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Last week, I joined a coalition of nearly 100 prominent members of the Los Angeles Jewish community, whose commitment to American and Israeli security is unshakable, along with a who’s who of military and diplomatic figures in support of the U.S.-Iran nuclear deal.
Whether motivated by distrust of Iran or of President Obama himself, some opponents of the deal persist in repeating the same argument we heard for years during the negotiations: the Iranian regime is a Holocaust-denying, terror-sponsoring theocracy that can’t be trusted.
That’s true — and opponents of the deal are right to be concerned that some of the billions of dollars that will flow to Iran when international sanctions are relaxed will wind up in the hands of the Revolutionary Guards or groups like Hezbollah. However, there is little evidence right now that Hezbollah is starved for funds — and a Hezbollah that can operate under the shelter of an Iranian nuclear umbrella would be vastly more dangerous to Israel than one that is not.
A nuclear-armed Iran would be a much more potent regional force as well, able to intervene in conflicts far afield, able to destabilize U.S. allies like Egypt and Saudi Arabia. In fact, the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran might well persuade other nations to develop their own nuclear capabilities, making the unstable Middle East even more unstable and dangerous than it is today.
Under this agreement, that will not happen. Iran has agreed to an inspections program stricter than any country in history, allowing the IAEA unprecedented access to its nuclear sites.
Some skeptics say that under the deal, Iran will have plenty of time to spirit its sensitive nuclear materials away before inspectors show up, but as nonproliferation experts have been pointing out, this isn’t like wiping away fingerprints. The radioactive substances involved in building nuclear weapons leave lasting traces, because they have half-lives — of thousands or even millions of years.
The U.S.-Iran deal dismantles the majority of the infrastructure necessary for Iran to develop nuclear weapons, extending Iran’s breakout time to a year — more than enough time for inspectors to raise the red flag on any violations. If the inspectors find anything amiss, the U.S. and its allies can impose the same biting sanctions that exist today, even without the approval of Russia or China.
Without an agreement, Iran could continue doing what it has done for years: mastering the know-how, building the equipment, and refining the materials necessary to achieve a nearly instantaneous nuclear breakout capability. One great achievement of this agreement is that, after 15 years of almost unremitting American military action, it enables the United States once again to wear a white hat. Under this agreement, Iran must verifiably comply with its disarmament obligations, or face unpleasant consequences — not simply from the so-called Great Satan, but from an international coalition.
If Congress doesn’t compromise the deal, and Iran cheats on it, the Iranian people will know it wasn’t Obama who spat in the soup. That will put Iran’s leaders in the unenviable position of having to accept blame for the failure to pursue an opening most Iranians would welcome with the United States.
If you’re an Iranian hard-liner, you’re practically begging for Congressional hawks to come to your rescue and tear up the deal, because you know if they don’t, it won’t be easy to weasel your way out.
Regime change is messy and unpredictable, and no one knows when and whether the Iranian people will agitate for liberal reforms. The point of this agreement is not to accomplish every change we might wish to see at once, but simply to deny Iran a nuclear weapon.
Under the same logic, during the Cold War, American negotiators made arms reduction agreements with the Soviet Union, even though Moscow was brutal to its own people and hostile to American interests across the world. The payoff was worth it: we dismantled thousands of nuclear weapons, and made the whole world safer.
Likewise, critics of the nuclear agreement must answer to a basic fact: the world is a safer place without a nuclear Iran. That’s something we can all agree on, and it’s why we should support an agreement to bring it about.
Mike Medavoy is the co-founder of Orion Pictures, former chairman of TriStar Pictures and current chairman and CEO of Phoenix Pictures.
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