Joe Biden talks to Jewish leaders on Iran

Vice President Joe Biden held a conference call on Monday with around 1,000 Jewish leaders to discuss the recent Iran agreement. Here are some excerpts…

EXCLUSIVE — Vice President Joe Biden to Jewish leaders yesterday: “Please do not doubt my commitment to Israel. I have spent too much of life working for Israel’s security and I’m not about to support an agreement — that doesn’t mean you should be for it — but I’m not about to support an agreement that I believe would do harm to Israel… Some of you probably know, I was the bad guy in these ongoing negotiations because I was skeptical. As that old expression goes, I was the skunk at the family picnic because I worried.”

“People ask me, ‘why should the Iranians be able to put the centrifuges into storage?’ 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. That kind of power only requires low enriched uranium which can’t make a bomb — unless they keep spinning and enriching it. If they meet all the requirements over the next 12 – 15 years, they’ll have proven to the world that they are a responsible nation, and they’re going to be able to have civil nuclear reactors to turn the lights on. The reason they keep them is theoretically when they meet these requirement they can take them out of storage and use them.”

“The President has not taken military force off the table. If they violate the deal, the same options we have now remain on the table. To be able to go take out the physical facilities and, if need be, go to war. The difference is if in two, five, ten, fifteen years they do it — think how much more we’re going to know. Inspectors are in every single nook and cranny of Iran where they’ve done anything in the past or now and we’ll by that time have challenged other sites as well. So whatever damage we could inflict now… our ability to inflict even greater damage, which is more of a dissuading element than even exists now, is in the pocket of this president for the next 18 months and every successive president after that. We’ll be much better able if G-d forbid we have to go to war, we have to use force, to take out whatever they’re doing.”

“I get asked, ‘Joe, let’s assume you’re right about this deal, why are you submitting this deal to the U.N. Security Council now?’ First of all, it doesn’t do anything in terms of suspension for the next 90 days. This is not a U.S. deal, it’s an international community deal. The reason they came to the table is because of international sanctions. No president has ever agreed, since the U.N. was formed, to give to the Congress the right to veto a U.N. resolution. That is an Article 1 power. Everyone knew once the deal was signed it would go to the U.N. and there would be a 90 day review before anything could happen but after 90 days the deal would come into effect and if the Iranians met the conditions, they could, within a year, start getting relief from sanctions knowing they’re temporary and could snap-back.”

“I just hope you’ll give this an even chance. Obviously if you think it’s not in America’s interest, not in Israel’s interest, I understand if you say you won’t support it but look at it really hard, look at the facts. This is complicated thing, but when you look at the facts, when you cut all the political wheeling and dealing aside, this is a solid, solid, very strong agreement that makes Israel safer, makes us safer, makes the region safer. If they don’t keep the deal, we’ll know it, we can react and we’ll have, over the next 10 years at least, a year’s advance notice for them to be able to do something really bad with nuclear weapons. Thank you all for listening, you’ve been very kind.”

The Vice President’s National Security Advisor Colin Kahl joined the call from Israel, where he’s visiting with Defense Secretary Ash Carter, to answer a few questions. The three questions came from the NJDC’s Marc Stanley, Rabbi Denise Eger, and Rabbi Michael Miller.

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