bypassed all calls for delay and unanimously approved a resolution on July 20th lifting international economic sanctions against Iran and forcing Netanyahu and the US Congress into a crouched defensive position. A UNSC resolution, unlike a United Nations General Assembly resolution, is automatically binding on all UN sanctions and the European Union was swift to act, simultaneously voting to approve the deal and lift EU sanctions in the same day.
Even if Congress successfully passes a “resolution of disapproval” and overcomes the inevitable veto, they will be left standing alone. Swift condemnation by Netanyahu and pro-Israel groups like AIPAC no longer has the same pull that it once had with the rest of the world. Already countries and businesses are jockeying for prime monopolies for the purchase of Iranian oil. As more countries and businesses form economic ties with Iran, the threat of new unilateral sanctions by Congress will not only be viewed by Iran as a renege on the agreement but will be met with hostility by US allies.
Let’s be honest, new sanctions would really just be a last-ditch effort by Congress to assure its right-wing base and hawkish Israeli supporters that American exceptionalism is not dead. When in reality, it will only further boost the argument that American arrogance trumps smart diplomacy. I can just hear the rest of the world laughing now. As Secretary of State Kerry said during ABC’s this Week, “It’s presumptuous of some people to suspect that France, Russia, China, Germany, Britain out to do what the Congress tells them to do.”
Netanyahu and AIPAC have ramped up lobbying efforts against the deal; however, a strong, collective voice of support has emerged as well. On the same day that the UN and EU voted to end sanctions and accept the deal, a letter signed by 60 American leading national security and military leaders, ambassadors, and former Cabinet secretaries was released stating that without the agreement, the risks to the US and greater international community would be far greater, ensuring regional destabilization and an unchecked Iran to pursue nuclear weapons capability. The bipartisan letter included heavy weights former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, former national security advisors Brent Scowcroft and Samuel Berger, retired Admiral Eric Olson and Rear Admiral Joe Sestak, and Senators Carl Levin, Mark Udall, and Tom Daschle. It was a direct rebuke to Congressional members’ doomsday posturing.
On the public front, liberal Jewish power house J Street has launched its own campaign supporting the JCPOA, stating that the agreement “advances both US and Israeli security interests.” J Street was formed in 2008 as a pro-Israel, pro-peace organization to counter the hawkish stance recently taken up by other pro-Israel groups with Capitol-pull. It believes the best path that guarantees Israel’s security is a two-state solution with Palestine, which ends the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip and promotes democratic values and regional diplomatic efforts. Part of its campaign will include 30-second TV advertisements over the next 60 days highlighting the international inspections of Iran’s military installations as well as the unprecedented agreed-upon reductions of Iranian centrifuges and uranium stockpiles. J Street will also bring its message to DC by inviting American and Israeli experts to Capitol Hill to brief legislators on why the JCPOA agreement is a good move for the US.
It is true Iran may break with the deal. As with all international agreements there is the very real possibility for double-dealing and people should be cautious of a country that has been openly hostile against the US and its allies since the toppling of the Shah. But jumping the gun and voting down one of the first real chances at denying Iran nuclear weapon capability is both shortsighted and irresponsible. It’s refreshing to see a new narrative founded in diplomacy and restraint take center stage over war-mongering and a constant message of fear.
To that schoolyard bully who keeps slinging the same insults and threats that he did yesterday – I say bring it. The game just changed.