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The Hill (Op-Ed) - Why We Support Diplomacy with Iran

May 14, 2015
In The News

By Congressman David Price, Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, and Congressman Lloyd Doggett

Last week, 151 Members of the U.S. House of Representatives sent President Obama a letter demonstrating our support for his administration’s efforts to negotiate a lasting and verifiable comprehensive nuclear agreement with Iran.

As the authors of this letter, we believe the President and his administration should have strong support in Congress to see these negotiations through.  Preventing Iran from developing a nuclear weapon is a critical foreign policy imperative, and these talks are our best opportunity to do so. A nuclear-armed Iran would further destabilize the Middle East and threaten the safety and security of Israel, our regional allies, and the world. We all acknowledge that we must not allow Iran to develop or possess nuclear weapons.

The most effective way to stop Iran’s nuclear weapons program is with persistent diplomacy and a strict protocol for verifying Iran’s compliance with any final agreement. Diplomatic successes are hard-earned, and take time, even when negotiated among allies. Diplomatic successes are much more difficult to achieve when dealing with a country like Iran. 

Negotiations may not yield an agreement, but we must give the process the best possible chance to succeed. It took the P5+1 (United States, United Kingdom, China, France, Russia and Germany) coalition a decade to develop the trust necessary to produce the framework principles announced last month. Our negotiators are now working to turn those principles into a credible, comprehensive agreement that can be verified by the international community.

As that process continues, we must remember that these negotiations never would have had a chance of success without the participation of a coalition of longstanding allies, including the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and the European Union, and partners with whom we sometimes disagree, namely Russia and China. Only with the strict sanctions regime imposed collectively by this international coalition were we able to bring Iran to the negotiating table, and only with these partners’ continued cooperation can we hold Iran accountable in a negotiated agreement.

That’s why we must put a stop to politicized attempts to undermine the President’s diplomatic credibility. Rash, unilateral congressional action, like the extremely ill-advised letter to the Iranian leadership penned by Senator Tom Cotton and co-signed by most of his Senate GOP colleagues, threaten the success of the P5+1 negotiations and could cause our important international coalition to fracture – risking the collapse of the international sanctions regime that has proven so successful.

Opponents of the recently-announced framework agreement urge additional sanctions to push for a better deal, but the threat of new sanctions is only meaningful when backed by the broader international community.  If the United States is viewed as unnecessarily thwarting an effective agreement, we will not have that international community behind us.  If the United States stops an effective agreement, we won’t just lose credibility with the Iranians; we will also betray the trust of our European allies and forgo new opportunities for diplomatic cooperation with China and Russia. Going it alone simply isn’t an option.

From a security perspective, the failure of diplomacy and collapse of the international sanctions regime would also make an Iranian nuclear weapon all but inevitable. Iran would emerge from the failed P5+1 talks with a newfound determination to defy the international community and would redouble efforts to develop its nuclear weapons capability. Our likely recourse would be military action, which defense experts agree will only delay nuclear development for a few years. War with Iran would risk grave unforeseen consequences, including the aggravation of regional and sectarian tensions already incited by the Bush-Cheney Iraq War-- thus threatening the security of Israel and our allies, and ultimately jeopardizing the safety of our own country.

With the stakes so high, we strongly believe that this issue must remain above politics. Congressional leaders should put political squabbles aside and allow President Obama, Secretary Kerry, and other administration officials to work with our international partners to negotiate a final, comprehensive nuclear agreement. 

We support diplomacy over war, international cooperation over unilateral action, and a chance for success over inevitable failure. We urge our colleagues to stand with us in favor of genuine security.