The Israeli consul general on Monday voiced his distrust of Iran during a stop in Missoula, saying the recent nuclear deal agreed to by six nations and the European Union could have global implications.
Israeli Consul General Andy David began his brief economic development tour of the state in Missoula – a tour that looks to enhance relationships between U.S. and Israeli citizens.
In an interview with the Missoulian, David spoke frankly about the nuclear deal, recent rhetoric on the U.S. presidential campaign trail, and his country’s deep distrust of Iran.
He plans to meet this week with Rep. Ryan Zinke, R-Montana, in a diplomatic effort to sway the U.S. Congress to reject the deal. Congress began a 60-day review of the agreement on July 19.
“We are speaking to decision makers,” said David, who was hosted by the Montana World Affairs Council. “We think this is an important issue that will have an impact on us, on the United States, and on the world in the coming 10 to 15 years. This agreement could change the realities in our region, but also globally.”
While the U.S. serves as Israel’s closest ally and best friend, David said, Israel also plays an important role for U.S. interests in the Middle East. It is, he said, the only true democracy in the region, and the only country that shares American values.
Among them, he named technical information, business and science. But he also named military intelligence and strategic operations. The relationship cannot be taken for granted, he said, and he’s urging Congress to reject the nuclear pact.
“The relationship between the U.S. and Israel is strong and unbreakable, but there is this issue that we disagree on,” he said. “To us, this looks like a gamble, one we’d not like to take, and we don’t think it’s for the American interests to take.”
David said negotiations set out to create a dismantle-for-dismantle agreement. If Iran dismantled its nuclear program, the U.S., United Kingdom, Germany, China, Russia and France would follow by dismantling sanctions that have all but crippled Iran over the past nine years.
While the agreement was well-intended, David said, it missed the mark.
“What we got was a partial dismantling of a nuclear program – very partial – for full dismantling of the sanctions,” David said. “On this particular issue, Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the Emirates, we see things the same way. We see Iran with expansionist intentions.”
Signed in Vienna earlier this month, the 159-page document states Iran must reduce its centrifuges from 19,000 to 6,104 for the next ten years. The only centrifuges Iran will be allowed to use are at its oldest and least efficient models.
According to the White House, Iran must also reduce its stockpile of uranium by 98 percent, and will keep its level of uranium enrichment at 3.67 percent – far below the enrichment level needed to create a bomb.
Supporters of the agreement have called it an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity – one that effectively blocks Iran’s path to creating a nuclear weapon. But David called the plan “Swiss cheese.”
“Ten years from now, Iran is going to get full permission, legally, to establish and put in place as many centrifuges as they want,” David said. “In 15 years, there will be no limitations to stockpiling. There are too many loopholes.”
With the sanctions lifted, David said Israel and other Arab nations fear that Iran will reemerge as a military power. Even with sanctions in place, he said, the nation has managed to control four Middle Eastern capitals, including Baghdad, Damascus, Sanaa and Beirut.
“That’s when they don’t have any money,” he said. “Add $150 billion in the next few months and another $500 billion in the next four to five years. Iran is driven by revolutionary sentiment. They want to spread the revolution. They want to spread Islam according to their interpretation of Islam.”
David shrugged off statements made recently by Mike Huckabee, the Republican candidate for president who said President Barack Obama was marching Israel "to the door of the oven" with the nuclear agreement.
“Iran is a threat, but Israel is there to stay, and we will know how to defend ourselves,” said David. “We’re not walking to the ovens. We’re not defenseless anymore. It’s a different situation, but at the same time, it’s a very dangerous one.”
David will travel to Bozeman on Tuesday and Billings on Wednesday where he plans to meet with Zinke.