9/11 retrospective: how the Iran deal threatens New York

The Iran nuclear program's heavy water reactor at Arak. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

This article first appeared in the New York Post.

By Rabbi Avi Weiss

We’ve all heard the arguments opposing the Iran nuclear deal. But we rarely hear the terms “nuclear backpacks” or “nuclear suicide bombers.”

Perhaps that’s because the danger of a miniaturized nuke directly contradicts one of the prime justifications for deal supporters’ complacency—that America isn’t threatened by Iran’s nuclear quest.

The United States would indeed be a target, and New Yorkers know full well what that means.

On Sept. 10, 2001, I led an anti-terror rally outside the Palestine Liberation Organization mission in New York City. I was quoted by one of the papers covering the rally warning that terrorism directed at Israel would surely be directed at the West as well, especially the United States. The next day, the towers were hit.

Attending rallies opposing the Iran deal this week, and thinking about today’s anniversary of 9/11, gives me an uncomfortable sense of déjà vu.

New York, of course, is a recurring target for terror. I know firsthand the threat that terror poses, as in 2009, New York police, in a sting operation, thwarted a planned bombing of local synagogues right here in Riverdale, where I live and serve as a rabbi. The explosives that the perpetrators planned to use were conventional in nature.

If this deal goes through, it won’t take long for terrorists to carry small nuclear devices.

The majority of Americans oppose the deal. But deep down, I believe, Americans do not feel that a nuclear Iran poses a direct threat to them. After all, the United States is more than 6,000 miles away, with the strongest military in the world.

But Americans haven’t been informed of the danger that I believe is more real.

Until now, nuclear weapons have been in the hands of governments. Even when those governments are evil to the core, wreaking havoc on the world—as was the case in the former Soviet Union, and is now the case with Russia and North Korea—they still seemed to understand the consequences—both for their own countries and the world—if they ever unleashed their nuclear power.

Iran, however, is in a different class. Its government is inextricably bound to terrorism, to the belief that terror can change the global balance of power.

And so, if this deal will lead to Iran becoming a nuclear power, the danger is not limited to Iran’s using part of the more than $100 billion it will receive after the removal of sanctions to fund conventional terror.

The real danger is that Iran will willingly give Hezbollah and other terrorist proxies the capability to carry miniaturized nuclear weapons in backpacks and around their waists.

So far, only the United States and Russia are known to have miniaturized nuclear weapons so small that they could fit into a backpack. In time, with billions more in its coffers, it’s likely that Iran will be able to do the same.

While American police and security are superb, nothing is airtight.

Just imagine if the terrorists at the Boston Marathon were armed with small nuclear weapons. Imagine if the planes that hit the Twin Towers or the terrorists who murdered and maimed in London, Paris, Madrid, Sydney, Tel Aviv, and Kenya (the list goes on) were not only suicide bombers, but nuclear suicide bombers.

Americans must understand that the deal with Iran cannot be separated from Iran’s clear intentions to destroy America. Iran may not be able to hit our cities from its mainland, but it will be perfectly capable of supplying terrorists with small nuclear weapons.

Chances are, some will attempt to infiltrate our subways, shopping malls and industrial centers. Conventional terrorist bombs scatter nails and explosives that can kill scores. A nuclear terrorist bomb can murder many, many thousands.

I’m not one who maligns the motivations of the president or those in the Senate and the House who favor this deal. But they are on the wrong side of history.

And they are gambling with the lives of Americans, first and foremost those who live and work right here in New York City.

Rabbi Avi Weiss is a human rights activist and founding rabbi of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale in New York City. His most recent book is, “Open Up the Iron Door: Memoirs of a Soviet Jewry Activist,” published by Toby Press.

Posted on September 11, 2015 .