Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Why Policymakers Need to Give the Iran Deal A Chance

     While many are touting Saturday's/Sunday’s interim deal with Iran as a great step forward, many in Congress are expressing skepticism.  House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) said in a statement “Loosening sanctions and recognizing Iran's enrichment program is a mistake, and will not stop Iran's march toward nuclear capability.”  Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) has also echoed a similar sentiment and stated that the Senate will look into options next week when Congress reconvenes.  Even Democratic Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) have stated they are going to look into new sanctions that will take effect in six months when the interim deal is set to end.
     This skepticism is not unwarranted but I think the deal needs a chance to work.  Players in the region such as Israel are setting unrealistic goals.  They want a full dismantling of infrastructure which is not an option for Iran.  Saudi Arabia is also concerned that the United States, its ally, has betrayed them and is looking out for its own interests and agreed to a shoddy deal.
     This agreement is a first step and no comprehensive measures should be expected in a deal of this complexity and magnitude.  Under the deal, Iran is to neutralize uranium enriched up to 20 percent and stop enrichment up to five percent.  Iran is also to stop their production in the Arak facility which was being used to develop plutonium for a potential weapon.  Many law makers share the same feelings of our allies in the Middle East that Iran's centrifuges are remaining untouched and they are not dismantling any facilities.
     As Ayotte stated today, “we are taking our foot off the gas,” in relation to sanctions and she believes (as do many other skeptics) that this deal gives Iran too much in sanction relief and leaves them in a strategic position to develop a nuclear weapon in the future.  Skeptics are also still concerned about Iran’s “right to enrich” for peaceful purposes.  The Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) is silent on peaceful enrichment which makes this process much more complicated.
     Damaging sanctions brought Iran to the negotiating table and led to talks for the first time since 1979.  The desire to ease those sanctions have thawed poor diplomatic relations between the United States and Iran.  Piling on more may degrade and threaten these discussions.  Iran has been distrustful in the past but President Rouhani has expressed as his number one policy the reversal of the crippling economic sanctions.  Skeptics believe this is what Rouhani does best, deceive others to get what he wants.
     There are two reasons why this deal is a good start and should be given a chance.  First, if Iran breaks any stipulations, sanctions lifted will be immediately reinstated and additional sanctions will be implemented.  Second, this is a great opportunity to see if Iran is serious about giving up their nuclear program and wanting to improve their economy.  Secretary of State John Kerry has recited President Reagan’s famous “trust but verify” mantra and this is a perfect time to trust, but verify with the threat of further sanctions.
     While Iran may not become an ally anytime soon, familiar and friendly relations are desirable and useful.  This interim deal needs a chance to work and the US cannot jeopardize diplomatic efforts with skepticism.  The real test will come in six months when the interim deal is set to expire. For now, Congress must let the deal play out because the results could be beneficial and magnanimous.

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