Sherman and Doran Clash on Iran at AJC Debate

WASHINGTON – A top supporter and opponent of the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal engaged in a passionate debate Monday at the American Jewish Committee (AJC)’s annual conference in Washington. “President Obama believed if you got the nuclear deal out of the way temporarily, he would come up with an accommodation with Iran over the region: Iraq, Syria, and elsewhere. And Iran would moderate. It’s failed right before our eyes and the consequences have been catastrophic,” charged Mike Doran, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute.

Ambassador Wendy Sherman — a top State Department official during the Obama administration, who currently serves as a senior fellow at Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center — defended the agreement. “Iran does engage in malign activities in the region, but imagine how much worse it would be if Iran had a nuclear weapon?”

Speaking before a packed audience at the Washington Hilton, the crowd repeatedly interrupted Sherman and Doran with boos, mock laughter, and applause during the intense debate.

“Obama went to a great extent to win over the potential friends like Iran at the expense of our friend Israel. In order to do this he had to deceive the Israelis and the American public on a number of areas,” Doran said.

Sherman, however, argued that the Obama administration treated the Israeli government fairly, despite the political differences. “Israel was part of what we did every single step of the way. I consulted with them on a constant basis and their technical and professional experts will tell you that at least for the next decade, in their point of view, Israel is safer as a result of the deal,” she explained.

In addition to describing the consequences of the nuclear agreement on Iran, Doran emphasized the problematic impact of the 2015 deal on the entire Middle East. “If I had come to you at this forum in 2013 and told you the consequence of President Obama’s policies was going to be the rise of the Iranian allies across the Middle East, the development of an Iranian territorial corridor from Tehran to Beirut, the displacement of 10 million people in Syria. If I told you that Iran was going to emerge from the deal with the right to enrich and reprocess uranium, you would’ve laughed at me.”

Despite strongly supporting their respective political parties, both debaters offered critiques of Trump and Obama, albeit modest ones. “At the end of the Obama administration, I probably wouldn’t have done the UN Security Council resolution, but I was no longer in the administration,” Sherman noted. For his part, when addressing Trump’s attacks of European allies for not spending sufficient amount on military spending, Doran, a former Bush administration official, said, “Would I prefer if President Trump raise this issue in a slightly more diplomatic way? Absolutely.”

Sherman explained that Trump’s foreign policy worries her, especially as an American Jew. “As most of you know, America First was the organizational name of the movement in America led in the 1930’s led by Charles Lindbergh among others to keep America out of World War II. Lindbergh was profoundly anti-Semitic and a pro-German isolationist. That President Trump adopted this moniker should concern all of us as Jews, and as Americans,” she emphasized.

Yet, for Doran, the Obama administration’s deal with Iran outweighed anything the real-estate mogul turned commander in chief could do. “We had our foot on the neck of the Iranians so it was going to collapse our economy. President Obama traded a series of extremely deep and significant, and I would say irreversible, concessions by the US for temporary and reversible concessions by the Iranians who have cheated on every deal they have ever made. It has started a nuclear race in the region,” he concluded.

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