Iran Deal Hysteria Was Manufactured BS

Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz pauses as he answers questions from members of the media during his meeting with Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, at the Pentagon, Thursday, Jan. 8, 2015. (AP Photo/... Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz pauses as he answers questions from members of the media during his meeting with Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, at the Pentagon, Thursday, Jan. 8, 2015. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais) MORE LESS
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Now that the Iran Deal is a done deal and with the stunning news of John Boehner’s retirement, you may have missed this. It’s not so much surprising, if you’ve been paying attention. But it confirms a basic reality, which is that the hysteria from Benjamin Netanyahu, much of the Israeli political establishment, purportedly ‘pro-Israel’ conservatives in the US, and others, was never shared by the Israeli defense establishment and, in a real sense, was manufactured BS meant to leverage the U.S. political climate.

Benny Gantz was Chief of Staff of the Israel Defense Forces from 2011 until he was succeeded by Gadi Eizenkot this February. He spoke on Friday at the AIPAC-aligned Washington Institute for Near East Policy. He said that he thought a better deal could have been negotiated but nonetheless saw the deal as an important “achievement” in preventing Iran from getting a nuclear weapon for at least 10 or 15 years. Here are the exact quotes from the JTA

“I do agree a better deal could have been reached,” one that more extensively restricted uranium enrichment, Benny Gantz said Friday of the sanctions relief for a nuclear restrictions deal reached in July between Iran and six major powers.

“But I see the half-full part of the glass,” he said. “I see the achievement of keeping the Iranians, 10-15 years into the future, postponing their having a nuclear capability at the right price.”

He also criticized the “hysteria” over the deal and said that the greatest threat to Israel’s future comes not from Iran but from internal divisions within Israeli society.

Gantz’s take turns out to be relentlessly logical and reasonable. There is a maximalist argument for the Iran Deal that holds that, by ending what amounts to a Cold War that has existed between Iran and the United States for thirty five years, this deal may over time strengthen reformists in the government, eventually reduce tensions in the region, and make the U.S. less reliant on allies like the Saudis who are actually the biggest and most sustained sponsors of Islamic radicalism in the world.

Or maybe not.

Considering that reformists in Iran almost all support the deal and the hardliners mostly oppose it, it’s silly to dismiss this possibility out of hand. But we also cannot and should not rely on it. The Iranian regime has become more pragmatic over the decades, but it has proven far more resilient in the face of reformist agitation than many expected. My own view is that the deal clearly does accomplish two things: It keeps the U.S. out of another catastrophic land war in the western Asia, and it delays Iran from becoming a nuclear state for at least 10 or 15 years. In my mind, those are huge accomplishments – arguments I’ve made at greater length here in the Editor’s Blog. Taking the U.S. out of the equation, which obviously isn’t his concern, this seems to be Gantz’s argument. There could have been a better agreement but putting any Iranian nuclear weapon off for at least a decade is clearly better than having them able to build one today. It’s an important “achievement” and clearly a good thing.

This is a good take on the minimalist argument for the agreement. The Iranian regime sucks. It won’t stop sucking. So preventing them from building a nuclear weapon for at least 10 or 15 years – and more like twenty five – is a good thing. And perhaps a generation from now, the regime will be different and we’ll have more options.

This is a very hard to dispute argument. And that difficulty was what was behind the need for the big lie of Prime Minister Netanyahu, almost all top elected Republicans, AIPAC, and so many others that delaying or preventing an Iranian nuclear weapon “paved the way” for a weapon. That was always nonsense. It’s good to have yet another member of the Israeli armed forces, one at the pinnacle of the establishment, say as much.

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