Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz told American Jews last week that the current nuclear agreement is “the famous better deal” opponents have been after, though he admitted that Iran’s activities in the region remain worrisome.
More than 2,000 viewers tuned into the live webcast co-sponsored by the Jewish Federations of North America and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs on Aug. 13. The energy secretary’s pitch came a little over a week after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu used the same means to warn American Jews that the agreement “paves Iran’s path to the bomb” and proposed applying more pressure to Iran rather than removing sanctions.
Moniz refuted Netanyahu’s claims, telling the audience that the deal not only extends Iran’s breakout time, but cuts off all pathways to the bomb – the uranium, plutonium and covert pathways are all shut down, he said, through a rigorous inspection regime conducted by the International Atomic Energy Agency, which will oversee Iran’s entire nuclear production system for 25 years.
He was adamant that “there are no secret side agreements” when it comes to inspecting the controversial Parchin military site. The IAEA, he said, had already begun a report on the site that will be completed in December and made available to the board of governors, on which the United States sits.
Having this agreement in place, he contended, would enable the United States to focus on “aspects of Iranian behavior that give us serious problems,” like the “strong anti-Israel, anti-Semitic rhetoric coming out of Iran” and the Iranian regime’s funding of Hezbollah. With the agreement in place, he said, those behaviors could be addressed “with the comfort that Iran does not have and will not have a nuclear weapon — the existential threat of a nuclear weapon — will, if anything, give us more freedom of action.”
Going against the international community at this point would be disastrous, Moniz predicted. He was skeptical that the United States’ European allies would “hang with us” in the event that Congress rejects the deal. He was even less sure that Russia and China would go back in for more sanctions.
“We could end up in the worst of all worlds with an unconstrained nuclear program, fraying sanctions and international disunity that Iran will be able to capitalize on,” said Moniz.
“The idea that we go back and renegotiate in this context, I would say, that’s about the riskiest strategy I can imagine,” he concluded. “We have, in my view, not a very high probability of success and we’re going to roll the dice when we have a good agreement in front of us and go that route. I don’t think that’s a credible Plan B in my view.”