The negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program have engendered furious debate in Washington and in capitals across the world. But there are steps outside of the nuclear talks that President Obama can take to help ensure that the United States and its allies are stronger and more secure the day after a deal than they were the day before. One such step would be to provide Israel with GBU-57 30,000-pound bunker-buster bombs (known as the Massive Ordnance Penetrators, or MOPs) and the means to carry them, in a quantity sufficient to destroy Iran’s most deeply buried nuclear sites.
At present, Israel possesses US-supplied 5,000-pound bunker-buster bombs. But experts doubt these bombs could seriously impede Iran’s nuclear development. On the other hand, there is little doubt that MOPs, which Israel lacks, are capable of destroying Iran’s nuclear sites.
As Michael Makovsky and Lt. Gen. David Deptula noted in a 2014 Wall Street Journal op-ed, the Defense Department has MOPs to spare, aircraft in storage that could carry the MOP payload and legal authority to transfer such arms to the Israelis.
A longstanding component of America’s Iran policy has been a credible military threat to ensure that Iran does not obtain a nuclear weapon. Many contend that the credibility of this threat has waned, and that Iran is now more assured than ever that it will not be attacked. Providing Israel with a stronger capability to destroy Iran’s nuclear facilities would help deter Iran from ever trying to break any agreement it may sign.
Transferring MOPs to Israel would also help assuage the concerns of Congress and our Middle East allies, who are wary of the emerging deal. President Obama will need to take measures to strengthen the security of our allies and ensure Congress that he is negotiating from a position of strength. Transferring MOPs to Israel would help the president achieve these objectives.
Because the MOPs are outside the scope of the negotiations, Iran is in no position to object to transferring them to the Israelis. Iran continues to expand Hezbollah’s arsenal, placing all of Israel’s population centers within range of Hezbollah rockets. Iran supports the Assad regime in Syria and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. It supports the Houthi rebels in Yemen, who have violently overthrown a democratically elected government. It propagates violence and terrorism throughout the Middle East.
We are now in a period when more must be done for Israel to retain its Qualitative Military Edge (or “QME”), a legally binding American commitment to ensure that Israel can overcome any combination of credible conventional military threats against it. Last month, Russia lifted a ban on the sale of missiles to Iran and decided to deliver to Iran a sophisticated air-defense system. The United States needs to ensure that Israel’s conventional military capabilities become stronger relative to those of Iran, not weaker.
Additionally, the issue of QME relates to the American desire to boost the military capabilities of its Gulf allies; in order to do this while not violating QME law, the president may need to proportionally strengthen Israel. This in part explains why the administration recently announced that it would provide Israel with new F-35 fighter jets, and it further underscores the need for Israel to obtain MOPs.
Some may argue that regional instability and sensitive negotiations make this the wrong time to introduce new weapons into the Middle East. But those of us who trust in Israel and in the US-Israel alliance know that the MOPs would not create further instability. Israel already has significant offensive military capabilities, and it has always used them responsibly.
The transfer of MOPs would not by itself resolve the Iranian nuclear question. Nor would it lessen the need for any deal to ensure that Iran has no technical path to a nuclear weapon. But it would enable the United States to negotiate from a position of strength — and remain in a position of strength long after the negotiations.
It is one of several tools with which the president could pave the path to a strong, sustainable nuclear agreement with Iran, a more secure Israel and a more stable Middle East.
Reps. Grace Meng (D-Queens) and Lee Zeldin (R-LI) are members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee
Reprinted from the NY Post by permission