NORPAC successfully launched another Jewish group trip to Washington D.C to advocate on behalf of the state of Israel. This year 1,500 hundred people attended,
50% more than last year. On the agenda of talking points to both chambers of Congress were of 4 concerns: 1) Continued foreign-aide to Israel and to its military defensive shields of Iron Dome, David’s Sling and the Arrow Systems 2) Vote on a Corker-Cardin type bill for the House of Representatives which would review the President’s agreement with Iran and to reject it if they deem it to be not effective to stop Iran’s nuclear program 3) Adoption of criteria for the effectiveness of the agreement based on the words of the President and of Congress but formatted by NORPAC in the form of a “scorecard” and 4) Congress to pass a bill to sanction international banks or entities doing business with Hezbollah the same way the United States sanctioned the associates of Iran.
NORPAC worked very hard on the “scorecard” (item 3) for the agreement because the framework of the agreement is so tenuous. First of all, Tehran, absurdly, is demanding that there not yet be a written version of this framework of the agreement. So naturally there are already disputes as to whether any given item is part of it or not. Five such areas of dispute between the US and Tehran negotiators are the following:
1) Anytime Anywhere - This means that the UN inspector teams will be able to inspect Iran’s nuclear sites including those that are below ground in military sites. Iran’s lieutenant commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard said “not even in your dreams… visiting a base by a foreign inspector means occupation” because Iran’s defense secrets are there and such inspections would be tantamount to a “national humiliation”.
2)Lifting of Sanctions - This must be conditioned upon Iran’s full disclosure of “Possible Military Dimensions” (PMD) of past nuclear related works. Iran does not agree to this.
3) Phased Lifting of Sanctions - Lifting of sanctions must be done in stages taking months or even years corresponding to Iran’s compliance to dismantle its nuclear apparatus. Taking away the incentive by removing all sanctions immediately, in light of Iran’s 3 decades of cheating to build a nuclear bomb, is absolutely unacceptable. However Iran’s President, Hassan Rouhani, has said that his country will not sign the agreement unless on the first day of the signing all sanctions will be removed.
4) Limited Research - During the first 10 years of the agreement Iran must not continue research ways to implement IR-8 centrifuges (machines that process uranium) which would be 20 times faster than the current ones. These centrifuges would inevitably reduce the break-out time to a nuclear weapon to substantially less than a year which is less time than the agreement allows for. However Iran’s foreign minister says that they will not limit their research at all.
5) Shipping Enriched Uranium Out of Country - The agreement calls for all enriched uranium of 20% (that is processed for peaceful purposes) that amounts to more than 300 kilograms, be shipped out of Iran. Iran initially agreed to this and then reneged.
6) Snapback Provision - This requires that the agreement have the means to swiftly detect any violation and rapidly reimpose any sanctions that are fitting for such violations. The Iranian Foreign Minister blatantly and defiantly said to an American audience in NYU that President Obama will not be able to “snapback”
sanctions for Iran’s violations. As I noted to the Congressional aide during our presentation in his office, Tehran is not even trying to lie to us about their future participation in the agreement. Their level of defiance is so high that they are telling us outright that the United States will not have any power to enforce this agreement.
As all of this indicates, our President and Congress have their hands full with the negotiations with Iran towards a non weaponized nuclear Iran. President Obama insists that he is making progress with Tehran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and Hassan Rouhani. It is in keeping with the President’s Party to show alliance and unity that 150 Democrats signed a letter of solidarity to the President for his approach - even allowing the negotiating team “the time and space” to continue on with the negotiations. It must be understood however that at present, even according to our President, Iran’s break-out time to a weaponized nuclear
program is a mere 2 to 3 months!
Therefore it is in that context that we understood the courage of those Congressional Democrats, who staged a voice of protest of sorts, by NOT signing the letter. So who of the local politicians that we know of did not sign?: Congressman Joe Crowley of the 14th District (Bronx and Western Queens), Congressman Eliot Engel of the 16th District (Yonkers and New Rochelle), Congressman Steve Israel of the 3rd District (Long Island and a small part of Eastern Queens), Congresswoman Nita Lowey of the 17th District (Westchester and Rockland County), Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney of the 12th District (Upper East Side, LIC and Greenpoint), Congressman Jerry Nadler of the 10th District (Upper West Side and Southwestern Brooklyn), Congresswoman Kathleen Rice of the 4th District (Nassau County) and our very own Congresswoman Grace Meng of the 6th District (West, Central and Northeastern Queens).
I had the honor of being in the group representing NORPAC to speak to Congresswoman Meng. I asked her what she found objectionable about the letter that stopped her from signing it and in a moment of rare honesty in Washington, she admitted that although she was under a lot of pressure to sign it, she did not because she felt that the whole process of the agreement excluded Congress. I say that it’s good that President Obama was not encouraged by Grace Meng and the above mentioned Representatives, to dally longer with the negotiations with Iran, given the weakened state of sanctions that now exist against Iran. Obama is notorious for not feeling the urgency of the moment such as in the BP leak, taking 10 months to send in enforcements to Afghanistan or delaying by months to send rescue teams to save our hostages from ISIS. He is now doing it again with Iran which has been weaseling its way into becoming a nuclear power.
When Grace Meng first ran for Congress against Republican Dan Halloran most people felt that Meng was kinder but Halloran was willing to go against the powers that be. At first it appeared that way when Grace Meng first came to Congress in January of 2013 just in time for Hillary Clinton’s testimony in Congressional hearings about Benghazi. It was at the time that Hillary uttered one of the most disgraceful comments (even for her) during the inquiry when she famously asked “what difference at this point does it make?” in reference to how our embassy personnel were murdered. Congresswoman Meng, given her time to question Secretary of State Clinton, thanked Hillary Clinton for showing her around Washington D.C. At which point, I thought, wow - we sure could have used Dan Halloran at this time! However, now I see that Congresswoman Meng is a fighter in her own right and I give her kudos for standing up against the pressure to sign the supportive (read subservient) letter to the President and be willing to make that statement. Grace Meng, we look forward to see you in the future always standing for truth when called for and wrapping your velvet (sweet approach) around a metal rod and not be afraid to use it when the need arises.