Tag Archives: Iran

Statement Regarding President Trump’s Announcement on the JCPOA

It is well known that Greater Boston’s organized Jewish community was deeply divided over the approval of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (the JCPOA, or the Iran Deal). Today, too, we are not of one mind as we receive the news of President Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the JCPOA. Regardless of our views about the JCPOA, both then and now, our community is united in our understanding that an Iranian nuclear weapons program poses a direct threat to the security of Israel and the stability of the region.

Whether or not one agrees with today’s decision, we must come together to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon and to address other regional threats from Iran, particularly its support of Hezbollah and Hamas. We need a responsible, wise and bipartisan approach from the United States. We need a multilateral approach that includes our allies and others on the world stage. We need to look forward with a shared sense of purpose so that our worst fears are not realized, and that our hopes for a peaceful and secure future are achieved.

Iran and Our Fractured Politics

Last Friday, President Trump announced that he would not certify to Congress that Iran was in compliance with, nor that it was in the United States’ national interest to abide by, the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan on Action (JCPOA), aka the Iran Deal. It is no secret that the American Jewish community was and remains deeply divided over the agreement; we were nearly evenly split between those who supported and opposed this two years ago, with significant and enduring discord over its implementation.

In 2015, while JCRC did not take a position for or against the deal, we advocated that Congress address what we identified as flaws in the agreement, including the quality of the inspection regime and the so-called sunset clause. We were also concerned that  the original agreement was not more expansive, addressing not only Iran’s nuclear program but also their role as a state sponsor of terror and a destabilizing actor in the region. But the deal didn’t address those issues, and by most accounts, the Iranians are abiding by the agreement to which we committed.

I, for one, am hard-pressed to see how unilaterally walking away from the JCPOA now is the best way to bring the other international partners back to the table to deal with the flaws. I suspect that a different, more prudent, president would have certified the deal and begun to lay the groundwork for other nations to come to the table on the non-nuclear issues, and to begin to plan for the future.

But here we are. The President has made his decision and we’re going to need Congress to figure some of this out over the next two months, in accordance with the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act that we vigorously supported in 2015.  And while – narrowly speaking – we’re still discussing the issues from 2015 about the quality of the agreement and a strategy for ensuring that Iran never has the capability to threaten Israel with nuclear annihilation, we also need to discuss a larger and more urgent national challenge: The reality that American credibility on the world stage is suffering.

This phenomenon didn’t start with the election of President Trump. Our nation has exhibited a seesaw-like vacillation with key foreign policy issues on the world stage over the past few administrations. To name just a few examples:

  • In 2001 President Bush walked away from the Kyoto Protocol, a climate treaty signed by President Clinton.
  • President Obama didn’t keep our commitment to guarantee Ukraine’s territorial sovereignty, a promise made by Clinton in 1994, when that nation gave up its status as the third largest nuclear power on earth.
  • And President Clinton might have made more headway with Israeli and Palestinian leaders at Camp David in 2000 if the parties could have been confident that our next administration would honor his commitments.

The list goes on and on. Suffice to say that our current president – by walking away from the Paris Accord, being dragged kicking and screaming to uphold commitments to NATO’s mutual defense compact – is exacerbating, in the extreme, a problem that is deeper than just him. We are challenged to persuade the world to trust us when we make a 180-degree turn every four to eight years. In the global arena, with regard to the United States, “our word is our bond” is becoming a joke. Our national credibility will take a long time to repair.

This problem starts at home, in our politics on the left and the right, where everything, including foreign policy, has become a place to score points and to advocate – as vociferously as possible – the “opposite” view from those on the other side of the aisle.

We need Congress to come together and value our long-term role as a stabilizing force on the global stage. Our commitments should be our commitments. Our allies should know what broadly-held principles of ours endure. They should be secure in the knowledge that we won’t be breaking our word every time the White House changes hands.

We need a foreign policy that is grounded in a bipartisan center that can and will hold together against challenges from those on both extremes of our politics. We may even need to reduce the power of the presidency to make commitments on the world stage that lack broad congressional support. It is not healthy for democracy when so much power rests in the actions and opinions of the Executive. It is not healthy that – and there’s plenty of blame to go around here – less and less of the big stuff happens without a treaty or codified bipartisan majority support from Congress.

So yes, we need to get serious about the Iranian role in the region and about the particular flaws of the JCPOA. But we also need to get serious about the damage that our domestic fractures have caused for our place on the world stage. Starting right now, our leaders need to come together and put forth a strategy, emerging from and supported by a bipartisan cohort in Congress. We need a way forward on Iran that is rooted in a commitment to steadfast American leadership over time.

We need some new thinking to break through the impasse that has come to define our foreign policy. And the next two months, as Congress deals with the Iran Deal, would be a good place to start.

Shabbat Shalom,

Jeremy

Our Wilderness Moment

With apologies to Bostonians… the great New York catcher/manager Yogi Berra, who passed away this week, used to say that “It ain’t over till it’s over.”

With regard to the debate on the Iran nuclear deal, I’d offer that, “It’s all but over, but the work has not even barely begun.”
 
I must admit that I was a bit naïve this summer.
 
I honestly thought that reasonable people with differing political perspectives could have a serious conversation about the flaws in the Iran nuclear deal, identify ways to address them, and together, take corrective action before Congress voted on the agreement. That’s why we at JCRC worked to convey our concerns about the deal, reflecting questions articulated by a range of bipartisan experts, some of whom ultimately came down on each side of the deal.
 
But that didn’t happen.
 
The debate became as much about the winning of the argument as the merits of the deal itself. Our political environment didn’t allow for a substantive negotiation about how to move beyond a binary choice between accepting and rejecting this deal.
 
So now it’s all but over. We have an agreement that will, with virtual certainty, become a reality of the international diplomatic realm come mid-October.
 
But it also isn’t over. Not by a long shot.
 
We’ve got to pick up the pieces in an American-Jewish community that is in some ways deeply fractured; not necessarily because of this debate, but rather because of existing rifts that this debate illuminated and exacerbated.  We’ve got to deal with a U.S.-Israel partnership that has been severely strained. And we’ve got the reality of this agreement, flaws and all.
 
As we head into the holiday of Sukkot, I’m reminded of the state of impermanence that defined our ancestors in the wilderness.  Their first formative generation as a free Israelite nation was experienced in tents of wandering. Their shared identity was not as much one nation as many tribes headed in a common direction. They experienced second-guessing, divisions, revolts. All the while – in this state of unrootedness– they were laying down a system of laws that could only be enacted in a future state of stability.
 
We too – I certainly hope – are in an impermanent moment. Many question whether we are ‘A’ Jewish community, with a common vision and purpose.  We are second guessing, we are focused on our divisions. We are acting in some ways as disparate tribes rather than as one People.
 
We have to make sure that this moment doesn’t lead to more such moments. We must focus our energies on efforts that unite us in our love and support of Israel even though we may not share the same aspirations for what her future holds. We can’t allow those who benefit from driving wedges among us to exacerbate our differences or act to foster a partisan divide in support for Israel.
 
And, we have to sustain our focus on the Iran deal; realizing the opportunity to rebuild our unity through this work. While fifteen years isn’t permanent, it is longer than the standard political attention span of our nation.  If it works as promised, this deal will come – in most parts - to a conclusion.  When it does, absent regime change in Iran, we’ll have challenging realities to confront.
 
Whether you were for it or against it, whether you had deep reservations or absolute certitude - all of us who share a deep held conviction that Iran can never be allowed to pose a nuclear threat now need to come together to ensure that this agreement works, and, if it doesn’t that there is room for an alternative approach to the threat. We’ve got to work together to support reasonable, bi-partisan efforts to strengthen effective implementation while building a consensus of support for the U.S.-Israel partnership in a shifting region.
 
We have the opportunity and the responsibility to make this moment impermanent. We can take steps now and in the years to come so that when we look back and remember this, we will think of it as our wilderness moment - when we once again began the hard work of forming a new and united People from our tribes, heading in the same direction, with common purpose. 

Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach,

Jeremy

JCRC Message to the Community Regarding the Congressional Review of the Iran Nuclear Deal

It is with great humility that we grapple with the complex issues in the Iranian nuclear agreement. Over the past week since the deal was announced much has been written and said by those who have had an opportunity to review the details of this agreement. As Congress begins their sixty-day review period, it is important to communicate how we at JCRC see these issues.

Our Jewish community is united in our desire that Iran be prevented, ideally through diplomacy, from achieving a nuclear threat capability. We believe that the nations of the world must continue to confront – as this agreement was not intended to – Iran’s role as a destabilizing force in the region and as the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism.

Serious and reasonable people have articulated why this agreement is in the interests of the United States and our partners. They emphasize that, even if flawed, this deal if properly implemented presents an opportunity to curtail the threat of a nuclear Iran for at least a decade. JCRC of Greater Boston is particularly cognizant of our long relationship with Secretary Kerry, who led the U.S. negotiation team. We know Kerry throughout his career in public service to be both a friend of Israel and an American patriot and he has earned our respect and trust by his handling of many difficult matters over the years.

At the same time, serious and reasonable people, including former advisors and members of President Obama’s administration as well as many who are deeply supportive of the President on a wide range of matters have raised serious questions regarding the vulnerabilities of this agreement. As we currently understand them we consider the following matters in the agreement to be of particular concern:

Iran is not required to dismantle their enrichment infrastructure, is allowed to continue at least limited research and development on advanced centrifuges and will be permitted to build as large an industrial nuclear program as they want after year 15. In this respect the deal legitimizes Iran as a threshold nuclear state. The gap between threshold status and weapons capability will become small, and will not be difficult for the Iranians to bridge.

• Much of the sanctions relief will occur fairly quickly, in as little as six months after the deal takes effect. Iran, aside from being able to sell its oil, will regain access to as much as $150 billion in frozen accounts in the coming year. Even if only a small percentage of these funds are used to support Iran’s regional aggression, the potential result is a staggering infusion of resources – including cash and weapons – to such actors as the Assad regime in Syria, and the terrorist organizations Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Palestinian areas.

• There are significant questions about the quality of the inspection regime in the agreement, including the timeliness of access to suspect sites, talk by Iranians of “managed access,” and questions about the exclusion of U.S. inspectors in these processes. The deal depends heavily on Iranian cooperation in verification efforts and there must be assurances of a nimble system to respond to cheating of any sort without each challenge becoming a new round of negotiation while Iran reduces their breakout window.

In the best-case scenario where this agreement works perfectly, sometime in the next fifteen years this Iranian regime – which continues to speak of genocidal destruction of Israel even in the past week – will reach the end of this period as a stronger power with years of increased financial resources and access to military imports. In this best case, unless there is regime change in Iran, we will find ourselves back where we are today, or in a weaker relative position to Iran.

It weighs heavily on us that while President Obama has rightly said that the risks inherent in this deal are tolerable for the United States, the risks of this agreement will primarily fall upon long standing allies of the United States living in closer proximity to Iran. We take particular note that there is broad unity amongst the people of Israel well beyond the current government and Prime Minister, including the leaders of the two major opposition parties, Zionist Union and Yesh Atid, who have both said that this deal is a bad one. We believe and we reaffirm that a vital U.S. interest must be to consider the concerns and address the strategic threats to our regional partners in setting our own foreign policy course.

We reject the argument made by some that Congress cannot reject this deal because there is not a better option; that the sanctions regime will fall apart and that the only remaining option available to the United States is the use of force to curtail the Iranian nuclear threat. Congress should not be forced to embrace a deeply flawed deal – if they find this agreement is such – in the absence of the administration presenting a viable alternative. It is however also incumbent on members of Congress to use this review period to work with the administration to articulate a viable U.S. strategy to end the threat of an Iranian bomb in the absence of this deal. We urge the President and his administration to remain open to working with Congress to find a path forward on a matter that will inevitably be left to several future Presidents – of both parties – to implement successfully.

As Congress begins its review of the agreement, the JCRC of Greater Boston urges the Massachusetts delegation to fully investigate the flaws noted above and to not endorse the deal absent significant, specific and binding solutions to the concerns that we, and so many in our community, have about this agreement. We will continue to be a resource to the delegation and our community as we seek to understand and advocate regarding the agreement, its complexity, and its implications.

Jeremy Burton, Executive Director
Adam Suttin, President
Stacey Bloom, Vice President and Chair, Israel and Global Jewry Committee

JCRC Statement on the Announcement of the Iran Nuclear Deal

The Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston hopes that the agreement announced today in Vienna will resolve the issue of the Iranian nuclear threat, but we are concerned that this deal may be insufficient. We look forward to learning the specifics of the accord in the coming weeks as we seek to understand its implications and its efficacy.

The organized Jewish community of Boston has consistently preferred a diplomatic resolution to the threat of a nuclear Iran. The possibility that the world’s leading exporter of terrorism could pose an existential threat to its neighbors is a scenario too grave to ignore.  We commend President Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry, and the team of diplomats for their tireless efforts to achieve a peaceful resolution. We hope that the agreement announced today successfully curtails the Iranian threat.

At the same time, we have good reason to be concerned that today’s agreement may not be good enough. Reports in recent weeks, including statements by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, suggest that Iran would not compromise on key conditions that were identified by U.S. officials early on in the negotiation process as ‘red lines’ for any acceptable agreement including: sanctions relief that includes provisions for a ‘snap-back’ in the event of Iranian violations of the agreement; an enduring agreement that does not sunset in 10 or 15 years leaving the world no safer and possibly at greater risk than today; and, a rigorous system of effective inspections by the IAEA, including at military sites. After years of assurances that these negotiations would not curtail restrictions on Iran’s ability to support terrorist forces in the region, recent reports suggest that in the end, concessions may have been made to end restrictions on Iranian access to arms shipments. 

We do not yet have sufficient information to form an opinion of the agreement announced today, which is why JCRC has worked so hard with our partners to establish the Congressional review that will take place in the coming weeks. We look forward to this debate and to consultations in the coming days with our member agencies.

We need no reminder that Iran’s regime does not share the interests and values of the U.S. and our allies - not just because of forty years of history, but because of events as recent as this past week when they staged a rally in which thousands marched through the streets of Tehran chanting "Down with America" and "Death to Israel." While we remain hopeful that today’s agreement will end the nuclear threat, history – and current threats by the Iranian regime - dictate that we remain concerned and diligent.

Jeremy Burton, Executive Director
Adam Suttin, President
Stacey Bloom, Vice President and Chair, Israel and Global Jewry Committee

JCRC Statement on Passage of Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act

JCRC welcomes the overwhelming bipartisan passage by the United States Senate of the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015.  We thank Senator Warren and Senator Markey for supporting this important legislation.
 
Iran continues to be a state sponsor of terrorism and a destabilizing threat to the entire region. A nuclear capable Iran poses a threat to the security and interests of United States and to our allies, including Israel.  The organized Jewish community of Boston believes that a diplomatic resolution is the ideal path to end the threat of Iran becoming a nuclear power.  We believe that this legislation provides Congress with an opportunity to assert an appropriate role in this vital foreign policy matter. 
 
We urge Massachusetts’ Representatives in Congress to work toward speedy action on this bill and to support passage of the legislation in the House without amendments.

j-burton-signature

Jeremy Burton
Executive Director

 

 

jill_golden_sig_web

Jill Goldenberg
President

JCRC Welcomes Today’s Bipartisan Senate Foreign Relations Committee Vote on Iran Deal

JCRC welcomes the bipartisan compromise by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on legislation to provide for congressional review of a nuclear deal with Iran, if and when an accord is reached. The organized Jewish community of Boston believes that a diplomatic resolution is the ideal path to end the threat of Iran being able to become a nuclear power. The current framework agreement presents the possibility of a successful deal while also raising areas of concern that need to be addressed in order to ensure that it is a good deal.
 
Today’s compromise, if adopted into law, will enable our representatives in Congress to ask questions while working with President Obama to ensure the quality of any deal. We hope that the spirit of bipartisanship shown today will establish a new phase in the debate over and the evaluation of these negotiations, one in which our reasonable questions can be addressed thoughtfully and honestly without political manipulation or partisanship of any nature.
 
We welcome Senator Markey’s vote as a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to support this bipartisan compromise. We thank him for the time and thoughtful consideration he has given in recent weeks to us and others who are deeply invested in the outcome of these negotiations. We urge the full Senate to take up and pass this compromise bill, which the President has indicated he will sign. We call upon Senator Warren to join Senator Markey in supporting this compromise when it reaches the full Senate.

j-burton-signature

Jeremy Burton
Executive Director

jill_golden_sig_web

Jill Goldenberg
President

JCRC Statement on Developments in Iran Negotiations

The Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston (JCRC) is following reports today out of Lausanne, Switzerland that a framework agreement has been reached between the P5+1 and Iran.  The organized Jewish community of Boston reaffirms our continued belief that a diplomatic resolution is the ideal path to end the threat of Iran developing the capacity to become a nuclear power.  We appreciate and honor the indefatigable efforts of Boston’s own Secretary of State John Kerry in these negotiations.

At this time, we do not have sufficient information about the details of today’s developments to know whether this agreement achieves the goal of ending the threat of a nuclear Iran. We look forward to learning more and we will be consulting with our member organizations in the coming days. A good deal should and must be able to withstand public debate and scrutiny.

JCRC urges the Massachusetts Congressional delegation to scrutinize any agreement in the days ahead to insure that it is one which achieves its stated goals.  We look forward to hearing the voices of the delegation in support of a good deal for all concerned.

Keep Congress focused on the Iranian nuclear challenge

The end of this month will bring a deadline for presenting the framework of a diplomatic agreement on Iran’s nuclear ambitions.  I don’t need to tell you that the next several weeks are a critical moment for us to make our voices heard. Right now it is vital that every member of our Congressional delegation hear from as many members of our community as possible.

We need to tell Congress that we support a diplomatic solution that leads to a good deal if possible. We need to say - without delay - that we support the President’s efforts to achieve this, and that JCRC’s support includes our call for our Senators to increase pressure for a good deal by showing their support for the threat of new sanctions if negotiations fail. We need to make sure as many members of our community as possible are having conversations with our delegation about these negotiations.

As I wrote last week, a member of Congress told me that one positive of all the recent politics on this issue is that in the past other nuclear proliferation agreements didn't get the congressional scrutiny they deserved. This time, he said, will be different. I am writing to you because while this may be true, we still need to do our job.

Many of our member organizations have taken public action to mobilize their own constituents this week.  I share with you this message that CJP President Barry Shrage sent out today. Within his message are links to resources from AIPAC and to this action alert from AJC Boston. ADL New England also sent an action alert on this subject this week.

With thanks for all your leadership in this crucial moment,
Jeremy Burton

p.s. We want to know what our member organizations are doing at this time. Please let JCRC know what actions your organization has or is planning to take in the coming weeks to get your members to contact the Massachusetts Congressional delegation and we’ll make sure to mention these efforts by our members in future updates.