Support the Iral Deal

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After some thought and reflection, I believe the Iran Deal (full text) is the next stop forward to create peace in the Middle East. According to Fareed Zakaria on his blog, Global Public Square, states in “What critics are getting wrong about the Iran deal“:

If you’re trying to decide what to think about the deal struck between the major powers and Iran in Geneva, here’s a suggestion – imagine what would have happened if there had been no deal.

In fact, one doesn’t have to use much imagination. In 2003, Iran approached the United States with an offer to talk about its nuclear program. The George W. Bush administration rejected the offer because it believed that the Iranian regime was weak, had been battered by sanctions, and would either capitulate or collapse if Washington just stayed tough.

So there was no deal. What was the result? Iran had 164 centrifuges operating in 2003; today it has 19,000 centrifuges. Had the Geneva talks with Iran broken down, Iran would have continued expanding its nuclear program. Yes they are now under tough sanctions, but they were under sanctions then as well.

And yet, the number of centrifuges grew exponentially (Despite all the sanctions and sabotage, keep in mind, the costs of a nuclear program are small for an oil rich country like Iran.)

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has been opposed to a deal. But is it in Israel’s interest that Iran’s program keep growing in size and scope? That’s a strategy that assumes that either Iran is heading for collapse, or that a military strike will take place that would permanently destroy Iran’s entire nuclear program. This seems more like wishful thinking than tough strategizing.

The agreement that the major powers have gotten in Geneva essentially freezes Iran’s program for six months – and rolls back some key aspects of it – while a permanent deal is negotiated. In return, Iran gets about $7 billion of sanctions relief, a fraction of what is in place against it. The main sanctions – against its oil and banking sectors – stay fully in place.

This is a sensible deal – signed off on by France, Britain, Germany, Russia and China – but it is just an interim deal and not a historic rapprochement. And that’s why so much of the opposition to it is misplaced.

Washington has many points of disagreement with Tehran, from its opposition to Israel and its support of Hezbollah to its funding of Iraq militias. This is not like the opening to China – it’s more like an arms control deal with the Soviet Union, with two wary adversaries trying to find some common ground.

Many countries in the Middle East – from Israel to Saudi Arabia – have legitimate concerns about Iran. But many of these countries have also gotten used to having a permanent enemy against whom they could rail, focusing domestic attention, driving ideological and sectarian divides, and garnering support.

The Middle East is undergoing so much change. Perhaps this is one more change.  And perhaps Iran will come in from the Cold. For now, this deal is just one step, not a seismic shift. But it is still a step forward.

This HuffPost Politics article, “On the Iran Deal, Ignore the 30 Second Ads,” by Senator Barbara Boxer, indicates:

The TV ads from the opponents of the Iran nuclear agreement are already appearing in our living rooms, full of grave warnings for the world if Congress approves the deal reached by our President and supported by our allies such as the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Australia, Japan, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and many others.

My advice to my colleagues and the public: Ignore the 30 second ads. Ignore any commercials from groups supporting the deal, too. Instead, read this historic agreement yourself. The full text has been posted online.

Thirty second ads may tell you all you need to know about a dishwasher or a tube of toothpaste, but this issue is so much bigger than a 30-second ad. The consequences are too important for the United States, Israel and the world to allow this decision to come down to the same-old divisive political tactics. This should not be the way we debate issues of war and peace, and this should not be the way we approach a matter of conscience.

No matter what side you are on, nobody can tell you in 30 seconds about all the important provisions in this agreement. No one can tell you in 30 seconds about the broad international support for this deal – now 92 nations and counting.

Yes, our great ally, Israel, is on the other side. I respect that. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been a strong voice against this deal, but the record shows that he was also a strong supporter of the Iraq War, which he said would be good for Israel and the world. Now we see with clear eyes that the real winner of that disastrous war was Iran – not to mention ISIS, whose key strategists include former Saddam Hussein operatives.

It is important to note there is a growing chorus of Israeli voices who believe this deal should be supported. Voices like the former head of Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security service, who called it the “best possible alternative” and the former mayor of Haifa who said this agreement “must not be rejected.”

They believe what I believe: The best option to stop Iran from building a nuclear bomb and the best option to avoid another war in the Middle East is this deal.

How did I come to this conclusion? The framework that was announced in April by the P5 +1 nations outlined a comprehensive approach to ensure Iran’s nuclear program could only be used for civilian purposes. I said at the time that if the final agreement met the goals of the framework, I would support it.

This final deal not only meets those objectives, it exceeds them. It includes the most intrusive inspection regime ever negotiated and snapback sanctions, which will ensure that if the Iranians cheat, they will be caught and face serious ramifications.

This week I met with the ambassadors of the P5+1 nations, and what they told me underscored why I support this deal. As the British ambassador explained, rejecting this deal would play right into the hands of the Iranian hardliners, accelerate Iran’s ability to obtain a bomb, and collapse the international sanctions regime.

Under this deal, Iran has made a binding commitment to the world, forswearing the ability to ever build a nuclear bomb. As the first paragraph of the agreement states, “Iran reaffirms that under no circumstances will Iran ever seek, develop or acquire any nuclear weapons.” That sentence is black and white for all the world to see.

Should we trust them to keep their word? No. Should we vigorously inspect them while also cutting off their pathways to build a bomb with uranium or plutonium? Yes. And if Iran walks away from its obligations, the consequences will be severe.

I am under no illusions that this agreement would make Iran a positive or even reasonable player on the world stage. Iran is a bad and dangerous actor, and that is why its non-nuclear activities will remain subject to tough sanctions. But would we rather have a bad and dangerous actor with a nuclear bomb or without one? The answer is obvious – and that is why we need this deal.

A deal by its very definition is never perfect. But the alternative is as clear as can be. The alternative won’t be tougher sanctions because the rest of the world will walk away if this deal is rejected by America. We will be alone.

The alternative will be war because we know Iran is close to a nuclear bomb and we know that is unacceptable.

Additionally, Senator Barbara Boxer has stated in a press release:

Iran now has enough nuclear material to build ten bombs. In my view, this agreement is the only way to ensure that Iran’s nuclear program is used exclusively for civilian purposes, which is in the best interest of the United States, Israel and the world.

If we walk away from this deal, Iran would have no constraints on its nuclear program and the international sanctions that helped bring the Iranians to the table would collapse. The strong support from the international community – including the announcement this week by the Gulf states – underscores how this deal is the only viable alternative to war with Iran.

I understand and share Israel’s mistrust of Iran, and that is exactly why we need this agreement – which is not based on trust, but on an unprecedented inspection and verification regime. A deal by definition is never perfect, but as Ami Ayalon, the former head of Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security service, said recently, ‘When it comes to Iran’s nuclear capability, this is the best option.’

The bottom line is that Iran is a bad actor and a nuclear-armed Iran would make the world a much more dangerous place – and that is why Congress should unite behind this deal to block Iran’s path to a bomb.”

Senator Dianne Feinstein has already stated this deal will not threaten Israel’s survival:

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said Sunday that the new nuclear accord with Iran will not threaten the survival of Israel, criticizing the stance taken by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

CNN “State of the Union” host Jim Acosta asked Feinstein Sunday morning whether she believes the deal threatens Israel’s survival.

“No, I don’t,” she replied.

“I don’t think it’s helpful for Israel to come out and oppose this one opportunity to change a major dynamic, which is downhill — a downhill dynamic in this part of the world,” Feinstein continued.

On Thursday, President Barack Obama announced that Iran, the United States and five partner countries had agreed on a framework for a comprehensive deal, aimed at assuring the international community that Iran’s nuclear program will be restricted to peaceful purposes. In return for reducing its stockpile of uranium and decreasing the number of centrifuges in its nuclear facilities, Iran will receive sanctions relief.

Netanyahu quickly blasted the agreement, telling Obama that it “would threaten the survival” of Israel.

Feinstein said on Sunday that she disagreed.

“The surveillance and inspection and transparency runs 20 to 25 years for everything, all the centrifuges, rotors, the mills, the production facilities for yellowcake go out to 25 years of IAEA surveillance and inspection,” she said, referring to the International Atomic Energy Agency.

She noted that for the deal to succeed, “a precondition has to be that there’s going to be a real re-dedication in the IAEA to do the kind of work that’s going to be necessary to do 24/7, 365 days a year in the various facilities.’

“But,” she added, “I think that having watched this for a long time and knowing this particular [Iranian] foreign minister, I think this is the best that’s going to get done.”

Additionally, Senator Dianne Feinstein has issued a press release stating the following:

The agreement announced today between the world’s major powers—the United States, United Kingdom, France, Russia, China and Germany—and Iran is historic. It offers a verifiable, diplomatic resolution to one of our most pressing national security challenges. This is a strong agreement that meets our national security needs and I believe will stand the test of time. I stand behind the U.S. negotiating team and will support this agreement in the Senate.

Most importantly, Iran’s pathways to a nuclear bomb—including through uranium and plutonium as well as covert efforts—are blocked through this agreement.

Iran’s enrichment activities will be severely constrained, preventing them from retaining enough nuclear material for even a single weapon. Iran will be subject to unprecedented and highly intrusive inspections to verify it is living up to its commitments. The IAEA will have 24-hour access to all declared nuclear sites and this agreement provides a process for inspection of military bases. No sites are off limits to inspection. Plus, parts of this deal last for 10, 15, 20 and 25 years, and other parts are indefinite.

The manner in which sanctions are addressed is another strong part of the agreement. Before any new sanctions relief occurs, the IAEA must complete its investigation into Iran’s previous nuclear weapons activities. And if Iran violates any part of the agreement, there is a mechanism whereby the full slate of sanctions snap back into place; it is structured in a manner that guarantees there will be a snap back if there is a violation. Furthermore, important UN restrictions on conventional weapons transfers and ballistic missile development will remain in place for five and eight years, respectively.

“Simply put, Iran will be held to the highest level of scrutiny under international law. As President Obama said this morning, all options to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon will remain available to him and future presidents should Iran fail to comply with the agreement.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand has also issued this press release:

The question before us now is whether this deal is the best way to reach our goal, or whether the best way forward is continued Congressional sanctions, even as other nations around the world begin to lift their own. To date, the sanctions the U.S. led the global community to impose worked: they crippled Iran’s economy and compelled its leaders to face us at the negotiating table.

By including China, Russia, and our European partners, this crushing economic pressure, combined with diplomacy, has produced an unprecedented combination of ways to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. Just as important, inspectors will have unprecedented access to Iran’s facilities, so that we can better understand Iran’s capabilities, stop a program currently designed to produce a nuclear weapon, and be better prepared to detect any covert activity. This deal does not take any military options off the table for the next president if Iran fails to live up to its end of the agreement. In fact, we will have better intelligence as a result of this deal should military action become unavoidable. But rejecting it and leaving only U.S. sanctions in place without the essential support of the international community will move us closer to military confrontation. Sanctions worked when the world community came together, choking off the Iranian economy. In a meeting earlier this week when I questioned the ambassadors of our P5+1 allies, it also became clear that if we reject this deal, going back to the negotiation table is not an option.

I have decided to support this deal after closely reading the agreement, participating in multiple classified briefings, questioning Energy Secretary Moniz and other officials, consulting independent arms control experts, and talking with many constituents who both support and oppose this deal. Here is why I believe this imperfect deal is worthy of Congressional approval:

First, Iran made essential concessions in the deal. After the failure of the 2004 Paris Agreement, Iran was defiant; it refused to negotiate seriously, it was uncooperative with international weapons inspectors, and it vowed never to cave to pressure and dismantle its nuclear production, which increased dramatically during the Bush years.

Now, Iran has signed on to a sufficiently verifiable and enforceable deal that cuts off all paths to a bomb and has its entire nuclear supply chain closely monitored for years to come. A deal like this, widely supported by independent nuclear arms control experts, was unimaginable just a few years ago.

Second, this deal will provide international nuclear inspectors with access that they otherwise would not have had – and never will have if we reject this agreement. We will begin robust worldwide monitoring of Iran’s nuclear supply chain – uranium production, plants that convert uranium into a centrifuge-ready gas, centrifuges, uranium stockpiles, and spent nuclear fuel that contains plutonium – and inspectors will retain the right to request access to suspicious sites forever.

Third, while I’m skeptical that Iran won’t try to deceive us and our partners in this agreement, we’ll be in a better position to catch those attempts due to the monitoring and verification mechanisms that this deal secures. If Iran pursues a nuclear weapon, international inspectors and intelligence operations will know faster than ever before. We will then be able to snap back all of the American and United Nations sanctions, even unilaterally, and all options – including military action – will be on the table.

Iran will still be disruptive in the Middle East and fund terrorist activities. This regime will continue to deny Israel’s right to exist, the Quds Force will still be listed as a terrorist organization, and Iran will continue to exacerbate tensions with our allies in the region. But Iran would be exponentially more dangerous to Israel and the entire region with a nuclear weapon.

Israel’s security and America’s national security interests are fundamentally aligned. Congress must continue its unwavering commitment to ensuring that Israel retains a qualitative military edge in the region – an effort I will continue to steadfastly support. I have not only consistently voted for Israel’s full foreign assistance package, but have also added funds for innovative and effective defense projects, such as Iron Dome. I will fight in Congress for a new Israel defense aid package, because we must continue to fund the new technologies of tomorrow that will keep families safe from conventional missile and terrorist attacks.

There are legitimate and serious concerns about this deal. For example, I would have liked to see a period shorter than 24 days to resolve disputes over access for inspectors. The U.N. embargoes on the sales of arms and ballistic weapons to Iran should have remained in place permanently, instead of lapsing after five and eight years. Hostages remain in Iranian custody. We will have to work hard to fight Iran’s malign efforts to wreak havoc in the region. While all of these issues are important, no issue matters more than ensuring that the Iranian regime does not have a nuclear weapon at its disposal.

If we reject this deal, we do not have a viable alternative for preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. Without a deal, and without inspectors on the ground, we will be left in the dark as Iran resumes its pursuit of a nuclear weapon, with only months to go before it could enrich enough fissile material for a bomb. Without a deal, our options will be limited to insufficient unilateral sanctions, an invasion with yet another massive and costly land war in the Middle East, or a bombing campaign that offers nothing more than short-term gain under the best-case scenario.

Our goal has been, and remains, to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. We have far more ability to achieve that outcome if we approve this deal‎.

With a final note, Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has said:

“The Europeans, the Russians, the Chinese, they’re going to say, ‘We stuck with the Americans. We agreed with the Americans. We hammered out this agreement. I guess their president can’t make foreign policy,’” Clinton said at a campaign stop in Manchester. “That’s a very bad signal to send in a quickly moving and oftentimes dangerous world.”

As Republicans warn that the deal could pave Iran’s path to a nuclear weapon, Clinton noted how Iran was able to advance its program during the last Republican administration.

“When George W. Bush was president the Iranians mastered the nuclear fuel cycle,” she said. “They also build covert facilities and stocked them with centrifuges, and they were spinning away trying to get enough highly enriched uranium to be able to, if they so chose, to move toward a weapon. That’s what we inherited.”

The Iran Deal isn’t perfect, it’s not a magic wand, but is necessary and has my support.

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