News Roundup for May 9, 2018

May 9, 2018

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J Street in the News

U.S. Jews Torn Over Trump’s Exit From Iran Nuclear Deal, Haaretz

“The left-wing advocacy group J Street, which worked in 2015 to ensure sufficient support for the agreement in Congress, attacked Trump for his decision. ‘The president’s decision is a wholly baseless rejection of the conclusion of our closest allies’ military and intelligence services, international nuclear experts and his own Secretary of Defense that the agreement is working,’ the organization said. It also warned of a repetition of America’s failed war in Iraq, stating that ‘This reckless move risks leading us down the path to a costly and bloody war of choice against Iran, a country nearly four times Iraq’s size with more than twice its population.’”

From ‘violation’ to ‘sign this thank you card,’ Jewish groups react to Iran deal withdrawal, J Weekly

“Within minutes of President Donald Trump’s announcement that the United States was withdrawing from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, commonly known as the Iran nuclear deal, reactions began pouring in from national Jewish organizations. Just as most of them opposed or were lukewarm about the deal when it was signed in July 2015, seeing it as providing no real security for Israel, reactions to today’s announcement were mainly positive, ranging from the sadly resigned to the celebratory; J Street’s reaction is an exception.”

Trump Announces Withdrawal from Iran Nuclear Agreement, Jewish Exponent

“Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of the left-leaning J Street, released a statement noting that former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and former National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster had supported the agreement, but were then fired by Trump. ‘It’s a very sad day when the United States abdicates leadership, reneges on its word and walks away from a deal that has successfully blocked all of Iran’s pathways to a nuclear bomb,’ Ben-Ami wrote.”

U.S. Quits ‘Horrible, One-Sided’ Iran Deal, Atlanta Jewish Times

“J Street, which led American Jewish lobbying in support of the Iran deal, called Trump’s decision ‘an unprovoked and unjustified assault on international peace and security.’ The J Street statement said allies and international nuclear experts agreed that Iran was following its commitments under the agreement, and it cited former Israeli commanders who last month warned that U.S. withdrawal would undermine Israel’s security. ‘This reckless move risks leading us down the path to a costly and bloody war of choice against Iran, a country nearly four times Iraq’s size with more than twice its population,’ J Street said.”

Top News and Analysis

Trump Withdraws U.S. From ‘One-Sided’ Iran Nuclear Deal, The New York Times

“President Trump declared on Tuesday that he was pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal, unraveling the signature foreign policy achievement of his predecessor, Barack Obama, and isolating the United States among its Western allies. ‘This was a horrible one-sided deal that should have never, ever been made,’ Mr. Trump said at the White House in announcing his decision. ‘It didn’t bring calm, it didn’t bring peace, and it never will.’ Mr. Trump’s announcement, while long anticipated and widely telegraphed, plunges America’s relations with European allies into deep uncertainty. They have committed to staying in the deal, raising the prospect of a diplomatic and economic clash as the United States reimposes stringent sanctions on Iran. It also raises the prospect of increasing tensions with Russia and China, which also are parties to the agreement.”

Trump scuttles Iran nuclear deal but offers no plan for what comes next, Washington Post

Karen DeYoung reports, “Trump gave little indication of what happens now. He proposed no new strategy. He offered no ideas for how to achieve what he called ‘a real, comprehensive and lasting solution to the Iranian nuclear threat’ and other bad behavior such as activities in Syria and Yemen, beyond ‘working with our allies’ and remaining open to a change of heart by an Iranian government under the yoke of reimposed sanctions.”

Iran Hawks Are the New Iraq Hawks, Atlantic

Peter Beinart writes, “The parallels between that moment and this one are uncanny. In both cases, American leaders feared that a longtime Middle Eastern adversary was breaking free of the fetters that had previously restrained it. In both cases, American leaders pursued a more confrontational policy, which they buttressed with frightening statements about the regime’s nuclear program. In both cases, international inspectors contradicted those alarmist claims. In both cases, America’s European allies defended the inspectors and warned of the chaos America’s confrontational policy might bring. In both cases, hawks in America and Israel responded by trying to discredit the inspection regime. And in both cases, two leaders of that effort were John Bolton and Benjamin Netanyahu.”

Where’s That Better Iran Deal, Mr. Trump?, The New York Times

The editorial board writes, “By reneging on the Iran nuclear deal, President Trump has said for months now, he will be able to get an even better deal, one that would also control Iran’s ballistic missiles and its regional influence. Sound familiar? It should. This is the same kind of gesture toward a better, smarter deal that Mr. Trump made when he pulled the United States out of the Paris climate agreement, the same sort of empty promise he made in saying he would supply plans for Middle East peace and better, cheaper, more accessible health care. So far, again and again, he has shown himself to be adept at destroying agreements — a relatively easy task for a president — and utterly lacking in the policy depth or strategic vision and patience to create new ones.”

Syria Blames Israel for Strike Near Damascus; Target Was Iranian Missiles Aimed at Israel, Haaretz

Syria said Tuesday that Israel carried out an attack on a military base south of Damascus, which was used by Iranian forces. According to reports, Israeli fighter jets entered Syrian airspace and struck Iranian missiles aimed at Israel.  The Israeli military said it identified what it said was unusual movements of Iranian forces in Syria, and it believed those forces were preparing for an imminent retaliation against Israel.

I voted against the Iran nuclear deal. Withdrawing from it is a mistake, JTA

Senator Ben Cardin writes, “President Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, known as the Iran nuclear deal, is bad policy and calls into question America’s international credibility. Mr. Trump has now set the international community on a slippery slope, imperiling the national security interests of the United States and our allies, particularly Israel. I voted against the Iran nuclear deal three years ago because I felt it left certain long-term questions about Iran’s enrichment capabilities unanswered. Since it was entered into however, I have worked to ensure there is rigorous enforcement and oversight of the deal. Three years in, Iran is complying with its end of the nuclear bargain, according to international observers and American intelligence officials.”


Key European allies vow to uphold Iran nuclear deal after Trump reneges, NBC News

Key European allies expressed grave concerns over President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Iran nuclear agreement on Tuesday, vowing to continue the work of limiting Iran’s nuclear program while urging the U.S. not to jeopardize gains already made under the deal.

Rouhani: Iran to stay in Iran nuclear deal — for now, Vox

“Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has a message for President Donald Trump: Tehran will remain in the Iran nuclear deal — for now. But he added a dire warning: If Iran and other countries in the agreement can’t agree on a way forward, Iran might start enriching uranium at uncapped levels. Rouhani asked his top diplomat to work with countries that signed on to the Iran deal — including France, Germany, Russia, and China — to figure out how to proceed without the United States. But he put a time limit on those talks, which means Iran may put itself on the path toward a nuclear weapon in mere weeks.”

Netanyahu Hails Trump’s ‘Brave Decision’ to Quit Iran Nuclear Deal, Haaretz

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailed U.S. President Donald Trump’s “brave decision” to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal on Tuesday, vowing that Israel would respond to any subsequent aggression.

Israel revokes work permit of local director of Human Rights Watch, JTA

Israel has revoked the work permit of the local director of Human Rights Watch, and ordered him to leave the country within two weeks. Omar Shakir, the Human Rights Watch Israel and Palestine director, is being thrown out of the county for his alleged support of boycotts of Israel, according to Human Rights Watch, which published on its website the seven-page dossier compiled for the Interior Ministry. Much of the dossier covers a time period before Shakir assumed his position at Human Rights Watch, including a great deal of his time at Stanford University.

Israel Opens Public Shelters in North Over ‘Unusual Movement of Iranian Forces’ in Syria, Haaretz

The Israel Defense Forces on Tuesday ordered Israeli communities in the northern Golan Heights to open shelters to the public after identifying “unusual” movements of Iranian forces in Syria, the military said in a statement. Israeli military bases were preparing for a possible Iranian attack.

Jerusalem mayor wants to name site near new embassy after Trump, JTA

A traffic island located next to the new American embassy in Jerusalem will be named in honor of the United States and President Donald Trump. The area will be called “United States Square – in honor of President Donald Trump,” Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat announced on Tuesday.

Opinions and Analysis

What Changes and What Remains in the Iran Nuclear Deal, The New York Times

“[The announcement was short on specifics, including which sanctions – they cover industries ranging from petroleum to transportation to insurance – will be restored first. And it was not clear whether the decision will lead to a collapse of the agreement, which involves five other countries.”

Abandoning Iran Deal, U.S. Joins Israel In Axis Of Escalation, Forward

Peter Beinart writes, “I don’t want Merkel, Macron and May to seek an accommodation with Trump and Netanyahu on Iran. I want them stand up for the principles that the American and Israeli governments have betrayed. Appeasement has not worked. Maybe it’s time that the liberal democratic leaders of the First West make life uncomfortable for the authoritarian bigots of the Second. As an American Jew, I hope, one day, to again feel pride in my country’s government, and in my people’s. Until then, I’ll be a partisan of the governments in London, Paris and Berlin.”

These Are the ‘Powerful’ Sanctions Trump Will Impose on Iran After Nixing Nuclear Deal, Haaretz

Amir Tibon reports, “The U.S. Treasury Department clarified on Tuesday the process in which sanctions on Iran’s economy will be reinstated following U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal. Most of the sanctions won’t be reinstated immediately, but over a period of several months so companies that have signed contracts in Iran after the deal’s implementation can ‘phase out’ of their operations in the Islamic Republic, as one senior U.S. official explained.”

Trump’s Reckless Act of Petulance Toward Iran, The New York Times

Roger Cohen writes, “Nothing in Trump’s speech was more scurrilous than this very Orwellian inversion of the truth: ‘If I allowed this deal to stand, there would soon be a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. Everyone would want their weapons ready by the time Iran had theirs.’ In fact, Trump has single-handedly fast-forwarded that race by removing the constraints the deal imposed on Iran.”

How killing the nuclear deal could make it easier for Iran to pursue the bomb in secret, Washington Post

Joby Warrick reports, “In effect, by rejecting the deal as inadequate for preventing Iran from getting the bomb, Trump could make it harder for U.S. officials to detect a secret Iranian effort to build nuclear weapons….former officials and experts said.”

Iran, Angry and Divided, Fears Deeper Crisis if Nuclear Deal Ends, The New York Times

Thomas Erdbrink reports, “Now, the lifeline offered by the 2015 nuclear deal, which was supposed to alleviate pressure on Iran’s economy and crack open the barriers to the West, is threatened, too: President Trump is expected to announce that he is withdrawing the United States from the agreement as soon as Tuesday, according to European diplomats. The chief loser will be the country’s moderate president, Hassan Rouhani, who will now look weakened, foolish and burned for the risk he took in dealing with the Americans. His opponents, hard-liners, will gain influence, analysts say.”

Israel’s Reluctance to Discuss Hamas’ Truce Offer Could Blow Up on Nakba Day, Haaretz

Amos Harel writes, “Haaretz’s report about messages Hamas is indirectly sending Israel about its willingness to consider a long-term cease-fire in Gazawon’t spur the Netanyahu government to a quick diplomatic response. As things seem at the moment, an exit strategy has yet to be found that will permit a reduction of tensions along the Gaza fence ahead of the huge demonstrations Hamas plans for Nakba Day on May 15. Without indirect negotiations or a willingness to consider significant relief for the Strip by Israel or Egypt, it will be hard to prevent a mass event May 15 that could lead to many deaths.”

Five ways Donald Trump’s decision to tear up the Iran deal just made us less safe, USA Today

Jon Wolfsthal writes, “Of course, when the war to end Iran’s nuclear program comes — the most likely outcome in the next few years — it won’t be Trump’s family that fights and dies. But by then, he will blame someone else for the failure of Iran to negotiate a new deal with the state that just tore up the last best chance to end Iran’s nuclear efforts peacefully. It is the rest of us who will have to live with the consequences.”

Trump Casts Himself as Vigilante Sheriff After Quitting Iran Nuclear Deal, Haaretz

Chemi Shalev writes, “Netanyahu decided, virtually on his own and against the advice of his top security officials, to ‘tickle the tail of the dragon’, to borrow another nuclear saying….If his predictions of the inevitable fall of the Ayatollah regime are borne out, Netanyahu’s victory in the next elections will be practically assured, with or without criminal indictments. If things don’t work out that way, however, and especially if lives are lost, you can be sure that those responsible will be radical Islam, untrustworthy Arabs, perfidious Europe and, who knows, the New Israel Fund.”

Why Did a Creepy Israeli Intel Firm Spy on Obama Alums?, The New York Times

Michelle Goldberg writes, “[I]t’s outrageous that Black Cube, a company of former Israeli intelligence agents, appears to have spied on Americans to undermine the Iran nuclear agreement, which Trump seems poised to pull out of on Tuesday. It’s grotesque that Black Cube did so by targeting the spouses of former Obama administration officials. And if Trump’s team had any role at all in using foreign spies against American citizens, it should end his presidency, even if it probably won’t.”