- - Sunday, July 19, 2015

President Obama is asking critics of the Iran nuclear deal what the alternative is other than war as if it’s rhetorical question, but there is an answer: a better deal.

Thirty-six years ago this November, chants of “Marg Bar Amrika! Marg Bar Amrika! (Death to America!, Death to America!)” were shouted by Iranians in front of the U.S Embassy in Tehran during a hostage crisis that took our great nation and the world by surprise. For a total of 444 days, 52 American diplomats and citizens were held against their will until Jan. 20, 1981.

Now, more than three decades later, the same regime, more powerful than ever, has played the president of the United States at the negotiating table like a five-string quartet.

Many supporters of the deal believe there is nothing to worry about. They claim safeguards are in place to prevent Iran from “cheating” its way to a bomb, but we should approach these claims with deep skepticism. Iran cannot be trusted and has not been negotiating in good faith.

While it’s important to be open-minded, we don’t have to be naive. Although Iran claims they are developing nuclear capability only for peaceful purposes, it’s most difficult to believe them when taking a step back to assess the big picture of Iran’s threats and actions.

To the president, here are 10 options to get him started on what a better deal would look like:

• One that doesn’t make a slew of permanent concessions on our side in exchange for temporary concessions on the part of the Iranians;

• Doesn’t lift the ban on arms sales to Iran;

• Doesn’t reduce in 10 years Iran’s breakout time for having a nuclear bomb to zero days;

• Frees U.S. citizens being unjustly imprisoned by Iran. These include a U.S. Marine, a pastor and a reporter;

• Penalizes Iran financially for any activity to overthrow foreign governments and sponsor terror. Keeps money in escrow as an insurance policy to ensure compliance;

• Doesn’t trigger a nuclear arms race in the Middle East;

• If Iran won’t agree to eliminate their stockpiles of uranium and centrifuges, then these must at the very least be reduced to no more than what is absolutely necessary for peaceful use;

• Stops Iran’s development of intercontinental ballistic missiles;

• Actually gives 24/7 anytime, anywhere inspections of Iran’s nuclear sites. The current agreement has a convoluted process that absolutely does not, contrary to what President Obama alleges, provide for 24/7 anytime, anywhere inspections;

• Iranian leadership agrees to stop blowing up mock U.S. warships in military exercises, pledging to wipe Israel off the map, and preaching “Death to America.”

The irony of the president’s capitulation is that this bad deal will pave the path to more instability in the Middle East, not less.

The Iranians were at the table desperate for sanctions relief. They were not there as freedom-loving, good citizens of the world. The Iranians were not at the table because they fear the military option. The leverage was sanctions relief.

That brought the Iranians to the table, which is proof the sanctions were working. With a strong hand, the United States must negotiate a better deal. The American public must reject this deal. The Obama administration must be forced to reverse course. America’s hand at the negotiating table must be strengthened.

Where is the leverage moving forward to tackle all of Iran’s many threatening actions if we agree to eliminate the sanctions? Asking nicely is not leverage.

The president has threatened to veto any legislation from Congress that would stop the deal. That is completely unacceptable to me. This president is not a monarch. The beauty of our democracy is that the final authority is not the president of the United States, but instead the American public through their duly elected representatives in the United States Congress.

We must do everything in our power to prevent the American people from being held hostage to the repercussions of endorsing a historically bad deal.

The president needs to change course and pursue a better direction for American security and the stability of the Middle East. The alternative to a bad deal is a better deal.

Rep. Lee Zeldin, New York Republican, is a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, the Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa, the Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade, and co-chairman of the House Republican Israel Caucus.

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