The night the Iran nuclear deal was announced was a sleepless one for retired Harvard Law School professor and pro-Israel activist Alan Dershowitz, who was utterly distraught by the terms of the agreement.
“I got up and emailed my eBook publisher and said, ‘I have an idea. What if I do an eBook that could be out in time for the congressional debate?’ He thought it was a great idea,” Dershowitz said in an exclusive interview with the Salomon Center for American Jewish Thought. “He gave me two weeks to write it. He got it in 11 days.”
Fears of Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon have haunted supporters of Israel and advocates of Middle East peace for more than a decade, stoked by frequent public reminders by back-to-back regimes of the Islamic Republic that their goal is the annihilation of the Jewish state.
“This book took me less than two weeks to write and 10 years to research, so I’ve been thinking about and writing about this potentially for 10 years,” said Dershowitz. “I wrote my first long article about this in 2005. I had my ideas and I’ve been following the deal very closely. As soon as the deal was announced, I read it and annotated it, and the pages appear as an appendage to the book.”
After Dershowitz’s 244-page “The Case Against the Iran Deal: How Can We Now Stop Iran from Getting Nukes?” was released on Kindle, it was the number-one international Kindle bestseller the next day.
“People want to read about the deal,” Dershowitz said. “People want to be informed; they want to read the actual text of the deal. They want an informed judgment as to what’s good about it, what’s bad about it. There are some positive elements, but in my view most of the elements are quite negative and it virtually assures that Iran will get the bomb within a decade.”
Dershowitz wrote his latest book not just to educate the public, but to have it serve as a call to action with the hope that citizens will contact their elected officials and encourage them to vote against the Iran deal.
“I wrote the book, keeping in mind people I’ve known for years, Senator [Chuck] Schumer, Senator [Elizabeth] Warren, Senator [Ed] Markey, Senator [Kirsten] Gillibrand, various United States senators, Democrats and also some Republicans,” Dershowitz explained. “Clearly I want to influence the outcome of their vote by engaging directly with the senators and congressmen, first with my own writing and ideas. Second, by encouraging their constituents to read it and write to them, call them and urge them to do the right thing.”
He added, “This is not merely an academic book for posterity. It was designed to affect real policies in real-time.”
Dershowitz said he has been writing and lecturing about the threat of a nuclear Iran for more than a decade. He has discussed the subject directly with President Barack Obama. In his book, Dershowitz writes, “President Obama himself seemed to agree—before his election to a second term—that were Iran to ever develop nuclear weapons, it would be a ‘game changer,’ and he promised he would ‘do whatever it takes’ and ‘everything that’s required’ to ‘eliminate’ this ‘grave’ and ‘real’ security threat not only to the region but to the U.S.”
So what changed? Dershowitz said in the interview that there are “two theories” that may answer this question.
“The cynical theory, which seems to be supported by the data, is that once [Obama] was out of politics, that is, once he couldn’t run again and once the House and the Senate were firmly in the hands of Republicans, he was going to do what he always wanted to do and he was less than completely candid with those of us whom he told that the military option was on the table and that Iran would never be allowed to develop nuclear weapons,” he said.
“The other theory is that he genuinely changed his mind when he saw that Iran had an opening for negotiations. And I leave it to the reader to judge which of those theories is true.”
Dershowitz believes his book proves “conclusively” that Obama changed his policy.
“He took the military option off the table, and that was an extraordinarily naïve and wrong thing to do because that allowed the Iranians to negotiate with us as equals,” he said. “And I’m not the only one who has said this. Many liberal Democrats I’ve spoken to believe we made a tragic negotiating mistake, that what we should have done was said to the Iranians, ‘Look, you’re never, ever going to be able to develop nuclear weapons. That’s American policy, and we’ll stop you, whatever it takes.’”
At this point, Dershowitz posits the question, “Now, why are you (Iran) accepting the sanctions if you’re never, ever going to be able to develop a nuclear weapon? Let’s figure out a way of ending the sanctions by you dismantling the nuclear program and allowing 24/7 inspections. We have military powers that you don’t. You’ll never get a nuclear weapon. That’s not negotiable. What’s negotiable is how to get rid of the sanctions.”
By negotiating from a position of strength, Dershowitz said a deal could have lifted the sanctions, but also have Iran dismantle its nuclear program and permit “anytime, anywhere” inspections.
“Now the problem is that we negotiated as equals and we were playing checkers against the people who invented chess, and they checkmated our president and our secretary of state,” Dershowitz said. “The end result is that now we are going to be equals because they are going to have nuclear weapons, and once they have nuclear weapons they are essentially equals, we can’t take them on, we have no viable military threat against them, so it was a double disaster.”
Dershowitz reminded his readers, “In American democracy, we the people, the majority rules; and if the majority of Americans oppose the deal it will ultimately be rejected, if not by this administration, then by the next. In the end, the court of public opinion will decide.”
But wouldn’t public opinion or the perspective of future administrations be rendered moot by the current administration agreeing to the negotiated deal? Dershowitz argued that future administrations can put the military option back on the table, citing the Preamble and General Provisions of the agreement in which Iran reaffirms that it will never, under any circumstances, seek to obtain, develop, or secure a nuclear weapon. He believes that future administrations must regard this part of the agreement as a pivotal part of the deal, even if it’s not in the body of deal.
Dershowitz said the nuclear deal makes war between Israel and Iran “more likely.” He also warned that Iran’s battle with the Islamic State terror group is an “excuse” to build a large conventional military force closer to Israel. Yet while much of the media focus has been on the Iran deal’s impact on Israel and the Middle East, Dershowitz also fears for the safety and security of the U.S. He said the deal assures that Iran will get a nuclear bomb within 10 years and allows the Islamic Republic to develop intercontinental ballistic missiles without much constraint.
“All of this has been said by Obama himself,” Dershowitz said. “When Obama first set out the red lines, he specified 24/7 inspections—we didn’t get that. He set out that Iran would never have nuclear weapons—we didn’t get that. He set out to end the nuclear facility at Fordow—we didn’t get that. He has crossed his own red lines at least three times.”
“I think on the Iran deal he is a failed leader,” added Dershowitz, who backed Obama both times he was elected president. “I think this will be his legacy in terms of international relations and I think it will result in an increase in the nuclear arms race, an end to anti-nuclear proliferation, an increase in the likelihood of war, and a greater gulf between Israel and the United States. All of which he promised would not happen. … If you judge President Obama by his own standards, he is an abject failure when it comes to international relations. Forget about my standard or yours. By his own standard he is an abject failure when it comes to dealing with Iran.”
Paul Miller is president and executive director of the Salomon Center for American Jewish Thought news and public policy group.
This article was originally published by the New York Observer.