Major US Jewish group to oppose Iran agreement

After weeks of deliberation, AJC concludes ‘there are too many risks, concerns, and ambiguities’ regarding deal

Rebecca Shimoni Stoil is the Times of Israel's Washington correspondent.

Supporters line Seventh Avenue during the 'Stop Iran' protest near Times Square in New York City, July 22, 2015. (AP/Frank Franklin II)
Supporters line Seventh Avenue during the 'Stop Iran' protest near Times Square in New York City, July 22, 2015. (AP/Frank Franklin II)

WASHINGTON — After weeks of deliberation, a major US Jewish organization announced Wednesday morning that it will oppose the nuclear deal with Iran. The American Jewish Committee, which had yet to commit to a position on the deal, concluded that “there are too many risks, concerns, and ambiguities for us to lend our support” to the controversial agreement.

AJC Executive Director David Harris issued a lengthy statement, explaining why the leadership of the organization had “overwhelmingly” decided to oppose the agreement. “AJC opposes the deal and calls on Members of Congress to do the same,” Harris announced.

The announcement comes in the midst of a media blitz by President Barack Obama to reach out to the US Jewish community and the American public as a whole to sell the nuclear agreement, reached last month. The administration – including the president himself, less than a day ago – has held numerous briefings for Jewish groups in an effort to reduce the pressure on Democratic legislators to oppose the deal when it comes up for a vote in Congress next month.

AJC Executive Director David Harris (courtesy American Jewish Council)
AJC Executive Director David Harris (courtesy American Jewish Council)

In his announcement, Harris noted that the AJC had, over the past three weeks, held numerous consultations, briefings and internal discussions in a process that he described as “intensive, open-minded, and thorough.” The organization was briefed privately by both Secretary of State John Kerry, and the deal’s chief negotiator, Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman, and representatives spoke with members of Congress from both parties, European, Israeli, and Arab diplomats, and analysts.

Harris emphasized that the debate over the deal was “one of the most consequential policy issues in a generation,” and thus demanded lengthy consideration before a conclusion was reached. “In the end, AJC’s leadership concluded overwhelmingly that we must oppose this deal,” he said.

“Much as we respect those in the P5+1, led by the United States, who painstakingly negotiated the agreement over the span of years, and who confronted one challenge after another with Iran and also, it should be noted, had to manage the complex interaction within the P5+1 itself, there are too many risks, concerns, and ambiguities for us to lend our support,” he explained.

Harris emphasized that “by abandoning the earlier negotiating posture of dismantling sanctions in exchange for Iranian dismantlement of its nuclear infrastructure, and instead replacing it with what is essentially a temporary freeze on its program, the P5+1 has indeed validated Iran’s future status as a nuclear threshold state.”

“Given the nature of the Iranian regime and its defining ideology, AJC cannot accept this prospect,” Harris added. “It is too ominous, too precedent-setting, and too likely to trigger a response from Iran’s understandably anxious neighbors who may seek nuclear-weapons capacity themselves, as well as, more immediately and still more certainly, advanced conventional arms, adding an entirely new level of menace to the most volatile and arms-laden region in the world. Surely, this cannot be in America’s long-term security interests.”

Harris also complained that the quick lifting of sanctions and the end of the arms trade and missile technology bans “will benefit the regime enormously” without any reciprocal demand that Iran cease “its destabilizing and dangerous behavior” both at home and in the region.

The AJC rejected clams that “that the only alternative to this deal is war.”

“We do not support war against Iran, nor have we ever advocated for the use of force, though we have always believed in a credible military option as a way of convincing Iran of our seriousness of purpose,” Harris wrote. He described such claims as disingenuous, echoing comments made Tuesday by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, saying that previously “we were told by P5+1 negotiators that “the alternative to a bad deal is no deal.”

The AJC is a heavy hitter when it comes to Jewish organizations in America. Founded in 1906, it has over 30 nationwide chapters, and counts more than 100,000 members and supporters. Focused on global Jewish advocacy, the organization emphasizes long-term relationships within the diplomatic community in Washington and at the United Nations, as well as overseas.

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