The underpinning of Prime Minster Netanyahu's speech before the joint session of the United States Congress on March 3, 2015 and his recent denunciation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action negotiated by the P5+1 nations with Iran is that increased pressure on Iran through stronger sanctions will bring about a better deal. It's "just not true," he said that "the only alternative to this bad deal is war." "The alternative to this bad deal is a much better deal." This is the position taken by the Republican members of Congress and a number of American Jewish organizations like AIPAC, who contend that the deal is a bad deal and should be voted down by Congress.
On the other side, President Obama and Secretary Kerry argue that the deal, while not perfect, will serve its purpose, which is to restrain Iran's development of nuclear capabilities and that voting it down leaves only one alternative - "a military option." They argue that the nations that joined in the sanctions against Iran would not continue those sanctions and certainly not increase them if the US Congress votes the deal down. In that event, they hold out the prospect that Iran would immediately start intense development of nuclear capability. Those supporting this view point out that the UN Security Council unanimously endorsed the deal. Particularly important, they note that already European leaders and business executives have been visiting Iran with a view to open trade negotiations for developing resources for oil, as well as other investments and purchase and sale of consumer goods.
The vote in Congress is scheduled after members of Congress have had a chance to visit their districts, meet their constituents and learn their views. Rarely has such an important vote come up for members of Congress. It may well have serious implications for the security of Israel and other American allies in the Middle East. Ultimately, it may result in requiring the United States to resort to military force to stop Iran from advancing its nuclear development. Serious members of Congress, like Senator Schumer, are publicly discussing the intensity of the personal analysis this vote requires. It is clearly essential to making an informed decision to know what degree of sanctions other nations are prepared to impose on Iran should Congress vote down the present deal. So essential is that information, that one must raise the question why not officially ask those nations?
I strongly recommend that a delegation quickly be formed consisting of Mr. Netanyahu or his appointee representing Israel, a representative of Saudi Arabia (presumably my old friend, the brilliant Foreign Minister Adel al Jubeir) and leading members of the House and Senate, led by the Congressional leaders of both parties. That delegation should meet with the heads of state of each of the other member states of the P5+1 and other states imposing sanctions on Iran to make their arguments and then ask the simple, direct question: If the US Congress votes down the deal with Iran and overrides a Presidential veto, are those countries willing to join in a sanctions regime against Iran that is as strong or even stronger than the one that existed until now?
If the response from these nation's leaders is affirmative, then there is reason to believe that stronger sanctions may pressure Iran to make a better deal as envisioned by Mr. Netanyahu and Republican members of Congress. If the answer from these leaders is no; that they are not willing to continue sanctions, then it is clear that American sanctions alone will not be able to force Iran into submission and the only option if the deal is voted down is the military option.
The American people deserve to know in advance, what they can expect from a negative vote on the deal in Congress and, in turn, let their elected representatives know what they, the American people want. Are they willing to undertake a military undertaking if that is the only option? One way or the other, the debate in this country should be based on facts -- not conjecture or opinions -- and the message to Congress from the American people once they know the facts should be clear.
Robert K. Lifton, a businessman and political activist is a Founder, former Chair and current Board member of the Israel Policy Forum. His memoir "An Entrepreneur's Journey: Stories From A Life In Business And Personal Diplomacy" was published by Author House in 2012.