Obama tells Jews: Rockets will fall on Tel Aviv if Congress kills Iran nuclear deal
The meeting Tuesday evening at the White House between Obama and an array of Jewish leaders lasted more than two hours.
WASHINGTON — Rockets would fall on Tel Aviv and Israel would “bear the burden” of a US military attack on Iran that would result from a scuttling of the Iran nuclear deal, US President Barack Obama told a delegation of Jewish leaders at the White House on Tuesday.
The meeting, held in the Cabinet Room for over two hours, featured a passionate president intent on winning over skeptics of the signature agreement. The nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, is intended to cap, restrict, monitor and partially roll back Iran’s nuclear work for a fifteen year period in exchange for sanctions relief.
According to Greg Rosenbaum, the chairman of the National Jewish Democratic Council and one of nearly two dozen heads of Jewish organizations in the meeting, when one of the participants took umbrage with Obama’s characterization of those who are opposed to the deal as warmongers, Obama launched into an explanation of why he believed that the rejection of the deal would ultimately lead to a US military attack. Obama said that if Congress rejected the deal, the Iranians would walk away from negotiations, and he would be under intense pressure to take military action.
This, Rosenbaum quoted Obama as saying, would be disastrous for Israel and the US.
Iran, with its annual $15 billion military budget, would not go to war with the US, with a defense budget of nearly $600 billion a year, but would fight an “asymmetrical” war, the president said.
Another participant in the meeting, Robert Wexler, president of the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace, confirmed the conversation. Obama noted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s support for the invasion of Iraq, as well as his skepticism over the JPOA, an interim nuclear accord that was in place during the negotiations, he said.
“He approached it in a lawyerly fashion,” Wexler said, who thought some minds may have been changed during the meeting.
But yet a third participant disagreed. Few skeptics were converted, he said, noting that nearly half of the meeting focused on the president’s tone in describing critics of the agreement.
“He acknowledged how people in Israel and people who love Israel are deeply concerned and skeptical. He wasn’t dismissive of that,” the third source said, who requested anonymity to express frankness.
Several figures in the room questioned Obama’s equating skeptics of the deal as “neocons” responsible for the invasion of Iraq in 2003. “He said he would be sensitive and careful about this,” the source said. “But recognizing that it makes folks uncomfortable, he basically said he really does believe that a rejection of the agreement would lead to war.”
Rosenbaum, who supports the deal, said that Obama mentioned the possibility of suicide speed boats ramming into a US aircraft carrier, but that Israel would “bear the brunt of the burden” and rockets would fall on Tel Aviv.
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