United States Vice President Joe Biden and a team of senior White House officials on Monday attempted to placate the American Jewish community’s concerns about the Iranian nuclear deal, the Washington Free Beacon reported.
The officials held an hour-long conference call with leaders and rabbis, an audio recording of which was obtained by the website.
Biden spent nearly an hour trying to convince top Jewish leaders to support the nuclear accord and promised them that if Iran ever violates the deal, the United States is still prepared to carry out a military strike against the Islamic Republic’s nuclear sites, according to the Free Beacon.
At the same time, Biden also conceded that the United States needed to sign off on Iran’s inherent right to operate a “peaceful” nuclear program in order to finalize the deal.
This means that in the next decade or so, Iran will be permitted to become a nuclear power with the right to enrich uranium, the key component in a weapon.
Under no circumstances, Biden said, could the Obama administration have secured a deal that fully shuts down Iran’s nuclear infrastructure and prevents it from ever having the ability to domestically enrich uranium.
“The part of the agreement that a lot of people don’t understand, and it’s totally understandable they don’t, is that all other nations have a right to have peaceful nuclear power, to turn the lights on,” Biden said during the conference call, which was organized by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.
“If they meet all of the requirements over the next 12 to 15 years that they have to meet in this agreement, they’re going to be able to, they will have proven to the world the theory goes, they are a responsible nation and are going to be able to have nuclear reactors that are civil nuclear reactors that can turn the lights on,” he added, according to the Free Beacon.
Iran is permitted to keep both its older and newer model uranium-enriching centrifuges.
“The reason they keep [centrifuges] is theoretically when they meet these requirements they would take them out of storage and be able to use them,” Biden explained.
Under the terms of the agreement, “after a long period of time, they can prove they’re responsible so they would be allowed to produce their own low enriched uranium,” he said. “That is part of this agreement.”
U.S. negotiators did not insist on forcing Iran to destroy its centrifuges and nuclear infrastructure because, explained Biden, “if they meet these stringent requirement” outlined in the accord, “they can some day have their own civil nuclear program for which they can provide the low enriched uranium fuel to make it work.”
The Vice President also said that within about eight years, Iran will be able both to purchase and to sell arms on the open market.
“Someone would say on this call, ‘Doesn’t it mean they could sell bazookas to Bangladesh or they could sell weapons to Venezuela?’ Yeah. They could under international law but we have sanctions against them doing that,” he told the Jewish leaders, according to the Free Beacon.
Biden stressed that President Barack Obama “has not taken military force off the table. If they violate and go forward, the same options we have now remain on the table to be able to go and take out the physical facility and if need be go to war.”
He went on to admit to Jewish leaders that he was very skeptical of the negotiations and that he pressured President Obama to take a tough stance.
“This is no reason for you to support this deal, but I start by saying I would not even if the president wanted to move forward, I would not support this deal if I did not believe it was in the overwhelming interest of the United States of America and Israel, as well as world peace,” Biden said, according to the Free Beacon.
“I was the bad guy in these ongoing negotiations because I was skeptical,” he admitted. “So as that old expression goes, I was the skunk at the family picnic.”
While some American Jewish organizations welcomed the Iran agreement, such as the leftist J Street which launched a multi-million dollar campaign to advocate for the nuclear deal, some organizations have expressed concerns over it.
Among those groups is the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), one of the most powerful lobbying groups in the U.S., which was quick to voice concerns over the deal, noting that initial reports suggested it would "fail to block Iran’s path to a nuclear weapon."
AIPAC has also formed a new lobby group to oppose the nuclear deal. The group, Citizens for a Nuclear Free Iran, was formed with the mission of educating the public "about the dangers of the proposed Iran deal."
World Jewish Congress (WJC) President Ronald S. Lauder also voiced strong skepticism over the agreement soon after it was reached last week.
“We are still looking forward to getting all the details of this agreement, with the hope that the verification process will allow inspectors to determine Iran’s true aims," Lauder stated.
“So far, this agreement is just a piece of paper," he added. "It is not a legally binding treaty, and there is no reason to trust Iran over its implementation."
Jewish groups which oppose the Iran deal will hold a protest rally at Times Square on Wednesday.