In The Joys of Yiddish, Leo Rosten defined chutzpah as "that quality enshrined in a man who, having killed his mother and father, throws himself on the mercy of the court because he is an orphan." Today we have a new paradigm for chutzpah: the Israeli government's demand for "compensation" from the American taxpayers for the Iran nuclear agreement.
Israel's Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon told the Times of Israel that during U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter's visit the Israeli government would discuss "the compensation that Israel deserves in order to maintain its qualitative [military] edge" over Iran. The Obama administration of course is amenable.
Why does Israel deserve compensation (in addition to its $3 billion in U.S. aid every year)? If anything, Israel should compensate American taxpayers!
Iran is not—and was not going to become—a nuclear threat. American and Israeli intelligence have said so repeatedly.
But even if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were right about Iran's intentions, he should be rejoicing at the agreement, under which Iran will get rid of nearly all of its enriched uranium and two-thirds of its centrifuges. Its nuclear facilities will be open to even more intrusive inspections than they have been under the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Even its non-nuclear military sites will be subject to inspection, an intrusion no other government—particularly the United States—would accept. And that is just the beginning. Uranium-enrichment research will be restricted, and construction of a heavy-water reactor, which would yield plutonium, will be scrapped.
The term for these various restrictions will begin at 10 years and lengthen from there, but this does not mean that Iran will later be free to do what it wants. As an NPT party (unlike nuclear monopolist Israel), it will always be subject to inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency, which certifies that Iran has not diverted uranium to military purposes.
What did Iran get in return for those concessions? Iranian money frozen since the 1979 Islamic revolution will be released and the economic warfare perpetrated by the United States and the rest of the world—euphemistically called "sanctions"—will eventually be ended. In other words, Iran can rejoin the world economy—its people relieved of cruel economic warfare—if it gives up a weapons program it never had, never wanted, and did not plan to pursue. Those crafty Iranians! They acquired thousands of centrifuges as bargaining chips to be traded away for peaceful commercial relations with the world.
Israel's rulers, like their American supporters, say they have another reason to hate the agreement. (For my own far different reservation, see this.) "Giving" Iran all that cash (it belongs to Iranians) will let the Islamic Republic pursue its aggressive aims in the Middle East, which include helping Israel's enemies, Hamas and Hezbollah.
Balderdash. Iran is not pursuing an aggressive policy in the Middle East, and it is sheer projection for an American or Israeli to make that charge. George W. Bush handed Shia-majority Iraq to Iran when he overthrew Iran's nemesis, Saddam Hussein. Barack Obama is siding with Iran against the Islamic State in Iraq. Iran's ally, Bashar al-Assad of Syria, is under assault by ISIS, al-Qaeda, and the United States. And the Houthis in Yemen, who get some Iranian help and are fighting al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, have long struggled against the central government for self-rule, in response to which U.S.-backed Saudi Arabia is waging a bloody war of aggression.
Iran has supported Hamas, although the Palestinian group (like Israel) opposes Assad. But Hamas exists to resist Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands. Likewise, Hezbollah arose to resist Israeli occupation of and periodic attacks on southern Lebanon. While some of Hamas's and Hezbollah's tactics have indeed been atrocious, their raison d'être is opposition to Israeli aggression—not terrorism.
There is no Iranian imperialism. Nuclear Israel faces no threat. In the current turmoil it sides with Sunni Arabs, including al-Qaeda affiliates, against Iran, because turmoil serves Israel's interests and Iran is a ready-made bête noire. Why does Israel need a manufactured threat? Because if Americans knew the truth, they might focus on the Palestinians' plight. Israel and its Lobby cannot have that.
This piece originally appeared at Richman's "Free Association" blog.