12/16/2013 06:31 pm ET Updated Feb 15, 2014

Why Are We Giving Iran Breathing Room?


The Jewish community is deeply concerned about the pending interim agreement with Iran. Wherever I go, from Mayor Bloomberg's farewell Hanukkah party to President Obama's Hanukkah reception at the White House, it seems to be the most debated topic in the room.

I attended the White House reception with my dear friend Moe Cohen from Los Angeles. Sadly, Moe's cousin Captain Jacob "Jack" Scapa passed away while we were in Washington. That night, at the White House, a fitting place to remember this great American hero, we said "L'chaim" and made a toast to Jack's legacy. Jack was aboard the USS Raleigh when it was attacked at Pearl Harbor, served in the Navy for 25 years and was Captain of the USS Walke and USS Klondike.

After dining on lamb chops and sushi, we heard from President Obama. In his short talk, Obama mentioned the death of Nelson Mandela and spoke about U.S. policy with Iran.

"We're testing whether it's possible through diplomacy to achieve that goal, understanding that we have to remain vigilant," Obama said.

I don't accept that Obama actually believes that the interim agreement will lead to anything concrete. He knows Iran will never agree to dismantle the country's nuclear capability. The president even acknowledged at the recent Saban Forum that the chances of reaching a comprehensive nuclear agreement with Iran are 50-50 or worse. Prominent Harvard attorney and longtime Obama supporter, Alan Dershowitz, rates "the chances of success ... only 20 percent, the chances of failure ... 40 percent, and rest ... uncertain."

The administration says the Iran deal is a safe gamble. Many of the more serious sanctions won't be removed and even the sanctions that are lifted will be restored if Iran violates the interim agreement. Furthermore, according to the Obama administration, when the time comes to increase sanctions or even go to war, the administration will have gained credibility with the international community by demonstrating that it tested every other option including diplomacy, despite strong opposition from back home.

I don't buy it. After years of sanctions, Iran is finally in a chokehold. Iran cannot survive forever with these sanctions. If we wait a little longer Iran may be forced to break down and dismantle its nuclear capability. But the pending interim agreement with Iran will unfreeze $4 billion of assets for the radical regime, which will be a huge boost to the country's failing economy. The deal will give Iran breathing room to recuperate, strategize and prepare. That is precisely why Iran is agreeing to it.

Imagine two trained wrestlers are fighting to kill. They wrestle for an hour and finally one of the men manages to pin the other man to the ground. He says, "Give up now and neither of us will get hurt." The man pinned to the ground replies, "Never." So the guy on top gets up and hands the guy he had pinned down a minute ago, a cup of cold water and says, "You have a half hour to rest up before we continue fighting." A half hour later, the downed wrestler regains his strength and kills his opponent. One could argue all the almost-victor did was give his opponent a little breathing room!

In my opinion, if Iran breaks it will prevent a war. The world has a moral obligation to try to come to an agreement with Iran through diplomacy. But no sanctions should be removed unless or until a final deal is negotiated. It makes no sense to give Iran a half hour break and a cup of water.

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