The tension could be felt from the minute we filed into the first general assembly meeting. Political leaders and Middle East experts addressed us on the same topic. Every lobbying session had the same objective and pressed the same two bills. All delegates had their own opinions on the matter, yet there was one mission uniting us all: preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. What could each of us do? How could we help?
This month I had the privilege of attending, for the second time, the AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington, D.C. AIPAC (America Israel Public Affairs Committee) is America’s pro-Israel lobby that works to strengthen the U.S.-Israel relationship. This year’s attendance was record-breaking: 16,000 pro-Israel activists (including 3,000 students) gathered to show support for our small country in the Middle East. For two days we heard from national leaders and inspiring Israeli innovators; we attended small breakout sessions where we could ask questions; and we received updates on Congress’s current initiatives regarding Israel.
After spending an exhausting 48 hours completely and utterly vested in understanding and analyzing the current situation, we drove to Capitol Hill where we met with our senators and representatives and lobbied on behalf of the State of Israel. Usually AIPAC encourages activists to lobby in three main areas: foreign aid, nuclear threats from Iran and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But this year was different. Our entire focus was based on Iran and its nuclear capabilities.
In recent years, Iran has been building its nuclear program, with nearly enough reactors to build a weapon. With the safety of all countries in the Middle East in mind, the American government has been instrumental in bringing Iran to the negotiating table to discuss limiting Iran’s nuclear program. Diplomatic action has included economic sanctions and intense U.N. security monitoring. But the matter has become very political, with many different opinions on how to ease the tensions.
America has imposed sanctions and divested from the Iranian economy in the hope of having Iran dismantle its centrifuges. The results of these actions have been astounding, according to what I learned at a policy conference breakout session. Inflation doubles the cost of living for individual Iranians every three weeks. More than half of the country’s labor force is unemployed. Toyota stopped selling cars in Iran. Due to Iran’s inflation, the cost of oil has increased to sky-high prices, while outside of Iran, oil prices have actually decreased. The welfare of the people of Iran is decreasing as their government continues to spin centrifuges and the United States imposes sanctions.
So what now? Should the U.S. negotiate with a country like Iran that sponsors terrorism? Should Congress sponsor a deal with Iran that limits its nuclear program? Send in military forces? Add new sanctions? Ban a nuclear Iran or allow its centrifuges to spin under the watchful eye of U.N. inspectors?
A nuclear Iran poses a security threat to the United States and a threat to the existence of the State of Israel. Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East and a vital ally of the U.S. in many areas including innovation, technology, military, medicine and more. We must continue to align ourselves with Israel.
The final date to reach an agreement about Iran is March 24. The time to act is now. A nuclear Iran is a matter of life and death for innocent civilians in the Middle East. But most of all, a nuclear weapon in the hands of a country that sponsors terrorism is a threat to all inhabitants of our planet.
We must urge our Congressional representatives to stop Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. We need to support diplomatic action that increases pressure and sanctions. We need to insist on a strong agreement that restricts Iran from developing nuclear capabilities. No agreement with Iran is better than a bad one that does not include strict regulations.
Reps. Ed Royce (R-Calif.) and Eliot Engel (D-Bronx) wrote a letter to the president urging him to consider the following two points. One, any agreement must be long lasting. Second, Iran’s nuclear infrastructure must be constrained so that the country will not have a pathway for building a bomb of any kind.
Currently, there are two bills being considered in the Senate. The first, titled the “Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2015,” is authored by Sens. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Robert Menendez (D-N.J.). It will take effect if an agreement with Iran is not reached. Though the legislation does not implicitly ask Iran to end its nuclear development, the bill adds additional sanctions that will further impede upon Iran’s economy, forcing its leaders to choose between the welfare of their people or the development of a nuclear program. We, as the United States of America, cannot diminish our authority over this issue. If no agreement is made between America and Iran, harsh sanctions need to be put in place.
The second bill, sponsored by Sens. Menendez and Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), will be adopted if an agreement is reached with Iran. The “Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015” states that Congress must have a say in final negotiations with Iran. Congress will be given 60 days to review the deal and during this time, no sanctions relief will be granted to Iran.
This matter is pressing. It is imperative that each bill have many cosponsors in case they are needed to override a presidential veto. If Iran obtains a nuclear weapon, this could lead to heavy military action or perhaps a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. But catastrophe is preventable if we act now. Urge your senators and representatives to sign the Royce-Engel letter or cosponsor the Corker-Menendez and Kirk-Menendez bills. The security of our sole ally in the Middle East must be, and will remain, a bipartisan issue.
As a Jewish teen who supports the American-Israeli relationship, it is important that I and my peers stay informed on issues affecting Israel’s security. As a human-rights activist it is equally important to understand the issues threatening the welfare of the Iranian people, who are suffering under the tyranny of President Hassan Rouhani.
Every teenager must speak out against injustice and be proactive in making the world a better place. Everyone must help us dismantle the Iranian nuclear program for the safety of the Middle East and the world. As Prime Minister Netanyahu said in his speech to Congress on March 2, “The alternative to this bad deal is a much better deal.” This means harsher sanctions, and more tightly regulated security to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. Let’s make it happen.
So what can YOU do?
Call the White House. Write a letter. It takes no more than a few minutes of your day. Tell the officials who run our country that we agree with Prime Minister Netanyahu — we need a stronger agreement. Ask why is the current deal being pushed so heavily? Explain that in order to protect the people of the Middle East, Iran’s nuclear program needs to be completely dismantled. Every teenager deserves the right to live in a country where their safety and right to existence is assured.
White House phone number: 202-456-1111
White House address:
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500