Netanyahu’s Five Big Takeaways on the Iran Nuke Talks
Policy + Politics

Netanyahu’s Five Big Takeaways on the Iran Nuke Talks

In a speech to Congress that seems certain to infuriate the Obama White House, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described U.S. negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program as naïve and dangerous, drawing a parallel to the appeasement of the Nazi regime in Germany prior to the beginning of World War II and urging world leaders “not to repeat the mistakes of the past.” 

Netanyahu, appearing at the invitation of Congressional Republicans, rejected any deal that does not thoroughly dismantle the country’s “nuclear infrastructure.” Further, he warned the deal currently being negotiated would end in war. 

“That deal will not prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. It would all but guarantee that Iran gets those weapons — lots of them,” he said. “My friends, for over a year, we've been told that no deal is better than a bad deal. Well, this is a bad deal. It's a very bad deal. We're better off without it.” 

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Netanyahu urged negotiators to push for a much tougher deal. “The alternative to this bad deal is a much better deal, he said. “A better deal that doesn't leave Iran with a vast nuclear infrastructure and such a short break-out time. A better deal that keeps the restrictions on Iran's nuclear program in place until Iran's aggression ends.” Netanyahu did not provide much more detail on what this second path might entail, suggesting primarily that economic pressure be kept on Iran until its leaders submit. 

In response to the speech, President Obama said Netanyahu “didn’t offer any viable alternatives” to the current negotiations. “As far as I can tell, there was nothing new,” Obama said. 

Netanyahu’s warnings keyed on five major points: 

Iran Can’t Be Trusted
The Israeli Prime Minister listed the multiple occasions in the past when Iran has been caught hiding its nuclear activities, deceiving inspectors or refusing them access.

“Now, I know this is not going to come a shock as a shock to any of you, but Iran not only defies inspectors, it also plays a pretty good game of hide-and-cheat with them,” Netanyahu said. “The U.N.'s nuclear watchdog agency, the IAEA, said again yesterday that Iran still refuses to come clean about its military nuclear program. Iran was also caught — caught twice, not once, twice — operating secret nuclear facilities in Natanz and Qom. Facilities that inspectors didn't even know existed.

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“Right now, Iran could be hiding nuclear facilities that we don't know about, the U.S. and Israel. As the former head of inspections for the IAEA said in 2013, he said, ‘If there's no undeclared installation today in Iran, it will be the first time in 20 years that it doesn't have one.’ Iran has proven time and again that it cannot be trusted.” 

The Obama administration has acknowledged the difficulty of holding Iran to its word, but has also pointed out that in the history of efforts to curtail Tehran’s nuclear efforts, the only thing that has actually led to voluntary reductions in the production of fissile material is the interim agreement that is part of the ongoing talks. 

Inspections Won’t Work
Netanyahu acknowledged that any deal would include a strong set of inspection requirements, but pointed out that such arrangements did little to prevent North Korea from going nuclear. 

“You see, inspectors document violations; they don't stop them,” he said. “Inspectors knew when North Korea broke to the bomb, but that didn't stop anything. North Korea turned off the cameras, kicked out the inspectors. Within a few years, it got the bomb. Now, we're warned that within five years North Korea could have an arsenal of 100 nuclear bombs.” Netanyahu said Iran has similarly defied international inspectors and turned off monitoring cameras. 

The Deal Will Spark a Nuclear Arms Race
Netanyahu said that allowing Iran to retain any ability to enrich uranium would lead to a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.

“Israel's neighbors, Iran's neighbors, know that Iran will become even more aggressive and sponsor even more terrorism when its economy is unshackled and it's been given a clear path to the bomb,” he said. “And many of these neighbors say they'll respond by racing to get nuclear weapons of their own. So this deal won't change Iran for the better; it will only change the Middle East for the worse. A deal that's supposed to prevent nuclear proliferation would instead spark a nuclear arms race in the most dangerous part of the planet. This deal won't be a farewell to arms. It would be a farewell to arms control.” 

Netanyahu went on to warn that, “A region where small skirmishes can trigger big wars would turn into a nuclear tinderbox.” 

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Under the Proposed Deal, Iran Gets the Bomb Anyway
The Obama administration has said repeatedly that it will not tolerate a situation in which Iran is able, now or in the future, to produce a nuclear weapon, but Netanyahu pointed at one element of the proposed deal as particularly alarming: the fact that it would remove restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program in 10 years. 

“Now, a decade may seem like a long time in political life, but it's the blink of an eye in the life of a nation,” Netanyahu said. “We all have a responsibility to consider what will happen when Iran's nuclear capabilities are virtually unrestricted and all the sanctions will have been lifted. Iran would then be free to build a huge nuclear capacity that could product many, many nuclear bombs.” 

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Iran Needs a Deal More Than the U.S. Does
The U.S. and its partners, Netanyahu said, are simply not driving a hard enough bargain. “Iran's nuclear program can be rolled back well beyond the current proposal by insisting on a better deal and keeping up the pressure on a very vulnerable regime, especially given the recent collapse in the price of oil,” Netanyahu said.

“Now, if Iran threatens to walk away from the table, and this often happens in a Persian bazaar, call their bluff,” he continued. “They'll be back, because they need the deal a lot more than you do. And by maintaining the pressure on Iran and on those who do business with Iran, you have the power to make them need it even more.”

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