Jewish Community Split on Iran Deal Withdrawal


With the stroke of a pen Tuesday, President Donald Trump issued an executive order to withdraw the United States from the Iran nuclear agreement.

“It is clear to me that we cannot prevent an Iranian nuclear bomb under the decaying and rotten structure of the current agreement,” he said. “The Iran deal is defective at its core.”

Trump, in a televised address, said the agreement, which was signed in 2015 by President Barack Obama and aims to roll back Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief, has been a “great embarrassment” for the United States, and that it has done nothing to halt the country’s nuclear ambitions or ballistic missile assembly.

Trump cited Israeli intelligence reports from 2015 he had recently obtained from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu detailing Iran’s nuclear buildup as evidence that the country was not complying with the agreement.

“Today we have definitive proof that this promise was a lie,” he said.

The 2015 intelligence doesn’t indicate whether or not Iran has complied with the agreement since it was signed.

Trump’s decision comes after repeated promises to withdraw from and renegotiate the agreement. French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other European leaders have urged him to remain in the agreement, which was signed by the United States, Iran, Russia, China, Germany and the European Union.

Despite the international support for the agreement, its main supporters in the United States have been Democrats, who championed what had been a centerpiece of Obama’s foreign policy.

Reactions from the Jewish community fell mainly along party lines in the wake of Trump’s announcement. The Republican Jewish Coalition released a statement of support for Trump’s withdrawal, writing that it has “renewed hope for a nuclear-free Iran.”

“President Trump now has at his disposal, tools like the enhanced sanctions that were waived under Obama, to get a deal that creates the necessary pressure on Iran. We appreciate President Trump’s bold foreign policy and look forward to his leadership in dealing with the Iranian threat.”

But Ron Klein, the chair of the Jewish Democratic Council of America, criticized the move.

“This decision is yet another sign that President Trump remains committed to abdicating our great nation’s traditional role as a trustworthy leader in the global community,” Klein wrote in a statement.

Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of the left-leaning J Street, released a statement noting that former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and former National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster had supported the agreement, but were then fired by Trump.

“It’s a very sad day when the United States abdicates leadership, reneges on its word and walks away from a deal that has successfully blocked all of Iran’s pathways to a nuclear bomb,” Ben-Ami wrote.

While Josh Block, president and CEO of the right-leaning Israel Project, called for the agreement to be fixed, by including issues such as “an end to Iran’s work and use of ballistic missiles of any range, permanently end their nuclear pursuit without sunset, and end Iran’s terrorism and aggressive regional behavior, including a total withdrawal of all forces and equipment, official and unofficial, from Syria,” he wrote.

Centrist organizations ADL and AJC did not take a position on Trump’s move in their statements. In an interview, Alan Ronkin, AJC Washington regional director, said he hopes Trump’s decision provides an opportunity for the United States to “build bridges” with its European allies due to their shared values of human rights and combatting terrorism.

The AJC initially opposed the agreement. Ronkin said the organization had hoped it would be fixed without the United States withdrawing. He said he is concerned that many around the world will view the withdrawal through a “partisan lens,” and that that could have international consequences.

“If there’s a wedge between the United States and the Europeans, the winner is going to be the Iranians,” he said.

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