Alan Dershowitz Chats with SFR

FRANK GAFFNEY: Welcome to Secure Freedom Radio. This is Frank Gaffney, your host and guide for what I think of as an intelligence briefing on the war for the free world. A man who has been making outsized contributions to our thinking, our understanding, our, well, our capacity to deal with this war for the free world, is our first guest. He is Professor Alan Dershowitz, a distinguished professor emeritus now at Harvard Law School. A remarkable contributor to the common wheel through now thirty non-fiction books and two novels, including several that are directly relevant to the topic at hand, which is Iran. The bomb, the deal, and what all this might mean for both us and our friends, notably Israel, in the Middle East. Professor Dershowitz, welcome back. It is very good to have you with us, sir.

ALAN DERSHOWITZ: Well, thank you. This is a sad day in American history. We’re about to make probably the worst foreign policy deal we’ve made, certainly the worst since the ill-fated North Korea deal, which resulted in North Korea obtaining nuclear weapons. But it certainly is the worst negotiation that we’ve ever participated in. They have outmaneuvered us at every point in time, and made us look like absolute fools to much of the world and to the people of Iran.

FG: The humiliation is one thing. I’m afraid that in addition to making a mockery of America, they have actually emboldened other enemies, as well as the Iranians themselves. Again, you’ve got a vision for these things. How does that likely play out, not just in the immediate sense of Iran and nuclear weapons, but others who may also wish us ill?

AD: Well, first of all I think it increases the chances of war, rather than decreasing the chances of war. I think it makes it inevitable that Iran will cheat, and the Israelis will catch them cheating. The Americans will say, “No, they’re not quite cheating, they’re just maybe stretching the limits a little bit.” There will be conflict between Israel and the United States, and Israel as a sovereign democracy surrounded by enemies, will have to do what Benjamin Netanyahu said yesterday they will have to do, and what the Minister of Defense says they’ll have to do, and that is defend themselves. Defending themselves may very well include a pre-emptive attack against Iran’s nuclear capacity in much the way Israel pre-emptively attacked Iraq’s nuclear reactor, to the benefit of the entire world. To the benefit of the United States, which the United States ultimately thanked Israel after condemning them at the Security Council.

So, I think it increases the chances of war, and I think it increases the chances of many Arab Sunni countries in the area developing or buying their own nuclear facilities from North Korea or elsewhere, or Pakistan. And I think it just makes the world a much less safe place. It also will give Iran the financial capacity to continue to export the kind of terrorism that resulted in the deaths of so many Americans in Lebanon, so many people in Argentina, and people all over the world. The world is a much, much more dangerous place this week than it was last week.

FG: And will likely become more so, as you say. You know, this is such an important point, Professor Dershowitz, because what we’re now routinely told, particularly by those who are, I think it’s fair to say, reluctant proponents of this deal, or maybe apologists for it, is “Well, if you don’t do this, than the alternative is war.” What you’re saying is basically, it’s war of the worse kind—namely, something they may precipitate if we don’t press on. Is that your view?

AD: Yeah, my view is that if we don’t accept the deal we can maintain the sanctions; they won’t be as effective as they were previously, because I think the Obama administration’s negotiating tactics have put us in a lose-lose situation, but there’s losing and then there’s losing. And then the worse loss will be to take the deal and let Iran become a nuclear power, in probably six or seven years, which I think is what will happen. I do think that if the sanctions were maintained and the arms embargo maintained and the Security Council resolution maintained, it weakens Iran, and it weakens their ability to engage in military adventures. So, I do think that no deal is better than this deal.

I think that we would have been much better off not having entered into the kind of negotiations we entered into, which will result inevitably in a weakening of sanctions, even if the deal goes through. And I think for purposes of this discussion, we have to assume the deal will go through. The Iranians will achieve virtually everything they set out to achieve. The United States will cross various of its own red lines, and back down on a number of what we said were non-negotiable positions. I think it has exposed our allies—not only Israel, but Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, the Emirates—to great threats of hegemony from Iran, which will then take advantage of increased both military and economic power.

FG: Do you fear, Professor Alan Dershowitz, that one of the things that will flow from this deal is an international legitimacy to the Iranian nuclear program that might make it even more difficult for the Israelis to take such defensive actions if they feel they have to?

AD: There’s no doubt about that. There’s no doubt that if Israel had attacked the Iranian nuclear reactors, say two or three years ago, the United States would have complained, maybe even subjected them to UN condemnation. But the alliance would have continued. But now if Israel stands in the way of the deal and attacks after a deal has been made, it’s going to be much, much more difficult for Israel and they will be in extreme isolation. That doesn’t mean they won’t do it. They have to concern themselves with protecting and defending their civilians and their citizens and caring less about what the world thinks about them. It’s going to be difficult diplomatically.

There will be opposition to it within Israel, but if the government feels that Iran is on the verge of developing nuclear weapons—which they’ve already said they would use against Israel; their liberal former president Rafsanjani once said that if they develop nuclear weapons and bomb Tel Aviv they’ll kill 3 million Jews. Israel will retaliate by bombing Tehran, killing 20 million Muslims, and Rafsanjani said the tradeoff would be worth it because it would mark the end of the Jewish state, and it would maintain Islam and maintain Iran. When you have that kind of apocalyptic from the moderate, then you have to understand why Israel will never accept a nuclear weapon in the hands of Iran. They just simply will not accept it.

By the way, this is not an issue that divides the Israelis. Herzog is against this deal, Tzipi Livni is against this deal, various people on the left are against this deal. This is a deal that unites Israelis, right and left, against what the deal now appears to be.

FG: We’re speaking with the Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law, emeritus, at Harvard Law School; the author of myriad important books touching on this very subject, including, quote, “The Case for Israel.”

AD: Actually, the book that’s most relevant is a book that I wrote called “Preemption: A Knife that Cuts Both Ways,” that talks about the legality of preemptive action and preventive action, and has a whole chapter on whether or not it would be proper for Israel to take preemptive action–or the United States to take preemptive action–against Iran’s nuclear program. So I’ve thought about this, written about this, taught about this for quite some time. Now I’m very concerned about it.

FG: Yeah, well now it has to be put into practice, it seems. Let me ask you about this: the Israelis of course have an imminent and quite possibly existential threat. I believe that the United States does as well. One of the considerations here—and as a prominent and very highly regarded figure in Democratic political circles—I wonder what you would say, Professor, to Democrats who may ultimately be the deciding votes—almost certainly will be the deciding votes—in whether Congress rejects or exceeds to this deal of the President’s.

AD: Well I’ve been talking to Democrats, I will continue to talk to Democrats, and they have to be Americans first and Democrats second. They have to put the interests of this country before the interests of a particular Administration. And they have to ask very, very hard questions. The first question that has to get asked is “Is this a treaty?” The Constitution provides that for a treaty to be ratified, it needs 2/3rds of the Senate. What the Obama administration’s trying to do is twist this into not a treaty, which would require only 1/3rd of the Senate, because it would be veto proof at this point. I think there’s a very plausible case to be made that this is a treaty. It involves a signed agreement between numerous countries involving deep and important foreign policy issues of the United States. If it’s not technically a treaty, it’s very treaty-like and should have to go before the legislature for at least majority approval. I think there are some Democrats who are saying they’re going to vote against this, unless a vote is necessary.

FG: Professor Alan Dershowitz, we look forward to working with you in this regard. It is an enormously important controversy, as you say. A public policy debate of the first order, and your voice is important in it.

AD: Thank you. This should always remain a bipartisan issue. It should unite liberals and conservatives, it should unite Democrats and Republicans, it should unite Jews, Christians and Muslims. This is something that endangers everybody.

FG: You are absolutely right. We look forward to working with you on it. Thank you, sir, for your time.