Opinion

the podium | Yehuda Yaakov

Don’t rush into a deal with Iran

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.
AFP/Getty Images/file 2014
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

I thought I had seen it all. Having dealt with preventing the development of Iran’s nuclear program for the better part of a decade, I thought nothing could surprise me. I realized recently just how wrong I was.

As the Nov. 24 deadline on negotiations approaches, the United States and other major players on the world stage seek to strike a deal. Meanwhile, Iran’s leaders seem uninterested in peaceful solutions and continue to say as much publicly. Case in point: This item that appeared on Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s social media account recently:

“Why should & how can Israel be eliminated?”

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His question, inflammatory in its own right, followed with several more queries: Why should the Zionist regime be eliminated? What is the proper way of eliminating Israel? What is the most urgent action to take for military confrontation with Israel? The list went on, but I prefer not to give Khamenei an additional platform. What may have been the most revealing question in the series was the final one:

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“Why do we oppose compromise proposals?”

This is not comforting rhetoric from the man widely considered to be the last word in Iranian strategic policy, the one to whom his negotiators look when they glance behind their shoulder. The callous nature of Khamenei’s thoughts and the matter-of-factness with which he presents them is more than troubling. This has preoccupied Israelis for decades, and it should concern all our friends now. How can a country so unwilling to compromise on one front be expected to make sweeping concessions on another front that is of equal — if not greater — magnitude?

Frankly, I am far from shocked by the brazen hatred Iran shows for my country. It has been waging a cold war against us since Ayatollah Khomeini took control and has been nurturing elements subversive to Israel’s existence since the early 1980s, including bolstering Hezbollah and bombing our embassy in Argentina in 1992 (killing 29 of my colleagues and local civilians and wounding hundreds of others). Tehran has never left its intentions toward Israel to interpretation.

Having said that, what does shock me is the utter disinterest Khamenei’s statement was met with in the world of public opinion.

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The determination to resolve the Iranian crisis, which began in 2002, seems to have taken on a life of its own. But it should not blind us to what is happening on the ground; statements of reason cannot be dismissed as irrelevant hurdles. It is important when the IAEA, in its latest report, points to Iran violations of the November 2013 interim agreement; it is important when that same report emphasizes that Tehran continues its refusal to cooperate with the Agency’s investigation of its military nuclear activities.

These are not trivial matters; they go to the heart of the Iranian nuclear crisis and the imperative of preserving global peace and security in this context.

Perhaps other nations can ignore what is right in front of them — Israel cannot. We find ourselves in a geopolitical climate in which we cannot afford to give our aggressors the slightest opportunity to achieve their devious goals. This is why we believe that Iran must not be allowed to become a nuclear threshold power, that the P5+1 countries must not rush into a deal that would allow Tehran rush to the bomb.

Whether there is deal or not, Iran will remain a main contributor to instability both regionally and globally. It has a proven track record which cannot be ignored by anybody — especially not by our friends, especially not now. History has already demonstrated that the words of despots need to be taken at face value.

Yehuda Yaakov is Israel’s Consul General to New England and dealt with Iranian issues for the Foreign Ministry from 2001 to 2014.