WASHINGTON — As an American Jew, I abhor the idea that Iran could get the bomb and spread fear across the Middle East. I also do not believe that military action against Iran can eliminate its ability to build a weapon. The military option will at best delay such an outcome, but at tremendous costs in blood and treasure for our country.
That is why I prefer a nuclear deal with Iran.
A nuclear deal with Iran will not be perfect. It will likely allow Iran to maintain a portion of its nuclear infrastructure for peaceful energy purposes. But even an imperfect deal — strictly monitored and enforced — can provide enough assurance that Iran is not going for a bomb.
This is important because Americans are not just concerned about whether Iran has a peaceful nuclear program. We also don’t want a nuclear arms race in the Middle East and we don’t want Israel to be potentially threatened with nuclear annihilation. Because of this, Americans do not want Iran to have the bomb.
This is the type of agreement that’s on the negotiating table right now. It’s a first step deal that paves the way for a comprehensive agreement to open Iran’s nuclear infrastructure to intrusive international inspection, blocks Iran from having the materials necessary to build a bomb and verifiably commits Iran to not pursuing that path.
If all parties seal the deal, it will be a win for the United States and a win for Israel. And it is one that American Jews should wholeheartedly back.
But what happens if a deal falls through? What if spoilers succeed in sabotaging nuclear negotiations and block the diplomatic path?
If talks fail and the United States and its allies are perceived as not having negotiated in good faith, Iran will likely spurn diplomacy and forge ahead with its nuclear program. Meanwhile, global support for sanctions against Iran will recede, and we could see the unraveling of the current sanctions regime that has brought Iran to the negotiating table. This will leave Iran unconstrained and the United States with less allied support. That is not in our security interest.
If we get to this point, we will then likely face another choice. Since the lack of a deal will leave Iran unconstrained and in a position to continue to advance its nuclear program, we’ll basically have two options.
The first will be to try to contain Iran through overwhelming military activity and economic pressure. This will cost untold billions for a seemingly unending number of years. And it may not forestall other countries in the region from seeking a bomb of their own. This is extremely difficult and risky.
The second option is to just go to war. However, dropping bombs alone will not be sufficient to dismantle the Iranian nuclear program, as one can’t bomb the knowledge out of Iranian heads and their physical infrastructure can be rebuilt. Bombing would only delay, not eliminate their nuclear program.
Worse, after an attack, Iran would have real motivation to build a bomb — a decision that the American intelligence community believes they still have not yet made. To stop them from building the bomb after an attack, we’d have to either invade and occupy Iran — a country three times the size of Iraq — or continue to bomb them on a repetitive and unending basis. Even for the strongest military power in the world, that is a daunting mission and one not likely to have American popular support.
So instead, we’re left with the least bad option that may actually get us the results we desire: negotiations with Iran for a deal that will prevent them from getting a nuclear weapon. This is the best way to avoid the worst possible outcomes of either having to contain an Iranian bomb or to starting a war that could ultimately lead to an Iranian bomb.
And we have something that Iran wants to get at the table: sanctions relief. The punishing sanctions we have put on Iran have brought them to the table. Now it’s time to test whether they will make a deal, not the time to push them away by imposing more sanctions.
We should heed the recent call of California’s Sen. Dianne Feinstein to test the current opportunity fully, and oppose those who would like to increase sanctions to block the serious negotiations under way. Feinstein was right when she recently said: “I will continue to support these negotiations and oppose any new sanctions as long as we are making progress toward a genuine solution.”
We are making that progress. It is tough, painful and tedious. But if successful, it will stop an Iranian bomb. That outcome will strengthen both our country’s security and that of Israel. That’s why American Jews should support a nuclear deal with Iran.
(Joel Rubin, director of policy and government affairs at the Ploughshares Fund in Washington, D.C., and a Pittsburgh native, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter.com/JoelMartinRubin. His views are his own and not necessarily those of Ploughshares Fund.)