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The Iran Index

Nicholas Jahr
August 22, 2015

Who’s Backing the Deal

by Nicholas Jahr KerryThe Iran deal has unleashed a feeding frenzy of op-eds, as everyone weighs in on centrifuge storage and uranium enrichment and breakout time and trust and verification and diplomacy. (The 60-day review period is clearly Congress’ gift to op-editors across the country and around the world.) A few attempts have been made to survey different corners of the field — Hillel Schenker spotlighted some of the more prominent Israelis to come out in favor of the deal, and Americans for Peace Now is regularly updating an encyclopedic catalogue of Congressional support, but it seemed worth compiling a single list of the notable support (however qualified) the deal has received. This has become one of those moments when everyone who’s anyone has to stand and be counted — a referendum on the very possibility of diplomacy — and someone has to do the counting. A few caveats: for letters or statements issued by large groups of people, only a few of those involved have been listed below. Whenever possible a link to the original is provided. Obviously former members of the Obama administration would be expected to support the deal, but given their penchant for biting the hand that fed them, even that shouldn’t be taken for granted, and a number of them have still been included here. We’ll update this until Congress finally puts us all out of our misery. In order of publication: 14 July 2015. Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, former Chief of Staff to former Secretary of State Colin Powell: “The Iran deal reached in Vienna is a historic victory.” [USA Today] 14 July 2015. Avishay Ben Sasson-Gordis, former IDF officer, Policy Analyst for Molad: “While the new agreement is not ideal, it is the best solution to be had at present. It is certainly better than Israel’s alternatives for dealing with the Iranian nuclear threat...” [Molad] 15 July 2015. Nahum Barnea, Chief Columnist, Yedioth Ahronoth: “Israel will continue to exist. We are not facing another Holocaust.” [YNet] 15 July 2015. Former Sen. Hillary Clinton, former Secretary of State: “I support this agreement because I believe it is the most effective path of all the alternatives available to the U.S. and our partners to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.” [CBS] 15 July 2025. James P. Rubin, former Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs (1997 - 2000): “The Iran deal is a solid achievement in terms of nuclear arms control.... The accord’s benefits far outweigh its costs.” [New York Times] 15 July 2015. Former Member of the Knesset Gen. Yitzhak Ben-Yisrael (ret.), Chair of the Israel Space Agency: “The agreement is not bad at all, it is even good for Israel…” [Walla!, translation via Al-Monitor] 15 July 2015. Member of the Knesset Zehava Galon, Chair of Meretz: “The agreement with Iran is not a perfect agreement, but Netanyahu has no alternative except victimization, intimidation and cries that the whole world is anti-Semitic.” [Facebook, translation via Google Translate] 16 July 2015. R. Nicholas Burns, former Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs (2005 - 2008), who coordinated negotiations with Iran under former President George W. Bush, was one of more than 100 former U.S. ambassadors to sign a letter organized by the Iran Project stating: “The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action... stands as a landmark agreement in deterring the proliferation of nuclear weapons.” [New York Times] Other signatories included:
  1. James B. Cunningham, Ambassador to Israel (2008 - 2011)
  2. Daniel C. Kurtzer, Ambassador to Israel (2001 - 2005)
  3. Edward S. Walker Jr., Ambassador to Israel (1997 - 2000)
  4. William C. Harrop, Ambassador to Israel (1992 - 1993)
  5. Thomas R. Pickering, Ambassador to Israel (1985 - 1988)
  6. Frank Wisner II, Ambassador to Egypt (1986 - 1991)
  7. Chas W. Freeman, Jr., Ambassador to Saudi Arabia (1990 - 1992)
  8. Ryan Crocker, Ambassador to Iraq (2007 - 2009) & Ambassador to Afghanistan (2011 - 2012)
16 July 2015. Former Member of the Knesset Dr. Uzi Even, former scientist at Israel’s Dimona nuclear reactor: “It delays Iran’s ability to develop a nuclear bomb by at least 15 years and in practice ends its nuclear aspirations.” [YNet] 16 July 2015. Dr. Oded Eran, former Israeli Ambassador to the EU (2002 – 2007) and Jordan (1997 – 2000), senior research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies: “President Obama is… justified in saying that Iran’s road to nuclear military capability has, at least for the next 10-15 years, been blocked.” [Institute for National Security Studies] 17 July 2015. Maj. Gen. Israel Ziv, former head of the IDF General Staff’s Operations Directorate: “This agreement is the best among all other alternatives.” [YNet] 17 July 2015. Dr. Avner Cohen, Center for Nonproliferation Studies, Middlebury Institute of International Studies: “The Herzog-Livni duo at the helm of the Zionist Union as well as Yesh Atid’s Yair Lapid parroted Netanyahu, arguing that when it comes to the Iranian issue, there is no distinction between coalition and opposition. The world leaders are political novices who in their naïveté don’t understand the Iranian trick, whereas Israel and its leaders are the only ones who see the true picture. The United States and its partners are deluded into thinking that the agreement creates a safer world, while only realistic, wise Israel knows that it make it more dangerous. Give me a break…. The new agreement significantly limits Tehran’s nuclear activity for at least 15 years. One may quibble over the details, but in general, it’s a substantial diplomatic achievement.” [Haaretz] 17 July 2015. Eran Etzion, former head of Israel’s National Security Council: “The agreement prevents Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon for 10-15 years. Obama says and he is right — this agreement is not about trust, it’s about verification. No agreement can be perfect. We live in the real world and it is the best agreement that they could reach.” [J Street] 19 July 2015. Efraim Halevy, former Director of Mossad & head of Israel’s National Security Council: “If the nuclear issue is of cardinal existential importance, what is the point of canceling an agreement that distances Iran from the bomb in order to try to include in it clauses that pertain to terrorism, which certainly does not pose an existential threat to Israel?” [Yedioth Ahronoth, hosted by Americans for Peace Now] 19 July 2015. Chuck Freilich, Senior Fellow at Harvard’s Belfer Center and former deputy National Security Advisor in Israel: “This is the agreement that was reached — and despite its faults, it is not a bad one. Crucially, it will contribute to Israel’s security.” [New York Times] 20 July 2015. Madeline Albright, former Secretary of State (1997 - 2001), was one of 60 signatories to a statement published by the Iran Project in support of the deal: “We congratulate President Obama and all the negotiators for a landmark agreement unprecedented in its importance for preventing the acquisition of nuclear weapons by Iran.” [The Hill] Among the 60 were:
  1. Former Sen. Gary Hart (D - CO)
  2. Former Sen. Tom Daschle (D - SD)
  3. Sen. Mark Udall (D - CO)
  4. Former Rep. Lee H. Hamilton (D - IN)
  5. William Perry, former Secretary of Defense (1994 - 1997)
  6. Michele Flournoy, former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy
  7. Joseph Nye, former Assistant Secretary of Defense & Chairman National Intelligence Council
  8. Adm. Eric Olson (ret.), commander of U.S. Special Operations Command
  9. Morton H. Halperin, former Director of Policy Planning, Department of State
  10. Anne-Marie Slaughter, former Director of Policy Planning, the Department of State
  11. Barnett R. Rubin, former Senior Adviser to the Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan
  12. Zbigniew Brzezinski, former National Security Advisor
  13. Robert Einhorn, former Assistant Secretary of State for Non-Proliferation (1999 - 2001) & special advisor to the Secretary of State for non-proliferation and arms control (2009-2013); Einhorn had been part of the negotiating team and in late June signed a statement skeptical of the then-gestating deal
21 July 2015. Ami Ayalon, former director of Shin Bet & former chief of the Israeli Navy: “When it comes to Iran’s nuclear capability, this... is the best option.” [The Daily Beast] 21 July 2015, The Peace and Security Association, a “non-profit, non-partisan,” advocacy organization of former members of the Israeli security services: “Although the agreement signed in Vienna between the world powers and Iran is not optimal, it should remove the immediate threat of an Iranian break-out leading to a nuclear military capability within a few months…” [PSA] 23 July 2015. Brig. Gen. Dov Tamari (ret.), former IDF military intelligence chief & director of special operations, member of Commanders for Israel’s Security: “The Iran deal is an opportunity to strengthen ties with the U.S…. we will have positive results only if the government will understand that Israel has to integrate and not to segregate itself from the international community.” [J Street] 27 July 2015. Member of the Knesset Yakov Peri (Yesh Atid); former director of Shin Bet; former Minister of Science, Technology, & Space: “Is freezing the Iranian nuclear program for what could amount to 10 years really so bad? In practical terms, there are some good clauses in the agreement with Iran…. it is not an ideal agreement. Due to our troubled relationship with the United States, we weren’t a partner in this agreement. A better agreement could have been reached. I say that it’s a good thing we have an agreement…” [Al-Monitor] 29 July 2015. Brig. Gen. Shlomo Brom (ret.), former director of the Strategic Planning Division in the Planning Branch of the IDF General Staff, senior research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies: “The Iran agreement is a historic achievement that rallies the full weight of the major global powers to shut off Iran’s pathway to a nuclear weapon for ten years or more…. This agreement represents the best chance to make sure Iran never obtains a weapon…” 29 July 2015. Uzi Arad, former head of Israel’s National Security Council, former foreign policy advisor to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (1997 – 1999): “We shouldn’t see this as a bad deal…” [J Street] 30 July 2015. Former Member of the Knesset Amram Mitzna, former mayor of Haifa and Yeruham, and a retired major-general in the Israel Defense Forces, in which he was head of operations and planning: “I must state loud and clear — this agreement is better than no agreement and must not be rejected.” [Roll Call] 31 July 2015. Dr. Vali Nasr, Dean of the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University: “Contrary to what opponents say, the nuclear agreement has weakened Iran and strengthened its regional rivals.” [Washington Post] 3 August 2015. Carmi Gillon, former director of Shin Bet, was one of dozens of former senior members of Israel’s defense establishment to sign a letter published in Haaretz by Blue White Future: “Recognizing that that [sic] the P5 + 1 agreement with Iran… is an accomplished fact…” [Haaretz & Washington’s Blog] Gillon was joined by:
  1. Former Member of the Knesset Dr. Roman Bronfman
  2. Maj. Gen. Amiram Levin (ret.), former deputy of the Mossad director
  3. Former Member of the Knesset Brig. Gen. Amira Dotan (ret.)
  4. Brig. Gen. Uzi Eilam (ret.), Director of Israel’s Atomic Energy Commission
  5. Former Police Chief Assaf Heffetz
5 August 2015. Sen. Chris Murphy (D - CONN), Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on the Near East, South Asia, Central Asia and Counterterrorism: “Because I believe that Iran is less likely to get a nuclear weapon with this agreement than without it, I will support it.” [Office of Chris Murphy] 6 August 2015. Former Sen. George J. Mitchell (D - ME), former Special Envoy to the Middle East: “Its rejection by Congress would be adverse to our national security. Its approval will be in our national interest and will be crucial to limiting the spread of nuclear weapons around the world.” [Boston Globe] 7 August 2015. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I - VT): “This agreement is obviously not what many of us would have liked, but it beats the alternative: a war with Iran that could go on for years.” [Office of Bernie Sanders] 8 August 2015. Richard L. Garwin, IBM Fellow Emeritus at the Thomas J. Watson Research Center, former Chair of the State Department’s Arms Control and Nonproliferation Advisory Board (1993 - 2001), one of 29 scientists, including six Nobel laureates, to sign a letter stating: “We consider that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action... will advance the cause of peace and security in the Middle East and can serve as a guidepost for future non-proliferation agreements.” [New York Times] 8 August 2015. Shemuel Meir, former IDF analyst & an associate researcher at the former Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies, Tel Aviv University: “A fact-based analysis shows clearly that the agreement is a good one, and that it will contribute significantly to Israel’s security.” [Haaretz] 9 August 2015. Samuel ‘Sandy’ Berger, former National Security Advisor to President Clinton: “The Iran nuclear deal deserves to be supported on its merits.” [Politico] 10 August 2015. Lara Friedman, Director of Policy & Government Relations, Americans for Peace Now: “America’s interests, as well as the genuine interests of Israel, are undeniably best served by the approval and implementation of this hard-won agreement.” [The Hill] 13 August 2015. Sen. Al Franken (D - MINN): “This agreement is, in my opinion, the most effective, realistic way to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon anytime in the next 15 years.” [CNN] 13 August 2015. Former Sen. Carl Levin (D - MI) & Former Sen. John Warner (R - VA), former chairmen of the Senate Armed Services Committee: “We support the Iran Agreement negotiated by the United States and other leading world powers for many reasons, including its limitations on Iran’s nuclear activities, its strong inspections regime, and the ability to quickly re-impose sanctions should Iran violate its provisions. But we also see a compelling reason to support the agreement that has gotten little attention: Rejecting it would weaken the deterrent value of America’s military option.” [Politico] 13 August 2015. Former President Jimmy Carter: “Superb.” [Prospect] 13 August 2015. Gary Samore, former White House Coordinator for Arms Control and WMD Terrorism & former president of United Against Nuclear Iran: “I’m skeptical that we can reject this agreement and negotiate a substantially better deal within any kind of reasonable time frame…. I think [the deal] is better than the alternatives.” [Vox] 14 August 2015. Brent Scowcroft, former National Security Advisor: The deal “meets the key objective, shared by recent administrations of both parties, that Iran limit itself to a strictly civilian nuclear program with unprecedented verification and monitoring by the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] and the UN Security Council.... To turn our back on [the JCPOA] would be an abdication of America’s unique role and responsibility, incurring justified dismay among our allies and friends.” [Al-Monitor] 16 August 2015. Rabbi Everett Gendler was one of 340 rabbis who signed a letter issued by Ameinu: “We are deeply concerned with the impression that the leadership of the American Jewish community is united in opposition to the agreement. We, along with many other Jewish leaders, fully support this historic nuclear accord.” [Ameinu] Also signing on were:
  1. Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum, Congregation Beth Simchat Torah
  2. Rabbi Ayelet Cohen, JCC Manhattan
  3. Rabbi Ellen Lippmann, Kolot Chayeinu
  4. Rabbi Stephen Garfinkel, Associate Provost & Assistant Professor, Jewish Theological Seminary
18 August 2015. Hans Blix, former Director General of the IAEA, was one of more than 70 experts who issued a joint statement organized by the Arms Control Association declaring: “The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action... is a strong, long-term, and verifiable agreement that will be a net-plus for international nuclear nonproliferation efforts.” [ACA] Also endorsing the statement were:
  1. Toby Dalton, Co-Director, Nuclear Policy Program, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  2. Ilan Goldenberg, former Iran Team Chief, Office of the Secretary of Defense, U.S. Department of Defense
  3. Amb. Joseph Wilson, former Special Assistant to President Bill Clinton & Senior Director of the National Security Council
  4. Amb. Norman A. Wulf, former Special Representative of the President for Nuclear Non-Proliferation (1999 - 2002)
  5. Amb. Sergio Duarte, former United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs
  6. Dr. Ali Vaez, Senior Iran Analyst, International Crisis Group
18 August 2015. Former Sen. Richard Lugar (R - IN), head of the Lugar Center: “This is the best opportunity we have to delay — and potentially to stop — an Iranian nuclear situation.” [MSNBC] 20 August 2015. Anne Marie Slaughter, President of the New America Foundation & former Director of Policy Planning: “Lots of better deals can be imagined. But none can be struck. All the fulminating about how we should have done better is just that: woulda, coulda, shoulda.... Accepting constraints on U.S. power does not mean we cannot and should not lead in the world — far from it. But it means we have to lead with diplomacy as much as force, and that diplomacy requires compromise, negotiation rather than dictation. Which brings us back to the beginning. The deal on the table is the best that the Obama administration could do and is the only deal that will be on the table.” [USA Today] 21 August 2015. Rep. Jerry Nadler (D - NY): “What helps Israel and averts another potential Holocaust is whatever is most likely to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear bomb.... My conclusion is that this deal — of the available alternatives to us, not what might or should have been — is the best.” [New York Times] 21 August 2015. The date also saw the publication of the full op-ed by Brent Scowcroft, former National Security Advisor: “Decades of experience strongly suggest that there are epochal moments that should not be squandered. President Nixon realized it with China. Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush realized it with the Soviet Union. And I believe we face it with Iran today.” [Washington Post] 23 August 2015. Sen. Harry Reid (D – NV): “This is a good agreement on the merits, imposing the toughest inspections and verification regime in history.... I strongly support this historic agreement and will do everything in my power to ensure that it stands.” [Office of Harry Reid] Separately, Sen. Reid told the Washington Post the same day: “This is the best way, the only way, to keep Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.” 30 August 2015. Former Sen. Sam Nunn (D - GA), writing with Former Sen. Richard Lugar (cited separately above): “Although there are no absolute guarantees, nor can there be in diplomatic accords, our bottom line is that this agreement makes it far less likely that the Iranians will acquire a nuclear weapon over the next 15 years.... The monitoring and verification provisions of this agreement are unprecedented in the history of arms control in their comprehensiveness and intrusiveness, and together with our intelligence capabilities should give us powerful tools to achieve effective verification.... Our own conviction is that this agreement represents our best chance to stop an Iranian bomb without another war in the Middle East.” [Politico] 6 September 2015. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Chair of the Democratic National Committee: “I have... come to the conclusion that the agreement promotes the national-security interests of the United States and our allies and merits my vote of support.” [Miami Herald] The same day, Rep. Wasserman Schultz told CNN’s Jake Tapper: “There’s nothing more important to me as a Jew [than] to ensure that Israel’s existence is there throughout our generations. And I am confident that the process I’ve gone through to reach this decision is one that will insure that Israel will be there forever. It is the homeland of my people. I’m an American citizen and I believe fervently in protecting America’s national security interests. And there is no way that we would be able to ensure that better than approving this deal.” [State of the Union] 6 September 2015. Gen. Colin Powell (ret.), former Secretary of State: “I think it is a good deal.... They [the Iranian government] had a stockpile of something in the neighborhood of 12,000 kilograms of uranium. This deal will bring it down to 300 kilograms.... It’s a remarkable reduction, and I’m amazed they would do this.... I think a very vigorous verification regime has been put in place.” [Meet the Press] Update 24 August 2015 16:15 pm: Parenthetical reference to J Street added to first paragraph. Also added: Gen. Yitzhak Ben-Yisrael, Zehava Galon, Dr. Oded Eran, Dr. Avner Cohen, Eran Etzion, the Peace and Security Association, Brig. Gen. Dov Tamari, MK Yakov Peri, Brig. Gen. Shlomo Brom, Uzi Arad, Carmi Gillon/Blue White Future letter, Gary Samore, and Sen. Harry Reid. Update 31 August 2015 15:00 pm: Added citation of Former Sen. Sam Nunn. Update 7 September 2015 12:00 pm: Added citations of Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz and former Secretary of State Colin Powell. Update 12 September 2015 12:20 am: Added citation of Anne Marie Slaughter. Nicholas Jahr, a member of our editorial board, is a freelance writer based in Brooklyn. Follow him on Twitter @nicholasjahr or read more at his website.

Nicholas Jahr is a freelance writer based in Brooklyn and a member of Jewish Currents’ editorial board. In the past he has written for the magazine about comics, film, the diaspora, Israeli elections, and Palestinian nonviolence. His work has appeared in the International New York Times, The Nation, City & State, and the Village Voice (RIP).