Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Bibi Calls For Tougher Iran Deal In Speech To Congress

Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu addressed a joint session of Congress today. The run-up to the speech generated enough controversy to prompt boycotts by many Democrats. However, the speech was notably devoid of partisan lines, instead focusing on Iranian foreign policy and the terms of a potential nuclear deal.

Arriving to cheers and a hero's welcome, Netanyahu thanked Congress for its bipartisan support of Israel, and President Obama for his support as well. These niceties quickly gave way to a broad discussion Iranian expansion in the Middle East. Bibi discussed Iran's "domination" of four Arab capitals, and its history of state-sponsored terrorism.

Turning to the Iran deal, Bibi identified two problems with the deal on the table. First, Iran would have a quick breakout capability. Second, international supervision of international inspections would provide insufficient enforcement of a deal, citing recent comments by the IAEA. 

"This deal doesn't block Iran's path to the bomb, this deal paves Iran's path to the bomb," the Prime Minister told a silent House chamber. "Will Iran fund less terrorism? Why should Iran's regime change for the better when it can enjoy the best of both words - aggression abroad and prosperity back home?" 

Netanyahu proposed that instead, restrictions on Iran be linked to its expansion and global projection of power. The conditions would be for Iran to a) Stop aggression against its neighbors in the Middle East b) Stop supporting terrorism around the world c) Stop threatening to annihilate Israel. Netanyahu cautioned that the alternative to the current deal should not be war, but a "much better deal" which would put stricter limitations on Iran's nuclear program and regional expansion.

Invoking Israel's right to defend itself, the Prime Minister referenced the history of Jewish persecution, pointing out Elie Wiesel, who was seated next to Bibi's wife Sara, in the House Chamber. Netanyahu concluded the speech on a biblical note, quoting the Torah and pointing out a plaque of Moses above the House chamber. 

Netanyahu received 19 standing ovations and raucous applause throughout the speech. While highly anticipated, the speech made a relatively straightforward argument that reflect mainstream center-right positions on the deal. It now remains to be seen whether a deal can be reached before the March 24th deadline, and what the details of that deal may be.


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