Two views | For an Israeli diplomat and father, too many questions remain

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When it comes to the July 14 nuclear agreement between Iran and the so-called P5+1 countries — the United States, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, China and Russia — there’s some good news but many more concerns.

The good news first: Iranian leaders declared on paper that they will not pursue nuclear capabilities, and they will not be able to pursue military nuclear capability at the once-secret nuclear sites of Natanz and Fordow. These sites will be under full inspection by the international community. Under the terms of the agreement, there also will be limitations on Iran’s  enrichment activity. These two points are not insignificant and should be acknowledged as such.

At the same time, there are many reasons to be concerned with the agreement. The international community will be relying on the International Atomic Energy Agency for inspections of Iranian nuclear facilities. The Iranians have been lying to the IAEA for a long time about their facilities and weapons capabilities. Indeed, it took years for the United States and Israeli intelligence services to find out about Iran’s secret facilities in Natanz and Fordow. Based on this previous experience and others, how can we trust that Iran, while it may be complying with inspections at the sites we know about, will not be building other nuclear sites that could take us years to find?

It is possible that the agreement may lead to short-term security for Israel. However, what will happen in 10 years when the limitations on centrifuges expire?

Beyond my role as a diplomat, the last two weeks have been deeply unsettling and fearful as a father and as an Israeli. In 2025, my son will be serving in the Israel Defense Forces, my nephew will be starting his military service, and my niece will just be finishing her time in the army. They could find themselves risking their lives against forces that will grow more powerful and emboldened thanks to an influx of cash and access to global markets.

Under the agreement, Iran will get about $150 billion from unfrozen assets in foreign banks, funds that will add substantially to its economy, already estimated at $350 billion to $400 billion. It is easy to imagine that some of this money will be sent to Iran’s terror proxies across the Middle East, including the Houthis in Yemen, the Assad regime in Syria, Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Hezbollah in particular already has 100,000 missiles pointed at Israel and has managed to do this with roughly a $1 billion budget. With a new cash-infused Iran, we likely will have Hezbollah on steroids.

Another problem with this agreement is that it will encourage nuclear proliferation across the region. Since the Arab world largely shares Israel’s concerns about Iran and this nuclear deal, many countries in the area will push to acquire weapons of their own. Saudi Arabia already has announced its intentions to start its own nuclear program, Turkey is reconsidering its stance on nuclear weapons, and Egypt and Jordan have quietly engaged in nuclear program talks as well.

We Israelis do not have the same margin of error as Europe and the United States should Iran acquire nuclear weapons. The current deal gives Iran a direct path to these dangerous weapons in 10 to 15 years, even if, in a best-case scenario, they abide by all the current agreements outlined.

I would like to assume that there will be regime change during this time, as has been argued by supporters of the current deal. For a professional diplomat, optimism is a requirement. However, this may be a gamble we cannot afford. It took the former Soviet Union 74 years to collapse, and many people thought that would never happen. While mutually assured destruction prevented nuclear war, the standoff between the United States and the Soviet Union cost hundreds of thousands of lives in horrible conventional wars in Southeast Asia and the Middle East.

We are also concerned about the perception of the United States in the Middle East in the wake of this deal. The perception of a strong United States is crucial not only for its own security but for its allies as well, including Israel. Despite my deep admiration for this great nation, I believe the nuclear accord signed with Iran has caused a huge blow to the notion of a strong United States in the region. I am afraid that the weakening of the U.S. standing in the eyes of its Arab allies as well as its adversaries will be costly to the United States, Israel and the rest of the free world.

In 10 to 15 years, my children could be the ones to benefit most from a good deal. But what if this one is a mistake?

Andy David
is the consul general of Israel to San Francisco and the Pacific Northwest.