Congress should pass the Iran nuclear deal

“Six in 10 Americans, 60 percent, disapprove of how President Obama is handling relations with Iran, up from 48 percent back in April shortly after a framework agreement with Tehran was unveiled.”

The above statement is from an article on TheHill.com last Thursday. These numbers are understandable, even predictable, given that the vast majority of Americans fail to comprehend much of the framework of the deal and are being inundated by political pundits and media talking heads with scary sound bites and foreboding ads produced by opponents and special interests against it. I don’t pretend to fully understand it either. It is complicated. However, I have taken considerable time to delve into the issue by reading articles for and against it in Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, and other nonpartisan publications. I have come to the conclusion that Congress must support this deal.

I am not alone. Many foreign policy and nuclear nonproliferation experts, nuclear scientists as well as former military leaders feel the same. You need proof? Below are three letters:

29 U.S. Scientists Praise Iran Nuclear Deal in Letter to Obama & PDF of the letter

Statement from Nuclear Nonproliferation Specialists

An open letter from Retired Generals and Admirals

China, Russia, France, the United Kindgom, and Germany also agree – they worked with us on these negotiations.  Should Congress find enough votes to override a presidential veto, the deal is technically broken. The countries working with us will also abandon the deal and we’ll be right back at the status quo where there are no inspections, the possibility of a nuclear Iran, and military force as the only alternative to imposing our demands on a sovereign nation.

These negotiations have taken two years. The deal was hardly thrown together quickly and haphazardly. Yet opponents were lambasting it before they even read it, before it was even released. These are the same, or mostly the same, people who couldn’t get our military into Iraq fast enough. We all know that was an enormous mistake. Now, they once again seem to be intent on seeking a military-only option, which is just wrong-headed. God forbid we actually try to talk to people with whom we have disagreements.

Furthermore, there is so much misinformation swirling about. I’ll briefly address two bits of misinformation that have arisen recently.

  • Iran is given 24 days before outside inspections begin. This is inaccurate. The 24-day inspection rule is explained in detail by Max Fisher of vox.com. He also provides an outline of the inspection process. Summing up, “If inspectors try to get access to sites but at every turn are delayed by Iranian stall tactics, guess what: It will be extremely clear from all this stalling that Iran is not adhering to the deal. Inspections will have worked.” He goes on, “Repeatedly delaying inspectors up to the highest possible limit would effectively prove that Iran was cheating, without the world even having to catch them red-handed.” Furthermore, the U.S. does not have to wait 24 days, tools are built into the process to stop Iran and reinstate sanctions unilaterally at any point in the process.
  • The Associated Press reported on Wednesday that Iran would be allowed to self-inspect. That is mostly false. This was an unconfirmed report of a copy of a draft agreement the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had drawn up with Iran pertaining to one military facility known as Parchin. Max Fisher, again, of vox.xom offers an excellent analysis of this on August 20 and posted a follow-up piece the next day. If there is reason to be concerned, then absolutely it should be addressed. However, the Parchin site was not, according to Fisher, addressed in the deal negotiated with the U.S. and other world powers; this was an agreement between the IAEA and Iran.

Last week, Amy Goodman of Democracy Now interviewed Gary Sick of Columbia University. Ms. Goodman introduced him, saying, “He served on the National Security Council under Presidents Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan, and was the principal White House aide for Iran during the Iranian Revolution and the hostage crisis. He recently wrote an article for Politico headlined “The Danger of a Failed Iran Deal.””

In the article, he writes that during the 2003 to 2005 negotiations with Iran and other European countries (the U.S. was not directly involved but the Bush administration vetoed these talks for the same reason as today’s opponents) Iran was offering to cap their centrifuges at 3,000. The deal was never made. When Iran returned to the negotiating table in 2013, they now had 20,000 centrifuges and a stockpile of enriched uranium. A deal ten years ago may have prevented that extensive build-up. Furthermore, the fear that Iran would develop a nuclear weapon within a few years has not occurred.

Sick says:

“It is easy to dismiss these predictions as fear-mongering about something that obviously never happened. But it is much more instructive to understand that what they were saying had a basis in fact: During this entire period, Iran was steadily increasing its capability to produce a nuclear bomb. The more interesting fact is that Tehran did not follow through. By virtually every estimate, Iran has had the capability to produce a nuclear weapon for at least a decade. The predictions were wrong, not about Iran’s ability but about its willingness to use that capability to produce a weapon. The entire U.S. intelligence community and most of our allies — apparently including Israel — have concluded with high confidence that Iran has not made a decision to build a bomb.”

Democracy Now interview and transcript 

Is this deal perfect? Absolutely not. Nor do I support all of President Obama’s policies and deals, as I’m often accused. I am not a fan of the Trans-Pacific Partnership in its current form. I do not approve of the excessive use of drone strikes in Pakistan and other areas of unrest around the world, nor do I approve of the growing surveillance state in the name of security happening in this country, which began rapidly expanding under the George W. Bush administration.

Let me offer some final points. A friend on Facebook recently posted on my feed a quote from the Obama administration that read: “A bad deal is better than no deal.” That is a distortion. The actual quote is: “No deal is better than a bad deal.” What is the difference one may ask? Well, it is a big one.

The incorrect quote implies that President Obama, Secretary Kerry, and the other P5+1 negotiators are so desperate for a deal that they would push a bad one onto the world, risking the security of not only the negotiating countries’ interests but those in the Middle East and the larger world just so that they can say they had a nuclear deal with Iran.

The actual quote stated means that if the Administration had felt the deal failed to meet certain standards, then there would be no deal. The fact that there is a deal means that the parties involved believe it is sound and is the best they could achieve. Could they have done better? Perhaps, some seem to think so. However, President Obama would not be lobbying congressional and senate Democrats if he did not believe this deal was in the best interest of the United States and that it was a solid one. On this, I agree with my president.

Those proposing that we should never negotiate with Iran or trust them because some of their leaders are shouting, “Death to America!” is short-sighted. Many Iranians, even some in the top levels of government, see this deal as a chance to escape the crippling sanctions they’ve endured for decades. Iranian citizens do not necessarily hold the same views against the West as the Ayatollah and the hardliners in their government. We Americans certainly don’t agree with our leaders most of the time, why would we believe all Iranians think the same way as their leaders? Many Iranians want their country to be able to participate in the global economy; they are tired of being isolated. Many are hopeful that this deal will improve their economic lot and thus the quality of their every-day lives for themselves and their families. Of course, they want this.

Military force and re-instituting sanctions are all options should Iran cheat. Military force should always be the last option because it costs dearly in lives and treasure. This deal must be given a chance and lest we forget, and many have or don’t even know U.S. history with Iran, the United States (the CIA) helped the United Kingdom overthrow a democratically elected prime minister, Mohammad Mossadegh, in 1953 and installed a dictator. The United States is at least somewhat complicit in the turmoil happening throughout the Middle East today. It’s time to restore some balance, and if possible, to do it through a diplomatic and peaceful process.

Congress, pass the deal.

Related articles:

What the Iran-Deal Debate is Like in Iran

There is a Path to a Better Deal with Iran

Iran deal opponents now have their “death panels” lie, and it’s a whopper

The AP’s controversial and badly flawed Iran inspections story, explained

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