Long Islanders joined some 200 demonstrations around the country in support of the Iran Nuclear deal during a National Day of Action.
Waving placards on a grassy area along Pinelawn Boulevard within sight of the Melville, Long Island offices of Senators Charles Schumer and Kristin Gillibrand, dozens were there to express their anger at Schumer for declaring he would vote against the Iran deal, and praise for Gillibrand who said she would support the agreement.
The demonstration was part of a National Day of Support for the Iran Deal, sponsored and organized by MoveOn.org, Daily Kos, Credo, Democracy For America, Peace Action, Win Without War, and NIAC Action (National Iranian American Council Action Long Island groups that participated included MoveOn.org Nassau, MoveOn.org Suffolk, LI Alliance for Peaceful Alternatives, Pax Christi, Suffolk Peace Group, North Country Peace Group, Code Pink,
The demonstration drew dozens of supporters from Long Island who dismissed Schumer’s argument that the agreement was “flawed,” saying that the alternative was giving Iran a free hand to develop a nuclear weapon, which would necessitate military action by the United States.
On the other hand, walking away from the deal – which has already been embraced by five other nations (Great Britain just reopened its embassy in Tehran) and unanimously adopted by the United Nations Security Council – would permanently destroy the US’ leadership in the world. Who would ever follow the US lead again?
“We have 60 days to stop a war,” Lisa Oldendorp, the Moveon.Org organizer for the Long Island event, noting that Congress has until September 17 to vote to disapprove of the deal.
Across the country, some 6,500 people turned out in 200 events. Meanwhile, the organizations have collected 230,000 names on petitions – including 23,000 from New York State, which Oldendorp intends to present to Senator Schumer in hard-copy form when he returns from vacation.
Virtually all Republicans in the House and Senate have declared their opposition – the Republican candidates for president have tried to outdo each other on how far they would go to tear up the agreement on Day One of their presidency – but Democratic votes are needed to get the resolution out of the Senate, and if that happens, to override the President’s promised veto.
The demonstrators countered the arguments against the agreement, noting that US sanctions will remain in place regarding Iran’s support of Hezbollah and terror in the region, that the oft-repeated statement that the agreement requires 24-day notice before an inspection of a nuclear site “is a falsehood,” that the agreement provides the most stringent verification and inspection protocols ever and that if Iran is found to be cheating, would cause the sanctions to snap back. And finally, military action is always an option.
In essence, the US doesn’t give up anything by giving diplomacy a chance.
But the supporters of the Iran deal are being drowned out by some $40 million in spending by mainly pro-Israel political action groups, and a planned September 1 Stop Iran Rally at Sen. Gillibrand’s New York office that will headline former Senator Joe Lieberman, a lobbyist now, and Sen. Graham Lindsay, who is seeking to be the Republican candidate for President.
But at the Wednesday demonstration, Gillibrand drew high praise from the gathering, along with Rep. Gerald Nadler who declared his support, while Schumer was pilloried as a “Netanyahu flunky.”
Judy Gardiner of Code Pink declared, “As an American Jew, Senator Schumer doesn’t speak for me. AIPAC money is going to those who oppose. This our opportunity to get things right, to stop being the aggressor – the bad guy in the Middle East –to show that we are a country that supports peace.”
Bill Fisher of Northport said, “We need to send a loud, clear message to Schumer that he is wrong, misguided. I am angry, upset he has decided to vote against the Iran nuclear deal. The negotiations took two years. He said he is voting against it because it is ‘flawed’. Any agreement between nations can’t be perfect, especially adversaries like US and Iran. What’s the alternative? Another unnecessary MidEast War? The only flaw here is Chuck and his reasoning.”
“When the media reports, they always refer to Schumer as a ‘staunch supporter of Israel” as if to imply Israel supporters are against the deal. But millions of staunch supporters of Israel are in favor including an ex-Mossad leader, ex-security chief, the pro Israel, pro-peace J Street, the vast majority of elected Democrats, 29 top nuclear scientists and and citizens form America, israel adn across globe.
“Schumer aligned himself with war-hawk Republicans who have been wrong on three of the most important issues – Iraq War ( ‘Mission Accomplished’), self-regulated free market banks; and ‘job-killing’ Obamac are though economy is adding jobs). Now they are absolutely wrong about Iran deal.”
Bob Mathis of Suffolk Peace Network said, “This agreement must be approved. The Number 1 reason is that the alternative is war with Iran. It provides for unprecedented inspections and verification protocol. It is the best way to prevent Iran from building nuclear weapon. The sanctions were initiated to pressure Iran to come to negotiating table worked. All these countries support deal will lift sanctions even if we don’t.”
(Indeed, Great Britain just reopened their Embassy in Teheran.)
Alison DeNoia drove out from New York City with her two sons to be part of the demonstration.
“I came out here because I am really upset with way Schumer announced he wasn’t going to support the deal. It doesn’t make sense, why you wouldn’t support a peaceful proposal. Our not backing it won’t stop the process. It behooves us to support, and not fight. I wanted my kids to be a part.”
Obama Addresses Concerns of Jewish Community
In fact, President Obama articulated the best arguments in favor of supporting the Iran nuclear agreement in remarks through a web-conference call on Friday to members of the American Jewish community:
“This deal blocks every way — every pathway that Iran might take in order to obtain a nuclear weapon. It makes sure that the centrifuges that are currently in Natanz are removed, except for a handful, and it makes sure that they cannot immediately use more advanced centrifuges to build up their capacity to create enriched uranium that might be diverted into a weapons program.
“The underground facility of Fordow is converted into a research facility and no longer will have in it centrifuges that could be used to create nuclear weapons or nuclear materials, and might be difficult to reach. The heavy-water facility at Arak that, if struck by a missile, could create a plume and thereby is more difficult to deal with — that is going to be reconfigured.
“So you have the existing facilities being transformed. You have a commitment in which stockpiles of highly enriched uranium are being shipped out. We create then a verification and inspection mechanism across the entire nuclear production chain within Iran that is unprecedented — more rigorous than anything that has ever been negotiated in the history of nuclear nonproliferation.
“And we also preserve the capacity to snap back all the various sanctions provisions that we put in place very systematically — my administration working in concert with our partners over the last five years, sanctions that ultimately brought Iran to the table — we have the capacity to snap those back in the event that Iran cheats or does not abide by the terms of the deal.
“So what we have done is, for the first 10 years, essentially restricted Iran’s capacity not just to weaponize nuclear power but we severely constrain any nuclear program — peaceful or militarized. After 10 years, they’re able to obtain some additional advanced centrifuges, but they continue to have to be carefully monitored in terms of the stockpiles that they produce.
“And even critics of this deal acknowledge that for the first 15 years or so, we have extended the breakout time so that not only are we on them constantly, observing what they’re doing, but if they decided that they wanted to break the deal, we would have ample time to respond in ways that prevented them from getting a nuclear weapon. The breakout time would be significantly longer than it is right now.
“So because of the stringency of the deal, the vast majority of experts on nuclear proliferation have endorsed this deal. The world is more or less united, with some significant exceptions — obviously the state of Israel and perhaps others less publicly — around the deal. You have seen people who are unlikely bedfellows — Brent Scrowcroft and Elizabeth Warren — endorse the deal. And we have said to members of Congress, we are prepared to answer every single question and provide exhaustive hearings on every element of this.
“The criticisms of the deal have really come down to a few buckets, and maybe I’ll just address those very quickly upfront. Number one, people have said that, well, Iran will cheat. They’re not trustworthy. And I keep on emphasizing we don’t trust Iran. Iran is antagonistic to the United States. It is anti-Semitic. It has denied the Holocaust. It has called for the destruction of Israel. It is an unsavory regime. But this deal doesn’t rely on trust; it relies on verification and our capacity to catch them when they cheat and to respond vigorously if they do. And it’s precisely because we are not counting on the nature of the regime to change that it’s so important for us to make sure that they don’t have a nuclear weapon. And this is the best way to do it.
“A second argument I’ve heard is, well, they are going to, in 15 years, have the ability to break out and they’ll be more powerful. But, in fact, we’re not giving away anything in this deal in terms of our capacity to respond if they choose to cheat. We are not giving up our ability to respond militarily. We’re not giving up our ability to impose sanctions. Any of the tools that critics of the deal are suggesting we could be applying now we’ll be able to apply in 15 years. But we’ll have the advantage of a deal that the entire world has ratified; that Iran has committed to, saying that it’s not going to have a nuclear weapon. We will have purchased 15 years of familiarity with their program so that we know exactly what’s going on. And so anybody sitting in my chair 15 years from now will be in a much stronger position to respond if they at that point decide to break out than a President would next year or the year after.
“Number three, people have suggested that this will give a windfall to Iran and they will be able to conduct more terrorist activity and destabilizing activity in the region. I want to make sure people have some perspective here. Iran’s defense budget is $15 billion a year. By comparison, ours is around $600 billion. Because of the unprecedented partnership we have with Israel, Israel has a much stronger military. Our Gulf partners spend eight times as much money as Iran does on their military.
“So Iran is a regional power; it’s not a superpower. The money that they’re obtaining is money that has been frozen under sanctions. They will get about $56 billion back, but they’re going to have to spend that to prop up an economy that’s been crushed by our sanctions. Their economy will improve modestly, but there’s no analysis that’s been done by our experts that suggest that they are going to have a qualitatively different capacity to engage in some of the nefarious activities that they’ve done before.
“That’s not to say that those aren’t very serious issues. We have to stop Iran from getting missiles to Hezbollah that threaten Israel. We have to stop their destabilizing activities using proxies in other parts of the region. But to do that requires us to better coordinate with our partners, improve our intelligence, improve — continue to build on things like Iron Dome that protect populations from missiles coming in over the border. And those are all things that we have to do anyway. We’re in a much better position to do it if we also know in the meantime that Iran doesn’t have a nuclear weapon. That’s the one game-changer, and that’s why it has to be our number-one priority.
“So let me just close this initial set of comments by saying something about the U.S.-Israel relationship that you raised, Steve. The bond between the United States and Israel is not political. It’s not based on alliances of convenience. It is something that grows out of family ties and bonds that stretch back generations, and shared values and shared commitments and shared beliefs in democracy. And like all families, sometimes there are going to be disagreements, and sometimes people get angrier about disagreements in families than they do with folks who aren’t family. I understand that. But we’ve repeatedly throughout the history of the United States and Israel had times where the U.S. administration and the Israeli government had disagreements, and that does not affect the core commitments that we have to each other.
“And throughout my administration, even my fiercest critics in Israel would acknowledge that we’ve maintain unprecedented military cooperation, unprecedented intelligence coordination. We have not only maintained but enhanced the degree of military assistance that we provide, including helping to fund things like the Iron Dome program that has protected and saved lives inside of Israel.
“And what I have said repeatedly is that as soon as this particular debate is over, my hope is, is that the Israeli government will immediately want to rejoin conversations that we had started long before about how we can continue to improve and enhance Israel’s security in a very troubled neighborhood.
“But what I would emphasize is that the commitment to Israel is sacrosanct and it is nonpartisan. It always has been and it always will be. And I would suggest that, in terms of the tone of this debate, everybody keep in mind that we’re all pro-Israel. We’re all pro-U.S.-Israel. And we have to make sure that we don’t impugn people’s motives even as we have what is a very serious debate about how best to protect the United States, Israel, and the world community from a potentially destabilizing Iranian nuclear weapon.”
As for America essentially going it alone in opposing the deal that it had in fact led and the President’s warning that without an agreement, the likelihood is military action, President Obama said:
“My administration cobbled together that global cooperation and it was premised on the notion that if, in fact, we got a deal that prevents Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, then those sanctions would be lifted. If now we rejected the opinion of the world community, then it is unlikely — and this is not just my opinion; you’ve heard it from ambassadors from these countries — that they would maintain those sanctions. So that does not end up being an option.
“Once you’ve cut off those options, the deal that I’m proposing and the ability to maintain long-term sanctions of the sort that we put in place previously, then at that point we really don’t have options because we’re already at a point where Iran’s breakout time is relatively short and we’re kind of flying blind. And the logical conclusion then is, is that for any President — me or my successor — to make sure that Iran is getting a nuclear weapon, I’m going to have to resort to some sort of military action because there aren’t going to be a lot of other options available to us — not many tools left in the toolkit.
“And I make that point, Michael, because that’s not to suggest that opponents of this deal want war. What it is, is a sober analysis of what options we have available to us, and why it’s so important I think for us to get behind this deal and not pretend that there are other easier options that are available to us.
“But in all this debate, what’s important to remember is that we’re all pro-Israel and we’re all family. And the Jewish members in Congress who are supporting this deal — I don’t need to give you their bio — I think they feel a commitment to Israel and having knowledge of the Jewish history that rivals anyone else’s. And those in my administration who care deeply about this issue and who are supporting this deal, their motives shouldn’t be questioned.”
As for the fact that Iran will still have the ability to generate nuclear power ostensibly for peaceful uses, Obama said:
“One thing that might be helpful is to understand sort of what a lot of this argument has been about. I think that in the best of all worlds, Iran would have no nuclear infrastructure whatsoever. There wouldn’t be a single nut, bolt, building, nuclear scientist, uranium mine anywhere inside of Iran. And that, I suppose, would be the single guarantee that Iran never has a nuclear weapon — unless it purchased one, of course, from North Korea, which it could also do.
“Unfortunately, that’s not a reality that’s attainable. And those who say they want a better deal, that this isn’t a good deal and they want a better deal typically mean that not only do they want Iran not to have nuclear weapons, but they don’t want them to have any nuclear program at all, even a peaceful one.
“The problem is, is that even Iranians who oppose this regime believe that Iran should have the right to peaceful nuclear programs. The world community — not just the Russians or the Chinese but the Europeans, the Indians, the Japanese, others — they all believe that under the nonproliferation treaty, you are allowed to have peaceful nuclear power. You just can’t have a weapon.
“So this deal is designed to essentially put Iran in the penalty box for the first 15 years, where even its peaceful nuclear program is severely constrained. After 15 years, assuming they’ve abided by that deal, they can then start opening up their peaceful nuclear program. But their prohibition on weaponizing nuclear power — that continues in perpetuity, and will continue to be monitored by the toughest inspection regime that exists under the current international rules, called the additional protocol. And we’ll still be monitoring it very carefully and we will have had 15 years of knowledge about what their program is.
“Now, is it possible that at the end of 15 years, they now start introducing some more advanced centrifuges and at some point, they feel comfortable enough, cocky enough, where they say to themselves, now is the time for us to breakout, we’re going to kick out all the IAEA inspectors, we’re going to announce that we’re going to pursue a nuclear weapon — is that possible? “Absolutely. Just as it’s possible that they could have done that next week if we hadn’t had this deal. The question then becomes, have we given up any ability to response forcefully? And as I indicated in my opening remarks, we will have not given anything up….. A President of the United States 15 years from now is not going to be in a worse position to respond; he’ll be in a stronger position, or she will be in a stronger position, to respond.
As for Iran’s continued support of terrorism in the region, and its atrocious human rights record, President Obama said:
“Nothing in this agreement prevents us from continuing to push back forcefully against terrorist activity, support for terrorist proxies in the region, destabilizing activities in the region. We are not normalizing relations with Iran here.
“What we are doing is taking one game-changing problem — them getting a nuclear weapon — and moving that off the board. But we are still going to be maintaining our own sanctions for Iranian violations of human rights and terrorism. Those don’t go away.”
And if Iran cheats?
“The way our negotiators structured this, we don’t have to have agreement from China or Russia, or even our European partners. If we determine that Iran has violated this agreement, we are in a position to re-impose all of the multilateral sanctions — not just U.S. sanctions, but the sanctions that were previously in place. We can put those all back in place by that determination,” President Obama said.
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