It is no secret that Israel views a nuclear Iran as an existential threat to its existence. It is also the Israeli position that the nuclear agreement with Iran does not, in real terms, meaningfully diminish the prospect that Iran will achieve a nuclear weapons capacity. And Israel has been upfront concerning its plans to lobby Congress to scuttle the agreement.
On the other hand, it is the position of President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry that the deal the U.S. and the five other world powers worked out with the Iranians has thwarted the eventuality of a nuclear Iran.
In testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Mr. Kerry insisted that it is “fantasy plain and simple” to claim that the administration failed to persevere in securing sufficient restraints on Iran’s nuclear program in return for lifting economic sanctions. “So what’s your plan?” he asked opponents of the deal. “Totally to go to war?”
The next day, in a speech in New York to the Council on Foreign Relations, Mr. Kerry substantially upped the ante. Directly addressing the prospect of Israel’s trying to persuade Congress to reject the Iran agreement, he said, “I fear that what could happen is if Congress were to overturn it, our friends in Israel could actually wind up being more isolated and more blamed.”
Get his drift? After suggesting that the alternative to the Iran deal is war, he intimates that Israel is preparing to attempt press Congress into thwarting the deal (acting against the best interests of the United States in the process) and propelling the nation into an unnecessary war.
And according to Mr. Kerry it would be Israel that would be blamed throughout the world as the villain of the piece, especially since the major powers have embraced the deal and Mr. Kerry, despite a mandated congressional review period of 60 days, engineered the UN Security Council’s approval of the agreement.
The implied threat in Mr. Kerry’s remarks was not lost on Israel and there was immediate pushback. “We reject the threats directed at Israel in recent days,” an unnamed Israeli official told The New York Times. “The U.S. Congress will make its decision based on American interests, which include consideration of U.S. allies.… The regrettable attempt to intimidate Israel will not prevent us from voicing our concerns about this deal, which poses direct threats to Israel’s security.”
For their part, American officials told the Times that “Secretary Kerry issued no threats” but was only alluding to the importance of the deal being approved, and the officials, the Times noted, “were careful not to repeat his observation that Israel might be blamed if Congress stops the accord from being enacted.”
This sort of thing can quickly get out of hand. John Kerry knows better than this.