Commentary Magazine


Slurs Won’t Silence Iran Deal’s Critics

The Washington Free Beacon’s Adam Kredo reported yesterday evening that prominent foreign-policy reporter Laura Rozen had some choice words for a think tank analyst who was saying something she didn’t like about Iran. Rozen, who currently writes for Al Monitor and has earned a considerable following for solid work and good sources, apparently doesn’t like it when people cast doubt on the wisdom of the Obama administration’s current policy aimed at signing a deal with Iran that would allow the Islamist regime to retain its nuclear infrastructure and “right” to enrich uranium. So when she heard the Foundation for Defense of Democracies’ Mark Dubowitz speak, she tweeted the following:

I do not think Israel is being well served by people they have picked on U.S. side to promote their talking points.”

She followed up that tweet by stating: “Israel notbbeing [sic] well served by folks they picked to push their talking points.” Both tweets were quickly deleted.

Rozen subsequently deleted the tweets and refused comment about what she meant but, as Kredo noted, her support for a deal with Iran and generally critically attitude toward Israel isn’t exactly a secret. But rather than this being just a minor incident in which a reporter showed, at least for a while, a willingness to expose her opinions about the story she’s covering, there is a broader and more important issue at stake here: the extent to which those who are skeptical about the administration are being subjected to traditional slurs about dual loyalty.

No one who supports Israel’s right to exist and to defend itself or who views Iran’s quest for nuclear weapons as a threat that cannot be ignored need apologize for expressing those views. But the notion that the only reason why someone would oppose administration policy on Iran is that they were “picked” by Israel to “promote their talking points” is one that is dangerously close to the toxic Walt-Mearsheimer “Israel Lobby” thesis that also sought to delegitimize supporters of the Jewish state.

Let’s understand that there are reasonable arguments to be made pro and con the Obama administration’s zeal for a deal with Iran. In the wake of the new Iranian charm offensive and the warm response it generated in Washington, we have seen, as Seth noted yesterday, the revival of support for containment of a nuclear Iran, something that indicates that some of those urging diplomacy understand that sooner or later Tehran will talk or cheat its way to a bomb or nuclear capability.

But instead of trying to make the not terribly reasonable case that this is something that is not dangerous, what we seem to be hearing lately is resentment about Israeli complaints about the direction of U.S. policy rather than a coherent refutation of their concerns.

This is outrageous on two counts.

First, the idea that Israel is trying to manipulate American policy for its own purposes and against the best interests of the United States or the West flies in the face of President Obama’s own repeated statements about the dangers from a nuclear Iran. It was the president who has specifically ruled out containment of Iran and said their acquisition of a weapon was unacceptable from the point of view of U.S. security. It should also be pointed out to those who wish to defend an apparent U.S. acceptance of Iran’s “right” to enrich uranium or to hold onto its nuclear plants that the president specifically pledged the contrary during the presidential debates in 2012. At the presidential debate on foreign policy with Mitt Romney, Obama said the following:

So the work that we’ve done with respect to sanctions now offers Iran a choice. They can take the diplomatic route and end their nuclear program or they will have to face a united world and a United States president, me, who said we’re not going to take any options off the table.

That does not seem consistent with the Iran deal Secretary of State John Kerry has been promoting.

Second, treating those who speak out about the danger from Iran as Israeli hirelings spouting their “talking points” is an all-too-familiar revival of the old dual loyalty slur against American Jews. The point here is that those who support appeasement or acceptance of a nuclear Iran don’t seem to be able to make their arguments without first attempting to delegitimize opponents.

The existential threat that a nuclear Iran poses to Israel justifies that country’s concerns about diplomacy that seems to be predicated on an abandonment of the president’s promises. But this problem isn’t just about Israel. As the president has stated, it is a threat to the U.S. and the West too. If he is backing away from that stand, he should say so. Those who support this move should be just as honest and also refrain from using slurs aimed at silencing opponents. The administration would like Congress and the American people to ignore their critics, but slamming them as Israeli agents doesn’t pass the smell test.

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