By Barbara Goldberg Goldman, Member of the NJDC Executive Committee and Chair of the NJDC Women's Leadership Network
The following originally appeared in Washington Jewish Week.
The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), or P5+1 agreement, is creating a monumental stir within the American Jewish community. Sadly, perhaps tragically, it appears to be creating a wide divide among an otherwise mostly unified people. We can and should have our own educated opinions. But, facts are facts. We should not have our very own set upon which to base our judgments.
Questions abound whether this document blocks Iran’s pathway to nuclear weaponry. One must keep in mind that America was not alone in reaching this agreement after 22 months of arduous, protracted negotiation. The five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council — China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States — plus Germany worked on one of the most comprehensive agreements ever conceived involving Iran’s nuclear program. No one, including President Barack Obama, is denying that there are strengths and weaknesses inherent in this seminal accord with a country we do not trust. But still, it is a good one.
Opponents of the deal argue that 24 days at any given site is far too long a period to wait before allowing for inspections. They say Iran will be able to clean the site and hide nuclear evidence giving the appearance that the site is clean of any weaponry activity. Why are experts from the United States not included in inspections? How can we trust anyone else on such an important matter?
An examination of the facts leads us to these answers.
First, 24 days is not a random number. Nuclear experts have concluded that this timeline does not allow for Iran to sweep weapon materials under the rug. Iran cannot simply flush the radioactive material down the toilet as might have been suggested. World powers, including the United States, will be monitoring the site for suspicious activity throughout the timeline. To believe otherwise either is to naively underestimate our global leaders, or worse, fall prey to the worst kind of partisanship.
Second, it is absurd to believe that we cannot trust independent investigators from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to do their jobs properly. These individuals are the experts, and no others in the world should be more trusted to handle such significant tasks.
Opponents argue that Obama is permitting Iran to import and export weaponry. They say that the issue was not present in the negotiations. Again, let’s examine the facts.
First, unless we were sitting at the negotiating table, we don’t know precisely what was and was not raised during almost two years of negotiations.
Second, pursuant to the Security Council’s resolutions 1737 (2006), 1747 (2007), 1803 (2008), 1929 (2010), there currently exist, among other restrictions, tight bans “on the export/procurement of any arms and related material from Iran and a ban on the supply of the seven categories, as specified, of conventional weapons and related material to Iran.”
To assume that this was a cavalierly discarded issue shows not just bad faith toward the president and his administration, but it also shows a lack of knowledge about facts. Such activity will remain illegal.
Opponents express concern over sanctions provisions. Again, the facts are illuminating.
First, sanctions will remain in place targeting Iran’s violations of human rights and support for terrorist organizations.
Second, sanctions immediately will “snap back” into place should Iran violate any part of this agreement.
As the president repeatedly makes clear, this deal is aimed at preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. He continues to acknowledge the myriad of issues surrounding the Iranian regime, including a high level of distrust and the fact that Iran is not our ally. After all, we don’t negotiate deals with our allies. This agreement has been supported and validated by nearly every nation. Nuclear experts worldwide, including those from Israel, have affirmed that the goal at hand will be accomplished and will keep Israel and the Middle East region safe from an Iranian nuclear threat. Yet, the deal’s supporters are being accused of intentionally or otherwise endangering the safety of the Jewish population. This is absurd and rings of irrational fear.
This distinction between fact and opinion remains critical during this decisive period in history. Emotionally charged opinions, detached from the facts, could ricochet throughout our broader community and cause irreparable damage.
This agreement has the strong ability to protect us all. Let it not tear us apart.