As I read the 159 pages of the nuclear agreement with Iran, I thought back to the time I was growing up in Albany, N.Y. During the ’60s, at Public School #19, we practiced those drills when a siren would be sounded and we would all crawl under our desks waiting for the voice of Mr. Begley, our principal, to come from the wired speaker in each classroom with the words “all clear,” after which we would return to our seats.
Most of us who experienced those air-raid drills never really understood that we were being prepared just in case a rocket laden with a nuclear warhead was heading our way. With the Cuban missile crisis averted and something called détente indicating a cessation of hostilities between countries, the drills stopped. Over the years I have observed that because we have lived in a country so far from the havoc and unrest which has gripped so many other countries throughout the world, we had lost that sense of vulnerability, and replaced it with a sense of invincibility.
That is, until Sept. 11, 2001, when hijacked planes turned into missiles changed our perspective forever. We were now not only vulnerable, but, for good reason, we were united as a country in supporting our president to retaliate against those who sought to destroy us. 9/11 gave birth to a new government agency designed to secure our homeland. We learned to become accustomed to those inconvenient airport screenings because they gave us a sense of security. We felt “invincible” again.
So why do I still feel vulnerable and insecure? Maybe it is because I am watching a play unfold before my very eyes, and I am afraid that the last act will not turn out so well. The scene in the play which was performed in Vienna recently was when the United States, China, France, Russia, and Britain, plus Germany concluded a nuclear deal with Iran.
While I sincerely respect the intent and effort of the president to prevent Iran, through negotiation, from obtaining a nuclear weapon, the agreement in Vienna falls short in several key areas that I believe are critical to the safety and security of all people around the globe. After reading the entire document I have concluded the following:
▪ Does not provide for anytime/anywhere inspections.
▪ Does not reduce or control Iran’s production of intercontinental ballistic missiles.
▪ Does not require Iran to dismantle centrifuges.
▪ Enables Iran to continue increasing their weapon-grade nuclear capabilities, likely ensuring a nuclear weapons race among neighboring countries.
To those who feel that there just is no alternative to this deal, let me suggest that sometimes the status quo is better than a deal that gives Iran billions of dollars in sanctions relief and allows it up to 24 days before inspectors can even enter their nuclear facilities. Incredibly, that is actually part of the deal. We can also hope for regime change, but that has to come from within. The bottom line is that no deal is better than a bad deal.
I fear that if this agreement is not opposed by Congress, and any presidential veto not overridden, then my grandchildren will repeat what I was told to do many years ago. One day they will be sitting in their classroom when a siren is sounded and they will be instructed to immediately take shelter under their desk. And then when they hear the words from the loudspeaker, “all clear,” they will resume their tasks with their classmates and wonder if the next siren they hear will be just a drill.
Rabbi Reuven Taff, a past president of the Greater Sacramento Board of Rabbis, is rabbi and spiritual leader of Mosaic Law Congregation.