WASHINGTON -- Selling nuclear diplomacy with Iran was perhaps the toughest job at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee's annual conference this year -- second only to shepherding teenage attendees to the AIPAC selfie wall. Still, one gutsy former adviser to President Barack Obama decided to give it a shot -- and soon realized he might have been better off handing out selfie sticks.
As one of the few speakers at the conference to defend the administration's approach to Iran, former top State Department official Robert Einhorn told attendees at a Monday afternoon panel discussion that the deal the U.S. and five other world powers hope to strike with Iran likely won't be ideal for the United States or for Israel. But an agreement, he said, would be the best option for restraining Iran's nuclear ambitions.
Einhorn called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s insistence on a nuclear deal that prevents Iran from enriching uranium unrealistic. “I would agree that if you could get this kind of agreement, that would be the best possible negotiating outcome,” he said. “The problem, in my view, is that it’s simply not achievable.
"It’s important that any agreement that emerges from these negotiations not be compared with some ideal, but unattainable agreement," Einhorn added. "It’s important to compare the deal that may emerge with the realistic alternatives." He challenged critics to lay out a better plan for handling Iran’s nuclear program.
That logic didn't sway Jarrow Rogovin, a Los Angeles businessman watching the panel, wearing a conference-provided lanyard indicating he had donated upwards of $36,000 to AIPAC over the last year.
Rogovin told The Huffington Post he believes there is a clear plan superior to the one Einhorn and the Obama administration support: "They absolutely have to be bombed."
"If they're not bombed, they're going to do it," Rogovin added, referring to the use of nuclear weapons. "You go in there, you blow the place completely apart. They're not going to go in there and salvage the uranium. If they dare [retaliate], we can completely take them down."
After blasting Einhorn and criticizing The Huffington Post for being filled with "left-wing Israel-hating fascists," Rogovin said supporters of negotiations with Iran were in "cuckoo-land."
"He's dead-wrong," Rogovin said of Einhorn. "Look, they have a millennial hatred of us. They're out to destroy us."
Despite Rogovin's status as a Chairman's Council attendee, an AIPAC staffer quietly pointed out that Rogovin's views don't necessarily reflect the organization's.
According to Einhorn, a single military strike against Iran could set back the Islamic Republic's nuclear program temporarily, but halting the program entirely would take repeated military strikes. He added that such strikes may threaten the world's ability to monitor Iran's nuclear activity.
“Then [Iran] would say, 'We have a real justification, having been attacked by military force, we’re going to go now for nuclear weapons.' ... They would evict the [International Atomic Energy Agency] inspectors -- those inspectors are our best window into Iran’s nuclear program," Einhorn said.
While some U.S. lawmakers have proposed additional sanctions for Iran, Einhorn said he doubted financial punishment would make the Iranians more receptive to a deal Netanyahu described. The Iranian public, Einhorn said, views uranium enrichment as a scientific achievement and would oppose anything that revokes this right and results in "a national humiliation."
Rob Bernstein, an AIPAC member from New Jersey, called the discussion "informative," but also expressed skepticism.
Bernstein said he was doubtful about nuclear diplomacy because he had little faith in Iran as a negotiating partner. The Iranians, Bernstein said, may break a deal "because they're not rational." And Obama critics view the administration as too weak to punish Iran for treaty violations.
"We’ve consistently allowed them to increase the number of centrifuges," Bernstein said. "That’s the problem. I mean, I suppose if I had Ronald Reagan telling me that this is a good deal, I might buy it. When I’m listening to Obama and Kerry, it makes my knees quake."
Rogovin said he believes the Iranians are lying and it doesn't matter whether Secretary of State John Kerry, who resumed nuclear talks in Geneva on Monday, recognizes that.
Rogovin added that his top priority is finding a presidential candidate willing to bomb Iran. He said he's not sure who will "have the testosterone" to do so.