On the morning of July 14, Canadians woke up to breaking news from Vienna of a deal reached over Iran’s nuclear program.
To understand why Israel sees this agreement as a threat to global peace and security, let me share with you five key questions:
Does the agreement stop Iran from attaining a nuclear bomb?
No, plain and simple.
Over the years, the international community constructed a robust system of sanctions, squeezing the Iranian economy and bringing the Iranian regime to the negotiating table. The aim was to dismantle Iran’s military nuclear program.
Just as this objective was finally within reach, the negotiators changed their approach. They handed the Iranian regime with a dream deal that will quickly end the sanctions, the one form of leverage, while leaving most of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure in place.
Now Iran is all but guaranteed a nuclear bomb.
Assuming it doesn’t cheat, it can simply wait ten years – continuing to advance its nuclear capabilities – and then quickly become a nuclear superpower with full international legitimacy.
Does the deal stop Iran from cheating?
Again, the answer is no.
The negotiators were initially guided by a strong awareness of Iran’s long history of deceiving the international community – including its clandestine underground enrichment facilities at Fordow and Arak.
What was supposed to be “anywhere, anytime” inspections with just 24-hours’ notice, became a bureaucratic process that can last at least 24 days. Now, even if we learn about Iran’s undeclared sites, the regime has nearly a month to hide the evidence.
This is especially disconcerting for Israel, a small country, two-thirds the size of Vancouver Island with half our 8.2 million citizens located in the central core. Iran’s ability to build and deliver just one nuclear warhead can mean our total demise.
Will the ayatollahs use the $150 billion of sanction relief to help the Iranian people?
Here, too, the answer is no.
It is not a coincidence that some of the deal’s fiercest opponents are Iranian democracy advocates. Despite the election of President Hassan Rouhani, a so-called “reformer,” these dissidents know that the regime has only upped its oppression of women, political activists, religious minorities, and members of the LGBT community.
Moreover, the world’s experience with North Korea demonstrates that a generous economic package to feed and help the population, including half million tons of heavy oil, didn’t find its way to the people who needed it the most, nor did it stop it to think twice in breaking its commitments and going nuclear.
Will the deal succeed in making Iran a regional partner for peace?
Iran is playing a direct role in the instability raging across the Middle East President Rouhani – propping up the embattled Assad regime in Syria, building up Hezbollah’s arsenal of over 100,000 missiles aimed at Israel, supporting the Houthi rebels in Yemen, and playing dangerous games in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Those who live under this shadow, not just Israel but many Arab countries, stand united against this bad deal that gives international legitimacy and transforms Iran – the region’s main source of instability – from the problem to being a wishful part of the solution.
For Israel, this is a significant game changer that hands the Iranian regime – which was never shy in calling for our annihilation and denying the Holocaust – with an exceptional geopolitical asset.
Israel and the Jewish people deeply understand the link between rhetoric and action. We pay close attention to the fact that four days before the deal was signed, President Rouhani was leading mobs in the streets of Tehran in chanting “Down with America, Death to Israel.” Just days after the signing, with the ink not even dry, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei reiterated his regime’s commitment to its allies and his policies against Israel and the United States.
Is war the only alternative to this agreement?
Not at all. Diplomacy is always the best option.
The alternative has always been a better deal – one that rolls back Iran’s military nuclear program and links the easing of sanctions to a total change in Iran’s behaviour vis-à-vis Israel, its Arab neighbours, and its own population.
Rafael Barak is the ambassador of Israel to Canada. A version of this article was originally published in the Toronto Star.